Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Beyond Chocolate- After

Things I have realised since "doing" Beyond Chocolate.

1. Food is not a substitute for sleep, an extra jumper, asthma drugs, company, approval, love or anything else. If I tune in to what I really need I sometimes find it is food but just as often I need a nap, or a blanket or to just get myself out of the house for a while, not to distract myself from hunger (that's diet talk my friend) but because that's what I really need.

2. When I can't stop thinking about a food there's no point in eating other things as substitutes; a low-fat chocolate drink is not a substitute for a piece of chocolate melting in your mouth and will not satisfy me. And I won't stop at the drink, I'll keep eating and drinking because I'm not satisfied. I want the chocolate, or cheese, or pasta, or mango, or big plate of vegetables. Oh, and the diet club leader who advised me to have a chocolate bubble-bath when I fancied chocolate was deluded.

Which brings me to...

3. Diet Club leaders do not know my body. The leader who told me that "steroids do not make you put weight on, eating makes you put weight on" has obviously never coped with prednisolone side-effects; the leader who told me to "feed a cold" hadn't understood the proverbs; the leader who boasted she'd lost weight whilst on an all-inclusive holiday but failed to mention the dysentery, who asked if we'd rather have "sod-it" night or another pound off a month was, quite frankly, dealing with an eating disorder. I will not apologise for using butter instead of low-cal spread and for eating a Mars Bar after a massive asthma attack.

4. My ex's issues with sex are nothing to do with me. When he told me I was,
"Too fat to fancy" (or worse) he was trying to hide any number of problems that he has and behaviours of which he is ashamed. Nothing, certainly not my weight, excuses the way he treated me. I will not allow him to blame me.

5. I do not have to finish every bit of food on my plate. Finishing every bite will not benefit the starving of China; it will not shorten the years of rationing this country went through; it will not make my dad love me more.

6. I did not fail at diets, diets failed me. The entire diet industry is not designed to benefit womankind; it's designed to make money. I am no longer prepared to be part of it.

7. Comparing myself to my sisters or other slim women is ridiculous. I am an attractive, sexy woman. Yes, I would like to be slimmer but I do not need to wait until I am slimmer to have nice clothes and to value my looks.

8. I need to value myself more.
I need to look after my body; I need to feed it wholesome, tasty, satisfying food (and some fun junk!), rest it, move it and tend to it with the right asthma and eczema drugs.
I need to remember that there are people who love me and value me for my many qualities and that the ways I was treated by the ex, his friends and his family should not, and will not, overwhelm that.

9. Sorting out my relationship with food has been far more valuable and lasting than all those times I lost all that weight.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Beyond Chocolate

Some of you will already know about Beyond Chocolate and Intuitive Eating whilst some of you will be wondering what I'm going on about. Beyond Chocolate is not a diet, though many women do lose weight when they follow the principles. I do not believe in dieting. I know that it does work for some people, OriginalBestFriend lost weight with Weightwatchers and never put it back on and I really hope The Girl's sojourn with them will continue to be successful. If you must diet WW seems the most supportive, sensible and sustainable, but for the majority of women dieting does not work because it doesn't address the underlying issues that cause the overeating in the first place, because the moment we come off the diet we pile the weight back on, and because restricting what we eat just leads us to obsess about food.

In January 2008 I went on a Beyond Chocolate one day workshop in London and my life changed.

I started to examine my reasons for eating; I started to look at my behaviour when dieting and when eating "normally", I started to mend my broken relationship with food. I don't claim to have all the answers and BC is an ongoing process but it has stopped me turning to food for comfort and helped me to cope during the stresses of the last few years. I'll write more about life "After" on another occasion and will let Sophie and Audrey Boss speak for themselves.

Beyond Chocolate Website

Tune in

The starting point for a healthy relationship with food. Learn to listen to your body – it will tell you plenty about what it needs right now, both physically and emotionally. Tune in to find out how hungry you are, tune in to know how much is enough. The more we tune in, the easier it becomes to identify situations that trigger us to overeat and tempt us into the dieting mentality.

Eat when you’re hungry

The best way to avoid gaining weight is to eat when you are physically hungry. But how do you know when you are hungry? We have become so out of touch with our bodies that many of no longer know how to read the cues. Learning how to do this and finding out how to overcome the practical obstacles that stand in the way of eating when we are hungry is a fundamental part of Beyond Chocolate.

Eat whatever you want

The diet mentality has taught us that some foods are good and some are bad, often depending on how ‘fattening’ they are. But what is truly fattening is to deprive yourself of the food you really want. Repeated studies show us that deprivation leads to craving and craving leads to bingeing. Beyond Chocolate will show you how to bring banished foods back into your life. Worried about a healthy diet? Think about it this way – yo-yoing between deprivation and overindulgence has been proven to be more harmful than being overweight! By knowing that EVERYTHING is allowed, you offer yourself a real chance to choose healthy foods if you want to, without feeling deprived!

Put it on a plate, sit down and focus

Ever sat in front of the TV and munched through a packet (or two!) of crisps without even noticing? Grabbed lunch and barely registered what you’ve eaten? It’s so easy to eat and eat and eat with repeated trips to the fridge or sitting at the computer in the office. If you eat on the go or while doing a thousand other things, you miss the experience and the signals that let you know when you’ve had enough – making you more likely to eat more! When you sit down, put food on a plate and focus, you acknowledge to yourself that you are eating and if eating is THE activity, you are much less likely to binge, graze, nibble, pick… We all deserve time to satisfy our hunger and Beyond Chocolate will help you explore how to make it work for you.


Food can be a delicious, nurturing, sensual experience. Why deprive ourselves of this pleasure? Make each meal a feast and bring back the pleasure of eating!

Stop when you're satisfied

If you are hungry to start with, your body will let you know just how much is enough and knowing when to stop is a central piece of the puzzle in learning how to stop overeating and losing excess weight. Unlike the dieting world, notice we say satisfied, not full - Beyond Chocolate will give you strategies to understand the vital difference between these two.

Own your body

If we truly want a healthy relationship with food, then we also need to develop a healthy relationship with our bodies. Motivation for change does not come from daily reminders that we are unattractive and unlovable. By criticizing and judging our bodies we crush our self esteem, which often leads to more eating. We can learn to feel good about ourselves and our bodies even when we think they are far from perfect. Discover how to start connecting with the body you have NOW - the best way to ensure that you get the body you want in the future.


With its reminders of plans, regimes and dieting schemes, the word ‘exercise’ has become far too loaded! Instead we think of it as movement – essential for health and well being, rather than a means to weight loss and toning. This disassociation is key – if we can see beyond the aim of losing weight and toning muscle, we can find ways of looking after our health and maintaining an appropriate level of fitness that is not only good for us but also satisfying. Beyond Chocolate will help you get a flush on your cheeks and a smile on your face!

Support yourself

As women, we often become so good at supporting everyone around us that we forget that we too need support. Under pressure, overwhelmed and over-stimulated at home and at work, we expect ourselves to be superwomen and everyone else does too! For many women, this translates into an unhealthy relationship with food - the only way we know to give ourselves a break or a pat on the back is to eat something nice. Support works in different ways for different people and Beyond Chocolate will show you how to find the ways that work for you. As a community, Beyond Chocolate offers you support yourself with a thriving members’ Forum, local support groups, personalised email contact, telephone seminars and much more…

Be your own Guru

For so long the dieticians, nutritionists, diet books, celebrities and doctors have proclaimed themselves our ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’. They’ve told us what, when and how much we should eat and, in turn, we tell ourselves that others must have all the answers. In fact the truth is that we know best - we are the only ones who have the answers to these questions. Beyond Chocolate will help you to ask the right questions so that you come up with answers that are tailored to you.

Whether you come to a Beyond Chocolate Experience, BiteSize sessions or follow the course online, our Chocolate Fairies will show you, step by step, how to put these principles into action and transform your relationship with food and your body without ever having to diet again!

Start now! Fit them into your life in any way that works for you. Apply any one of them and start making positive changes to your approach to weight loss.

You can read the reviews and buy their book on Amazon here

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Beyond Chocolate- Before.

I spent 23 years dieting or being ashamed that I wasn't on a diet. I tried Weightwatchers, The Cambridge, SlimFast, The Hays Diet, Slimming World, Paul McKenna and any number of strange ideas of my own creation(eat a melon before every meal so I'd already be full, make a giant saucepan of low-calorie soup and eat it for days).

I lost loads of weight over the years and put it back on the moment I stopped dieting. My brush with anorexia in my early twenties left me two stone lighter and resulted in compliments from most people and the comment from a family member that I couldn't have been anorexic as,
"Thin people have anorexia"
the clear implication being that I was too much of a bloater!

I paid massive amounts of money on meal substitutes and diet club fees and ended up fatter than I'd ever been and full of self-loathing. Any social occasion could be ruined by the realisation that I was the fattest person in the room. My relationship with my naturally slim sisters was strained as they couldn't understand why I had a problem.

Not even the idea of being a plus-sized bride could encourage me to lose weight (see the fat-bottomed bride above!). I failed at every diet going. I had no will-power. I would buy a packet of five "Yumyums" (a delicious straight, doughnut-style pastry) and eat them all without really noticing; I would eat everything on my plate even if it meant I felt stuffed and ill and wishing I hadn't eaten at all; I would make enough of a pasta dish to last me a few days and then eat it all over one evening; I would go for breakfast with a friend and order the largest meal on the menu, then spend the rest of the day moaning in discomfort.

I thought I was greedy; I thought I loved to eat; I thought bigger was better; I thought I had an enormous appetite. I thought about food from the moment I woke til the moment I slept. I spent all my time planning what I'd eat next; wondering when it could next be acceptable for me to eat. I would eat a lunch before meeting a friend for lunch. I started to be called jolly to have conversations with much slimmer people where they moaned about their weight and when I pointed out how much fatter I was they would say,
"Yes, but you don't mind"

I started to hate myself. When my fiance stopped wanting to have sex with me I decided I didn't blame him, and ate more.

And then it all changed.
MrsB saw an item online about Beyond Chocolate. She was intrigued and decided to go on a one day workshop in London, she also decided I should go with her and advanced me the money to pay for it.

I will never stop thanking her for that.

Country versus City

I grew up in a small town in The Oxfordshire Cotswolds and would love to live in a market town again some day. Friends who've lived in cities all their lives can't understand why I would want to live in the country again. Would I miss the facilities, the bustle, the nightlife? How little they understand...
This is "The Noticeboard", my hometown's information hub.

How could anyone be bored?


I had all sorts of plans yesterday. I was going to get an off-cut of carpet to use as a rug to cover the coffee stains in the living room (the ex was known to pour his coffee on the floor if I hadn't put enough sugar in it); I was going to get an ironing board from the local charity shop so I can do my patchwork; I was going to buy bones from the butcher to make stock for soup, I was going to go brambling with MrsB and get blackberries for pies and sloes for sloe gin and vodka for Christmas presents

The reality of my day was somewhat different.

I got off the bus opposite MrsB's house and saw enough of a break in the traffic that I could cross provided I was quick. On step from the far side I felt what can only be described as a Twang as if my calf muscle was a giant rubber band that had broken. I made the pavement but, oh lord, the pain was excrutiating and my language was appalling. I made it the ten yards to her house thinking I was going to throw-up and lay on the floor hoping it would ease. It didn't.

After an hour or so I gave in and the lovely BermudaGirl came to collect me in her car. I spent the afternoon on the sofa with a pack of frozen spinach on my leg.

I'm a lot better today, especially since I've discovered that I feel much better wearing high heels as the muscle is held in a different position. I can walk and stand but I have to be very careful not to jar it or twist it as that results in searing pain and very bad language! The spinach didn't go to waste as once it defrosted I used it to make a pasta sauce.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Getting Organised.

In my professional life I can be extremely well organised. When I had my own class and classroom I used to set up all the resources for all the groups in all the lessons in individual baskets so that I could just hand over a basket and the children would have everything (right down to pencils)that they needed. At home things have never been the same. I dream of organisation; I dream of a Martha Stewart style life where I have everything I need and know just where to find it.

My friend MrsB shares my dreams for her own life and has recently invested in a lot of Really Useful Boxes. This is only a fraction of them.

I couldn't do this as I don't have a garage to keep them in but, inspired by life with The Girl I am trying to organise my life more effectively.

At present I am trying two main techniques:

1. Put like things together.
All makeup in the drawer by the mirror, all light bulbs and batteries and candles in the sideboard, all scarves hanging from the mirror, all spare bedding (in sets) in vacuum bags in the wardrobe.

2. Get rid of duplicates.
I noticed my parents have three knife sharpeners; a (very) old one that must have been my grandmother's, one from the 80's and a new swanky one. Now I'm not suggesting the get rid of the old one- it has too many memories attached to it- but why have they kept one that is inefficient, ugly and of no emotional value? Get rid of it!

I'm off now to sort a few more things in my bedroom but will return to this subject. In the meantime I will leave you with a cautionary tale...

There was once a woman who could never remember where she'd put her tweezers as she didn't have a proper place to put them. Often she would have to take her pennies to the shop and buy a new set. One day a good fairy came to live with her and helped her to get organised so she started to collect them all into one place.

She probably hasn't finished yet...

Friday, 27 August 2010


One of my lovely Stitchettes is teaching me how to do Machine-Sewed Patchwork and I'm using some Madras cotton we used as napkins when we were children.
When I've mastered the technique I'd like to make a bedspread and I've been looking for suitable fabrics.
Ikea have some lovely retro-style designs that I'd love to get so I'm more than a little frustrated at not being able to drive!

They're from the Fredirika range and are 3.99 each. You can see them here.

Christmas Comes Early!

That title is accurate in more than one sense...
I noticed yesterday that my local Oxfam already has the Christmas cards on sale. That's the earliest I've ever seen as most places usually wait til the schools go back at the very least. In this case though, Christmas has come early because I've had my first present.

My lovely HullBestFriend manages a charity shop, not your normal charity shop though, it's a furniture shop the size of a small warehouse that makes a massive amount of money for the incredible local charity it supports. I've always volunteered for her though I'm down from the days when I used to do six days a week to just the occasional shift when she's short-staffed. Inevitably I find something I want to buy and have furnished my home twice over. I used to love 1930's furniture and loved shabby chic but subsequently developed a taste for cleaner lines and now I have a house filled with mid-century modern and 1960's/1970's pieces. I have a beautiful Ercol dining table and chairs that are my pride and joy and she knows to ring me the moment an Ercol suite or Studio Day Bed comes in (I pay the going rate, though my volunteer status does allow me free delivery).

On Wednesday I got a call asking me if I'd be at home for a delivery this morning; she had something she was sending to me as an early Christmas present (late August not being a time of plenty for Supply Teachers...). I was very excited but for once in my life resisted the temptation to spoil the surprise (I still search my parents house for my presents)and decided to wait and see. I knew it was unlikely she'd be sending me a sofa without a warning me to clear the space so was imagining a coffee table or a work box. I GOT BOTH!!

Look, look! Perfect 60's style! Perfect as a blogging table- my lap-top is on it as I write! Perfect for tidying my stitching away at the end of the evening so I don't give The Girl a nervous breakdown with my messiness! Perfect! Perfect! Perfect! I'm so lucky.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Ruby Wedding

So, as you know, it was my parents' Ruby Wedding Anniversary and they had a party. As my Mum kept telling everyone the flowers for the evening cost more than the entire wedding forty years ago. It was held at the village hall at a neighbouring village where we held the receptions for two of my sisters' weddings. We had the same caterers as we'd had at my wedding which was great as I got to eat the canapes without anyone wanting to photograph me. The dinner was ham, potatoes (absolutely delicious Jersey Royals), coleslaw and other salads which made my cousin and I laugh as there hasn't been an Irish celebration since the dawn of time that hasn't involved a ham.

I drank far too much red wine and had a great time talking to the aforementioned cousin (of whom, more later) I also had to have the same conversation with all the family friends who haven't seen me since my wedding. It goes something like this...

Friend- "How are you?" with head cocked to one side and a concerned tone, emphasis on the word "you" and a squeeze of the arm.
Me- "I'm really well." Bright smile, slowly nodding head.

After dinner there were speeches, a friend who'd been at the wedding, then my dad, then my younger sister who was the only one of my siblings not at the original wedding. Unfortunately Younger Sister broke down and it all got a bit mawkish so I said a few quick words. All I can say is Thank God for Supply Teaching as I had nothing prepared and had to make it up as I went along. We finished by my brother (the family entertainer and clown) singing us a Spanish Gypsy song (he lives in Andalusia) and making everyone laugh.

Then a fabulous jazz trio played songs like Pennies From Heaven and we danced and drank and laughed. It was lovely. My hangover was not...

The Walnut Tree.

One of my early memories is the day the man came to chop down our walnut tree. I was three or four and I remember standing on the back doorstep with my fingers in my ears to block out the sound of the chain saw and watching it fall.

In the following weeks we played in the felled branches, climbing on them (trying to avoid the rotten ones that had necessitated its removal) and throwing sheets over them to make tents and dens. The branches were removed and burned on the sitting room fire that winter and we were left with a tree stump in the middle of the lawn like something from a fairy story.

And then a funny thing happened. The stump started to sprout new branches and a mini tree appeared. They were so near the ground that they provided living green caves to hide in and play in. By the time I was a teenager there was one that was such a perfect hideaway that I spent most of a summer under there reading and listening to Radio 1.

When my nephews came along the branches were big enough to climb and they gave the different perches names. The Armchair, The Motorbike. Now they're teaching their younger sister where to find the footholds and my youngest niece is waiting for the day she'll be big enough to climb up.

On Sunday night I hung jam jars full of votive candles from the branches and we ate beneath it. When the heavens opened the broad leaves protected us from the rain for a long time though I will admit that after the first inch of rain (seriously there were two inches that night) we were wet through to the skin and decided to retreat to the kitchen.

This year we seem to have a bumper crop of walnuts but it will probably be the last one for some time as the tree has now got so big that it's blocking light from a large part of the garden and it's time for some of the larger branches to come down. It feels like we're embarking on another episode, part of the cycle of growth, of birth and death.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Savoury Pancakes

Sometimes you want to eat something delicious and comforting and quick. That's where this recipe comes in. It's not the best diet food but it's all good wholesome ingredients.

1. 200g self raising flour
2. 2 free-range eggs
3. 1/2 pint of milk (I used semi-skimmed)
4. 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
5. 70g rocket or watercress (or however much is in the bunch or bag that you buy)
6. 75g of grated strong cheese (more if you are looking for a cheesy hit, up to 100g will work)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the baking powder. Add the milk and eggs and beat until smooth with no lumps at all. Add the cheese, the chopped leaves, a generous few twists of freshly-ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt and mix. Put a ladleful at a time onto a griddle or greased frying pan and cook on a moderate to high heat for until golden brown on each side and cooked through. Eat as they are or spread with a little tomato relish or home-made chutney.

Serves two if you are ravenous or three or four as a light lunch or snack.

If you're making it just for yourself, as I was, you can put the leftover mixture into the fridge in a covered bowl and cook it the next day. It will be just as good the second day (maybe even better).

This recipe can be made with any vegetables you have in the house. It's good with grated courgette, grated carrots, finely chopped spring onions or cooked spinach. I'd like to try it with beetroot too!

Ruby Wedding Present.

I wanted to stitch something special for my parents' Ruby Wedding but didn't want anything sloppy or cute; they're not the kind of people who'd appreciate Me to You Bears or the like. They've lived in the same small Cotswold town for their entire married life and the whole family is obsessed by maps so I've created an embroidered map for them. I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product but don't worry I've got someone on to it and will post it when it arrives.

I gave them the present on Saturday and it went down really well. Everyone was interested and complimentary and one friend has asked me to create one for her. She wants a map of Amalfi to give to her husband as they honeymooned there ten years ago.

I'm back!

I've been away, did you miss me?
I missed you. I thought of loads of things I wanted to tell you but I've forgotten most of them. However I will be blogging today and catching you all up with the week I spent in the beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Now if I could only get this stupid computer to work a bit more efficiently...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dresses again...

I usually ignore Facebook ads (no I don't want to whiten my teeth thankyouverymuch and I'm not interested in a miracle weight -loss tea or berry)but their funny little computer elves pointed me in the direction of American plus-size fashion brand Igigi. Not only are the dresses actually designed especially fot bigger women but they're modelled by big, beautiful women so you can actually see what the dresses would look like on you if you are a larger lady.
I wish I'd discovered this site a few weeks ago as my wardrobe dilemmas would have been reduced massively. I'd look brilliant in this dress!

It's $142, which is a little more than I usually spend but good value for a dress that fits and some of the dresses are in the sale with fantastic reductions.

This one is only $63.50 which is just over £40 and there's another 30% off at the checkout. Shipping to the UK is $35 and you may well have to pay a customs charge on top of that but you could substantially reduce this if you have friends or family in The States who would send this on to you. I'll be suggesting to my California-based sister that she might like to find me a Christmas present on this site!

Friday, 13 August 2010

High on a Hull Lived a Lonely Goatherd...

Whilst searching the t'intenet for dresses (will I never learn?) I happened upon this...
Now I love "The Sound of Music" as much as the next girl, or indeed as much as the next gay husband, but I draw the line at dressing like Maria. Should you need an outfit for "Singalonga Sound of Music" you can buy it at Tesco here but I'd honestly rather make clothes from my curtains.

My Babies

I suspect it is too late for me and I am a full-on mad cat lady.

Spot the difference...

Look at that dress...
Look at the way the skirt flares out from the waist. It's the ideal shape for me. I have a proper waist but a big stomach so a flared skirt works well on me.
Look at the proportions. It's long enough for the hem to brush the calves. Classic late 40s retro style. I'm five foot nine so that's perfect for me.

Look at this dress, see how the skirt flares out from a nipped-in waist? See how the length is totally in proportion to the rest of it? No? That's because they've sized up the bodice without increasing the length of the skirt. They've widened the waist without widening the hem. It hasn't occurred to them that big girls can be tall too. THIS IS NOT THE DRESS I WANT. I AM NOT HAPPY.

Brambling- or not.

Mrs B and I were meant to be brambling yesterday but just before we went there was a downpour. We didn't fancy getting drenched by water coming off branches and bramble cables every time we went to pick a berry so we went into Cottingham instead. We went to a new shop, which I'll post about when I can remember its name, and for an iced coffee at Blondes.
I will be going brambling today but I'm going to stick closer to home. The path that leads from my garden to the gate in the middle of the terrace has blackberries growing alongside it and I am the only one of my neighbours showing any interest. I picked some at the weekend and made a pie. Now, I haven't made pastry for about twenty years, ever since I discovered Jus-roll ready rolled. I don't mind making pasty but I'm not so good at rolling it out so I stopped making my own. However, my local mini-market only had puff-pastry and you have to make a fruit pie with shortcrust. If you're interested I used 3 oz of butter, 6 oz plain flour and a tablespoon of sugar. I was a big success. Beautifully short, crisp pasty and a juicy, sweet yet tart filling. I may have started a myself on a whole new craze for baking!

I was inspired by July's issue of Martha Stewart to decorate with stars. She used them to celebrate July 4th, I just think they're pretty.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Total Wardrobe Freakout!

So parents are having a big Ruby Wedding Party next week. They're basically having the wedding reception they didn't have back in 1970 as they already had four children under ten between them when they met and the whole wedding industry was in its infancy back then. Dad was a widower and Mammy an "unwed mother" (gasp!) and they found each other and lived happily ever after or at least as much as you can in the real world. All five of their children (they had one together 18 months after the wedding) will be there including the brother who is flying in from Andulusia and the sister who is flying in from California. I'm hugely excited not least by the fact that they're having the same caterers we had for my wedding and I'll get to really enjoy the canapes without having to pose for photos the whole time.

I don't know what to wear. I have body image issues at the best of times (English size 18-22) and find formal wear stressful but when in the company of my sisters the situation reaches crisis point. My sisters are slim. And beautiful. My youngest sister was briefly a model. She's six-foot, a size 8 and has that enviable ability to look effortlessly elegant, poised and gorgeous. Next to her I look, dumpy and scruffy and slightly chaotic.

I went into Monsoon yesterday and tried on some dresses. Oh my good lord...sack of potatoes anyone?

Then my lovely friend BermudaGirl lent me her party dress

It's beautiful and I got myself a shrug in the Monsoon sale so I won't have to show my hated upper-arms (and the tattoo my dad still doesn't know about,and a BARGAIN pair of bronze shoes from ebay (£3.98 including postage) and then I tried it on. I can't get the flippin' zip to do up. I'm hope, hope, hoping it's just I'm at the wrong angle and someone else will be able to do it for me and will be taking it to MrsB's with me later.

But, just in case, I've also ordered a dress from ebay...

It's plain but will look great with some retro accessories(polka-dot shoes, a red-velvet rose in my hair, scarlet lipstick) and I love the full skirt.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Letter to my Enemy

Dear Cancer,
Well that seems wrong doesn’t it? Saying “dear” to a group of cells, a group of cells that are growing uncontrollably and attacking the person who carries them, a person I love, but how else do you start a letter? I was raised to be polite and well-mannered, to treat all with respect and consideration; the person you’re attacking taught me that. So, even though I want to scream at you to leave him; even though I want to wail and pull at my hair with anguish; even though I want to cry to the gods to spare him I am acting in a way that he would understand and of which he would approve. I am being civilised, I am keeping calm and carrying on.

I’m not saying I haven’t cried; when I first took the phone call that broke the illusion of parental immortality and invulnerability I cried stormily (if quietly) for a few minutes whilst a friend looked on helplessly but then I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and got on with life. This is meant to be the time that you tell your loved-ones all they mean to you; relationships are meant to be thrown into relief and the unsaid is meant to be expressed but that is not who we are. We are a very English family.

Now, it may seem strange to say we are very English when you know that my mother and I are Irish but we are outnumbered and our Celtic passion and stormy emotions have always been strange to the rest of my blended family. They do not do emotion. They laugh a lot but they do not cry in public. They share jokes, meals, stories, bottles of wine but they do not share feelings. So, when I consider telling my dad how much he means to me, how grateful and proud I am he adopted me, how his love and care has shaped me, how I want to make him proud of me, I hesitate. I know that I would only embarrass him if I tried to express my love.

And so cancer, I ask you to go; respond to the chemotherapy and the radiation and leave him. Let him live for more years and let me go on showing my love in ways he finds comfortable. Let me buy him another pint or two in our local; let me share a train journey with him; let me listen to Bob Dylan with him (even though that nasal drone grates on me); most of all let me make him proud by making a success of my life.

Yours Sincerely,

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I love gardening!

Some of our neighbours have an allotment and have started to put out an honesty box with surplus produce. So far we've had two large courgettes/small marrows and a bag of french beans. I love going past and seeing what they've put out and I'm really looking forward to tomato season. However, lovely as it is to have someone's produce to eat, eating your own is far more rewarding.
Last night we ate potatoes I'd grown myself! I planted a few left over, sprouting potatoes from my veg rack into a a council recycling box (the box scheme was replaced by a bin scheme and we were encouraged to recycle the boxes so I've turned mine into a container garden) and they've done well. As a full-blooded Irish girl I was inordinately proud of my ability to grow spuds and I turned them into a salad with my neighbours' beans. I'll definitely try growing them again next year as they were delicious and the plants looked lovely growing in the garden, especially compared to the bloody salad...

I hate gardening!

I don't really, I love it but it's so frustrating. I've just been outside with a squeezy bottle of soapy water washing my cabbages. Washing my cabbages you ask? Yes, washing the eggs, caterpillars, flies and mites off the poor, holey leaves. As you know the salad project was a disaster so much so that The Girl labelled the above photos "Salad Apocalypse" and looking at the bed is one of those "if I don't laugh, I'll cry" situations. Not only have I ended up with nothing to eat but it looks so damn ugly. I remember once complaining of my battles garden beasties to my dad who spent so many hours in the garden growing most of the fruit and vegetables we ate as children. He told me that gardening was a constant battle with nature and of course he was right. Our gardens are not natural, we strive to create an artificial environment that is what we consider to be useful or beautiful. The trick is to do it in as natural way as possible, hence the soapy water rather than a chemical pesticide.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bedtime Reading

So, thanks due to The Girl for lending me Sarah Walters wonderful book, "The Little Stranger". It's good that my reading habits are being expanded beyond detective novels set in Italy as I was in a bit of a rut. This book is set in the immediate post-war years in rural Warwickshire and narrated by a practical, sensible country doctor. The fascination of this book is how he reacts to mysterious goings-on at a decaying manor house.
Probably best not to read this in the middle of the night when you can't sleep (unless you enjoy scaring the beejeebus out of yourself I suppose) although my experience wasn't quite as bad as The Girl's...She'd got to a particularly spooky bit with tapping on walls when Maud tapped on the bedroom door and pushed it open. Not since the days of my late-lamented Harley has one cat caused such terror. Harley was an odd creature who used to go and sit in the bath when he wanted to be alone. One night I made my way down to the loo in the dark and on sitting down felt a touch on my shoulder. Harley had decided to sit on the cistern and was just alerting me to his presence with a paw. I wonder if he realised why I was screaming?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Play Day

Every year The Hull Creative Play Network holds an event for Play Day in Queens Gardens in the city centre. Play Day is a national event celebrating children's right to play and it takes place the first Wednesday of August every year. And I mean proper imaginative, creative play that makes a mess and doesn't involve a games console or "interactive" element that actually means the toy does all the work and the child does next to nothing.

Yesterday, despite the rain, was a massive success. The theme this year was Pirates, including nautical, wet and water fun- and yes it was a little ironic given the rain. Lots of community groups were there providing workshops so the children could make music, or make a pirate hat, or a cutlass, or a raft. There were bouncy castles and some fairground rides and a sandy beach. Everything was free as the summer holidays are an expensive time. Included in the free good stuff was a piece of fruit and a bottle of water for any child that wanted it. And who was that rather attractive pirate giving out the fruit? Why me, of course!

I briefly considered wearing a frilly blouse and my corset in true Grace O'Malley style (see above in a picture byNathan McDicken) but there was no-one at home to help me with the laces so I contented myself with a stripy top, skull and crossbones bandanna and gold hoop earrings.

Over my years of being the fruit lady (Nell Gwynne's got nothing on me) I have noticed an interesting phenomenom, the word free makes people go a bit crazy. I'm guilty of it myself- yesterday I acquired a stress-relieving ball in the shape of a monkey - but some of the behaviour I've seen over the years is amazing. The simple rule is one bottle of water and one piece of fruit per child if they want it. That doesn't mean fruit and water for the many, many children you claim you have at home; that doesn't mean water for your dog; or bottles "for later"; that doesn't mean slipping enough in your bag to fill the fruit bowl for a week; it doesn't mean coming back five times and hoping I won't notice; it doesn't mean sending your cutest child to ask for some fruit for Mum, Dad, Grandad, Granny, Cousin It and The Bobbsey Twins. If it's getting late and you're hungry I'll be glad to let you and your kids have some extra bananas or a bottle or two of water but don't take the piss; it's there for everyone and just because it's free does not indicate a free-for-all.

OH, and... a please and a thank you will get you a long way in life. It's shocking how many of the adults don't bother.

The Salad Project

I meant to give you regular updates on this but things have not quite gone as planned.

First, one of the cats was digging up the surrounding earth to use as a litterbox and tearing at the fleece and the cellophane cover. I started covering the plants with the offcuts from the hawthorn at the bottom of the garden (which I still haven't been able to throw out as my next-door-neighbour's builders haven't returned to empty my garden waste bin which they filled with rubble) as I thought the thorns might keep furry bottoms out of my salad. Eventually it worked though I have noticed Professor McTufty (one of the feline visitors to the garden) is still sniffing around the area.

Unfortunately that has not been the end of it as, lacking the protection of the cellophane tunnel, the leaves have now provided a delicious meal for every slug and snail in the garden.

I may well have to start again with a new seed roll and anti-cat measures from the start but I'm a little disheartened and I wonder whether it's worth it.

Good Morning!

Good Morning! It's a lovely sunny day here and I've just eaten half a pink grapefruit. I'm waiting for my espresso pot to start going crazy (The Ex always used to turn the heat of because "It's all bubbling and shit" despite my repeated explanations that it was MEANT to do that) and I thought I'd pop onto my blog and post a few bits and bobs. I'm sorry I haven't been on for a week but I felt I didn't have much to say, or at least much of interest. I know that blogs are the ultimate in self-indulgence and egotism but I attempt to make my posts at least mildly interesting (except maybe, this one). Sometimes, I think, there is a danger of writing posts that owe much in style to a Key Stage 1 News Book.

At the weekend I got up and then I watched telly and then I had breakfast and then I went on facebook and then I went into town and then I went to the shops and I got two magazines and some pegs and catfood and I was thirsty so I went to Burger King and had an orange drink.

You get the picture. I might do all sorts of things but there's no point in posting about them if I can't add some comment, analysis and interest. I hope that, most of the time, I succeed.