Meeting Kevin McCloud & Why Diabetes is Like Dory From Finding Nemo Sometimes

In case you didn’t know, not only am I a diabetes blogger, but I have a whole life outside of diabetes, encouraging people to choose sustainable options in decorating their homes. This work over at gives me great joy.

If you didn’t see my photos on social media, I recently spent the weekend at Grand Designs Australia Live in Melbourne! Yes I was pretty excited! The highlight was of course meeting the great man himself, Kevin McCloud, and hearing his inspirational talks. I was also very excited to finally meet Shaynna Blaze, who I have been chatting with online for ages. Both are just as lovely as they seem on television.

I shared a version of this post on Recycled Interiors for my readers. Here I am sharing the “real version”, the #itmakessenseifyouhavediabetes version, the one that takes the entire experience into account. The one that you can’t share with people who don’t get diabetes.

Some of Kevin’s key messages I will take with me everywhere that you might find inspiring were:

“Architecture can really make you happier”

“It’s how we use stuff that makes it sustainable, not just how it is made”

“Good architecture connects people to a place in time”

“Social Sharing and the spaces in between buildings is what sustainability is really about”

“We are in the most exciting time since the industrial revolution with people looking to waste as a source of materials”

Kevin is absolutely inspirational and I could have listened to him speak all day. His approach to architecture being about people, not just buildings, is what comes through, and that sustainability is really about how we set up community, sharing and interaction with our surroundings. I saw him speak in conjunction with the Melbourne Mayor, about aiming for zero emissions cities. Melbourne has a number of great building projects which are leading the way. Kevin also presented the plans for re-building Christchurch, which revolve around these sustainable concepts of living in cities in healthy ways.

I then went to his session on “What makes a Grand Designer” where he made it clear that it is not the size of a project that makes it grand, but vision and risk, making space out of nothing and “people moving to the margins” to design and build homes which are completely unique. He says the most interesting homes to him are not those massive ones where people have a heap of money to sit and look at all the empty space, but those which connect people to a space in time, which have their biography written into their homes, you can see the journey they have had by the things they decorate their homes with. Totally agree Kevin!

kevin 2And here is the diabetes version.

Thursday lunchtime

I am headed away today, it is only a short trip, but any time on a plane leads to impacts on my blood glucose levels. The stress of airports, carrying luggage, being crammed into a plane full of strangers, getting taxis and finding hotels, all inevitably lead to highs and lows. I prepare my levels to be not too low, not too high, so I don’t end up with a hypo mid flight – one of my nightmare scenarios.

On the way I stop as Diabetes SA as I realised the day before that I had only 1 box of strips and no glucose tablets. I had phoned the day before and paid for them, so I swing in, grab the supplies and head to the airport. I arrive and check in to the lounge at the airport, check my levels a few times to make sure I am happy with them and grab a piece of toast.

Thursday 3 pm

I board the plane and my levels are sitting around 11 mmol. I am happy with that and I settle back for a quick nap before arriving in Melbourne. I check my levels mid flight to be sure they are still ok. As we arrive I switch the time on my pump to Melbourne time.

Thursday 5pm

The flight is great and I grab my luggage and a cab. One of my travel tips is to order a food shop online before you go away. I hit the hotel and my food is not only already there, but in my room and my fridge, unpacked by the lovely hotel staff.

Thursday 5.30 pm

My blood glucose is now 14 mmol so I have a bolus to bring it down so I can eat some dinner. In the meantime I call my family.

Thursday 6.15 pm

I get off the phone and realise I am hypo. And I have 3 units of insulin onboard….I panic, eat a shit tonne of glucose and lollies and hope for the best. I eat my microwaved potato and salad. I end up at 18 mmol.

Thursday 10.30 pm

I am exhausted but don’t want to go to sleep until I am sure my levels have settled.

Thursday 11.30 pm

My levels are now 10 mmol and I am good to go to sleep. Overnight I check them again and they are now at 8mmol.

Friday 6 am

I am up and ready to go. My levels are now 6 mmol. I decide against a run as I have an hours walk each way to the venue. I make sure I have less insulin than usual with breakfast to be sure and get there without a hypo.

Friday 9 am

I head off, my levels were only 8 mmol so I grab a banana. I make sure to have spare blood testing strips, pump supplies and food with me, as well as plenty of glucose and lollies. My bag is like a truck!

Friday 9.45 am

I check on the way and my levels are 9 mmol. I am happy with that.

Friday 10 am

Some young 20’ish guy tries to pick me up on South Bank! (not diabetes related, but just really?!)

Friday 10.10 am

I arrive and am bursting with excitement! My levels hover between 6 and 9 mmol all day. I have brought my food for the day with me. I keep a regular eye on my levels in between all of the excitement.

Friday 4 pm

It is time for me to head back. I have stoked my levels up to 10 mmol for the walk. I head off and make the fatal error of presuming Melbourne is like Adelaide and take a different street up the hill…….after about half an hour I realise I am looking lost. My GPS is not making any sense to me. I panic. I check and I am hypo. I start shoving in glucose. I can’t decide what to do. I wander around a little. I call a cab. And text my poor Mum who is probably now stressed too. It just feels better when you are alone to know someone knows you are in trouble.

“I have type 1 diabetes and I have low blood glucose and am lost” I say. “First cab available on the way” she says. I don’t really relax, worrying they will miss me and trying to hail passing cabs to no avail. My feet hurt and my shoulders are sore under the weight of my baggage.

I hear a beep and my knight in shining yellow arrives. He is an older bloke and lovely. “You look too young to have diabetes” he smiles. Sigh……In my hypo, anxious, tired state, I start an education session with him.

I realise I was going in the completely wrong direction as he makes a right turn. He drops me at the wrong place and I still have a 5 minute walk. I make it.

I am now 6 mmol. I get dinner and eat it in bed. The luxury of travel and hotels. I watch the Lifestyle Channel and my mate Kevin. I dream.

Saturday 6 am

I awake to hot air balloons and a blood glucose of 6 mmol. Given yesterday’s experiences I eat breakfast and again keep my bolus down. My pump needs a refill. I change the cannula and refill the insulin.

Saturday 8.30 am

My BGL is again only 8 mmol so I grab another banana. I head off wearing sandals. Fatal error.

On the way I check and my BGL is dropping. I eat snakes.

Nobody tries to pick me up.

Saturday 10 am

I am a VIP today. I get a goodie bag. I now need a trailer.

The day is amazing. I sit around 8 mmol all day. I eat the food I have with me and my feet get sore slipping around in my sandals. I worry about the walk back. But I do it anyway.

Saturday 3.30 pm

I stop at the amazing Crown Gelati bar on South bank to get my levels up. It is divine. I decide to go shopping on the way back for my son’s “trip gift” (he always gets something when I travel- it’s called bribery) and an outfit for my oldest son’s 21st party.

Big mistake.

I get lost in all of the shops – I have never seen so many shops!!! I try on countless outfits. I get a skirt, and a toy. I feel myself starting to fade. I am low. I stuff in glucose and lollies.

I continue to walk home, despite multiple bags digging into my arms, extremely sore feet and levels on the way up. I keep considering a cab, but it is like I have been wound up on a string and can not stop moving forward. My levels hover, they stay away from a hypo. My feet feel like I am walking on razor blades.

I just keep swimming.

Saturday 6.30 pm

I have never been so happy to see a front door. I stagger in and go to my room. I fling off my shoes. My BGL is now 5.5 mmol. I made it.

My night is pretty good, diabetes plays ok, a few tweaks needed here and there. I have a restless sleep as I always do on my last night somewhere, keen to get home.

Sunday 5.30 am

I am awake. My BGL is 8mmol. I have breakfast and usual insulin. I try to pack all the books, Shaynna’s candles etc into my small bags. I can’t do it. I realise  I am hypo. Straight after breakfast….the hypo panic sets in. I eat.

My diabetes gastropresis has been playing up over the three days as it does when I travel. Today my system decides I will sit on the loo all morning, while hypo…..I consider hiring  a car and driving home to avoid the stress of the plane. I feel nauseous.

I lie down and do my deep relaxation with my CD track. I feel better. I pull it together.

I just keep swimming.

Sunday 10 am

I arrive at the airport. It all flows well and I sink into the huge Virgin lounge. My levels are around 13 mmol. I don’t want to go too high. I juggle food and insulin over the next 2 hours.

I head through security “you need to take the pager off” says the security guard. “NO it is an insulin pump” I snap – “oh she says not touching that then!” I consider that maybe there has been a little bit of education in airports about pumps, but then again…

Sunday 11.30 am

I board the plane around 10 mmol. I sleep. My pump gets stuck around the seatbelt. The guy next to me looks sideways at it as I disentangle it. It is too cold. It is too hot. It is too bumpy.

We arrive. I kiss the ground, as I always do. My BGL is now 6mmol. I eat my apple so I don’t have to throw it in the quarantine bins.

I am home. I snuggle into boys and cats and worry less about the fact my levels are now up a bit, I am home.

That was a hell of a lot of paddling to get through an extremely fabulous weekend! And nobody else I interacted with there would GET that. But I know all of you out there do get that.

In terms of the event, there were some fabulous exhibitors, but I spent most of my time in sessions, learning and listening to the experts that were assembled. Well worth it as far as I am concerned. With sustainability Ambassador Kevin in attendance, there were plenty of opportunities to explore sustainable design and living. In fact for me, not surprisingly, this was the main focus of the weekend. Most of the talks were free, which makes it really accessible to everyone.

If you are thinking about heading to Sydney for Grand Designs this weekend, I highly recommend it, but I also recommend getting a ticket to see Kevin speak, it is totally worth it. There are also special meet and greet sessions with Shaynna and I happened to overhear one of these in the VIP lounge, where an intimate group got to ask her questions about their own homes. Do what you love people.

Diabetes always plays a part in your life. Travel can make it do all sorts of strange things and most people will have no idea what you are managing.

People with diabetes are amazing. We are the ultimate multi taskers. Just keep swimming lovelies and you never know where you might end up.

Have you got a travel story to share? If you would like the full wrap up of the actual event, you can read it here

Would love to hear









Shaynna strutting her stuff with the very dry and funny Andrew Winter who was MC on the main stage













Melbourne also put on a magical show with brilliant weather and spectacular sights to wake up to – this was out of my window at The Art Series Hotel, The Larwill Studio – which I highly recommend. The best and quietest night sleep I have had in a Melbourne city hotel.





  1. Lily on October 24, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Helen, thank you so much for posting up this travel diary, complete with all the highs and lows (and beautiful images). It’s so normalizing and refreshing to hear about your real experience. So often I feel down, if I’m not within the BGL target range, when the reality is that it’s a tough ask when you’re type 1! I would never be as critical on others as I am on myself, and this post really reminded me to cut myself some slack! LOL Good on you for sharing your genuine thoughts and feelings. 🙂

    • Helen-Edwards on October 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Lily thank you for telling me that, it is so important for us to hear that as it makes the time we spend working on the blogs and supporting people worth it xxx