Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Compliments and body image

Certain people I know could do with a few lessons in the art of paying compliments. Take one of my colleagues, for example.

Some of you may have noticed that I'm trying to lose weight. Not dieting but eating a bit less and exercising a bit more. And I have lost 13 pounds to date (next weigh-in Friday - gulp).

Anyway, this has not escaped the notice of my colleague AH. Who, by the way, is tall, rather skinny and has the weirdest diet I've ever seen in that all I ever see her eating is sweets, crisps and biscuits and nothing else. She'll have a boiled sweet for lunch.
So, today, we had just finished the main work for the day and were in a fairly jovial mood. She asked me how the weight loss thing was going and I told her I thought it was going well and I was pleased with how it was going.
She said that she had noticed when I was standing over by the printer and said, yes, frangelita, you have a bit of a shape now.

I almost choked. So, before I lost some weight I was an amorphous blob? I had to laugh inwardly because I knew she was trying to be nice. But seriously, that is not the kind of thing you say. To someone's face, anyway. She continued by telling me that extra weight could be ageing and so on, but my face was bright red and all I could do was nod occasionally and sip water.

On a more sombre note, I came across a thing I wrote three and a half years ago as a sort of diary entry.

Entitled 'Fat'.

Reading through it, I could sense so much self-loathing and a desperate need to regain control over my body. You have to remember, I was very physically fit as a teenager and once had a four-pack (oh yes, I was a hottie) but essentially giving up heavy gymnastics training and discovering I loved food made it all go to pot. It made me sad to see this reflection of my former self lambasting myself, hating myself, despising my body.

But there is some good to come out of it. I recorded my weight on that day, and I'm pleased to say I now weigh half a stone less than when I wrote those bitterly unhappy words. During that period I have probably been up and down a bit, but I'm confident it's working for me now. I need to keep on with it and, with the spinning classes which I'm surprisingly enjoying quite a lot, I know I can keep it up.

I'm learning to feel proud of my body again, which is good. And when I slip up and eat rather more of something than I ought, I don't panic and get upset, but nor do I go mad and eat it all.

Oh, and for the record, I did wear my purple flamenco skirt in Barcelona. I looked hot.

More on that story later.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Little Mermaid

I used to love fairy tales when I was little. Still do, in fact. I even wrote one once (a strange tale about a princess who was virtually blind and had to hide it from her subjects. Her fairy godmother gave her contact lenses and all was merry in the kingdom).

The best fairytales are the bittersweet ones, not the sanitised Disney versions. Like the girl with the red shoes, who is forced to dance and dance and dance until her feet bleed. If you look at most tales, the protagonists, who are usually good children or virginal young women, generally have to do something unspeakably terrible to resolve the situation. Like commit murder. Okay, there is a comic twist to shoving a witch in the oven of her gingerbread house, but still…

BTW, I think that gingerbread house might look a bit like this...
(More of Casa Batllo)

Take the Little Mermaid, for example. In the original Hans Christian Anderson tale, when the mermaid walks on her magical new feet, it is like a thousand knives stabbing into her at every pace.

I imagine she felt much like I did after I was walking back from my spinning class today.

I have some new trainers. They’re really cool and groovy. But contrary to the advice my mother always gives me, I did not break them in gently by wearing them in the house for half an hour a day.

Oh, no, a twenty-minute walk up a hill to the gym followed by an hour’s spinning, then 20 minutes back. By the time I started walking home I was in absolute agony. The skin at the back of my heels was destroyed. Every step brought a tear of pain to my eyes. I minced and limped along, trying to walk on tip-toes which helped until the balls of my feet went dead, trying to bear the pain and stride it out, but each bizarre gait resulted in a new and more painful problem.

Plus I was gurning like an idiot.

As I recollect, the mermaid’s pain only went when she inevitably died. Cheery. Wow, I didn’t even have a Prince Charming to suffer the pain for.

Just HF, who did not even offer to fix me a nice foot spa.


There will be trouble in paradise tonight.

More on that story later.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I'm back - and I'm angry

Twice I wrote a witty, incisive tale about my lovely trip to Barcelona, my peeled nose and aching thighs and the reasons for the aforementioned.

And twice my computer started making those horrible clunking noises and decided to close itself down. So sod it. Having just received a phone bill informing me I spent 57 hours on the internet last month (shocking, I know) I feel it is high time I did something about my internet situation - I may even have to get broadband. Plus I want a new laptop - one of those funky UPMDs (I think I may have got the acronym wrong, but it's also called Q1 and they don't actually exist yet).

*hits head against wall and throws computer on floor, stamping on it*

Okay, I'm better now, rant over. That is, provided it doesn't fuck up again. Then I'll get really angry.

Here are some pictures. Of Barcelona.

A fountain in the Parc de la Ciutadella designed by Gaudi. The water was foul.
Another of Gaudi's masterpieces, the roof of Casa Batllo in the Mansana de la Discordia. Tours cost an astronomical 16.5 Euros and you are forced to hear an irritating woman mispronounce the architect's name on average about once every three seconds.

My God I just had to go for another three attempts to get this little gem up on screen, which, if you're at all interested, is a view from quite high up the towers of the Sagrada Familia. The thing you can see is part of the Nativity Facade. It has doves on it.

HF has just come and told me to sort it out if I'm going to be that long on the internet. In fact, he suggested I do it at the library.

I will now go and deal with him *rolls up sleeves menacingly*

More on that story later.

Monday, March 20, 2006


(Such a beautiful horizon)

I have always wanted to visit Barcelona since they had the Olympics there. It was the first games I was really aware of, largely because my dad used to go around singing the Pavarotti Barcelona song, which I still love, and also because I was quite into my gymnastics at the time and it was on the telly loads! Great!

Anyway, now I'm going. Me and HF are hopping onto an Easyjet flight bright and early tomorrow morning and I've got a new baggy case type thing which is blue with flowers on it and everything. Also, err, one of those fetching neck pillows that goes around your neck, for the whiplash, see. I'm not convinced it will actually work, but hey, it only cost £2.50.

As I'm going to be away for a few days, I thought I would treat you to some of the fascinating ways in which people have found my lovely blog.

Search terms included:

*clover tongue
*burnt my hand with chillies (I feel sorry for that one)
*unwashed grapes side-effects (Both of these migt have done better to have looked on the NHS website, but hey, I'll do what I can)
*capping tooth dentist (seriously, why would you look this up?)

And perhaps more bizarrely

*american girl gymnastics outfit - nope, don't have any of those
*family firm makes ceramic conkers

And my personal favourite:

*how is bonobo monkey cooked

If anyone has the answers to any of these, please let me know cos obviously someone out there wants to find out.

More on that story later.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Miss Whiplash

That would be me, then. After everyone told me I should, I went to the doctors to get checked out, and low and behold, I have "a minor neck sprain - some people call it whiplash."

It's not terrible or anything, but it hurts when I move it too far and it's uncomfortable to sleep. Also, I am forbidden to do any lifting or "vigorous" exercise such as running. What a pity. I also have to do some lovely neck stretches and have been advised to do gentle exercise such as walking, cycling and swimming. I asked about spinning and he thought it was okay, but really, it is a fairly vigorous exercise, so I've already had to cancel one class. Which is pants.

This is not the first neck injury I have sustained. The first one, which happened when I was 13 or 14, I suppose, happened in equally dramatic fashion.

I was at gymnastics training. We were doing some preps on the asymmetric (uneven) bars which involved hanging from the top bar (something like 2.5 to 3m high). It was an exercise connected with, I think, spatial awareness and a prep for a backward somersault dismount which was how I used to generally finish my routines. What you had to do was bring your legs up through your arms until you were hanging with your arms half dislocated, then let go.

I couldn't do it. Not without touching the bar with my feet, anyway. So, in what with hindsight seems like an extraordinary stupid move, I decided to cheat. Instead of waiting until I was hanging to let go, I would just let go a fraction early, giving me the extra space to get those pesky feet through.

I plummeted to the ground and landed on my head.

I loved gym, me, and didn't want to curtail my session, so I was all like, no I'm fine. I tried to do a cartwheel as an example of how fine I was. I collapsed in a heap immediately and had to concede I probably should sit down at the side until my mum came.

Anyway, I can't remember exactly what I had done - not broken my neck, but it was relatively serious and painful, and the doctor gave me a really fetching neck collar which I had to wear. I think I got a couple of days off school and then I had to go back, and once the collar came off, I was supposed to wear a scarf to keep it nice and warm (as indeed I am doing now).

Looking back, I can safely say that neck injury was 100 per cent my own fault. This one, however, was completely out of my control. And has resulted in me doing less exercise and eating more (come on, you need sugar and creamy stuff when you feel crap).

So, this fortnight's weigh-in was the least successful to date. I have lost only 1.1lb. I was almost relieved when I saw it, though, cos I thought I might even have gained some weight.

But with Barcelona on Tuesday, I was hoping to have lost a bit more weight so I can really show off my twirly purple skirt.

More on that story later.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Curry blow-out

Ahem. I may have eaten a very large amount of creamy chicken pasanda tonight. From the curryhouse. Delivered. Not really the healthiest plan. And I may have broken Paul McKenna's golden rules by eating after I was full.

However, I have a good reason for it. A car ran into the back of me when I was coming back from an industrial tribunal (reporting on it, not being unfairly dismissed or anything).

I wasn't hurt but it's the first time I've been involved in an accident. I was pretty shook up and didn't really know what to do. Fortunately for me, about five minutes after the accident, a reporter I know on another paper who had been at the same tribunal was about to drive past when he spotted me at the side of the road. He stopped and helped me get all the details from the other driver (white van man, if you know what I'm saying) and didn't leave until I was okay to drive. Bless him.

It wasn't my car (more's the pity, it would probably have been a write-off and I might have got some dosh from the insurance) it was the work car and amazingly all that seems to have been damaged is the bumper. It felt like a pretty big shunt when he hit me. It's weird, there were a few seconds when I just knew he was going to hit me and, because I was stationary behind two other cars, there was nothing I could do about it. Quite scary, but I think I managed to remain relatively calm.

Anyway, I managed to drive the car back to the garage, and walked home (everyone had left work by then, I was kind of hoping they would be waiting for me with hot, sweet tea) and demanded tea from HF and he decided he would buy me a curry. I felt I deserved it, particularly a nice mild sweet one which would help combat the adrenaline surge.

I feel like a bit of a porker now, mind you. And after the initial rush wore off, my neck and shoulder started hurting a bit. It may be psychosomatic, but it still hurts. May have to get it checked out tomorrow.

Anyhow, seeing as I'm (sort of) injured and everything, I'm going to try and milk it as much as I can.

More on that story later.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

M Reg Ford Fiesta, anyone?

My car insurance runs out pretty soon. Like, at some point next week soon.

I have been thinking about getting rid of it for some time. Because, quite frankly, it's a bit shit.
I love my car. It's a little diesel Fiesta, with no power-steering, no anti-lock brakes and 148,000+ miles on the clock. Part of the trim on the side is peeling away, and there is some rather odd-coloured welding on the front wheel arches. It never starts the first time and it is one of the loudest vehicles I have ever travelled in, and that includes my dad's massive pick-up truck.

But I still love it. I can park it anywhere, it has never actually broken down and despite increasing fears of it happening, not once have all four wheels fallen off while I've been travelling in it.

I say all this touching a large plank of finest pine, by the way.

However, it's dying a slow and gentle death. I can't afford to actually service it, just give it MOTs and take it to the nice men round the corner when it starts making stranger sounds/smells than normal. It's cost me a bleeding fortune over the years and the last time I got it MOTed the man told me I would have a car for a year. And then it would go to the big scrapyard in the sky.

For all the above reasons, I thought the end of my annual insurance would be a good time to say goodbye to little Loki (god of mischief, see). So I asked one of my colleague's husbands if he might want it for parts.

They came round to look at it. It was snowing at the time. I offered tea, but they just wanted to look at the car. I was completely honest with them, didn't go for much of a sales pitch, I just wanted to save the scrapping fee. He asked me how much I wanted for it, but I just told him to tell me what he thought.

His offer?


Hmmmph. Not going to go very far towards the Mini convertible I had my eye on.

More on that story later.

Friday, March 10, 2006


I used to have really quite nice feet. They are quite small (English size 5), generally pretty clean, extremely flexible and with cute little toes. They don't smell.

They're still pretty small and flexible.

But after spending two weeks almost exclusively in sandals (not the pretty kind, the practical walking kind) in hot, dusty, Israel last year, something changed.

The soles of my feet are leathery. It's nearly a year since I went to Israel, but still they feel hard. The skin is flaky, my toes are not nearly so sweet. Now if I rub one naked foot against the other, it feels rough and scratchy. Not sexy.
Oh well, my other half isn't a foot fetishist anyway (thank God, cos that would be weird).

Which reminds me, I have finally come up with a name for him. Hobbit-feet, or HF for short. The reasoning is fairly simple. However nasty my feet have got (and in all fairness, they still don't smell unless I wear tights), they are not nearly as smelly, leathery, or hairy as his. Like a hobbit's, really.

Oh, and I managed not to melt HF's trousers - but apparently they are not quite so waterproof anymore.

More on that story later.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Beat the bogus caller

I was at home at lunchtime today, enjoying the joint guilty pleasures of mujadarrah (a scrummy rice and lentils dish I first picked up in Jerusalem) and ER, when my video entry phone buzzed at me.*

I was instantly suspicious. Anyone calling at my door on a Wednesday at about 1.30pm was hardly likely to be offering me anything I actually wanted like a job or a nice skirt. I think my suspicious tone was probably fairly clear to the man on the other end.

Anyway, he said he was from Siemens (yes, I managed not to giggle at the silly name) and had come to check the electricity meter. My journalist training immediately kicked in.

"Do you have any ID?" I say.
He said he did, but before I went out to check it, I did a quick sweep of the flat - no open windows, back door locked. I took my keys and locked the door behind me.

Standing on the doorstep, a slightly impatient looking man with a Siemens jacket on it (when I told this story at work, it came out more like a jacket with siemen written all over it. They obviously decided to ignore the fact I said written and much hilarity ensued) and a siemens id.

This looked pretty legitimate to me, but oh, no, we tell all the old ladies who get their stuff nicked by nasty men pretending to be from the non-existent water board to take the ID away, call the telephone number on it and check the person is for real.

So I said to the man (let's call him Walter Fibley) I was just going to quickly call the number on it. He seemed taken aback but handed over the ID and I disappeared back into the house.

As soon as I got through to the siemen's blurb I was pretty sure the guy was really from the electricity company, but I thought I should see it through. When I got through to the man at the other end, he was very understanding and put me on hold while he went to check.

Unfortunately, he came back and said that he couldn't find the man, he was going to check with another department. When he eventually came back, he gave me a description of the man, (white, in his 20s, short dark hair) which could really have been anyone, but hey, it was good enough for me.

I finally let the man in and gave him back his ID. I should probably point out it was raining quite heavily throughout this.

In retrospect, the meters are in the basement so he wouldn't actually have had to come into actually my flat, and at 24 and pretty fit and compos mentis (yeah, I love self-flattery), I'm probably not the ideal target for bogus callers. But I can rest safe in the knowledge that had he been trying to rob me blind, I would totally have figured him out.

*I still get quite excited by the fact that I have a video entry phone with a buzzer and everything. Childish, I know, but it is funny to see these distorted faces unaware that you are spying on them.

I am concerned that my advice to tumble-dry my bloke's waterproof trousers may result in them melting.

More on that story later.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Victim to the sales

I am a complete victim when it comes to bargains. Take this weekend, for example. I'm not feeling particularly rich at the moment, particularly as I'm off to Barcelona in a couple of weeks (give me a few seconds to contain my general excitement about a week off work).

But when I bumped into my friend MC on Saturday and she told me that D2 had a sale - a closing down sale no less - and were selling off shoes for £1 a piece I started seeing little happy shopping stars.

And I've been good, right? Despite the scone binging and a rather unfortunate incident with some seriously delicious honey roast ham, I'm losing weight at a very sensible and pleasing rate. Which means the general shopping buzz can be added to by a 'these clothes actually fit me' buzz. There have been shopping expeditions in the past where I've ended up either sulky and petulant and empty-handed or alternately tearful and with shopping bags full of non-clothes related items becasue nothing fits and it all makes my arse look the size of Mount Tibidabo (which I will see in Barcelona. Yay!).

So if I've been good, I definitely should be allowed to indulge in a tiny amount of feel-good shopping.

Me and my man (Archangel? Tony Robinson? AM? I just don't know, help me out here) were going to go and see Good Night and Good Luck anyway so we decided to turn up a touch (three hours) earlier and hit the shops. And the sales.

Oh, the sales. There were many shoes at just £1. And many for slightly higher prices. Unfortunately though there were some lovely shoes, I don't have size eight feet. My feet are small. So no shoes. But further up and further in (did you see my Last Battle reference there, any chance to bring Narnia up) there were many other items. A plum satin tulip-bottom skirt (no, I don't know what it means but MC said that's what it was) reduced from £25 to £2.50. A big cuddly zip-up jumper reduced from £20 to £5. At this stage my eyes were lighting up in what I think was a slightly scary fashion. As I went into the changing room, Archangel (I'm sorry mum, I can't do it, and I don't really understand why) was sitting uncomfortably in the shoe area surrounded by pre-pubescent skinny girls and men who quite clearly were not interested in people of the female persuasion. In and out - new top for the skirt. Too big (ha, it had to happen some time). Another top - too weird. Another top, just no good. But still, the skirt. Mmmm. As I queued up, I spotted the jumper. But it only came two sizes too big or one too small. To hell with it, it's only £5, and if I get the big one, I can wear it over all my other clothes. And it is purple.

All through this TR is acting as a handy clothes rail, giving kindly (or kingly, as I was about to say) and almost monosyllabic advice. Then I spot some cute bikinis in a little zip-up packet. So cute, and I don't have any non-sensible bikinis, only a practical adidas blue thing for swimming in. It was only £6. But I had no idea if it was going to fit even a little bit. And I was in the queue, with a large number of people behind me. Snap decision time. Hey, it's half price, I'm going to get it.

This turned out to be something I may live to regret. Let's just say I do not have size 14 breasts. And this was not one of your sensible underwired jobs, it was barely even a triangle. And unbeknownst to me, it has the words 'hoi polloi' inscribed on the arse. Hmm. Is this what I want my arse to be saying to the world as I lie on my front sunbathing?

Well, I won't return it right away, I need some thinking time about how much boob it is appropriate to show in a non-swimming bikini.

Then I went to the amazing Fopp shop and blew £25 on CDs and a book. They were on sale too.

More on that story later.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Life is good

The last couple of days I have been in an insanely good mood.

The first reason is that despite accidentally eating three chocolate chip scones on one evening last week and finishing off a rather tasty tuna pasta bake (both made by my own fair hand), when I weighed myself yesterday I found I had lost another five pounds. So now I have lost a total of 12 pounds in six weeks, which is pretty bitchin' news as far as I'm concerned. I've still got a long way to go (think in the region of another two and a half stone) until I'm where I ought to be, but it's going really well.

One disconcerting side effect - my jeans have gone baggy in some seriously weird places. For example, there are these big saggy areas where my pockets are. Makes me a little concerned that I obviously must have had unsightly bulges there, but hey. 12 pounds! That's nearly a stone!

Reason number two - me and my other half have booked a little jaunt (accidentally typed haunt there to begin with, now that would make a completely different story) to Barcelona. Not only have I never visited the city before, I've never even been to Spain! Wow, I must be excited because I'm really overusing the exclamation marks (as far as I'm concerned, one is too many in almost every situation). Have bought a little guide book and have been salivating over pictures of Barcelona Cathedral, the Sagrada Familia and other cool stuff. Plus I keep daydreaming about tapas. Mmmmm. Anyway, we're going for four days at the end of the month and our hotel has a website and everything so it shouldn't be too much of a shithole.

Reason number three - I went to my local leisure centre on Friday to check out the new gym equipment for the paper I work for and it's ace. You can plug yourself in and watch neighbours at the same time as the person next to you is sweating over Celebrity Fat Club. I love new stuff, I'm a bit keen on gadgets generally.

Reason number four - about two years ago my brother sent me the most frustrating present in the world - a £10 note trapped inside a strange container controlled by magnets. Despite numerous attempts by me, OH and several others, no-one has had any success in getting it open. We were on the verge of getting out a chainsaw and destroying the bloody thing when we discovered it had a web address on the back. We looked it up and low and behold, it had instructions! I actually wanted to kill my brother when I found out how bloody easy it was to get into (he refused pointblank to tell me, just uttering some mumbo jumbo about magnets). So I have taken out the £10, spent it, and replaced it with a picture of me at a wedding when I accidentally popped out of my dress due to slightly enthusiastic dance manoeuvres. Ha. And no, I'm not posting that picture.

Reason number five - my best uni friend has returned from a month schlepping around Thailand (don't really know what schlepping means, but I like the sound of it. Is it to do with Schwepps?) and has decided there's more to life than writing up golden weddings and captions for cheque presentations (she too is on the local paper bandwagon) and has taken redundancy. So there is going to be a big party in Cornwall at the end of the month.Yay!

Reason number six - saw a couple of episodes of Lost from the second series - both of which include an awful lot of Sawyer being mean and not wearing very much. Mmmm. It probably is wrong to lust so much after someone who is clearly so bad, but fear not, in real life I go for nice men. Generally speaking.

Anyway, I think that's reason enough to be in a good mood. Oh I also managed to go out and have quite a lot of drinks last night and still get up for gym this morning with no hangover. I rock.

I was looking up something randomly on a French website the other day (I think it was a recipe) and I came across the phrase Putain de Geek. Which literally means Whore of Geek. Oh yes. On a French recipe site, I only wish I knew what the rest of it was about. I'm thinking of changing my name.

I am still seeking a better nickname for my other half, as Surly Girl has already patented Other Half. Some useful facts which may help you come up with something - he is an archaeologist (I can hear your envy, Patroclus, almost always says exactly the opposite of what he means and comes from the flat plains of Lincolnshire. He is also at least a foot taller than me.

More on that story later.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Wolves don't have money

One sunny Sunday morning, many years ago when I was just a wee nipper, me and my little sister (two years my junior) decided to go outside and enjoy the sun.

Seeing as it was about 6am, neither of our parents were up yet, and neither of us had the sense to put the latch on the front door to let ourselves in again. After a few minutes of happily gamboling about, this became clear to us when we decided that actually, it was quite cold and we wanted to go in.

So we rang the doorbell.


We knocked on the knocker, first gently then more insistently.

Still no sound of movement from my parents bedroom upstairs.

My sister (she really was little), was starting to get a bit upset. For no good reason, I started wondering if there might have been any wolves in the area. Wolves, I solemnly told lil' sis', eat small children. Bearing in mind this was rural Berkshire, England, where the most angry thing you are likely to come across is a disgruntled cow.

This drove my sister to tears. So convincing was my tale (I think I had just read the Wolves of Willoughby Chase), that I started geting a bit twitchy as well.

Before long, we were both hollering away, banging on the door as hard as our little hands could manage and ringing incessantly on the bell.

A belligerent parent eventually opened the door, and was not at all pleased to see a tearful little girl belowing about being eaten by wolves. My mum spent literally hours explaining to her that there were no wolves in Britain, and even if they wanted to come they couldn't swim so they would have to get on a boat. And wolves don't have money to pay for ferry fares.

For some reason, this seemed to satisfy her, although I believe there was more than one snuffly call out to her mummy when the terrible thought of being eaten alive by wolves came to her again.

I got a pretty stern telling off for that one, I can tell you and I was VERY firmly forbidden from going outside before my parents were up.

Mad as they were, they weren't half as mad as when, in a fit of pique, I told my sister she was an accident. Ooops.

More on that story later.