Tuesday 1 March 2011

One step forward, ten back

I was rather nicely asked to create a guest post for a terrific blogger called notsupermum. The theme was 'after so many failed attempts at dieting what finally worked for me'. If you're sick to the back teeth reading about dieting then step away from the page! If you want a great read then pop over to notsupermum, she's well worth the visit.

We’ve all been there, (okay not all but quite a few of us), you know, those times when your XXXL elasticised trousers are stretched beyond the call of duty, bursting at the seams, when you bemoan a muffin-top the size of a tractor tyre. A pained look in the mirror confirms your stomach needs a wheelbarrow to get you around and your backside enters a room a minute after the rest of your body. Buying the next size up - oh God, not again, really? Crap! - feels like an admission of abject failure and besides, you’re not even sure it exists in industrial strength elastic. You’re becoming documentary fat and dread the day the emergency services remove your upstairs window to wince you from your slovenly pit into a bariatric ambulance that sports a stiffened suspension, specialised hoists, wider than normal trolleys and stretchers manned by specially trained crews that more than likely trained in lifting wildebeest in preparation for the day, that you, need a trip to the hospital. I could certainly envisage the indignity of such an exercise and although I wasn’t quite there yet I couldn’t help but see my future panning out that way. Chances were though, that if I’d needed a trip to that place decked out with same sex wards, MRSA and medical staff in white coats, a trail of red wine and camembert cheese could have lured this old chubber there under her own steam and in record time without the help of the emergency services.

I’ve had my fair share of moments when life gave me a shot across the bow in a vain attempt to hammer home the state I was in; none more so than the time a pine chair collapsed underneath me as I reached to put the star on the top of the Christmas tree. That nanosecond between hearing a heart-stopping creak - clearly indicating the danger I was in - and the chair becoming a pile of expensive kindling, was merely enough for my finely honed survival instinct to kick in and tell me to grab anything, anything at all – just go for it for Christ sake - and in obeying a higher power clung to the Christmas tree in a futile attempt to minimise my fall to earth. The chair was beyond repair and the tree eventually restored to its former splendour, (minus a hundred or so pine needles in my now Porcupine like face), but the real casualty of the day was my pride.

Or there was the time a moulded plastic garden chair, to all intents and purposes, welded itself to my backside. Plonking my very ample rear-end into it in the high heat of the day then trying to extricate myself in a somewhat cooler evening had clearly rendered me tightly wedged as the plastic contracted to fit the shape of my arse. If only backsides contracted in the cold too - solidified fat, about as pliable as concrete. I can’t think why it hadn’t occurred to me that I was sporting four extra legs as I lurched awkwardly along a lengthy lawn for a much needed loo break but in retrospect being mullered on a bucket of red wine tends to dull the senses somewhat. Thankfully I am married to a soul mate with a gimlet eye for the unusual predicaments in which I sometimes find myself. His timely intervention in the manner of a rugby tackle to prise the chair off my arse drew a round of applause from our fellow dinner guests. It came to mind that perhaps nature had something to say about my ever expanding girth and that I should do something about it. Not so as it turned out.

There’s a multitude of reminders that you are fat and that for the love of God, something has to give, soon. The idea of being jammed firmly in a turnstile whilst the fire brigade worked to free me soon saw to it that I avoided venues where one of my worst fears might just materialise; air travel and trying to fit into those cattle class seats that a size zero model would be hard pushed to find roomy soon saw me opt to give air travel a miss. Being morbidly obese tends to give your fellow earthlings the idea that your IQ must be in single-figures-eejit-level and thus talk at you accordingly and as a consequence life is much less annoying if you chose not to walk amongst your fellow earth travellers altogether.

An invitation to a social event requiring the merest semblance of a smartly put together outfit would at once depress me for my wardrobe consisted of dreary washed out voluminous tops and elasticated trousers - a sort of chav bag lady chic if you will. I longed to wear stylish outfits with eye wateringly high feck-me-pumps that didn’t ache five minutes into wearing them because my feet simply weren’t up to the job of supporting the equivalent of the prop forward of a rugby team. Call me vain but walking as though you are in severe need of a bi-lateral hip replacement probably gives the impression of an ungainly and unpractised transvestite on his or her first outing in public.

A fevered trip around the shops sees you vainly shop for anything - truly just something, please God - that might make you look less hideous. There’s nothing more utterly despairing as the sight of yourself in a series of changing room mirrors with turbo charged lighting, fit only for a football pitch, to highlight every hateable feature magnified tenfold to make you scuttle home to hide and send your apologies with a heavy heart at another fun evening missed. You’re left with the unrelenting thought that no matter what you try, you simply cannot polish a turd.

I could go on and on about these sorts of things, the moments you should take on board where every ounce of humiliation adds up to a weighty chunk of reminders as to why you should start a diet. No matter that you are imperilling your future - for heaven knows there aren’t too many morbidly obese people wobbling on the planet in their 60’s - sometimes the message just gets lost in translation to your fug filled brain. Worse still, the more you acknowledge on some level that you may not make the next big birthday, then the bigger the task seems and the more impossible and elusive success seems to be. I confess that I tried many times to kick start a diet only to be thwarted by a stupor so intense as to render me incapable in all things dieting or exercise.

Hindsight being the only exact science, I can see now that a combination of severe menopausal symptoms, the associated deep black depression that I finally sunk into and over imbibing in copious amounts of red wine and high fat foods presented me with a series of complications that I had neither the intellectual capacity nor the will to unpick and knock down one by one. I was mired in one big complicated and confusing mush of disablers that made me take ten steps back for every hard-won step forward. I’d lost heart at so many failed attempts that had I been offered the chance of a life saving diet and being savaged by a pack of rabid wolves, I’d have ticked the rabid wolves box.

I’d like to say that I woke up one day and had a moment of such clarity that I immediately embarked on the diet that I follow now that has seen me lose six stones in weight. There simply wasn’t one obvious trigger that spurned me on, more a series of moments of desperation in the half light of dawn as depression and paranoia ravaged me whilst I bargained with a higher power to help drag me out of the morass. When you find your life has shrunk to the four walls of your home there’s more than enough time for serious introspection, more time for suicidal thoughts to become more graphic and frightening in their intensity. When you are lost in a hinterland of misery there are only two solutions and with my back against the wall, some seismic shift took place. Something intangible buried deep inside me cracked open in a gesture of self preservation.

To borrow that well known phrase from the wise old owl Confucius, a journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step. I made some quick gain changes in my life such as knocking the nightly alcohol on the head. Himself and me had been enjoying the good life of semi retirement to extremes and to the point I began to wonder that we might need a season ticket to the Priory. Thankfully, neither of us is condemned to living life under a bridge supping a bottle of Buckfast cleverly concealed in a brown paper bag – we were simply greedy, not addicted. Coming off HRT and adopting a healthier lifestyle in small stages released me from the pits of depression. I went on to lose 28lbs in one year but gained 7 of those back over the festive season of 2009.

I was mortified at the gain, in a blind panic that I was backsliding with all my positivity dashed. This was typical ‘me’ of late, one step forward ten back. My fantasies of being ‘normal’ and stepping back out into the world seemed to be slipping away from me. Then one morning in February 2010 I inadvertently came across an article on a series of eight women who had lost substantial amounts of weight. Timing in life is everything. Such an inspirational piece spurned me forward and after recruiting two girlfriends just ripe for a bit of encouragement, joined up to the Rosemary Conley diet and fitness club. The rest they say is history.

It’s been a rollercoaster of fun and hard work but one that’s paid dividends. I’ve rejoined the real world and my life feels charmed. I’m no longer tipping the scales at a weight that horrified me; my body image has improved immensely and in a world where identity and body image is key to how you are judged it was crucial for my self esteem to lose the lard and all the negative connotations that came with it. In many ways I care less for others opinions and the freedom that middle age brings but ‘fatism’ is the last bastion where ridicule is acceptable, encouraged even. When you are struggling with depression and other compounding factors you want to scream that it isn’t your fault that the simple act of brushing your teeth is a mammoth task let alone dieting. Not everyone understands that it isn’t always a matter of taking control and knocking yourself into shape but then we are facing record numbers of obesity levels in the Western world and not all of those cases are medically related; an epidemic in the making whilst millions die through third world poverty. Peer pressure has its place in normalising society but when it’s delivered with disgust and cruelty it is a measure of the person delivering it. My driving force was the need to regain my life before it was prematurely snatched from me. The acceptance of my peers is an added bonus, not the central core of the journey to improve myself.

So after so many failed attempts what was it about this time that worked? I guess it was a mixture of desperation, timing and an inherent survival instinct that kicked in when the chips were down. I reached a point of no return and whilst I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, it did the trick for me. I’m giddy with excitement that I may have cheated death for a few more years but there’s always that bus with my name on it............

Monday 17 January 2011

Almost half the woman I was......

Well, here I am again after a long sojourn; too long for me and not long enough for others I suspect. But I come back a renewed woman some six stones, (84lbs), lighter than I have been of late. With himself’s magnificent weight loss of 3 stones, (42lbs), we are now officially one person lighter between us. There is no longer the equivalent of three people sharing a bed, just us two delighting in the extra room with no more narky spats over whom has more of the king size duvet that had its work cut out to cover our mammoth combined girth. If we’d expanded any further we’d have had to stitch two together for the sake of a peaceful night life. We’ve done our bit for the environment too, our reduced petrol consumption on car journeys reflects the loss of that ‘third’ person we used to drag everywhere with us; a great all-round result; easy on the ozone layer and even easier on our wallets.

I still have some weight to lose but that is a work in progress. I’m no longer sickened by looking at myself in mirrors; even the full length ones harbour no sheer horror for me anymore. My reflection astonishes me and please don’t consider me vain, I like what I see. Gone is the bloated face of the depressed woman that I was a year ago. My skin is glowing and my face radiates good health with few of the dreaded wrinkles I expected to be ravaged with. Skinny jeans show off my slimmed and toned legs that a year of exercise has helped to shape. Gravity has gone to town on my mammary glands and I am left with what only could be described as rats wriggling in hanging socks but the application of a jolly good over the shoulder boulder holder is a miracle worker. The muffin top has been drastically reduced and God what a revelation it is to feel my ribs once more. They’re not quite xylophone playing perfect yet but the torturous stomach crunches continue unabated in my quest for near perfection, hah!; dream on old girl.

It takes time to catch up with a new image of yourself. Those moments where I unintentionally catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, a shop window or a photograph I was unaware had been taken still leave me in awe of how far I have come. They are even more revealing than the staged moments where still, I steel myself, before stepping in front of a mirror to critique my appearance and progress so far. Mrs P, my best friend of six years, whom has only ever known me overweight still marvels at my weight loss and complete change of appearance. She is unfailingly generous in her encouragement and compliments; those golden little nuggets that make all the effort worthwhile and keep you going when you might be just mad enough to quit. Other good friends and neighbours have been cheerleaders too; such goodwill makes me smile with utter joy that they care enough to care.

A year ago I needed an oxygen mask from the minor effort of climbing the stairs. I was desperately unfit and my blood pressure was 205 over 120. Today I am fitter than I have ever been thanks to daily hour long sprints with the dogs and interval training in our home gym. My blood pressure has returned to normal with Cholesterol levels following suit. I no longer ache and groan when I get out of a chair; so stiff that I used to shuffle like an octogenarian. And sometimes it is the simplest of things that non fatties take for granted such as putting on my own socks without the aid of a helper that drives home the distance I have come. That act alone used to leave me huffing and puffing with a red face like a smacked arse to boot. And speaking of boots, not only can I get my legs into normal sized welly boots but I can tuck my jeans in too with space to spare.

In so many ways my life has turned around, gone back to what it used to be. I no longer feel I am on the outside looking in, a witness to my life instead of a participant. Being morbidly obese seemed to give strangers the right to treat me with disdain by showing their disgust at my lack of self control. Others looked past me or ignored me as I became increasingly invisible. One particular incident sticks in my mind when a rather unpleasant woman made an offensive and clearly for my ears remark to her daughter then sat sniggering at her great wit. For just a moment I was banjaxed at her spectacular audacity and bad manners before a mixture of deep shame and anger overwhelmed me. No doubt the sight of me entering a cafe for lunch gave her the right to suggest that perhaps I should give this event a miss given I’d clearly eaten enough at some point already. As I digested my lunch and what had just happened, to say that I felt worthless, would be to understate the effect her remark had upon me.

As a result of moments like this I retreated to my lair to lick my wounds and remained deeply entrenched particularly as my depression intensified. But there is a wonderful upside to this; as I have re-emerged back into society, old acquaintances that haven’t seen me for a long time now take a double look when they realise it’s me but only half of the me that was there before. And I no longer shy away from the occasional treat of entering a cafe or an all-you-can-eat-restaurant because I assume people are thinking, “shite, we’d better get to the food before old lard arse does or there will be bugger all left to eat”; the sight of my once morbidly obese frame could start a stampede in an instant.

Before the combination of the menopause, ageing, the hedonistic lifestyle we led and finally depression contributed to my massive weight gain I had always been never more than a few pounds overweight and like the individual who insulted me publicly I could be judgemental about obese people. I think that now I’ve hobbled a mile or two in a truly fat person’s body I am certainly more understanding of the reasons people may just find themselves in such situations and how massive a challenge it can seem to extricate yourself from it. In the thick of it, it’s more than an uphill struggle, it’s an insurmountable mountain to climb. The support of himself, good friends and every single compliment and words of encouragement are the nuggets of success. I was in enormous pain in the early days of exercising, certain I needed hip replacements, convinced that my heart would give up if I broke out in a sweat. But I started slowly with walking the dogs daily and upped the pace as time and fitness levels allowed. I never believed that walking could make me as fit as I have become. It was only when some months later that I dared use the gym equipment I was astonished at how I could do 30 minutes rowing, followed by 30 minutes on the cross trainer. I tried to in the earliest of days only to be defeated after a torturous minute of effort that left me exhausted, deflated and wary of using them again until my confidence had grown.

So here I am, picking up with dearly missed old friends again and enjoying life to the full. My only real dilemma these days is what to wear. Who are my reference points for fashion when I’m in my early fifties and have emerged from a cocoon where my daily uniform consisted of shapeless sacks merely to cover my shameful shape?; when does something like skinny jeans become mutton dressed as lamb? Well, if it’s a choice between wearing cargo pants, or as my friend calls them baby elephant pants, old lady crimpolene type trousers and skinny jeans, I’ll stick with the jeans for the moment. I really couldn’t care less what the world thinks; if I can carry it off for a while yet if just to show I’ve lost all that weight then I will do. After all, aren’t the fifties the new forties? And let’s face it if you can get away with murder these days, (well almost), I certainly intend to make the most of what time I’ve got left as the new improved moi.

Monday 24 May 2010

The camera never lies

“Just take the photo, quickly before I change my mind”, I said to Himself, as he grappled with his cell phone camera. He has a plethora of reading glasses dotted all over the house but strangely none to hand when the intricacies of reading small print and symbols require the power of a magnifying glass the size of a dinner plate.

And so it was, for the first time in at least five years I allowed a camera to capture my morbidly obese shape, front, back and rear in all its inglorious expansiveness. When we bought this house I was both amazed and horrified to find several full length mirrors dotted all over; every room had a reflective object just mocking my size at every turn. I became magnificently adept at averting my eyes as I quickly sloped past these monstrosities telling it like it was. The camera never lies, nor do mirrors it seems. Like most women who carry extra mounds of flesh, I could just about tolerate blow-drying my hair and applying makeup, never liking the reflection of the bloated face looking back at me from the dressing table mirror. Aversion techniques, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t register.

I steeled myself for what was to come but it was time to really take a good look at what our extended partying, the menopause, depression, giving up smoking and sinking my butt in a chair had done to my body for the last five years. It wasn’t a pretty sight; pretty shocking really, my backside, so big it looked like it should have another pair of legs to support it, my stomach a wheelbarrow to carry it around in, my boobs like two swollen but half depleted water filled balloons with nipples in danger of scraping the floor. But there was method in my madness. And what did I do with the photos? Why, they are on the fridge door to remind me of the reason I am sticking to this diet, to act as a superb guide to my progress and to stop me spending time with my arse hanging out of the fridge looking for something to sabotage my diet with. And proudly displayed alongside are my slimmer of the week certificate and my half, one and two stone weight loss certificates too. I’m stunned at my progress, I’ve lost over 9lbs in the last three weeks – no matter what I tried during the menopause, I’d no sooner lost some weight when I’d stall and dispiritedly watched as it crept back on - okay I lost 21lbs before I started this gig but it was a tough old slog.

My fellow dieters have had their fair share of success too. The support of these women is like a warm bath in scented oils, it is a mutual admiration and support society. How different to when I embarked upon my first diet many years ago. I shared a house with a frenenemy whose sole purpose was to scupper my diet in any way she could. I remembered being shocked that someone could be so underhand. Day after day, I’d come home from work, ravenous and ready to eat the first thing with a pulse that got in my way to the kitchen. Day after day there would be a fine selection of deliciously tempting cream cakes, an array of chocolate bars to send a chocoholic insane with desire and all placed strategically around the kitchen, within easy reach of a starving housemate subsisting on 800 calories a day. But, much to her frustration they remained untouched and as she couldn’t bear the waste, she was forced to gobble these down lest her hard earned money would go straight in the bin. What she didn’t know about me is that cream cakes and chocolate bars and anything sweet turns my stomach, makes me heave and sickens me to the core. I lost the 7lbs I needed to; she gained a size and a half in clothes. The lord works in mysterious ways.

Today my life feels amazing. The exercise boosts my progress and my mood to boot. It helps keep me focused too, I’ve never felt sharper. I wrote over five thousand words of my book at the weekend whilst stopping from time to time to enjoy the green and lush view of my garden from my conservatory where I write; a tranquil oasis that encourages the muse in me. I am calm, centred and excited as to how my life is panning out. I feel incredibly happy and on track to climb Snowdon later in the year. I won’t be shooing Himself away when he whips out the camera to record our progress; I’ll simply smile, pose for all I am worth and know that the camera won’t lie, it’ll simply see me as I will be; a once morbidly obese woman looking slimmer, healthier and with a smile the size of a banana on my face, assuming he remembers his glasses that is.

Friday 7 May 2010

As I melt away from Wildebeest to Baby Elephant .........

.......I ponder the moment in February 2010 when I reaffirmed my belief in a higher power looking out for me. Shocked at the unbelievably high number glaring back at me from the bright red display on my scales, I sloped off, shoulders hunched with disgust and disappointment at this depressing state of affairs: total weight loss from March 2009 to Christmas - 28lbs, total weight gain over the festive season to February 2010 + 7lbs. A grand total of 21lbs loss in a year; less than 2lbs a month – dismal, totally dismal; one step forward, a few dozen back, as usual. If I could have kicked my own arse all the way down to the kitchen where I was heading for an early morning cup of tea, then I would have done so before kicking it all the way back upstairs just to hammer the message home; too many calories in, too few expended by settling said arse in the world’s most comfortable recliner in preference to a bit of exercise here and there. It’s not rocket science; even an eejit like me can work out the basic formula of a calorific deposit and withdrawal system but sometimes logic gets lost amongst a sea of inertia, unreasonable expectations, and a lack of willpower.

As a lapsed Catholic, I don’t subscribe to the weekly knee bending and humble adoration repertoire that organised religion demands for the saving of my soul. But I regularly have a word with the big guy above and a few saints to boot - St Jude being top priority as he’s the patron saint of hopeless cases and without a doubt I am his top groupie, a challenge, someone he’s surely ready to wash his hands of. I like to round off my iconic crew with Mary the mother of God, a matriarch of great serenity and grace who quietly goes about her way managing the men with words of wisdom when the situation seems bleak or I’ve asked for a bit too much, too often. Add to that a couple of female saints whose achievements I admire, (and ashamedly is something of an egotistical choice, simply because I am named after them), then you have the full suite; a quango of reverence for me to plead with, bargain with and just plain toady to when the chips are down. I like the eclectic mix; I like the gender mix; and sure, wouldn’t the big guy abhor the presence of a glass ceiling and welcome his female reports onto the celestial board of directors without the bat of an eyelid? Besides ,who else but another woman or two could empathise with the futility of pulling on your humongous elasticised trousers only to find the seams giving way because even elastic has a finite ability to go beyond the call of duty.

Too many failed attempts can knock a girl’s confidence and so it was with a sense of desperation and caught up in the slipstream of Hope beating a rapid exit from my life that I invoked a few incantations. I engaged in some impressively naked self-serving grovelling, some over the top bartering and promises on what I was prepared to do in return for a bit of direction, willpower, even.

Well, when it works it works, is all I can say. No sooner had I trawled my online news pages when I saw an article on six women who’d lost a staggering amount of weight, each using a different method that worked for them. It was a truly inspirational piece of before and after pictures to stimulate my interest further. I almost cried tears of joy and relief at such celestial intervention; the turnaround time on my pathetic cry for help through to delivery of said solution was remarkable even for the big guy and the board of directors. No doubt about it, they have a customer for life after that kind of service excellence. And as everyone knows, the best kind of marketing is word of mouth so here I am doing my bit for the organisation, (not the organised church you understand but the high heed yins up above).

I could have chosen any number of plans to start my attack on fat central but who hasn’t tried the bacon and egg diet, the cabbage soup diet – highly anti social and a real deal breaker in the marriage stakes, food combining, the eat once a day then drink and smoke yourself to death for the rest of it diet or the one where you drink a turgid shake then have a teaspoon of food and a salad leaf to see you through the evening?

I’d tried the Weightwatchers diet about fifteen years ago. It wasn’t for me; I remember abject hunger and a loss of a will to live as the plan they used in those days was all about denial, denial, denial to the point you caved in and would have happily snarfed down road-kill. Their diet philosophy was fine, their plan wasn’t. I could have made a killing selling junk food heaven to those poor saps who, in their desperation to eat something substantial, would leave en masse to sate their ravenous appetites only to spend the next week working it off before the next weigh-in. Somehow the possibility of being trampled to death by the human equivalent of a herd of rampaging wildebeest didn’t appeal so I consigned my entrepreneurial aspirations to the bin. I have no doubt that the WW’s eating plans have moved with the times but my previous experience and the all prevailing air of a victim support meeting prevented me from galloping enthusiastically towards them.

So, who did I choose? Why no less that the saintly Rosemary Conley; my new guru who surely deserves beatification for the cleverly designed eating plan and innovative exercise programme. I like the psychology of this approach which encompasses a thoroughly modern methodology that encourages ownership and control of your weight loss progress with not a whiff of victim or nanny lecturing permeating the air. What a revelation to bounce out of a class, high on endorphin overload, thoughts of binge eating banished to the bad old days. I’m never hungry, eat a well balanced diet and my gym equipment no longer gathers dust.

It wasn’t easy to get going, but my energy levels have increased tenfold. A body that ached at every twist and turn as the exercise programme demanded much more activity than I had been used to of late has become more fluid in its movement. The loss of the use of an arm and a hip as stiffness and pain rendered me immobile for a week at a time were a small sacrifice on the road to fitness. The embarrassment of resembling the old bloke dancing at a wedding as I tried to master the aerobics routine is long forgotten as I comfortably complete the routine like an old pro. The abstinence from calorie ridden rich food and alcohol has been a doddle, a cleansing experience in mind and body and an easily maintainable practice. I’ve cemented my friendships with my girlfriends who are on the journey with me and we delight in each other’s progress. I’ve dropped several dress sizes and joy of joy, I can wear my standard sized welly boots as my calves have slimmed down from billiard table size; tree trunks in rubber was never a good look. Oh and finally, I’m forty five pounds lighter than I was this time last year with a resolve to embrace this new programme as a life-long commitment. I have a long way to go but every pound is a pound less than I was before. I might end up with a slimmer face that looks like it needs like a good iron but hey ho, you can’t win them all, but what I’ve achieved already feels like the best lottery win ever..

Wednesday 24 February 2010

The Chink Collector

All it takes are the days staying lighter for longer to remind me that the worst is over, that the darkness of winter and severe depression, an insidious invader, a mental Trojan horse, are behind me. The parallel of emerging from bleak winter days with their interminable winter nights into the early signs of spring, dovetailing the abating of my depression, does not escape me. It seems almost poetic in its timing. Perhaps the extra daylight is a placebo aiding and abetting me to think sunnier thoughts; there’s no doubting in its therapeutic effect, I embrace it every year. Conceivably the emergence of the green shoots of Snowdrops with the promise of delicate white flowers bursting into bloom provides all the hope of a new dawn; that the eventual hum of bumblebee’s busily collecting their golden nectar signifies endless dazzling days and the heat of summer sun warming bones too deeply chilled by long winter months. But perhaps this rebirth and awakening elicits a more intensive appreciation, simply because the tyranny of my five year depression is over. A Placebo then? Quite so, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? I’ll hug each chink of light to me as though entrusted with the care of a newborn child, for my very survival is intrinsically linked, to its healthy development and greater presence in my life. Depression is a protracted sentence in a mental dungeon for a crime you didn’t commit. You are hopelessly blind to everything that once made your life challenging but worthwhile. A chink of light, signalling hope, is a precious gem that you crave to possess, or a fragile silken thread, a lifeline that you are desperate to grasp, but are terrified to touch lest it rupture and be beyond repair. I am one of the lucky ones. In time, those chinks became shafts that were strong enough to grasp my way to total daylight. The seven dwarfs of menopause – itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, bloated, forgetful and depressed have been beaten with every step of the way. I’ve become a collector of chinks, a chink collector, all shapes, sizes and wattage welcome here because there is strength in numbers and a girl can’t have too many precious gems to illuminate her journey forward.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Depression is for the Middle classes.....

.....the rest of us have to get up for work in the morning. That’s a quote from a Mike Leigh film that resonates strongly with me - a wee working-class lassie from Glasgow; a straight talking Scottish lass that was raised with a strong work ethic and the ability to get on with things no matter what life threw at me. I thought I knew a bit about depression; my uncle descended into a no-man’s land of desperation before being hospitalised and eventually managing his quest to take his own life; my old friend Ella battled long term first and then secondary cancer whilst seesawing between hope and very dark moments; I tail spun rapidly into a reactionary depression when my parents and three others of my family died over a period of a few weeks some fifteen years ago. I paid special attention to the modules on depression when I was doing my Psychology degree, bringing with me my firsthand experiences which afforded a deeper understanding of the academic knowledge I was attaining. So I was bound to recognise it wasn’t I? Ah, you’d think so wouldn’t you; apparently not.

Five years ago I was preparing to complete my year end exams, get married three days later and move house a few weeks later before preparing for Christmas shortly after that. It was a time of stress, conflicting emotions of excitement and sheer terror that we could fit it all in without something giving. But we managed it with minimal collateral damage. I remember feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at the lack of sleep that is synonomous with a racing mind trying to manage a schedule of a thousand pieces of detail that remained up in the air. About the same time I started to notice some distressing physical changes that worsened as time went on. Severe blood loss for three weeks of every month and cramping that felt like I had a knife lacerating my womb, coupled with sharp lightning bolts of pain across my breasts whilst my skeleton groaned in agony every time I moved; all disabling me into a foetal position of agony for much of the time.

My mood swings became almost legendary in their extremes. If I wasn’t sobbing at an RSPCA appeal on telly, I was raging at the world and giving Himself hell. Our relationship gradually descended into one of backbiting, sniping, pleading and threats. In time, my capacity for attention to detail failed and with only two modules of my degree to finish I capitulated and threw in the towel. For someone who was attaining distinctions on my written course work, I had deteriorated to the point where I read and reread paragraphs over and over before crying in frustration at my inability to absorb the simplest of detail. With even less to occupy my mind I became much too obsessed with the minutiae of life; much too self absorbed in my pity for my situation. I became the menopause, it defined me and in my frustration at living this hell, I bored for England about it.

When Himself and I met ten years ago, we delighted in the shared humour, deep love and respect we had for each other. We had both been in two consecutive long term relationships apiece that ended when our respective partners cheated on us. It was easy to bond in our shared grief and anger of the agony of betrayal within a committed relationship but finding each other cemented our resolve to enjoy our lives to the full. We indulged our love of wine, (me), Guinness,(him), good food and our local Inn. We had five tremendous years of harmony and couldn’t believe our good fortune at getting together at such a stage in our lives. When Himself took early retirement on a good pension our socialising took on another level; free from the shackles of the daily grind we went to bed later than ever, spent much more time in the pub than was good for us, we were in a hedonistic fug.

But the life of a permanent holiday without goals and boundaries began to pale for me, long before Himself was prepared to relinquish his participation in it. The more we drank, the more my darkness deepened. It was a vicious cycle of needing the socialising to lighten my mood and give me a goal for the evening whilst exacerbating my low mood each day. The more we led this lifestyle, the more I was incapable of finding the energy to haul myself out of the mire I found myself in. I knew I was in trouble when I would wake in the small hours with thoughts of suicide on my mind. My recurring dream of opening the hatch to the attic, throwing a rope around a beam and hanging myself would wake me in a jolt of terror. I cannot imagine a more heinous thing to do but I was consumed by my subconscious battering away at me – telling me to find a solution. My life had shrunk to eight walls - my home and the pub. I had begun to find the simplest of tasks such as brushing my teeth or showering an enormous task. I’d sleep in and shuffle around in the same clothes for days at a time not bothering to brush my hair which now resembled a burst couch. I had all the allure of a bag lady, whilst lurching from one HRT to another, each producing limited results. I gave up caffeine, tried every available alternative medicine, drank Soya milk and ate avocados by the bucket load and all to no avail. I had read that the menopause could last for up to twenty years and I was in despair that that was to be my future.

In desperation I gave Himself an ultimatum; he could spend as much time at the pub as he liked, as long as he didn’t put me under pressure to accompany him otherwise I saw no option but to leave him. It caused many an argument between us and I feared for the permanency of our relationship but I feared for my life more. Slowly but surely I divested myself of the negative influences that sought to bring me down. As I regrouped I felt much more in control of my life. Progress was slow but it was there nonetheless. It was my good fortune to encounter a new doctor at our surgery, one who took time to listen to me and treat me with a new approach. Quite simply he coached me through coming off the HRT to see how I would cope and promising new hope to find alternative protocols if this failed. In conjunction, I finally relinquished my devotion to the Atkins induction phase of that vile diet and started a healthier GI diet to include vegetables, fruits and nuts. I had become morbidly obese and giving up smoking had added to my girth, hence my need to control the ingesting of any kind of carbs. I was also physically deficient in many of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that I needed to create the hormones that my body needed to cope with such demanding changes. There is much research being done now on the effects of poor diet, the lack of hormones and the resultant criminal behaviour. I’d happily provide them with my anecdotal evidence of proof. Oh, and as I was to discover much too late ladies, should you be a devotee of the contraceptive pill, your chances of having a symptom free menopause are high. Shite, if only I had known that, I’d have downed a pack a day.

I’d had so many false starts where I thought I was on the road to recovery only to have them dashed some weeks later so I have been reluctant to write about it all. In the one week a month where I was virtually normal, I would manage to write a post for my blog. I am forever grateful for the comments and the feedback you have all given me. They provided me with laughter and a small thread of hope that I wasn’t completely useless.

Now? I am virtually post menopausal as the physical symptoms have mostly gone and the mood swings have gone to the point I am at peace and almost Zen like. I feel amazingly happy and positive. We had the happiest and best festive season we have had in a long time. Old friends that I had dropped have come back into my life and understood that my reluctance to see them was through sheer exhaustion and a need to protect them from my caustic tongue. I have apologised to the people that matter to me and feel humbled by their generous spirit and forgiving nature. But then, they knew me before I degenerated into the monstrous creature I had become. I am blessed with the close friendship of three good women and our time together is one of laughter rather than gossiping and moaning. I have convinced them that as we all keep bemoaning our respective weight gain that we should be emboldened and join our local Rosemary Conley diet and exercise club. “It’s our year”, I keep chanting just to keep the motivation high. We’ll see how effective I am as a cheerleader when we go for our first appointment next week; but for now the enthusiasm is high and I find myself almost having to book time for myself in our gym as I share it with my fellow lardybutts.

In addition, I have discovered Linkedin, a database of professionals that has a great deal of my old colleagues and friends from my time at Unisys registered on it. So many of them now live around us and we have been having a blast catching up, with more meetings in the offing. It’s like coming home, mixing with my fellow nerd-heads for whom laughter is the name of the game.

I gave Himself the worst of times but he saw it through because he knew the real me and kept the faith that I would return. I’d rail in desperation at him for his stubborn refusal to accept a change in our lifestyle but eventually he acquiesced and that intractability became my strength as he refused to let me go when my bags were packed and I foolishly believed that a life on my own was the answer. We drink moderately now but rarely during the week and as such enjoy the experience much more; my energy levels have risen

So what about Mike Leigh’s statement? Perhaps if I had been working I would have had less time to indulge myself in self pity but depression is a serious illness and mine was compounded by but more likely caused by the onset of the menopause, too much vino, a very poor diet, being overweight, unfit and a lack of any exercise – oh and not being on the contraceptive pill. By all accounts I fit the demographic of a middle class life. But then I hate the outmoded bigoted snobbery and segregation that the class structure condones; that is a topic for another post. But if I am to place us within a demographic, we are comfortable, don’t have to work and enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle. There was no outward reason for me to be depressed but then, it is indiscriminate of class, culture, gender, age, position and wealth. Just look at the documented accounts of the very successful and popular author Marianne Keys, currently laid low by a crippling black depression to the point where she cannot write her monthly blog post or how Annie Lennox has been dogged by severe depression for most of her adult life.

I didn’t realise the depth of my depression until 18 months ago, and by then I was in the grip of it. The reactive depression I experienced when my family died was loaded with grief and as such was a natural companion to the grief with the deaths being an obvious cause; this new depression was entirely different and much more destructive, and as it was a slow burn with no discernable cause, I failed to see the enemy within. Hindsight is an exact science, and as I look back and see the road I travelled I can see the wrong turns I took. Was I being very middle class and self indulgent? Perhaps up to a point as work can be a salve for all sorts of problems but sometimes it just delays the inevitable but let’s not lose sight of the fact it is a chemical deficiency. There are many levels of depression from blue to grey to black. You know you've hit the black when you are consumed with fear, anxiety, self loathing and the terror that you might end it all and you see no way out. I’ve always held onto the belief that suicide is a long term solution to a short term problem and that kept me on the right track – some people get so much deeper into depression that any kind of rational thought is beyond them, I consider myself lucky I never reached that point but I knew I was teetering on a precipice. I am eternally grateful for the love and support that my closest friends, family and Himself gave me. I wouldn’t be here today without it.

Thursday 3 December 2009

The Honeymoon from hell...well almost

Our wedding day was wonderful, truly great, quite honestly the best day of my life. I’d hardly had any time to think about it as I’d been revising for my OU Psychology degree exams which took place three days before and we were moving house within the village a few weeks later. With the festive season looming two weeks after that, my nerves were shredded, shot to hell really. But come the day, I was relaxed and happy and looking forward to becoming Mr MOB’s Mrs MOB, if you know what I mean. There simply wasn’t space or time to arrange a honeymoon but we didn’t mind because it didn’t matter where we were or who we were with because we had each other – altogether now.....Awwwww!

By the time we hit January at full pelt with short days, long nights, temperatures below zero and freezing rain, we knew the time had come to head off in search of a more temperate climate. “Egypt”, we trilled together as we came across a reasonably priced package deal promising soft white sands, blue skies, spectacular coral reefs and an all inclusive nosh setup.

“I can’t wait to see the Pyramids”, I cried with excitement, as Himself tapped away, booking our holiday online. My childhood had been a daydream of discovering exotic lands as I pored over my mother’s National Geographic magazines and now I was finally going to see the real thing; the stuff of dreams.

Now I don’t know about you but there is something disconcerting about taking a coach ride from the airport to the hotel with a battalion of armed guards to smooth your way.

“I don’t remember signing up as an extra in a Hollywood movie”, himself said, as he eyed up the trained killers decked out in desert coloured combat gear, designed to make them blend in with their surroundings. “Shame about the contrasting gun metal coloured Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders - bit of a giveaway that”, he added, as he searched under his chair for a flak jacket.

“Yeah, that and the multicoloured headgear seem to be this seasons must-have if you want to merge with the natives”, I said, rifling through my bag for a t-towel and a pea-shooter, preparing for the worst should our attackers decide to take a few Western looking hostages.

Bailing out at the hotel some one hour later, I almost kissed the ground in thanks to the Lord above for a safe but life affirming journey. There’s nothing like contemplating an all out gun battle and seeing your life flash before you to get the holiday off to a great start. I mean, who wouldn’t want to risk their life trying to hang onto a suitcase full of T.K.Max holiday gear in assorted gregarious colours. After all, you’d have nowt to wear if the bandits toe’d it off with your XXL threads and call me a liar but that would surely spoil the rest of your relaxing break, wouldn’t it?

Lounging by the Olympic sized pool catching a few rays is fine for most people but if you’re a dark haired fair skinned Celt like me, all that gets you is sunstroke, sunburn, blisters that pop, skin peeling in great chunks that make your fellow tourists heave in horror before you eventually go white again. It’s really not a good look or worth the hassle and besides, what’s the point of sitting under an umbrella avoiding the sun? I can do that here, it costs nothing, and there’s not a weapon in sight. Johnny Holiday rep rubbed his hands in anticipation as we weaved our way towards him, part dazed by the sun and heat, part pissed from the cheap cocktails we had slung down our necks to calm ourselves after our journey. We opted for a trip to Cairo to see the much anticipated city, bazaars and Pyramids.

“Well then, that’s sorted, you leave Wednesday, return Friday. Now, as you have a day or two to spare, perhaps you’d like to consider a day experiencing traditional Bedouin village life”, he asked as he passed us the details. “Sure”, we said, “that sounds great”, as we handed over a wad of cash, cementing the deal for the next day.

Well let me tell you, riding on a Camel is no ordinary experience. There’s nothing better than sitting on a cantankerous old fart of an animal, about a hundred feet high and as wide as a razor blade. The sheer joy of having nothing to cling to other than a sweaty hump as it swings about 20 degrees left then right whilst bobbing forward at the same time caused me no end of terror. But that doesn’t equal the absolute delight I experienced as it decided, without warning mind you, to have a wee rest when it wanted to. Who can blame it, carrying a screaming lardy butt in blazing sun filled skies for its trouble? But just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, down went the left leg sharply followed by the right whilst its arse was still 90 feet in the air and before I had a clue as to what the hell happened, I was soaring through the ether, face first towards terra firma and getting myself a wee head injury for my troubles. Oh yes, lying spread-eagled, face down on the burning sand in front of 50 or so still mounted riders just made my day. I had a face the colour of a well slapped arse.

Still, there’s always an upside if you look for it, the souvenirs from that trip were incomparable to any tat I have bought before; besides the multiple trauma flashbacks, we got to take home a few thousand Camel fleas. As we ate dinner in the archetypal Lawrence of Arabia type Bedouin tents, we looked like we were moving even when we sat deathly still. Growing almost fond of them by the end of the meal, we took them for a walk up a nearby hill to watch a magnificent sunset that was both spectacular and romantic. As day gave way to dusk, we walked to a hallowed area of the village that was snugly nestled by mountains, joined hands as a group and experienced a Bedouin blessing which was both peaceful and uplifting. Traditional music was played for us around open camp fires before we returned to our hotel for a nightcap. As we left, I felt sadness that such a proud people had been reduced to becoming a tourist attraction, but if not that, how would they survive in an ever increasingly commercial world? But they did it with pride and dignity and at least tomorrow they can feed their children.

We never made it to Cairo. 90% of the hotel guests, including us, caught a dose of the Nefertiti trots. We couldn’t stray more than ten feet from a toilet and if you weren’t quick off the mark to perform the old Pharoe quick step, you were done for. In a lesser hotel, some enterprising young Egyptian could have made his fortune selling toilet rolls for the price of a gold bar for he would have had a captive audience only too willing to swap their first born baby for a roll of Andrex. Thankfully, our hotel was a sumptuous cool sanctuary of air conditioned marble, soft seats and a bar that served until the last agony riddled tourists could feel no more pain and lurched off back to their room to sleep in peace until the alcohol wore off.

I must have missed that part in those National Geographic magazines.

Friday 20 November 2009

I'm a Celebrity get me Out of Here

Dear God, have you been watching 'I'm a nobody, keep me in here this week'? Now I am not a fan of reality shows in general. I used to watch the X Factor but when I realised the level of manipulation involved on the part of the production team - you know what I mean - the 'my father died before he could see me on here as it was his dearest wish but I know he's watching from above' type of tugging at the heartstring statement as he/she wipes away a tear, I stopped watching. In the thick of severe depression and the menopause, I'd sit with tears streaming down my face until I realised I was being played for a mug.

I'd laugh like a drain when someone came on and sang like a bag of spanners in a tumble drier and Simon Cowell would put them straight - but my laughter was reserved for those little angels who had been told by mummy and daddy that they were special and then let rip a foul mouth string of abuse at Cowell for telling them the truth. It didn't sit comfortably with me that the other poor hopefuls chasing their dreams got sharp shrift and summarily dismissed. Perhaps it's best they know and find another dream but we seem to have spawned a plethora of Cruelality TV programmes where the criticism is delivered with unqualified glee.

The only show that I'd beat a path back from the pub at speed to see was 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'. I reckoned that as these celeb's were trying to kick start their careers and get paid and humiliated for the privilege and were adults capable of rational decision, then what the hell, I'd have a laugh at their expense. And that was fine whilst the public voted for characters and not simply out of spite. I can't bear Celebrity for Celebrity sake - the Paris Hilton's, the Katie Price's of this world. If someone can act, sing, dance, and work hard, then great they deserve to achieve success in the bear pit of the arts. If they need to keep their name at the top of the next casting director's list then why not get themselves more air time because there are too many talented actors out of work, too many chasing the same parts. It's a tough ole world out there so good on them I say, although many would say that the rag bag of celeb's that go into the show are pretty devoid of talent but I find it refreshing when you see someone you previously disliked coming up trumps and changing your opinion of them.

But for the love of God, this year's offering has become the 'let's beat the crap out of Katie Price' show. If you read the comments on the articles about the show on the Daily Mail web site then you would think this girl was a paedophile. She has a great many haters who spit venom and vile and keep voting her in to do the bush tucker trials. Anyone who tries to point out the simple truth that to keep voting for her is to continue to supply her with the oxygen of publicity and if they stopped we might get to see some of the other celeb's have a go, gets shot down in flames and red arrowed - nope that wasn't me - I don't bother my arse to comment. As much as I despise the cult of celebrity - and I don't mean the reverence afforded to the great iconic actors, singers, comics and so on that have talent - I am sickened by a demographic of society who behave in the manner of spectators holding their thumbs down as a Christian was thrown to the lions. I know she has courted publicity when it suited her and I know she divides opinion into those who love her and those who hate her. It has been argued enough about how she is iconic to a section of young impressionable people who think they don't have to work hard and just want to be famous. But for all I hate to see column inches about this young woman as frankly she just annoys me, no one could say she got there by not working hard at it. That's the message that doesn't get across to those seeking fame for fame sake.

IACGMOOH has become a ritualistic virtual stoning of a young woman whose life has been spiralling out of control since the breakup of her marriage. We are seeing the public destruction of a celebrity without really realising that she is a person who doesn't always make the right decisions in her life. I know I've made some horrendous decisions in my life but I've been able to lick my wounds in private. I know my life fell apart when relationships have fallen apart but I raged, cried and grieved in private. We all know just how duplicitous and wicked the press can be but we still fall for their tricks and read the papers believing somewhere along the line that there is no smoke without fire and so she becomes a figure of hate. She should have taken herself away and recovered in private but she is a product of her own, her fans'and the press's making with 'Brand Katie' to protect. She clearly went full-on to attempt to win the ratings war against the husband who left her. In her hurt and humiliation and most likely reeling from a broken heart she reverted to her alter ego 'Jordan' and seemed out of control as she blundered from one photo opportunity to another, each one showing her in a worse light than the one before. I mean who of us hasn't lost weight, acquired a new hairdo, and changed our wardrobe in a futile attempt to show the git that dumped us that we've moved on, ready for action and say hey, just look what you lost? In her desperation to wash that man right out of her hair, it seems that Katie went back to her alter ego of the glamour model Jordan, to a time when she was successful before Andre entered her life. She should have moved forward, not back. Doesn't that seem like a poorly advised woman who reverted to type and tried too hard to pretend her heart wasn't broken; the Sod you Mr, I'll show you how little you mean to me when all she really meant was come back and stop the hurt?

Her apparent panic attacks each time she is chosen for a trial didn't ring true to me as she's been in there before and coped admirably with the tasks. But I swing between believing it's an act of public manipulation and then wondering, given the knocks she is taking and the realisation that she is so disliked, if it is hurting her psychologically. Who can really say but although she is an ace manipulator I'd rather err on the side of caution and get her out of there pronto. But the mighty buck rules all and I doubt the producers of this show are too keen to lose their cash cow before the public oust her at the first chance. I find no comfort or laughter any more in seeing her do the trials.

We are known for being a nation that puts people on pedestals and then doing our utmost to knock them down for becoming too grand and full of themselves. Perhaps she deserves a lot of time in the shade but this public show of tearing her limb from limb leaves me distinctly uncomfortable and is bullying at its worst. Her mother and brother were both interviewed on a day time TV programme, saying quite rightly that she was being thrown to the lions. But really, I think their efforts might have been better served nurturing her and advising her not to throw herself into the den in the first place.

I never watched her reality show on TV, I'd rather have my eyes gouged out with a red hot poker but in reading more about her this week than at any other time I found that the general view is she bullied Andre incessantly and that her ego is rampant. She seems to be narcissistic and single minded in achieving her goals but I wonder how much we would find that distasteful were she male? After all, the majority of successful type A personalities run huge corporations and will step on anyone to get to the top - I know, I worked with and was married to one! I knew he would reach the top and he's achieved his dream of holding top positions and lately becoming the Chief Information Officer for a Fortune 500 international travel company that we all know and love. He's quoted regularly in the business press and I always smile when I see a reference to him and avidly read his words of wisdom for he is talented and wily and manipulative and a great orator. He talks up a good storm and is very charismatic. He was also hard to live with, vain, unfaithful and controlling. But that wasn't the whole man. He could be loving and kind and loved to party too, it was just that in time, I only saw the negative and needed my freedom and as I slowly emerged into the nutter I am today, he found his lack of ability to control me as constricting as I found him and so he left me. My point? Yes he had some distasteful traits but that wasn't all of him, and none of us are perfect. Inside Katie Price is someone just like him. She might have set herself up for retaliation but the beatings are severe, quite out of proportion to the crime.

And if anyone wants a real bush tucker trial, just nip over to my old mate Garry's house. The stuff he knocks up would have the lining of your stomach on the floor.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Paper Anniversary

It was our fifth wedding anniversary on the 16th of October. It’s a paper gift kinda anniversary. I hadn’t seen any receipts from Aspreys or the like, no small packages secreted away in Himself’s usual hidey holes so I resigned myself to receiving a toilet roll as a keepsake. Useful I thought, you can never have enough bog roll. Even if you die, someone’s bound to nick it; it will never go to waste. I mean, how many times at work have you done a sprint to the loo in record times that only an Olympic medallist could dream of because you left the call of nature to the last minute and just as you are about to get down to the admin work you realise some light-fingered little toerag has made it away on their toes with the five rolls you saw in there earlier? There is nothing worse than the walk of shame as you shuffle off to another cubicle to remedy your acute distress followed by the need to torture the thieving little git with a shitty stick the next the time you catch them stuffing loo rolls in their oversized designer handbags that should have SWAG printed on the side. So all in all, you can never have too much bog roll I say.

As anniversaries go, it wasn’t all it should have been. Personally, I felt so ill that I should have been on a life support machine but Himself was determined we should go out and celebrate our wondrous union. I argued that being riddled with aches and pains, coughing up a storm and breaking a rib each time was probably going to take the edge off our romantic evening. Shivering like a washing machine on a fast cycle just added to my joy along with a runny nose that was barely contained by a truckload of tissues. I’d have been better off hooking a nosebag over my ears and just letting it run into that. Still, I’ll have the bog roll I thought and so, we reached a compromise and went to the pub up the road. I managed three small glasses of wine, purely medicinal of course, and enjoyed the look on the regulars’ faces as I told them it was swine flu. Hah, you’ve never seen so many backs rapidly disappear since the Great Plague of London. We almost got caught up in the slipstream of hasty exists.

And so it went with a whimper. “Never mind there’s always next year”, I consoled him as I headed off for a hot bath and back to my death bed, too ill to read Frankie Boyle’s autobiography that he’d thoughtfully chosen as my gift, as he knows I love his humour. So what, no bog roll then?

As a husband, Himself is wonderfully attentive and as these last two weeks have trawled by, he has enquired after my health to almost unheard of proportions, so much so, that I mooched off to check that my life assurance policy was still in the filing cabinet and not top-of-the-pile in his briefcase. I needn’t have worried, he still loves me and isn’t ready to dispose of my dismembered body parts quite yet. He was simply making sure I was in the rudest of health for a surprise two day trip to London; a city that I adore and lived in for ten years yet never did the tourist thing. He’s booked a fabulous 4* hotel behind Buckingham Palace, a theatre trip and worked out a wonderfully paced programme of top places to visit. What a catch eh? What a guy. What a totally adorable man.

And so we are off tomorrow morning to just be tourists. I am so excited I could dance, well almost. I can’t be arsed dancing really, never truly felt comfortable doing it. My blood runs cold when I see women dancing barefoot at wedding receptions. The sheer thought of some hefty eejit in stilettos piercing my foot makes me faint. So, as a nod to our wedding day where we didn’t have a ‘first dance’ here’s what himself and me would have looked like if we had. I’m the rotund one. Click here.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Parliamo Glasgow

A company in Glasgow is recruiting ‘Glaswegian translators’ to help out visiting business men and women to understand the local lingo and the wee nuances of being Scottish. Top of the tasks they are expected to do is to attend business meetings. I can just hear the dialogue now.

Visiting business person: “So, what kind of revenue are we talking here?”

Scottish person: “Aw aboot a hunnerrrrr million, gie or take a tenner here an’ rer. Bit of courrrse, it’s aw subject tae auld Jimmy, oor high-heed-yin, geein us ra go aheeed”.

Translator: “We’ll be talking your proposal over with our CEO Sir James Farquahar before we give you the final figures, but we expect it to be in the region of one million pounds”.

Visiting Business person: “Great so we’ll wait for you to get in touch then. Now, how about joining us for a few drinks and dinner, we can talk over the fine details over a snort or two and perhaps get a feel for the local culture?”.

Scottish person: “Oh aye, nae borra there son, we like a wee bevvy noo an’ again. There’s a rare wee place doon the Barra’s; the place gits full o’ baw-bags frae time tae time, but therrrrr harrrmless rrreaally, as long as you don’t make eye coantact an’ hang oan tae yer wallet. The pub dae a great line in pints o’ heavy and Bucky cocktails, bit mind ye take care drinking them, ye can get fair stocious an’ fine yersel’ face doon in the gutter afore chuckin’ oot time. But ye’ll no git a finer intrrroduction tae Glesca culture, no surr.

Translator: “Thank you, that would be lovely, we enjoy an aperitif or two now and then. Perhaps you’d enjoy visiting a quaint and typically Scottish venue situated in our famous market area, the Barra’s. It’s patronised by some colourful local characters that you might find entertaining; apparently they collect money after their performances so you might like to donate a pound or two. Seems they also specialise in local beer and cocktails made from Buckfast, a glorious concoction made by Benedictine monks and now responsible for 80% of all alcohol sales within the Strathclyde area. But a word to the wise, two or three of these little numbers can leave you rather squishy by the end of the evening".

Scottish person; “Aye an’ you’ll no be wantin’ tae gie yersel’ a bagie-heed fur yer flight hame the morra mornin’. See, ma wee pal Hamish, pished as a fart efter ten aw those wee beauties, stoated oot only tae huv a hughie right oan a polis man’s boots. He wis fair near blind, whit wae him fallin’ doon three flights of stairs and the polis geein’ him a kick in the heed fur his troubles but fair play to him, wae the help of the polis, it didnae take Hamish mair than a few minutes tae find his wallies afore he could head aff hame fur his deep fried haggis and chip supper. Man, ah wis fair black-affrontit wae that wee effort and ma face wis beamin’ fur a week. And mind whit a say aboot the baggie-heed; Hamish wis fair crabbit fur at least a week and said he was getting home fine until someone stepped oan his fingers so we’ll no be wantin’ that tae happen to youse yin’s, seen as yer oor guests an’ all that. So, seen as ye’ve been brought up tae speed aboot whit a great night oot it can be, and ye don’t mind a wee heed injury here and there, we’ll meet ye aw there aboot 7 okay?

Translator: “Well ladies and gents, it seems an acquaintance of Mr Scottish Person had a tipple or two too many and found himself, temporarily myopic, rather disoriented and had some difficulty negotiating his way home. Luckily for him, the local constabulary were most helpful and after a short stumble on leaving the hostelry, pulled him upright and brushed him down. Wishing to maintain their well deserved reputation as a sharing caring police service, they went to great pains to check he had no head injuries and helped him to locate and refit his false teeth which had inadvertently been displaced rather conveniently onto the policeman’s boots when he was somewhat sick at the shock of tripping and being unable to right himself in time. Thankfully, there was no lasting damage and the man was on his way home in no time for a light supper of haggis and French-fries. And while Mr Scottish person was somewhat embarrassed for his friend, he empathised totally with the following day’s crushing hangover and why his friend seemed to have experienced a personality bypass and sense of humour failure for several days following their jolly jape. So, there you have it, a salutatory tale of overindulgence for you to consider but forewarned being forearmed and if you’re sure you’re up for it, we’ll rendezvous there around 7, shall we?

Visiting business person: Well, that’s certainly fine by us, and perhaps we can try a spot of haggis too?

Scottish Person: Oh aye, nae danger ranger. It’s shootin’ season, so there’ll be plenty of haggis tae be had and the beauty of it is, that if ye find yersel’ huving a wee chunder, it looks nae different on the pavement to when it was oan yer plate.

So, for a £140 a day, I think I’m more than qualified for the job. Only problem is, I’d have to relocate back home and a’m unrny gonnae dae that jist yet!

But as a wee taster and an introduction to Scottish culture, have a wee read of some jokes below. You’d have to go a long way to find a nation more self deprecating than the Scots and we’re all the better for being like that.

The Scots have the [unjustified] reputation of being stingy.
But what they do have is the ability to laugh at themselves.
Here are few examples
Double glazing is doing great business in Scotland in hope that the children cannot hear the icecream van when it comes round.
Angus called in to see his friend Donald to find he was stripping the wallpaper from the walls. Rather obviously, he remarked "You're decorating, I see." to which Donald replied "Naw. I'm moving house."
Old Tam, who had lost all his teeth, had a visit from the minister who noted that Tam had a bowl of almonds. "My brother gave me those, but I don't want them, you can have them" said Old Tam. The minister tucked into them and the said "That was a funny present to give a man with no teeth." To which Old Tam replied "Not really, they had chocolate on them..."
Callum decided to call his father-in-law the "Exorcist" because every time he came to visit he made the spirits disappear
A farmer's wife, who was rather stingy with her whisky, was giving her shepherd a drink. As she handed him his glass, she said it was extra good whisky, being fourteen years old. "Weel, mistress," said the shepherd regarding his glass sorrowfully, "It's very small for its age."
At an auction in Glasgow a wealthy American announced that he had lost his wallet containing £10,000 and would give a reward of £100 to the person who found it.
From the back of the hall a Scottish voice shouted, "I'll give £150!"
Jock was out working the field when a barnstormer landed.
"I'll give you an airplane ride for £5," said the pilot.
"Sorry, cannae afford it," replied Jock.
"Tell you what," said the pilot, "I'll give you and your wife a free ride if you promise not to yell. Otherwise it'll be £10."
So up they went and the pilot rolled, looped, stalled and did all he could to scare Jock. Nothing worked and the defeated pilot finally landed the plane. Turning around to the rear seat he said, "Gotta hand it to you. For country folk you sure are brave!"
"Aye," said Jock "But ye nearly had me there when the wife fell oot!"
Jock's nephew came to him with a problem. "I have my choice of two women," he said, "a beautiful, penniless young girl whom I love dearly, and a rich old widow whom I can't stand."
"Follow your heart; marry the girl you love," Jock counseled.
"Very well, Uncle Jock," said the nephew, "that's sound advice."
"By the way," asked Jock "where does the widow live?"
"I hear Maggie and yourself settled your difficulties and decided to get married after all," Jock said to Sandy.
"That's right," said Sandy, "Maggie's put on so much weight that we couldn't get the engagement ring off her finger."
Have you heard about the lecherous Jock who lured a girl up to his attic to see his etchings?
He sold her four of them.
A Scotsman took a girl for a ride in a taxi. She was so beautiful he could hardly keep his eye on the meter
A Scottish newspaper ad "Lost - a £5 note. Sentimental value.
Scottish telephone directories make ideal personal address books. Simply cross out the names and address of people you don't know.
SAVE petrol by pushing your car to your destination. Invariably passers-by will think you've broken down and help.
HOUSEWIVES: I find the best way to get two bottles of washing-up liquid for the price of one is by putting one in your shopping trolley and the other in your coat pocket.
INCREASE the life of your carpets by rolling them up and keeping them in the garage.
One day Jock bought a bottle of fine whiskey and while walking home he fell.
Getting up he felt something wet on his pants.
He looked up at the sky and said,"Oh lord please I beg you let it be blood!"
A Scotsmen and a Jewish man were having a magnificent meal at one of the finest restaurants in New York .At the end of the evening the waiter came over to present the check and a Scottish voice said "that's all right laddie just gae the check to me". The headlines in the local newspaper next day proclaimed "Jewish ventriloquist found beaten to death".