So good they named him twice

Long term readers will know that we have a long history of frankly ludicrous and surreal games in our family that are incomprehensible to everyone else but us, and sometimes completely incomprehensible to us as well.

One of our long time car favourites is trying to come up with the most ludicrous lyrics to Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s ‘Oh Geno’. This provides hours of pointless entertainment.

Tallulah’s favourite is her game: ‘Name that Nut’. It is fairly self explanatory, but always leads to chaos and a great deal of shouting, especially when she gets bored of nuts, about thirty seconds into the game, and randomly changes it to species of snakes, or types of chair, or any other thing that passes through her brain. It sounds boring, but as cheating and inventiveness are actively encouraged, it is not always a futile past time.

Then there is the ‘Would you rather?’ game.  This is an old classic which you must all have played at one time or another. It runs along the lines of ‘Snog, marry, avoid,’ but usually, if you are us, veers immediately to the macabre.  Would you rather lick a dead man’s eyeball or drink a pint of sick? That sort of thing.  In our house it always ends up at the weirder end of the spectrum, as you would expect, with Tallulah being the expert on the trickiest questions:

‘Would you rather have a teapot made of rabbit fur, brown rabbit fur, with a handle made of lemon pips, and a total inability to pour tea out of, or a small shrew named Melvin who squeaks incessantly all night while you’re trying to sleep, but is otherwise so loveable he reduces people to tears of joy at the mere sight of him?’

A new game got invented last week. It’s called ‘What is Morrissey’s first name?’ It is, as all our games our, evident from the title what you have to do.  This came about because we were discussing our love for Mozza, and Derek’s hatred for Mozza (her fur sticks out and she slicks her ears back and starts yowling) and how strange it is, when Tilly asked me what Morrissey’s first name was.

I was, dear reader, stumped, despite being a long term admirer of the grumpy ole bastard.  It led to a fantastic half hour while we picked more and more wonderful names for Morrissey, such as:

Morrissey-Morrissey-With-A-Hyphen: So good they named him twice.

Perpendicular Morrissey

Morrissey Morrissey Lemon Morrissey

Limbic Augustus Morrissey

etc.

On doing our research we found out that his real name is Stephen.

Stephen? What sort of a name is that for a miserable demigod sporting gladioli out of his nether regions?

‘Steve! Steve Morrissey! Come inside now. Your tofu pie is getting cold.’

I don’t think so.

We are agreed that we will continue playing: ‘What is Morrissey’s first name,’ until we come up with such a splendiferously unarguably right name we can no longer top it.

We will then turn it into a song, and sing it in praise of the greatest dirgemeister of all time.

Suggestions on the back of a hearing aid gladly received.

Fasting Update

My second week of fasting has been and gone. I promised I would keep people up to date with progress, so here it is.

My weight has plateaued. I suspected it might after such a huge loss the first week. I am O.K. with this. The only other time I’ve ever been on any kind of diet, which was using Slimming World after I had Tallulah, I lost big the first week, levelled off in week two, and then saw a steady loss of one or two pounds a week after that.

I haven’t lost anything, but I haven’t gained anything either, and I have been putting my non-fasting days to good use, and my period has started, which usually leads me to eat more crap, and bloat more, so I feel that the fact that I am exactly what I was the week before is a good thing.

I have managed my ten thousand steps every day in terms of exercise. Most days I do over ten thousand. On one day I managed to unintentionally double that, what with one thing and another. It feels pretty good for the most part, although my hands get so cold (poor circulation) that I have been reduced to taking my wooly winter gloves with me so I can still feel my fingers when I walk in the early mornings.

The first half of the week was a breeze in terms of me coping with it all.  The second half was harder work. I experienced my first hunger pangs on a fast day, although I have to say it was just an awareness of being hungry rather than any sense of being starving, and certainly nothing I couldn’t cope with.

The reason, I think, that the second half of the week was harder was that my period was due, and I actually started my period yesterday. My moods were pretty tricky from about Wednesday on, and I found that I was more easily tired. I did wonder at first whether the moodiness/tiredness was related to the fasting, but long experience of the nature of my own pre menstrual spikiness put me straight on that front.

As well as being the first day of my period yesterday, it was also a fast day. I was interested to see how I would cope. I had stomach cramps and pain in the small of my back and hips when I woke up.  I wanted to take pain killers so rather than fasting entirely until dinner time I had an oat cake so I could take some pain relief at breakfast.  I wondered if breaking my fast earlier would make the rest of the day harder to cope with without food. It didn’t, which was good to know.

For the first time since I started walking I really wasn’t fired up to walk yesterday, but I wondered if I might feel better when I had taken some exercise. People say that it is beneficial, so I made myself walk.  It was hard for the first ten minutes, and then I began to feel better. By the time I got home I felt pretty well, which was terrific.

As the day went on I began to feel worse, and by tea time I was in significant amounts of pain with cramping and hip pain. After dinner I was absolutely drained and gave up and went to bed at eight o’clock with two hot water bottles and pain killers.

Interestingly I was no more hungry yesterday than normal, nor did I have a headache, and I usually get a menstrual headache on the first day of a period. I am choosing to believe that had I not gone on my morning walk I would have probably been in more pain with my hips and cramping than I actually was.

If I hadn’t been absolutely shattered by the evening, I probably would have gone out for another walk to see if that helped relieve some of the pain, as it was I was more than ready for my bed. The only negative I can see from yesterday was being exhausted by early evening, but who knows if I would have felt that way anyway?

All in all it was a pretty good week. I am still managing the fast days with little to no bother, and eating well on my non fast days. I am enjoying my walking and I believe I am already seeing some health benefits, although given the erratic nature of my cycle/periods, it is pretty hard to call that one if I’m being honest.

I’m all set for week three, and hoping to see a pound or two weight loss at the end of this week as an added bonus.

Not just right at all

Oscar has been looking forward to doing cookery ever since he started at his new school last September.

His last school did not have the facilities to do cookery lessons, so the novelty factor was high. He has been waiting patiently for months for it to be his turn to cook. They do these kinds of lessons on Wednesday afternoons, but so far he has been doing woodland studies and other more rugged pursuits.  Cookery was scheduled for the first week back after the Easter holidays, and helped to soften the blow of going back to school.

I waited in the playground for him on Wednesday afternoon, ready to greet a boy whose enthusiasm bubbled over all the way home.

Nope.

Instead, a dejected figure trailed out of the school doors, dragging his feet and looking at the ground.  He was not happy.  Cookery was ‘horrible mama.’ I asked what the problem was.

‘We made horrible, horrible food.’

I asked him what.

‘Porridge.’

Oh dear. Not a good start.  Who in their right mind tries to inculcate a love of cookery in a child’s mind by starting with porridge?

Worse still.

‘Porridge with fruit.’

Oh deary, dear.  Healthy porridge. Not even porridge with cream and honey. Basically gruel then.

He turned his face to me and said in an impassioned voice:

‘And…and…mama, I just didn’t understand it! I didn’t know if it was a food or a drink.  It looked like food. But then.  Then you had to…drink it!’

This, it seems was the final straw.

He does not want to go back next week, although it is hard to say what they could make that would be as upsetting as a food that you have to drink.

The show must go on

I’ve not walked to Scotland or owt. I’m just rubbish at blogging at the moment.

I have been good at eating, walking and going to the theatre though.

Last week I went to see Return to the Forbidden Planet. This week I went to see Oh, What a Lovely War!

These are both musicals.

Regular readers will know that the musical theatre genre is my least favourite of all. I generally avoid musicals like the proverbial plague, yet such is the perennial popularity of the musical form that there is probably one about that very plague doing the rounds as we speak.

Gah.

I am quite literally terrified of the prospect of jazz hands in a non ironic situation.

I do think, however, that it is very important to challenge your beliefs/likes/dislikes every now and again, so I have had another bash at the world that is show and its tunes.

Return to the Forbidden Planet won prizes because there is a lot of Shakespeare to dilute the tunes. Also the space guns were made out of hairdryers painted silver and I like that air of professionalism.  Oh What a Lovely War was ironic enough to be good, although I keep thinking that both shows would be better without music in them, which shows that at heart I am still a nay sayer.

The thing that upset me most deeply about both these shows was the audience. I know, I know, I am an intolerant old cow, but when did it become acceptable to treat the theatre like your front room? (yes, I realise that the groundlings in Tudor times were a noisy rabble, but then they weren’t dressed to the nines and paying upwards of thirty quid a ticket for their entertainment).

Yesterday, the ladies behind me seemed to be entirely oblivious to the fact that there was anyone else in the theatre, or indeed that if there was anyone else in the theatre, they might actually want to hear the show, and not the commentary of inane babble that was spewing forth from their mouths.

Such pearls as:

‘Ohh, it’s shocking isn’t it?’

‘This bit is very sad.’

‘This bit is about the 1914 Christmas truce isn’t it?’

‘Oh, that’s funny isn’t it?’

etc, etc, on and on and bloody on. It was hardly Stephen Hawking on string theory.

And then there was the singing. What a treat.  They knew the first line of every tune, and part of the chorus, and joined in with gusto:

‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, tum te tum, smile, hmmmmm’

Argh! Argh! bloody argh.

And then the woman in the next seat but one to mine decided to give them a run for their money.

Why, for the love of the tiny baby Cheezus, why, did she think that bringing forty seven small sweets wrapped in industrial strength cellophane, kept in a crinkly carrier bag, in the bottom of another bag, under a pile of papers, was the appropriate snack for the theatre?

And why, when she got very excited about a song, did she decide to slap her husband’s knee repeatedly, right in my peripheral vision?

Last week I was stuck next to a woman who spent the entire show doing the hand jive and jigging so violently in her seat that I got motion sickness. She was also a singer.

God help me.

All I needed to round it off was a woman sitting in front of me wearing a wide brimmed Carmen Miranda hat and eating crisps whilst filming the show on her phone.

That will probably happen tomorrow when we’re off to see a miserable play by Timberlake Wertenbaker.

Hopefully there will be no show tunes.

Wandering and pondering

As you will know, if you made it to the end of my last post without blogging fatigue, I am taking exercise on a daily basis at the moment. It seems weird to call walking exercise, but that is how I’m describing it, and it is all good.

I have my trusty pedometer, ticking away the footfall, and making me feel like I am achieving things, without me actually having to do very much, which, I find, is the best way of achieving things if you’re me.

I have come to another realisation over the past week and a half.  I am not a country walker at all.  I am not turned on by gorgeous, verdant pastures, and cuckoo spotting. I don’t want to throw myself into hedgerows, and see what is over that crag. I find myself utterly, utterly bored by the glories of nature. I bloody hate Wordsworth.

‘Weedy people say la and fie and swoon when they see a bunch of daffodils.’

Chiz.

No. I am an urban rambler through and through. My extraordinary sense of nosiness as to people’s lives is all I need to keep me amused at the moment. I thoroughly enjoy gawking into windows and gardens as I amble past people’s houses. I am a lifestyle voyeur.

I like to make up stories about the sort of people, who, as Lloyd Grossman would say, ‘live in a house like that.’ I like to spot quirky bits of architecture, strange houses infilled amongst their more pedestrian neighbours, interesting paint colours, and marauding cats.  There are a lot of marauding cats, including a very friendly tabby called Boris, who I flee to for strokes when Derek shuns me with a firm tail.

Things I have marvelled at this week:

Gorgeous door knocker in the shape of a bronze dragon fly (wanted a screwdriver at this point)

One cat coming nose to nose with another cat and the first cat not being bothered about fighting so just leaping over the second cat like he was in Mario or something.

Some beautiful Victorian red clay pressed tiles with scroll work on them (now need a chisel)

A lot of Farrow and Ball paint. I wish I had shares in F&B.

Some truly excellent magnolia blossom.

Some terrible curtains.

The most appalling china elephant I have ever seen. Looked like it was made of mud.

by me, possibly.

A long, self indulgent and revelatory post

I have a confession to make…

A week or so ago, I wrote a blog post saying that a dress I own, that fit me perfectly six months ago, was now straining at the seams. I wrote that I had decided not to let it bother me. I wrote that I would put it to the back of my wardrobe and carry on scoffing.

I quoted Kate Moss as being a liar, liar, pants on fire when she said that ‘Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.’

I still believe this quote is an absolute crock, by the way. I cite the existence of the Vanilla Slice as a prime example of this, and could keep citing for several years if called upon to list all the things that taste better than thin feels.

But…

That weekend I came to the realisation that it really did bother me that my dress no longer fit me comfortably, and if I was being brutally honest with myself, it isn’t the first dress that hasn’t fit me recently, and actually I was pretty unhappy about those too.

I thought about this situation all weekend. I don’t find thinking about my shape/size terribly comfortable territory if I’m being frank. The whole subject is fraught with emotional pit falls, particularly, I would say, if you are a woman.  I wrestled and anguished and fretted and came up with a list of things I know to be true for me:

I do not want to go on a diet.

I do not want to stop eating the things I like to eat.

I do not want to slow my metabolism down any more than it already is slowing naturally. I am 43, everything is slowing down, I don’t need any help with that.

I do not want to pass on to my children any food/shape/size related weirdness that I may have, regardless of what I do or don’t do.

On the other hand, I am not comfortable in my own skin. I know this because I have been avoiding looking at my naked self in the mirror for quite some time.

I realise, that for those people who know me in real life, this might seem weird. I am not overweight, and by most people’s standards I am considered slim. I realise that many people would give their eye teeth to be the size I am.

I have to go, however, on how I feel in my own body, not how other people perceive me, or what other people think I should be, want me to be. Weight and shape are such personal things I really don’t think it helps to compare ourselves to other people at all. If you are comfortable and happy with who you are, brilliant. If you’re a happy size 22, good on you. If you’re a happy size 8, brilliant. It’s what works for you that matters. Happiness trumps dress size any day of the week. FACT.

However, I do not want to go up a clothing size ( I am using clothing size as a reference here, because I don’t weigh myself, I simply go on what fits me). I am a small framed person. The size I am suits my frame, and suits me, and means I do not have to think about any size related health complications, which given the other health complications I have to think about (re: lady issues and migraine) would probably send me properly to the basket weaving department.

I do not particularly want to go down a clothing size either. I love my clothes. Everything I own brings me joy. I want to add to my wardrobe, not start again.

I do not usually weigh myself. I find it counter productive as a rule. As long as my clothes fit and I’m happy, I don’t really care what my BMI is or what numbers are on a scale.  To make sure I wasn’t being ludicrous about this situation (or shrinking my clothes in the wash) however, I weighed myself. I am aware that sometimes my emotional imbalances impact massively on the way I see my body, and I didn’t want to be suckered in by my own lunacy.  I weighed just over a stone more than I did when Jason and I got married ten years ago.

I worried myself into a cocked hat about all these things. I decided that I was basically wanting my cake and eat it too, and that was pretty impossible and would only lead to more head mashing on my part. I came to the conclusion that a few weeks of eating gruel would have to suffice and I would just have to be miserable and bite the bullet.

This did not please me. There is plenty enough misery in the world without me adding more, gruel based misery to the mix. Also, I knew full well that this kind of solution would only last a few months at best and then I’d probably be back to square one.

At this point I was driving myself bonkers, and I decided  I needed to just lay the whole sorry mess out in front of someone else, and they’d either tell me to pull myself together and stop whining, or make me a cup of tea and pat me on the back and hand me a cabbage.

My friend, as it transpires, was much more helpful than this. She suggested I tried the 5:2 fasting regime.

I know several people who do this, to excellent results, but as a woman with a reasonably quick metabolism, no patience and a roving eye for a biscuit I had dismissed it out of hand as something I simply could not do and which would probably make me feel ill and want to kill people all at the same time.

She persevered and talked me into giving it a go, on the basis that if I didn’t like it after the first day I could jack it in and nobody would be any the wiser. This seemed fair.  I promised not to kill anyone on day one of the experiment as my part of the bargain.

Of my own volition I also decided that I needed to do some kind of exercise as well, mainly because I have been suffering quite badly since Christmas with joint pain in my neck, shoulders and hips, and although regular massages help, they don’t remove all the pain,and they’re ruddy expensive. I hate gyms and having to put on specialist clothing to go and flog about, so I decided to start taking a walk every day and see how I felt about it all at the end of a week.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the fasting regime. There’s plenty of material available if you’re interested. I will say though that there are two key things with regard to it. Firstly that you do not fast on successive days, you always have a break between fast days, and secondly you do not fast entirely. You can, depending on how you feel about it, range between 500 and 700 calories per  fast day.  The rest of the days you eat normally.

I decided to do 4:3 instead of 5:2, on the basis that if it works, I want a step or two to go down when I reach maintaining levels.

Here’s what I found:

As long as I drink plenty of water I am not hungry on fast days, so far.

I am better if I don’t have breakfast and save my food allocation for my evening meal. It seems to suit me, means I don’t get cranky in the evenings, and means I can sit down when the whole family are home, so we eat together. For lunch I always have bouillon, or miso paste and hot water. Tastes like chicken soup for the soul, fills me up, and sees me through to dinner time without any hunger pangs whatsoever.

I am not missing any of my favourite foods because I can simply promise myself that I will have them the following day. This is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I have for example, had three breakfasts on my birthday, as well as lunch and dinner, and it was awesome.

I have dug my Hairy Dieter’s cookery books out (I use them regularly because they’re so good, not because I was on a diet when I bought them, btw), and they are invaluable. Each recipe has portion and calorie allocation in it, and there hasn’t been a single thing I’ve cooked so far that has not allowed me to have a good portion of whatever it is for my dinner on a fasting day.

The Hairy Dieter’s recipes are fantastic and extensive, and we all like them, so the kids have bigger portions and things like rice/pasta/potatoes with theirs and we just have the main dish. I love that I can still cook one main meal at dinner time instead of doing separate things for me.  I love that we sit together and eat. I love that the children aren’t thinking that I am dieting.

I am enjoying going for a walk every day. I bought myself a pedometer this weekend, because I like to know how far I’ve wandered. I’m averaging about 13,000 steps a day (including all the day to day moving around). I realise that I used to walk all the time, and then when I learned to drive I have walked less and less. I am startled to find that I have missed walking. It makes me feel good.

I feel great. I mean really, truly great. I cannot quite explain to you how amazing this is. I genuinely, hand on heart, do not remember the last time I felt this good. I have bags and bags of energy. I have so much energy I really find it quite alarming.

I wake up in the morning and feel rested. I wake up in the morning and feel awake. This is unheard of.

I feel like fucking Tigger. That’s how great I feel.

I swear to you, if I didn’t lose a single pound, and my clothes still squeaked at the seams I would not give this up for all the tea in China. That’s how good I feel. As it is, for the purposes of science and nosiness I weighed myself yesterday and I have lost 9lb in one week. 9lb!

This is, of course, not going to last. I was more than happy to shed a pound or two a week and take things slow and steady, but I have to confess to being slightly over the moon, and it has given me the incentive, on top of the incentive of feeling bloody fantastic, to carry on.

So. I am reneging on that last blog post. I am happy to hold my hand up and say I was wrong. I am delighted I was brave enough to navel gaze my way to this solution for a few days. I am delighted to have found something that seems, for the moment, to be really working for me, and I am not in the slightest bit sorry  for being big enough to change my mind and try something new that I was convinced would not work at all.

I realise this might not last, and might just be the results of an initial ‘pink cloud’ euphoria. I might be misery personified next week, and if I am, I shall stop. I dithered about posting this, given that it is, in karmic terms, setting me up for a gigantic fall, but what the hell. If you can’t celebrate when your tail has so much bounce in it you don’t know what to do with yourself, when can you?

Testing testing scary clown

The Easter holidays has kind of ridden rough shod over all attempts to retain some kind of rhythm to family life. This is good in some ways, because it does not do to get into a rut, and it is nice to be unleashed upon the world in various surprising ways, but I find myself with a spiralling to do list which can only really be stared in the eye once the children go back to school. Blogging is one of the things on that list.

Basically this post is a Test Card for the blogging generation.

For those of you who were either not around in the Seventies, or merely lived in a different country where, presumably your television executives had not had a lunch of acid with quaalude chasers before this particular meeting at Broadcasting House, the Test Card was something the BBC used to put on in the afternoons when they couldn’t quite be bothered to make any television programmes.

I know, right? How can you own one of only two broadcasting corporations in the entire country and have a virtual monopoly on the nation’s viewing habits and not be arsed to make enough television programmes to last the whole day? Especially when you were being funded by the viewers’ licence fees, so it was all paid for.

Lazy. That’s what I say. Plain lazy.

So, programmes would start in the morning at some point. I am not sure when, as we were not allowed to watch TV in the mornings at home, except on Saturdays, obv. I mean, who could resist the lure of Noel Edmonds in bri-nylon, wing collar shirts to start your Saturday?

The earliest I saw TV on a week day was the schools programme series, which we sometimes watched for ‘educational purposes’ during lessons. We would dutifully traipse to the hall, whereupon a television the size of a small bus, balanced on what looked like a zimmer frame for giants, would be wheeled out, and we would all stare mesmerised at the screen for twenty minutes before going back to class. It was, bar none, the most exciting part of my primary school education. The illicit thrill of watching telly instead of learning about long division. Joy.

At lunch time there would be mostly a strange soap opera, which I believe was called The Cedar Tree, and which I remember nothing about except the credits, for I was only allowed to watch it when I was at home ill. Sometimes there would be a programme on how to paint hosted by a woman who used to paint using a palette knife. I remember being in awe of the fact that she was allowed to paint with kitchen utensils. I wasn’t.

After that, about 1.00 p.m. probably, the Test Card would come on, which was a fixed image accompained by a great deal of lift music, which hogged the screen until children’s television started about three hours later.

I remember actually choosing to watch the Test Card some days, which was about as dull as it sounds, but such was the fascination of telly. I think I was hoping that in the middle a sneaky cartoon might come on to reward the patience of those who stuck with the Test Card all afternoon. It never happened, sadly, and I never remember turning to ITV. Maybe they didn’t broadcast telly either, or have a Test Card. Perhaps it was just static telly snow.

And the Test Card picture?

Imagine a wide eyed, lank haired girl with a fixed grin, sitting next to a terrifying clown rag doll with a chalk board behind them, and lots of strange, geometric shapes frisking about my borders. All this while The Girl from Ipanema plays tinnily in the background.

I wonder about that Test Card a lot, even decades after the event. What the hell made them pick that image? I mean, really? You could have picked nothing, and I mean nothing, more sinister than that picture.

It surprised me not one iota when John Simm was haunted by that girl in Life on Mars. She has haunted my dreams for years, and I’m not even thinking about the clown:

‘sticks fingers in ears, blinds self with acid, la la la, I can’t hear/see/imagine you creepy clown guy.’