Thursday, 11 December 2014

Fab at Forty - am I?

So, forty finally arrived.  It looks alien on the screen to me. Me, 40!  It sounds so mature.  Grown up. Like I should be able to knit.  Or at least sew a button on.

I know you want to know whether I was indeed Fab at Forty.  Well of course I couldn’t say…but I can say that after ten months of counting and pointing and shaking my thang at Zumba, I’ve managed to knock a couple of stone and a couple of dress sizes off.  Never got to my holy grail 12 though, so at least I’ve still got something I can put on my New Year list.

After not knowing what to do, I decided to have a party, where enough people duly oohed and aahed about my reinvention to have made it worthwhile.  Three generations of family raised a glass, and friends old and new put on their gladrags and helped me have a lovely time.  But now what?  I’ve been planning for months, buying shimmery and glimmery doo-dahs to put some fab in the very functional function room.  I’ve glittered up invitations, sourced the perfect dress, found a mini-me version for Daughter, made paper pom poms…and now it’s done and dusted.  I’m without project.  I am suffering list-less-ness.  Well of course there’s a list of kinds – it’s Christmas time for goodness sakes, who operates without a list?!  But there’s no overriding list, no pressing project…and I don’t like it.  I’ve got plenty to do, with some list potential – no Christmas cards written, no presents wrapped (not even all bought – eek!), and no comprehensive outfit plans for me and Daughter, not a morsel planned for the Boxing Day Buffet (that probably won’t be a buffet this year – too much pastry and clock watching for all those little mini fancies that pretty much all taste the same!) – but no next project.  

So what should it be?  My wise friend J would tell me to just be.  Be present in the moment.  Good advice.  But I do like a plan.  So until it’s time to start on the summer holiday plans, I’m going to have to stretch out my mini lists.  But I might just get a brochure…

Thursday, 24 July 2014


When I was discharged from hospital after having Daughter six years ago, I was sent home with painkillers, blood pressure and water tablets and a rather large dose of maternal guilt. The drugs were for a week or so, but the guilt was to be taken liberally several times a day.

The guilt is largely about two things. The first is not being there.  Not for the school drop off. Or pick up. Or to be a 'helper' in her class. Or to take one of her friends home from school for tea, and 'everyone else has someone for tea all the time'. I should get a different job she said, so I can be there to do that.

The second is about not giving her a sister (or a dog, because I'm allergic). We tried, we succeeded, but it wasn't to be. We have tried to explain that you can't guarantee a sister, but that falls on deaf ears. And really, she doesn't want a baby sister, she wants a ready made five year old sister to play with right now.

So, in order to compensate for my epic fails, I try to really step up where I can. And the last opportunity I had to do this was for the big 6th birthday.

The first chance I had to put a shed load of extra work in was sourcing the invitations. Barbie, she'd decided. No problem, I thought. But it turns out that she's not quite as easy to get hold of as you might think. But it gave me the chance to put plenty of time in sourcing them and medicating my guilt.

(Some of you will disapprove of Barbie.  I get your concern. Is she a suitable role model?  We'll let me tell you we now have the Dream House mansion thing in our dining room and I personally think the girl's done good. But each to their own.)

But the big chance came when I got the idea to make her a Barbie cake. No nipping down to Asda for a ready made version for me. I mightn't be able to pick her up from school, but I could stay up half the night making one to show her how much I love her. Mother made our birthday cakes every year, still does and they still look the same. When someone makes you a cake, it's like a message of love on a plate. So, if a cake says 'I love you', what would my Barbie extravaganza say? Probably 'I love you and you have me wrapped around your perfectly formed little finger'.

So, I'd seen a hard could it be?

The first hurdle was what to cook it in. Option one was apparently to bake a number of sponge cakes, stack them and then then carve them into shape. Hmm. Sounded a bit trickier than I'd anticipated, but of course did give plenty of scope for assuaging guilt and stepping up.  However, I decided there was nothing gained from giving Barbie a hideous deformity and so had to look further afield. Option two was to buy a tin. Having exhausted my borrowing options quite quickly ( there's only Z that embraces home baking in my circle of friends, and the Head of Catering at work drew a blank), it became clear I was going to have another opportunity to demonstrate dedication  by researching and then buying said tin.

Then there was the decorating to think about. A lunchtime abandoned to comparing edible diamonds, sugar roses and pink balls (if in doubt, buy all) and I was ready to roll (not the icing, it bought that ready-rolled, ha ha)

So, the big bake began. Half way through I realised I'd underestimated the size of the tin and had to suspend the proceedings for an emergency dash to the nearest shop. That done, I metaphorically sat back and waited for it to cook. And waited. And waited. Eventually it appeared to be done and my job was done for the night.

The next day was all about the decorating. And I also discovered that loom bands make excellent Barbie bobbles. To be fair, I quite enjoyed the decorating so it didn't have the guilt repayment value it should have. Anyway, Barbie eventually looked like this:

Then this:

(And then eventually like this...)

Did she say 'I'm tastier than a brother or sister and quite frankly people will be more impressed?' She did say 'please ignore the icing in my hair' though.

So eventually it was party day. The many surrendered lunchtimes culminated in bags and bags of stuff to make the party look pretty and help 30 odd six year olds have fun. Did I see the fun? No. I spent most of the party willing heat resistant fries to cook to accompany their very accommodating and quick cooking hot dog buddies, accompanied as always by Mother, who surely has no mother guilt to pay for having been ever-present.

Did Daughter miss me at the party? I don't think so. Did she have a brill time and tell me it was her best birthday ever? Yep. Will I ever not feel guilty? I doubt it. All I can do is try and make the big (and little) things count. Oh, and keep doing the lottery...

Friday, 23 May 2014

All Change

Every morning, when I’m performing my morning ablutions, I hear a small child be dropped off at his grandmother’s house round the corner from us (they’re not really loud, we’re on the corner!) and every morning, he cries.  Now I’ve seen this child, who must be about two, with his grandmother, and he’s happy as Larry (lucky old Larry, always cheerful).  What he doesn’t want is for his mummy to leave him.  I hear his nanny placate him with their plans, and I’ve seen his mummy extricate herself and drive off.  And every time I hear or see it all, it takes me back to when Daughter was little little (considering her to be just little now that she is nearly 6).

I went back to work when Daughter was six months old, and as I’ve mentioned before, it was all very traumatic for me.  And probably for Father, who was her primary daytime carer and used to present me with a record of nappies changed, ounces of milk taken and slop ingested.  Strangely there was no record of the Starbucks muffin eaten when she was about 8 months old and in the joint care of Father and Sister for the day.  Sister thought little of what she called my food regime and decided it was high time her precious niece lived a little. How she laughed a few months later when I anxiously asked Mother if she thought it was ok to give Daughter a little bit of fairy cake! That was when I discovered the treachery, now known as Muffin Gate.  Fast forward over five years and I’m the one with the child who tries to exist solely on chocolate and she’s the one with the child who chooses an apple over chocolate as a pudding (apple for pudding? Does not compute!) and is a regular at their local curry house.

I digress.  Dropping her off as a baby was hard, but not on her.  It wasn’t till she was one, and we’d spent the entire summer holiday together that she took a bit of umbrage at being abandoned.  Poor Mother, who was still working at this time, had to try and coax her away and entice her with the fun she’d be having with Granddad that day.  And they did have fun, and I used to struggle to get her out of there come home time, but by god were the mornings hard.

Eventually it all became easier, but she still had her moments.  It wasn’t about where she was or who she was with but rather about the fact she wasn’t with me.  What she failed to realise is that wonderful Nanny and Granddad did far more exciting stuff with her than I ever would have done (I’m finding the years between absolute dependence and leaving home independence a bit of a challenge…) and never in a million years would I have been creative enough to build her an obstacle course of boxes and furniture when she started to walk to keep her away from the radiator and give her enough places to hold on to when she wobbled (good old Granddad), or taken her out to the front gate every day at the same time to talk to the man with the dog that she liked.  Or probably a load of things they did with her that I can’t remember now.

But it’s all different now.  She can’t get to Nanny and Granddad’s fast enough if there’s the chance.  She asked could she phone them the other day so that she could ask if she could go round.  Or if it’s not going there, it’s can she have a friend round.  And no longer do I have to go and snuggle her before she gets up and play a set routine of games before she’ll get up (grabber – where I pretend to be one of those machines and try and grab her belly, tickle – if she doesn’t laugh she wins, cuddle round 1, rock, paper, scissors and then cuddle round 2).  No, now I have to put the TV on and come back when I’m all ready.  And it’s not CBeebies, it’s CBBC.  I fear I’m becoming surplus to requirements.  That’s the thanks I get for holding her non-stop for six months and giving in to her every whim because ‘she’s only a baby’.

So what I want to do each morning is open the window and shout on to the family experiencing the morning trauma:  ‘this too shall pass!’ – and you might be sorry when it does.

Friday, 25 April 2014

I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear...

Fooled by a few cheery sunny and warm days over the last couple of weeks, I have unearthed the summer clothes.  There is quite a rigmarole to the change of seasons in our house, as limited wardrobe space has always required clothes to be boxed up and stored in the loft.  This is what happened in the parental home, with poor Father being required to get in the loft and unearth unlabelled bin bags for me, Sister and Mother, and always be sent up for a rogue sandal (or boot).  Sister and I always had a pile ‘em high attitude to clothes, so we’re talking a lot of bags.  I think that was probably the first thing they did when I left home (last to leave) – teary eyed wave and then up the stairs at record speed to use all the now vacant wardrobe and drawer space!  No more seasonal change loft jaunts for Father now.

I sent Husband up for the summer boxes, also for the last time due to the wise purchase of some nice furniture for the spare room, and he was very surprised to only find one fairly light box.  And it all came back to me.  I’d had a cull, a clear-out,  a declutter the summer before.  I’d Trinny and Susannah’ed and Gok’ed myself.  Made me feel frumpy?  Out.  Too big (ha ha as if)?  Out .  Pre-baby clothes (ahem, pre-nearly six year old clothes)?  Out.  And what survived will see me staying in a lot over the summer.  Three strappy maxi dresses (but not the shrug things I wore with them), three skirts I wear for summer work, all of which are all too big, but no tops.  Two chiffony type maxi dresses that I still love but have practically thermal slip dresses attached to protect modesty and make my hair curl with over-heating.  And that was about it.  I’d held some linen trousers and some chinos back in case of an unexpected heat wave (ha! No catching me out sunshine!) and that is the sum total of my summer wardrobe.

What to do?  I’m trying to lose weight (and take what you will from the fact I haven’t updated you with my Fab at Forty efforts lately…) and so didn’t want to buy until I was looking at smaller sizes, but all that’s happened is I’m in between sizes at this crucial shopping time.  Because we all know that if you haven’t completed your summer clothes shop within the next couple of weeks you’ll be stood looking at woolly hats and boots in the shops.

So while I’m belting things in and working double time to get things washed and ironed, what’s happening with Daughter’s wardrobe?  I did the same with her clothes, and generated eight bags for the charity shop (they do keep growing!) and then declared a state of emergency shopping trip and kitted her out.  I’m having to try hard to remember she’s not a baby and shop accordingly.  I’d still have her in frilly knickers and hats with elastic under the chin if I could.  Wasn’t quite expecting her to have inherited my fondness for leopard print though.  She was given the choice between identical gladiator style sandals (which aren’t the nice sturdy leather Clark’s I would buy if left to my own devices!), which had some frilly flower type embellishment on the front, one in a pinky hued vintage floral design, and one in a gold leopard print design.  You guessed it.  Hear her roar.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Ready, Steady, Lunch!

Friday’s packed lunches are always depressingly sparse.  One of us does the food shop (also known as The Big Shop)on a Friday, which means by Thursday night when I make the lunches for the next day (really, who has time to make it in the morning?), there are slim pickings.  Not for Daughter, of course.  She has the same every day – sandwich (egg or ham on strict rotation, and the exotica of egg has been a fairly recent addition), bear crisps, a mini chocolate bar that is apparently approved by mums due to the high milk content, apple juice and until recently a well-travelled pot of grapes.  It was well travelled in that she very rarely ate them and they went back and forth.  The lunch-box police would probably take me away, but they want to try living with a fussy eater.  So of course there is always everything that she wants, and let’s face it, I’d do a midnight run to the supermarket in my slippers if I discovered something missing for her.  Substitutes will not be tolerated!

But for me, it’s like a much scaled down version of Ready Steady Cook.  I empty the fridge of potential lunch fare and try and put something together.  Last night revealed a serious lack of salad and fruit, but at least there was enough to make a sandwich.  I was drooling during a text to L before, who was having a jacket potato with beans and salad.  The food of kings!  I have no access to a kitchen at work and so I’m pretty limited to sandwiches and sophisticated pots of noodles that you can make with water.  Not those!  I’ve got a degree, thank you very much.  My noodles come in cardboard containers for that extra bit of sophistication.

When I lived with my parents (or ‘at home’ as I still call it occasionally), my very wonderful Mother made my packed lunch for work.  Yes, work.  Those were the days.  There was never two days the same, and there was never a make-do day.  How?  She worked full time and did everything (more appreciated now than at the time, I think) and yet still had enough sandwich filling on a Friday.  And I’m no stranger to having discovered ham, soft cheese and grapes in between my granary.  The imagination!  The effort!

I don’t think Daughter will look back as fondly on her lunches.  How misty-eyed can you get over a boiled egg sandwich?!  To be fair to myself though, I do cut them into a heart shape.  I do hope she will entertain a ham, soft cheese and grape sandwich at some point, but I think I will be resigning my packed lunch maker role the day she leaves school.  Primary school.  No?  Grr.

I’m off to pester L with texts now while she has her jacket and beans. Ha ha!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Just Another Can on the Shelf

I have 24 cans/bottles/sprays etc of hair product on my shelf in our bedroom, so this of course doesn’t include the ‘wet’ hair products that crowd the bathroom (at least 9 that I can think of from the top of my head, pardon the pun).

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re imagining me with a different hairstyle every day, all carried off with that ‘just stepped out of the salon’ shine and gloss.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  I wear my hair the same EVERY DAY.  Loose and straightened for work, palm tree style with fetching fringe clip when I get home.  So what’s with all the stuff? 

I’ve got nice hair, if it’s not too big headed (there’s another one!) to say.  But I live with the desire to have nicer hair.  Glossier, fuller, straighter, curlier, more defined…and clearly those 24 products have promised me a variety of those desires at some point.  And have they?  Mostly, no.  Do I keep falling for the promises?  Yes.  I am a marketing team’s dream.  Put a picture of Cat Deeley in a magazine and use words like ‘repair’, ‘softer’, ‘glossier’ and I’m sold.  I will peruse the hair product aisles of large chemists at least once a week.  I’ve been firm with myself lately and am taking a ‘Just Say No’ stance, but like any kind of addict, I’m tempted.  It doesn’t help that Sister, with whom I usually peruse the aisles, has an even worse case of product addiction.

Now don’t tell Husband, who has a more minimal stance to this kind of thing, but on any given day, I use two of the bedroom shelf products.  Two!  That’s 22 unloved (and dusty) products on the shelf.  But I can’t throw them away.  I might need them!  The fact that some of them have actually survived a house move four years ago means nothing.  I’m bound to forget why I’ve stopped using some of them at some point and no doubt be overwhelmed by a horrible gone-off hair product smell (apart from those that are really old and from the days when our products were loaded with stuff to keep it tip-top for a century).

It’s not just my head that has all the extra stuff.  I counted 11 body creams/butters/lotions on the go in the bathroom this morning.  And I have two vanity cases full of extras, although I did unearth my last Christmas body wash this morning.  It must have been a slow year.

It’s probably time to admit it.  My name is Joanne and I’m a product-holic.  But I have no plans to reform.  I’m going to chuck or use the hair stuff, I think, but life can be hard enough without just one body spray to choose from.  I’m anxious to build up the body wash collection as we speak.  And if I ever do run out, I can always cross the landing to Daughter’s room.  At five and a half, she’s already building up a collection of perfume (because who doesn’t want to smell like a Disney Princess?! Obviously not Daughter, who never touches the stuff!) and gooey lipgloss.  Like Mother like Daughter I suppose!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Retail Therapy

Daughter and I enjoyed a bit of retail therapy this weekend.  Well, when I say enjoyed, perhaps I should say 'participated in with only minor levels of discomfort' . First stop, Primark. I'd forgotten our sunglasses and it was a glorious day in Liverpool today, so in we went to splurge a couple of quid on some sunnies.  Despite having promised myself I wouldn't buy any clothes until I've lost some weight and saved some money, I don't get into Liverpool very often and the lure of city centre shopping was too much for me, and I had the clearly ludicrous idea of having a quick look. And quick it was, because Daughter was keen for me to know she didn't really want to be there. I'm used to her moaning, so I could have put up with that, but she tried to wander, and there's nothing to send my stress levels rocket higher than Daughter being more than about 10cm away from me. My fear isn't that she'll fall over or get lost, it's that she'll be stolen. She's so beautiful, you see. I know the statistics suggest it's highly unlikely, but I can't concentrate unless she's right in front of me. So, browsing for me was abandoned and we schlepped up to children's wear.  She tried four styles of sunglasses on, picked a bag and some jewellery and then was a pain when I was looking for things for her, so all she got was a pair of neon pink jeans. Her loss.

It's understandable that she was fed up, but the real reason was that there was 30 quid burning a hole in my purse that she had from Other Grandad (so called to distinguish him from Nanny's Grandad!) and Aunty T, who had come to visit, and a promise of another tenner from me, all to spend in Build A Bear.

We'd managed to get her to five and a half without ever building a bear. I'd let her spend birthday money on an outfit for a rabbit she'd got as a christening gift, but we'd never chosen one of the slightly alarming empty bodies and joined the queue.  There was no choosing, she knew what she wanted (Treasure, an eye-wateringly orange cat, who is Princess Ariel's pet, presumably obtained after her move to dry land) and we encountered the attempt to get us to include a scent and sound (no thanks!) and then joined the filling queue. Our helper, Alice, was so good and I hope she's enjoying a well deserved vodka (or whatever youngsters drink these days!) tonight. Watching Daughter work the foot pump with such conviction that she was filling Treasure was so lovely, but the heart ceremony choked me up. I appreciate that sentence alone could cost me readers, because it might sound like I'm overly sentimental and have bought into the saccharine ploys of cutesy emporiums designed to hike up pester power to the max (surely I'm not the only one that cringes at being called a Guest in another well known place high up on the pester power list? And, on that note, do they really need a character name? The middle aged grump that attended to us in another (not local) outlet was so far removed from her character ( can't remember who, but one of the Big Five Princesses) that I nearly sniggered). Anyway, I digress. The heart ceremony. Daughter selected her heart, and then performed a series of actions with it, the last one being to kiss it and make a wish. Her eyes were screwed up so tight with thinking and wishing so hard, and she didn't move that heart from her kiss until she was all wished out. And it's a secret, you know, so I don't know what it is. But I couldn't tell you if I did, it's a secret!

And of course Treasure needed clothes. And accessories. What self respecting cuddly cat doesn't accessorise? So we added our dress, tiara, necklace and tail flower. Daughter did make a bid for the shoes, but they only come in pairs and Treasure's got four shoeable feet, so point to Mummy.  Not buying shoes enabled us to go over to Cafe Thorntons, hurrah! Not for the delicious and restorative hot chocolate I had, you understand, but just so we could get Treasure out and dress her. What I did discover was that cats on four legs and bears/rabbits on two legs don't really share any physical similarities but are supposed to wear the same clothes, and consequently poor old Treasure's dress is a bit of a poor fit.

Fast forward a few years, and will we be firm shopping buddies or will it be a punishment for both of us? I suppose it depends how long I'm willing to buy things for her! I can't imagine future shopping being so cute as watching my little girl wishing on a heart though. I'm so soft!


Friday, 28 February 2014

Fab at Forty - nine months and counting

Doesn’t time fly when you’ve set yourself a time-bound goal?  I’ve now got nine full months to the big birthday, and after the positivity of my last post, I’m afraid it’s all bad news for this update.

I’ve had a major, major dose of the lurg.  I may have mentioned it, although it’s not like me to share my suffering, ha ha.  I’ve been off work for four weeks with a nasty chest and lung infection (so definitely not the catarrh the first doctor said!) and it’s knocked me for six.  I haven’t been able to get to my classes for a month now, and although I barely ate for a week (and hit my lowest weight for about three years!), once my appetite came back, the scales crept back up.  The bits that were feeling firmer are feeling soft again (much to Daughter’s joy that the bingo wings haven’t gone) and I’m a long way off buns of steel.  I’ve stuck to Choc-Free Feb though, as long as I don’t count the numerous chocolate digestives I snaffled yesterday.  When I say Choc-Free, I mean actual bars/buttons/eggs, but not cake or biscuits.  Look, I want to be slim, but what joy is there in life without a little of what you fancy?!

I’m back at work today, and so far I’m surviving.  Still pretty puffed, but to add insult to injury I picked up a cold on Monday, so I’m trying to see that off.  The doctor told me my infection was caused by the flu virus and I should expect to feel exhausted.  Great, thanks Doc.  But I need to get back on the plan, so I’ve been to chemists and have tried to buy my way out of it.  The recovery plan now consists of fizzy tablets to make a vitamin C drink – me, but on a good day – the sweetest, syrupiest tonic for ‘tiredness and fatigue’, and liquid iron (gentle on the stomach, because let’s face it, the possible side effects of iron pretty much cancel out all the benefits!), which allegedly has a ‘delicious’ malty orange taste.  If anyone thinks that is delicious, they must have deficient taste buds.  I need to get up ten minutes earlier to administer it all!  No wonder every cupboard in the land is full of abandoned bottles of vitamins – who has the time?!

As for the fitness classes, I’ll get back to them as soon as I don’t need a rest at the top of the stairs.  I hope that’s soon.  And once I’ve got another month of classes under my belt, I’ll see about signing up for bootcamp.  It looks scary, but the before and after pictures are really inspiring.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that I’ve got better news for my next update.  Otherwise, I’m going to have delete my blog and pretend I never made the Fab at Forty pledge!!


Monday, 24 February 2014

One Shade of Grey

I was blow drying my hair the other day and I saw it.  Just hanging out there, like a hard-faced silver interloper.  Yes, there it was.  A grey hair.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  At 39, I know I’ve had a good innings, and it’s not actually my first.  I’ve got a couple of baby fine silvery strands at my right temple, only visible during the most extreme episodes of tying my hair back (pretty much just when I put a face pack on).  But this devil was on my part.  And as if to mock me even further, it hid when I brushed my hair, smug in the knowledge that I know it’s there and now I can’t find it.  I’m on high alert, ready for it to pop up at any point.  The good thing for me is that I’m nearly 6 foot tall, so not many people see the top of my head, but now I know it’s there and I wish I carried a hat off with more panache.

I know I’ve done well to get to this age without more grey, and all my forays into home colouring have been for the fun of it, but does this mean I’m actually going to have to start reading ‘root application’ instructions?  That seems like a job for the professionals.  I’ve taken after Father’s side of the family, and take comfort in the knowledge that he pretty much kept all of his hair colour until his early sixties.  Mother’s side had to embrace grey at a much earlier age, although of course Mother herself is a natural blonde…

So now I will have to add ‘Grey Watch’ to the list of beauty things to do, because I’ll no more embrace grey hair than I will bushy eyebrows or hairy legs.  But the real truth is that if I find the blighter again, it’s very likely I’ll rip it out, throwing caution to the old ‘two will grow back’ warning.  Because if I’ve got to touch up my roots for one, it hardly matters if there’s two!  Either that, or embrace hats.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

It's not the cough that carries you off...

I'm off work ill. I've got a chest infection. A chest infection that Dr 1 said was catarrh. This was while he was writing me a prescription for both an inhaler and ' something to relieve shoulder pain'. The something was ibuprofen gel which, for the unasthmatic amongst you, the average asthmatic cant use. Me included.  A chest infection that Dr 2 upgraded to an upper respiratory virus. A chest infection that Dr 3 finally identified, perhaps because I virtually crawled in there. A chest infection that has set a tooth off that I had root canal two years ago, like an old war wound. Did you know some root canals never settle? No, nor did I. Wish they'd told me that first!  Despite the eventual identification, the antibiotics don't seem to be touching it and I feel Very Poorly Indeed. If only I'd walked into the ER at Grey Sloan Memorial, they'd have had me sorted at a glance. Of course I probably would have been diagnosed with some incurable tropical disease or the likes so the NHS it is for me.

Unusually for me, I can't sleep. It's 1am as I write, which is way, way past my bedtime. Sleep hardly ever eludes me. In times of trouble, stress, trauma, even tragedy, I can normally summon the Zeds with ease. It's like some anti flight or fight mechanism. I didn't even have trouble sleeping on Monday night, after I'd pretty much slept from lunchtime to Daughter's bath time and then went to bed at 8.30. But not tonight. Having watched so many medical dramas, I feel confident to declare that it's because I can't stop coughing. I can't take my inhalers because they make me cough (surely not right?!)  so I'm having my gazillionth cup of tea of the day and rambling on to you in the hope that I'll drop off. Not too abruptly though, as the iPad charger isn't really long enough and I'm half hanging out of bed. Bad news for me or the iPad if I just conk out!

I've been grateful for two wonders of the modern age in the three days I've been off. The first is Sky Plus, and especially on demand features. Other tv systems exist of course, but one must write about what one knows! The other is the sleeved blanket.

I've had a right old backlog on the box, and in the old days there would have been a towering stack of VHS tapes alongside the tv. But not now. Almost the entire run of Silent Witness watched between snoozes. Not the last two parter though, don't spoil it. Midsomer Murders- done. I've got three episodes of Girls waiting in the wings and am umming and ahhing over whether to delete The Paradise or to soldier on. But the real joy is on demand. I've gorged on season 4 of Private Practice, the Grey's Anatomy spin off. There they were, seasons 4, 5 and 6 just waiting to be downloaded. But rather than fill up the box with such readily available delectations, I just did season 4. And then discovered seasons 5 and 6 had been taken off due to legal action...yes, I was a bit put out.

And what of the sleeved blanket? Well it's super cosy and I think gives an air of Papal majesty if you stand up in it. Maybe it's because mine is purple.  I suspect walking about in them is difficult for most people as it tried to trip me up and I'm tall. 

So not much else really. I spent a bit of time making bobbles and a hairband for Wear it Yellow day tomorrow. It's in aid of Marie Curie, so happy to support, but yellow in February?! Of course it took a search through her summer clothes to find something yellow and she's gone in an eclectic mix, to say the least! 

As I'm lolling about wondering what to watch next, I'm mentally adding to The List. Mentally because I haven't got the puff to go and get a pen, and they're getting added to the list rather than being done because unless it can be done via the remote control, it's too much effort at the minute. And I need to conserve all my energy, because there was recording aplenty going on tonight. Tomorrows menu will consist of Greys and Midsomer. I've just got to hope I don't fall asleep and miss whodunit!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Fab at Forty - ten months and counting

As the first month of the year is limping to a close, I thought I’d update on the Fab at Forty plan.

I’ve succeeded in the Dry January challenge.  Well, counting chickens really, but at lunchtime on the last day of the month I think I’m safe to say I’ll make it!  Sister was very keen that I kept my participation in Dry January quiet for fear of sounding like Oliver Reed (showing my age again).  I don’t usually drink very much, so it wasn’t a hardship, and I’m glad that for once I’ve met a challenge like that.  Many a Lent has seen me break a giving up pledge!

The fitness side is taking shape (no pun intended!) and I’m going to Zumba twice a week run by the lovely Ellen at  I absolutely love it.  I could only go once this week due to work commitments and I missed it.  The only downside is the Zumba high on the night when the class finishes at 9pm – reasonable bedtime is futile!  I’ve even bought some new trainers, so I must be serious.

I got a bit ahead of myself last Saturday when I joined in a running club meeting.  I’d imagined beginners running would be a gentle jog and then a rest, repeat until the hour was up.  But no.  It was a well-planned 2.5 mile run.  The warm up nearly killed me, but I thought I’d give it a go.  Oh my god.  I was sorry about all the cross-country lessons I’d skived from, all the buses I’d let go because I didn’t want to run for them.  The leader was an angel who stayed with me and encouraged me to run to various points. I was purple in the face, wringing wet and wheezing like a 40 a day girl.  My legs weren’t too bad though…until Sunday.  I couldn’t have been any less flexible if I’d have had toe to hip casts on them.  I think I better learn to walk before I can run.  Me and L have a plan, and it’s not just because we both bought running shoes as well as new shoes for Zumba!

The diet isn’t going so well though.  Great in week one, not so great in weeks two and three.  I read a good article about mindful eating last week (probably whilst eating my lunch), and I can see that I’m a mind-less eater.  I recognise my eating triggers, and number one is boredom.  I’ve got nothing in my office now, because I was stuffing my face all day.  A Weight Watchers biscuit loses it's usefulness if you eat 8 on the trot.  I’m a boredom eater, and because I’m not in a manic, high-stress, everyone wants something from you at every minute of the day job anymore, a biscuit, a ryvita, an apple etc breaks up a little of the day.  I should see my lovely friend Jo at The De-Stress Show, who’s brill at all manner of relaxation and hypnotherapy and what have you, see if she can help me out.

Outing myself in public has worked reasonably well for me though, so my next ‘out’ is to make February chocolate free.  Now that’s a challenge.  But I’ve said it now, so if you spy me nearing the Dairy Milk, slap my hands!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Lunchtimes are a window on the world.

Where I used to work, lunchtimes didn’t really exist.  There was an occasional downing of tools and natter about this, that and the other, but leaving the building was rare.   And that’s not to say there wasn’t enough in the town centre if one wanted to pass an hour, particularly if one wanted a pastry based lunch.  I did have to pass an Asda Superstore on my way home though, and that did get visits aplenty.  They must have wept when I left the old place, their profits must have really nosedived.  When I say I visits aplenty, let me expand by saying Daughter thought her name was George for some time.

But now I work in a town centre, and life outside the office is there to marvel at. Regular readers will have already heard of the lure of Marks & Spencer and other emporiums.  I know this is a bit of a recurring theme (see Reverse Ambition in the archives), but I stare at this outside life agog, mentally like a child drooling in a sweetshop window.  There are people shopping for fun, babies being wheeled about for fresh air, people stopping for coffee.  My favourite drool is mums with sleeping babies having a well-earned latte, or even better, a hushed and hurried catch-up with friends.  Maternity leave was my favourite ever time in the world, even though I was terrified of Daughter for most of it, but I loved those quiet times when I could just be for half an hour.  And there’s that constant state of being against the clock, because she might wake up.  Happy days. 

I dedicate a little piece of lunchtime every day to thinking what I would do if I didn’t have to go to work.  I must point out that this fantasy involves me earning (well I wouldn’t be earning I suppose, just getting) pretty much what I do now but not having to go to work.  Of course I have ‘what I’d do if I didn’t have to go to work because I’m a millionaire’ moments as well, but they take a bit more thinking about.

So what would I do?  Can I pretend I’ve got a bit more money and employ a cleaner?  No? Pah.  It’s my fantasy!  Ok, so something like this…

Drop daughter off at school.  Most mornings head straight to the gym or a class.  Some mornings go for coffee with my fellow non-working chums.  Beat the supermarket crush and serenely amble round the aisles one morning.

Home, to do some chores (which would no longer be a chore because I don’t have to squeeze them in at 10pm or waste Sundays roaring not to stand on my wet floor) and lunch.  Maybe some volunteering at school after lunch some days.  Not quite sure what I’d volunteer for, but at least I’m making the effort in my fantasy!  Or the odd bit of retail therapy, maybe the odd pamper.  Hanging out with the folks now and again.  Catching up with chums, keeping up to speed with paperwork, being creative in the kitchen…the world would be my oyster.  And then off to get Daughter from school, where we’d spend happy and light times together doing homework, getting crafty, playing games, you name it.  Then Husband would get home and I’d be light and cheerful, and we’d all sit down to something healthy yet tasty (Daughter’s culinary horizons are clearly broader in my fantasy).  And we’d have some lovely jolly family time before a stress-free bedtime, and then some quality time with Husband, not watching football but some quality TV.  Who’s with me?

Or who fancies the real day instead?  That goes something like this…

Ignore the alarm at 6.20am, then spend half an hour panicking about the time.  Get ready, breakfast, get Daughter up.  Be shouted at by Daughter who is TIRED!  Help Daughter get ready, with every other sentence being ‘It’s getting late!  Come here!’,  peppered with ‘Concentrate!’ and  ‘I’ve got to leave in ten minutes!’.  Throw in the odd horn-locking about what colour tights Daughter is going to wear.  Abandon Daughter to Peppa Pig, a brioche and a yoghurt in a tube (no brand favouritism here!) to go and put shoes on etc.  Be asked five times not to leave without saying goodbye.  Be body searched by Daughter for my bracelet with a dangling heart on it that I must press several times throughout the day to send love to her heart on the zip of her dress.  Kiss Daughter (and Husband, lipstick colour notwithstanding), be asked if Daughter has got lipstick on and eventually get in the car.  Then off to work, which is relatively samey at the moment, lunchtime drool, more work, home, make the tea, eat tea, fight the bath time battle and then the bed time battle on my turn.  Do things like sort washing out, iron clothes, wash hair, make lunch, and if we’re lucky, actually sit down with Husband and not just pass in the hall as one of us goes to bed.  I would imagine a pretty similar story from most parents, perhaps minus the heart bracelet!  And for as much as I want to smash the alarm clock in every day, my kisses and squeezes and declarations of love from Daughter make the day ahead a better prospect.

But for now, I’ll keep doing the numbers and getting the plans ready just in case.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Fab at Forty

2014 is the year I turn 40.  Not until the end of 2014, I’m at pains to make clear, but it is the year nonetheless.  So, it’s time to follow through with a pledge that I threw out there in the heady days of summer…to be a size 12 by I’m 40.  With 11 months and counting, there’s no time to lose.  I haven’t made any other resolutions, because quite frankly, this will take all my efforts.

So, L and I have set about our plans.  L isn’t 40 until 2015, but being a good friend she’s joining me on the journey.  If shaping up happened by planning alone, we’d be a pair of supermodels.  But alas it appears to require more moving and less eating.  Pah.

We’re extremely accomplished at talking about our fitness plans.  There are some plans to get running gathering dust, and L’s lovely and super-fit husband P has offered plans and chaperoning on dark nights.  We’ll get round to it.  I fear we have the potential to be fair-weather runners.  I’m more likely to be fair-weather shuffler, to be honest.  I’ve never voluntarily run.  I wouldn’t even run for buses, preferring to suffer the consequences of being late instead.    Since school cross-country, which I used to saunter around, the only times I’ve ever run have been to chase after a speeding toddler.

So how am I going to do it?  I’ve decided Boot Camp is my solution.  I have to tell you that this has caused varying levels of hilarity in the family.  I’ve persuaded L, and we’re mentally up for it if nothing else.  She’s suffering the effects of 30 Day Shred at the moment, and I’m suffering the effect of moving to a third floor office (my poor knees!  Someone thought there was gunfire when I walked up them last week!), so we’re signing up for March.  And we’ll have to do it now, because I’m publically declaring our intentions!  We went to a Zumba class run by the Boot Camp leader last night, and not only did we survive, we came out with an exercise high and happily have both been mobile today.  Although L has just text to say she is about to Shred, so I can’t speak for her mobility tomorrow!

Daughter is less than impressed.  She is unexplainably against me going to ‘fitness club’, as she calls it. That said, she’s against me going to the toilet alone (separation anxiety is still alive and kicking!) .  I think she’s worried she won’t be able to poke at my arms and declare me to have bingo wings, or wobble my tummy and growl ‘chubbeeee’ at me.

But I don’t want to be chubbeeeee anymore, and for the first time since our wedding, I’ve got a decent time bound goal.  I’ve got no plans for my 40th, but I know how I want to look on the photographs.  I’ve suggested to Husband that we renew our wedding vows at 10 years, which is after my 40th,  just so that I can wear the dress again, because it will fit me, but he’s not keen.  When I say not keen, I mean absolutely horrified by the idea!

Whatever I do to celebrate, I’m on the journey to be fab at forty now.  It’s long haul for sure, so wish me luck!