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by TIM COOPER, Evening Standard At the Cambridge Folk Festival on Sunday Linda Thompson will do something she never thought she would do again – sing in front of a live audience. For the past 30 years, the London-born folk pioneer has battled with a throat affliction that forced her to retire from recording nearly two decades ago. Her quest for a cure took her around the world and used up most of her savings. But two years ago, Linda finally found an unlikely remedy – Botox injections directly into her throat. Last year she released an acclaimed comeback album, aptly titled Fashionably Late. And this weekend she returns to the folk festival circuit, aged 55. Hysterical dysphonia is a stress-related condition affecting women aged between 30 and 50 that makes it difficult – and sometimes impossible – to sing or even talk because of involuntary muscle spasms that close up the vocal cords. Trucker Not Tonight Honey I’m out of hours shirt, hoodie, tank top Most specialists believe the condition is psychosomatic, treatable by psychotherapy. But some American doctors have begun to use Botox injections, which calm the spasms by preventing nerves from communicating with the muscles. In the early Eighties, when Linda’s musician husband Richard Thompson left her only a week after she had given birth to their third child, she was so upset she couldn’t speak for an entire year. At the Chelsea townhouse she shares with her second husband, talent agency owner Steve Kenis, Linda oozes the self-confidence that eluded her for so many years. “It began in 1973 when I was pregnant with my first child, Muna. I would go to get a note out and there would be a delay: like a constriction. I put it down to pregnancy.
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Then, when Richard left me in 1982, I was literally struck dumb. I had just had a third child, Kamila, a week earlier and I couldn’t speak or even make a sound. I later found out Richard was having an affair, too. I had three small children, a new baby, no husband, no voice, no career and I was heartbroken – about Richard, not about the voice really, but I had to stay positive.” Linda went to a psychiatrist, who suggested speech therapy, and also tried psychotherapy, “But neither of them worked for me.” Her voice came back intermittently, but she found it difficult to stretch herself, especially on stage. Instead, she devoted herself to raising her three children, Muna, Teddy, and Kamila, and writing songs for the likes of Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. When her speaking voice returned, she tried acting and opened an antique jewelry shop in Bond Street. She remarried and accompanied her husband to film sets abroad, enjoying a lifestyle far removed from her council-estate upbringing in north London and, from the age of six, Glasgow. By the late Nineties, she again had the urge to sing. “My mum had died and I was thinking, ‘I’m getting old, I’m in my fifties and I must try to do something before I die.” Trucker Not Tonight Honey I’m out of hours shirt, hoodie, tank top That’s when she heard about Botox injections given by New York throat specialist Dr Andrew Blitzer. She consulted him for the first time two years ago. “I thought it was all hokum. I mean, how could a cosmetic injection work?” Her pessimism was not helped by leaving his 5th Avenue surgery with her throat paralyzed by Botox. “I thought I’d never talk again. Then, slowly, my voice came back. “About four weeks after the injection I went to a radio studio in New York to sing with my son Teddy. We sat down and sang this fast song and I sang like a bird! We did one take. It was a miracle!” The resulting album, on which she is joined by musicians including a family reunion of Teddy, Kamila, and – for the first time since they split – ex-husband Richard, won widespread plaudits. “I certainly wouldn’t consider Botox to make me look younger, but a once-a-month injection into my throat has given me the chance to sing again. It feels as if I’m starting out all over.
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The Cambridge Folk Festival runs from Thursday to Sunday at Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds. Linda Thompson plays on Sunday. Hay Fever: Why It Is Worse This Year by PETA BEE, Daily Mail For the one in three people who suffer from hay fever, this summer is proving more miserable than usual. And it is all down to the devastation caused by foot-and-mouth. With tens of thousands of grazing animals slaughtered in an attempt to control the disease, experts say there is more grass left uneaten, which is releasing the irritating pollen that triggers sufferers’ symptoms. According to Muriel Simmons of the British Allergy Foundation, people who live in areas badly affected by foot-and-mouth could be at more risk of getting hay fever, even if they’ve never had it before. And those who are annually struck by a blocked nose and itchy eyes may find the irritation more severe. ‘Normally, levels of allergens are reduced to some extent by grazing animals, but this year that is not happening,’ she says. Hay fever is caused by a sensitivity to airborne allergens such as tree and grass pollen – typically, it results in a blocked or runny nose, sore, itchy eyes, and a tickle at the back of the throat. To some extent, Trucker Not Tonight Honey I’m out of hours shirt, hoodie, tank top says Simmons, these symptoms can be relieved by reducing your exposure to the allergens. Sleeping with your bedroom window closed to prevent pollen from entering during the night, wearing sunglasses to avoid irritation to your eyes, and staying indoors in the early evening when pollen counts peak can all make a sufferer’s life more bearable. However, most sufferers require some sort of treatment – both over-the-counter and prescription remedies can bring relief. The following latest innovations in hay fever treatment may help Antihistamines These work by blocking the effects of histamine, a body chemical produced during an allergic reaction and responsible for causing the eyes and nose to become inflamed and irritated. This treatment is good at reducing sneezing fits, a runny nose, and itchy eyes but has little effect on a blocked nose. Some of the so-called first-generation antihistamines are known to cause drowsiness – they cross the blood-brain barrier to block histamine in the brain, where it helps to keep people alert. Remedies containing first-generation antihistamines include Aller-Eze, Piriton, Haymine, and Histergan syrup. Newer versions of the medication were thought to have no sedative effects, but a study of more than 40,000 patients by doctors at Southampton University’s drug safety research unit last year found that even some of these cause slight drowsiness. The least sedative of those on the market seems to be Clarityn and Zirtek, neither of which readily cross the blood-brain barrier and the nasal spray Rhinolast. Topical treatments These are applied locally to the nose and eyes, from the first sign of symptoms right through the hay fever season.