My Family and Other People

 

IMG_3227

 

Bigger parenting mistakes than mine have been made;  you must have heard about the woman whose child fell into a gorilla enclosure.

And the Dad who got so angry with his rock-throwing 7-year old on a forest-trip that he got in the car and drove away.  Obviously he looped back to pick him up, but by then the kid had vanished; he was missing in the Japanese forest for another six days before being found safe.

Anyway, both parents probably feel shit already and their position makes them very easy victims of social media outrage without my adding to it.

Instead lets explore greyer areas of parent-criticizing; let me tell you about my bank holiday.

We arrived at the campsite late, a biggish party of us.  We put up our tents, gossiped and  laughed, probably slammed more car doors than were strictly necessary and after a while the lady from the tent opposite came over to tell us, politely but assertively, to shut up.

Fair cop.  But of all the noise we were making, the thing she specifically focused on was how far the children’s voices carried.  In particular, Tiddler had woken up as we unpacked the car, wanted to get back to sleep and was sobbing gently.

We weren’t ignoring him.  Having established that Tiddler doesn’t have removable batteries, hubby was doing everything he could to jiggle and soothe him, including walking him a long way away from the tents while it was at its worst, while the others helped me to assemble the bedding compartment.

I understand that the woman has a right to a quiet campsite.  We shouldn’t have been laughing, talking or banging doors.  But it’s hard to know what else I could have done about Tiddler.  It’s not that we particularly like his crying voice ourselves.  I assured her that I was on it and then breathed a huge sigh of relief because once I could get into my sleeping bag, he slid in next to me and was out before he’d even finished demanding a story.

But it made me fret.  Next time we go camping he might not wake up, but perhaps I shouldn’t take him, just in case?  Should we only go if we can arrive at a civilized time (that would be never, with my job)?  Or carry a sign that says:  ‘Don’t worry!  He won’t do this all night, I promise!’

But what if something else, something largely unpredictable, made him cry in the middle of the night?  Is it OK to assume the goodwill of neighbouring campers in that scenario?  Of course the answer lies between two extreme viewpoints; that of  a mother who wants to camp and a childless couple who want peace.  The lines will always require negociation.  If you’re pregnant and have a bit of spare time, never underestimate the value of practising sheepish smiles.

At the pub the following night, despite having booked, our group waited an hour and a half between ordering our food and its arrival.  My kids were knackered – but they were also awesome.  They didn’t argue or fight or scream much; they read books, chatted in a civilised manner and went in and out of the open side-door to play hide and seek on the lawn.  Sure, one of them knocked my glass over at one point, but they were great.

Or so I thought.  The lady at the next table calmly complained that the children walking past to access the lawn had been impinging on her ability to relax.  She obviously had no idea what an achievement for a three and five-year-old she had just witnessed, or how much worse her ability to relax would have been if I’d have insisted they sat at the table with their arms folded.  I’m afraid that I (equally calmly) explained it to her.

Those who don’t want to have to run into children during their bank-holiday breaks are always welcome to stay at home with the door locked, because I’m of the view that kids are part of our society and should be accepted in public life.  Yes, their needs and abilities are slightly different to most adults, but then we wouldn’t tap an elderly person on the shoulder and complain that they got up to pee too much, would we?

Anyway, on the last morning of the holiday the kids were being little sods and knowing their limits, I hadn’t bothered to do anything about the fact that they looked as if they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, twice. Spotty faces (midged), covered in cuts and bruises, with hair you couldn’t have got a cat-brush through, at least one of them had lost its shoes (the other might just have been refusing to wear any – or any trousers).  The pub we stumbled on turned out to have a gorgeous beer-garden, an expensive menu and an exciting condiments tray.  Tiddler ate more condiments than anything else.  He was having a great time.  We sang ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ more than twice (with a supermarket:  ‘scuse me, scuse me, scuse me’) which caused loud hilarity.

I winced when I saw a woman walking towards me.  I nearly picked up the kids and ran.  But when she said hello she had a North American accent, which stereotyping suggested was a good sign, so I stayed.

‘I just wanted to say, how nice it is to see children who aren’t overly controlled.  You know, shoes thrown aside, hair tangled up, being allowed to be a little bit wild.  It’s just great.’

I nearly hugged the woman.  But I didn’t in the end, because parents can be dangerous animals.  If you interact too closely with the other species and an outsider interprets it wrong, you never know when up might end up getting shot.

Buying my first Bikini

yellow-polka-dot-bikini-2247373

 

Two steps to a bikini body?

Get a bikini and put it on your body

I love this.  I have been quoting it for years.

And yet, I reached the age of 33 without ever buying a bikini.

‘Why not?’  says hubby.

It is a weekday night.  Hubby is unexpectedly home for a few days; I have mentioned this to Naomi and we are going to theirs for dinner.   Toddler (now 4) really, really loves clinging nervously to the side of swimming pools and I mentioned this to Naomi too, so we are all going swimming after school / nursery pick-up.  It’s my half-day; pick-up’s in thirty minutes.  We are in the clothing section of a cheap supermarket because I just remembered that I don’t have a swimming costume.

There are two main styles of cozzie in the shop.  The one-pieces are floral, low-cut at the top, have ‘skirt’ details over the hips and, on closer inspection, don’t go down as low as my size.

The others are all bikinis.  I don’t wear bikinis.

‘Why not?’ Says hubby.

I take a big inward breath and tell him why not.  Bikinis come in two pieces, for a start.  You know how frustrating it is looking for a matching pair of socks?  You know how frustrating it is to find your swimming costume whenever you need to swim?  Well, combine these two frustrations and there you have a bikini.

And then there’s the size:  my chest changes size all the time, with the time of the month, my muscular coverage and general fatness.  My bra collection ranges from tiny padded decorations to reinforced heavy-restraining apparatus, spread over two back sizes and at least four cup sizes, all of which I have worn within the last two years.  So how useful – actually – would buying one single bikini be?

And you know the trauma of finding a bra to fit?  How the assistant marches in and tries not to look curious about your insulin pump and measures you and says confidently ‘You’re a thirty-four C luv,’ before bringing one through that’s really ugly and doesn’t fit, then going off to get a D and coming back to find that that doesn’t fit and then going off to find a… *ahem*.  And how bra-fitters portray enviable personalities – not only cheerful, but focused –  so inevitably you get tired before they do and end up settling  for something they think isn’t quite right?  Well imagine all that, for a bra-like construction that people are actually going to see – imperfections and everything – on the outside.  And we’re on our own with 25 minutes left?  This is so not going to happen.

Furthermore, it’s only just Spring. I’m still embracing my winter grooming routine.  I’ve got hair – well, in lots of places.   And to be honest, there will probably still be hair there in August.  Not to mention the cannula poc-marks all over my tummy, or the purple mark where one of them became an abcess a couple of weeks ago, or the very inoffensive rash that my doctor thinks might be still be something-or-other-rosea and nothing to worry about, provided that it disappears in the next fortnight or so…..

And anyway,’ I think of something else.  ‘It’s a supermarket.  No changing rooms.’

‘They’re over there’, says hubby dismissively.  ‘Hey!  We can look out for your colours!’

He passes me a little balcony number in several sizes.  I mutter something feminist, and toddle off.

When I come back, I am spitting.  ‘Look here!  When you go swimming you need to do this,’ I lean forwards and reach in front of me with both arms.  ‘THIS is simply not possible.  What is the point of a bikini you can’t do THIS in.  If you’re going to be sitting on the side looking gorgeous I heartily recommend it (and I did look gorgeous by the way).  But if you want to navigate across a swimming pool lying down either way up and using your arms in any way at all…..

‘Not that one then,’ says hubby blandly.  ‘Here?’

Twenty minutes later I am still at it.  It’s a spookily quiet time in the shop; every time I manage to get a few bikinis back on their hangers and deposit them on the reject rail, the ones I placed there a few minutes ago have already gone.  I have grunted to the assistant ‘This is the LAST TIME, I promise‘ at least four or five times now.

Suddenly she knocks on the cubicle door.  ‘Are you the lady trying on bikinis? Your husband’s gone to pick the kids up.  He says to give you this.’

Black.  Yellow and pink flowers.  B-C cup.

‘Er- Nah.’

But suddenly I realise something.  Have all the bikinis he’s handed to me been a completely different size to the ones Id been asking for?   I remember one that might have been OK, a bikini or three ago, had it fitted……

‘Last time,’ I say to her, get dressed yet again and toddle back into the shop.

What sort of wally doesn’t double-check the sizes?

Anyway.  I have a bikini.  I’m not posting a picture of it here, because frankly you don’t need to know what it looks like.

What matters is that I found one I felt generally comfortable in.  And that I could swim in, too (or at least, hang out at the edges in, with Toddler).

Putting it on isn’t the easiest.  I’ve always been proud of the way I approach bras – none of this do-it-up-with-the-hooks-at-the-front-then-swizzle-it-round awkwardness for me.  But I have to admit defeat with the bikini – at least while supervising two children in a family changing room (‘Toddler don’t drop your pants there you’ll need to put them on afterwards’ and ‘Tiddler!  Toilets aren’t for splashing in!‘)

But let’s not detract.  I found a bikini and put it on my body.  I went swimming in it at a posh hotel and it wasn’t at all scary.  Or remarkable.  There wasn’t even much looking speculatively in the mirror.

I’m actually wondering what the real reason is that I didn’t do it years ago.

 

Whitney_Cummings

 

Being like Liz

This is Liz.  (from www.clipartpanda.com)

Liz10

Not me Liz.

No.  Liz is the Facebook-perfect version of me; the one that I would like to believe (and like you to believe, for that matter) that I am.  Liz is the me that I fantasise that I could be.  I like and admire the woman.

Liz doesn’t start her day by scowling and hitting snooze.  He first words aren’t an irate reminder to her sprogs of what time it was when they finally fell unconscious last night.  She just gets up, stretches a big, ginormous stretch (taking care not to knock the kids out in her enthusiasm) and sings:  Good Morning!

Liz has woken with a perfect blood sugar level because she stopped snacking well before bed time last night and then tested.  She therefore feels full of beans this morning.

Liz knows that her kiddies like to choose what colour breakfast bowl they get, and that crashing a boringly-coloured one full of already-soggy Shreddies in front of them while growling ‘Come on, we’re going to be late’ will make them sad.

While they are eating, Liz gets ready for work.  She smiles at her reflection as she puts her clothes on.  She feels good because she did yoga last night.  She makes just enough time to dress carefully enough that she feels okay about herself.  She doesn’t use make-up.  This is not because doesn’t know what to do with make-up, but because she’s so confident that she doesn’t need it.  Liz doesn’t get hung up about what other people look like.  She knows that it doesn’t really matter.

Once she’s dressed, Liz brushes her daughters hair.  Slowly and very gently.  Even when Big Sprog starts screaming ‘No Mummy!  It hurts!  I don’t WANT my hair brushed!’ for no discernible reason, Liz negotiates gently and doesn’t say ‘but that can’t possibly have hurt!’  Or ‘just stand still, will you!’ or even threaten to drag her outside and cut the whole lot off.  She just gives her a hug.

So Liz and her daughter haven’t fallen out by getting-dressed time.  Liz then doesn’t need to turn out the washing pile looking for a worn school sweatshirt that isn’t too filthy, because she thought about this last night and washed one.  She doesn’t need to hunt for Big Sprog’s book-bag or shoes, because she encouraged Big Sprog to tidy them away last night, after they’d read together.

In fact, if you were to photograph Liz and the children now, you’d find that they all looking much happier than the children and I did last Wednesday morning.  Liz wears her cheerful start all around her, like an aura.  It  lasts for the entire day.

Liz isn’t perfect though.  She never acheives the impossible:  she wouldn’t get up at 6am for solo yoga because that’s the time she most likes to sleep and it’s hard to motivate yourself at your sleepiest time.  She will never have an immaculate house because it doesn’t matter enough to her, although she does tidy up and put the bins out before the place stinks and she can’t find anything.  She often makes mistakes, like asking awkward questions too loudly, or enthusiastically teaching her children that it’s great fun to howl like a wolf-dragon.  She doesn’t dwell on it though.  The main thing is, that whatever Liz does is good enough for Liz, because she always does her best without being unreasonable and without pushing herself too far.

The fact is, that I want to be more like Liz.  I want to be the best Liz I can possibly be.  Hence my new silly game: I keep asking myself what Liz the character would do.  Liz the character, when she’s having a cool, calm and collected day.  And then I do it.

Today I am writing this in a clear(ish) house.  I went for a walk at lunchtime and yesterday I sent away a journalistic article for a weekly veterinary magazine.  I just stopped writing this blog to do a number jigsaw with Tiddler becuase he needed some of my time, and now I am back to it again.

And do you know what?  Being Liz is great.

From now on, I’m going to Be like Liz.

In Admiration of Single Parents

Did I tell you I admire single parents?

Well, I don’t think I used strong enough language.  I don’t understand why those strong, resiliant super-heroes don’t dress themselves like this:

Perhaps they don’t see themselves that way; perhaps they evolve tough as nails without noticing.

I have been lone parenting for four weeks now – and have mostly evolved into a mushy heap, while other life forms are evolving within my washing pile.

I knew it was coming.  Early mornings; frantic, coffee-fuelled activity; coaxing and getting-ready and stamping and not-wanting-to-get-ready and loosing things and chaos and the spilling of breakfast cereal.  Leaning over, holding Big Sprog’s trousers out, waiting for her to step into them; the frustrated words that mean hurry-up-stop-looking-out-of-the-window; the inevitable crying; the Mummy-feeling-crap.  And while we’re talking trousers and crap, there’s the shitting-down by Toddler of Mummy’s clean ones last week, two minutes before nursery drop-off and work.

Yes, I’m working:  2.5 days.  The children go to a babysitter they love so much that they don’t like going home.  I’m too relieved to be disappointed.

Tiddler has been weeing in a potty.  He likes to clean up after himself.  I glance round to see him precariously carrying a full potty on the stairs to empty into the toilet, or the bathroom floor if he misses, or worse still the waste paper basket.  All kinds of things end up in there; except waste paper which belongs on the floor.

How many times do I pick paper up?  How many times do I retreive the little plastic bits of games that they never seem to play, just spread around the carpet to make the hoover cough?  How many times do I replace books on the shelf; pick up five mugs, each with a bit of sour milk in the bottom; retreive discarded pyjamas, shoes and socks?  How many times do I clean spilled coffee?  Toss the Duplo bricks back into the bucket?  Fish a stash of books out of Big Sprog’s duvet cover, before putting said cover back around the duvet?  Soak up a flooded bathroom using another towel that will now need to be washed?  Not enough, I guess.

Why do the pesky critters eat so much?  Or why do they request food, graze for a while, then request something else?  I’ve read so much about letting kids eat when they are hungry and not judging or not force-feeding them. But as a result there is always food lying about and the only thing they consistently finish is melon.  Melon hands are sticky hands and the best place to wipe sticky hands is on mummy’s trousers – having first inspected them for signs of poo, of course.

Eating makes them grow.  One of them has always grown out of something: wellies; school-tights; trousers; socks.  The financial aspect is one thing:  finding time to pop to the shop to get it is quite another.

There’s no ‘popping’ anywhere.  There’s dragging, coaxing, bribing and the employment of silly games.  We walk through W H Smith wriggling our fingers in the air like demented witches, to stop us from touching.  But Popping?  Not so much.  I had some improtant vet-related paperwork that I had to ‘pop’ to the Post Office at the start of January.  I carried it round with me for weeks, but every time we passed a Post office there was an enormous queue, and Tiddler was crying, hungry or wanting to climb the walls.  Eventually I decided to make a special Post-Office trip in the car, but there was a tantrum on buckling the car-seat.  I rested the envelope on top of the car while I soothed things out.  That’s the last time I saw it.

But as I said before, I expected all this.  It’s the fabric of having kids.  It’s the unexpected things that cause the problems.

Loosing my phone.  I couldn’t ring for help or sympathy.  I couldn’t even call myself on hubby’s phone and see if I could hear it ring.  I Facebooked and Big Brother helped me out.

The dishwasher broke.  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  We didn’t have a dishwasher for years.  But suddenly there was nowhere to hide the pots.  Put them on the surface and there’s no surface left.  With my kids’ style of eating, washing-up-as-you-go-along is frustrating.  The house took a day to go from chaotic and a little bit grubby to absolutely gross.

It’s hard fixing dishwashers with Toddler on your back.  Never-the-less, I downloaded the Destructions which told me to check the filters.  They were clean.  So I called the lady on the helpdesk who said I needed to clear my sink’s u-bend.

She didn’t say that when you take all the pipes apart under the sink, you’ll need to remember how to plug them back together.  Now I couldn’t use my sink OR my dishwasher.  Thank God Gareth came round and helped me out.

Another time my phone-charger died and the battery had no juice to wake me up next morning.  There’s an alarm on our cooker so I tried to set that, but I wasn’t sure if it had worked or not.  There’s an online alarm-clock feature you can use, but I happened to know that my lap-top sometimes does automatically shut-down when it knows I’m not watching, and I couldn’t work out how to turn this feature off.  Then I remembered an old alarm-clock, a relic of my Grannie’s life that hubby wouldn’t let me throw away because it says ‘Made In Glasglow’ on it.  I wound it up, tested the alarm a few times.  It wasn’t consistent.  I set it anyway and lay awake half the night, worried I’d never wake up.

Dunno why.  It was like that scene in Four Weddings where Hugh Grant wakes up to a roomful of alarms.   The kids didn’t stir but I raced round the house, pump dangling, swtiching them all off.  Then I started to laugh.

There’s the hardest thing about lone parenting.  You’re laughing at your desperation, or you’re happy because they’ve gone up a reading-book colour, or you’re about ready to put them down the loo, and you look for someone to tell.

I guess it’s why the super-single-parents I know are so very good at reaching out and cultivating friendships.  Anyway:  they’re heroes, those people.  Heroes.

 

single

 

The Artists and the Scientists

tea

 

I was surprised to read that Davie Bowie had died.

I’d assumed it had happened years before; drug-filled oblivion, perhaps; AIDS after unprotected sex with hundreds of strangers; an elaborate collision involving some form of luxury transport.  Rock Star, obviously.  Oh, the stereotyping of lives we know nothing about.

I have been pigeon-holing artistic ‘types’ since University.  You know Universities:  forward-thinking places, where enlightened people consider all colours of skin, all genders of human, all gender preferences and all religions to be equal.  But even in Universities, people like to form tribes.  It’s human nature.

So the Scientists and Artists look upon one another across a deep divide.

I was a Scientist.  I worked hard.  I had lectures scheduled 9.00-5.00pm most days, weekly assignments, lab practicals, exams nearly every term and ‘EMS’ (working for free) in the holidays.  My friend studying theology had one or two lectures each week and spent the rest of her time ‘reading’ for a single essay that I used to help her to write the night before its due-date.

‘Reading,’ by the way, is a technical term.  It means ‘drinking tea.’  And who wouldn’t want more time to drink tea?  That, and make ourselves familiar with our own popular culture, including the fact that David Bowie was still alive?  I’m sorry that I didn’t take the chance to appreciate that.

But we scientists consoled ourselves that it was worth it: we were going to get ‘real jobs;’ have great influence, do something ‘useful’ with the rest of our lives.

Science.

Systematic study through observation and experiment.  The application of logic to the understanding of our world.

Galileo collected evidence showing that the sun and heavens do not revolve around Earth.  People at the time liked to assume otherwise and what he said was highly contraversial.  He never really won against the closed minds of his day, while we take many of his ideas for granted.

So Darwin and others spotted the changing body-shapes of species over time and came up with the theory of evolution; so Scheele and Priestly demonstrated the existence of a gas that we now call Oxygen.  At this precise moment, thanks to scientists, humans can access more factual information about their environment than ever before.

There are scientists out there with convincing ideas as to how to feed the world with the resources we’ve got.

There are scientists who can predict the effects of releasing Carbon into the atmosphere.

Educational results are hard to quantify, but science has even tried to identify the optimal ways to help children learn.  (I’ll give you a clue:  it’s not by pushing them through accademic tets or judging their worth on their ability to recite times tables).

We’re in an amazingly priviledged position, aren’t we?  Sure, Scientists disagree between themselves but if we sat our best ones down together to debate some of these issues; if there was no pride involved so that the “right” or “best” answers they thought of were heard; if we didn’t bribe these people to put certain slants on it (careful funding of the research), surely we would make our lives much better?

Of course, our country is run by artists and economists; charasmatic speakers with good presentation skills and their own subjective ideas of what they want for the future.  They might find scientific evidence useful when it supports the line that they want people to beleive, but if the evidence doesn’t say what they want they tend to ignore it.

 

maths.jpg

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/03/pupils-face-new-tests-to-ensure-they-know-times-tables-by-age-11

 

Let’s leave the government alone though; what about closer to home?

A friend’s friend told me that as a scientist, she knew that there was no reasonable basis for the practise of accupuncture.  She was unlucky in that this is a special interest of mine and I could point her to some texts written by eminant, mainstream scientists and doctors giving a logical, physiological explanation of how ‘Western’ accupuncture works by stimulating nerves.  I could also reference clinical trials.  Before she had time to download them from the journals, she had ranted that she would never have accupuncture herself because it didn’t have any basis.

I bet I knew whose side she’d have been on when Galileo and Darwin showed up with their ideas.  People who have studied science can be closed and unscientific, too!

But here speaks a black pot of a kettle.

Recently, research has linked the consumption of processed meat to a significantly increased risk of getting cancer.  I can’t tell you how significant ‘significantly’ is;  or whether or not altering what I feed to my kids is supposed to reduce their chances.  Because – shock horror – I have not read the research.  I haven’t even read the journalism.  I have ‘known’ all my life that getting cancer is largely a matter of bad luck (apart from, say, lung cancer from smoking) so I have planted my head firmly in the sand and am doing whatever it was I would have done anyway.

‘They’re always advising us against doing something,’ I mutter.  If there’s an opportunity to make a difference to my own chances of following in Mr. Bowie’s footsteps, it is highly probable that I am missing it.

The moral of that story?  Science isn’t that influential.  Even smoking didn’t become old-fashioned when the evidence proved that it caused cancer.  It became old-fashioned after generations of media campaigning, gory lung-pictures, warning on fag-packets, policy-making, laws to throw smokers outside in pubs.  The scientists made the link in the first place, but artists made it happen.

Scientist-creative combinations are where it’s at (just look at the world of computer science); if drinking tea is the sort of thing you enjoy, it’s fine to opt to drink tea at university.  You can still make a massive difference to people.

In fact, if you’ve got some talent, go for art, music and design.

 

bowie

 

women – WAIT!

 

mouseq

 

Apparently there’s still a pay-gap between the sexes.

Apparently some guy  – Science Nobel Laureate or something – said that female scientists should work in a separate laboratory (‘you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you’).

But do you know what made me an angry feminist in 2015?

That women still objectify ourselves.

I said in an earlier blog that I don’t wear make-up.

A woman at work said,  ‘If I turned up without make-up on, you’d run away screaming.’

I kid you not.  Even though we’d had five of the ugliest blokes in Yorkshire in the surgery that morning, all bare-faced, and no-one had run away.   Or even thought to ourselves that the guys needed make-up.

But what if they had been women?

I don’t like to answer this, but my colleague said quite bluntly that she always notices women ‘who don’t look after themselves’ (i.e. wear make-up) and judges them badly.

 

make-up

 

Here is my friend Bea on the subject:

I remember… a business workshop about personal branding. The woman delivering the workshop shared that a study had been done…. women who wore make up earned more money and won more business. I think they might also have had better colleague relationships.

I was absolutely appalled that I was being encouraged to wear make up in order to be more successful at work. I recall challenging it vocally and that wasn’t received very well.   It is scary how prevalent [mysogeny] is in such subtle ways.

Anyway, a New Year is nearly upon us.  Time to give women a brand new start…..

I went on Facebook to see what my friends had on their minds.

And collected these:

 

 

Behold our culture where eating ‘too much’ and ‘getting fat’ over Christmas is seen as a) just terrible and b) inevitable.  And January respresents a time when we should start being careful, eating less and restricting our calorie intake.

Now, it would be silly to paint binge-diet cycling as soley a women’s issue.  I know men who do it.  A google-search revealed versions of the above memes targetted at men.

But it was mostly women posting these and definitely women I speak to regularly who seem to regard this cycle as a normal.

I work in vet surgeries with generous clients and have therefore eaten at least 6 chocolates daily over the full course of December.  But cries of ‘I’ve had a third one!  I’m really bad!’ have rung in my ears until I have started to feel a much shame as enjoyment.

I guess I’m ‘lucky:’ at least prior to kids, my metabolic rate was always fast enough to keep pace with the modern-world excess and lack of exercise.  I have never felt pressure to diet.

Nor will I:  data suggests that people who start a diet are likely to gain more weight over the subsequent two years than those who don’t.  To paraphrase one of Weightwatchers early financial bigwigs, commercially they had a winning formula because people loose weight very effectively but then put it on again and want to come back.

Sure, there are some people who do make calorie-exclusion diets work long-term and they deserve respect.  But it takes huge motivation to argue with our physiological programming and for most people, this can’t realistically be built into their lifestyle and maintained.

What’s the point of feeling guilty about that?  I always claimed that if my metabolic rate was different, I’d rather be fat.  But I’m getting older, my fat-pads are deepening and all that ‘you should have a perfect body and therefore you should eat less’ crap I’ve been drip-fed over the years is niggling at me.

Yes, I’m at risk of joining the ranks of the chronically-miserable-in-their-own skin; is it really a choice between that or the exclusion-diet emotional-roller-coaster?

I refuse to queue up to get weighed every week and value myself on that: women’s weight fluctuates monthly and – another thing – when I felt (and looked) really fit and strong during my summer Ninja campaign I gained muscle and put on 5kg, the weight of a large cat.

The ‘weight’ culture is a farse.  One should just eat sensibly.

Is ‘just eating sensibly’ possible?  In this world where women judge themselves and each other on the shape of their hips,  and fatty and sugary foods are loaded with sensations and connotations of ‘pleasure’ and given to us as rewards by grateful clients, yet at the same time seen almost as self-harm?

For me, sensible eating is remembering to l0ve my body and to listen to it.  To notice when I am really hungry and eat what I am hungry for (slowly, mindfully and without guilt).  And also to notice when I am full, and eating to mask other needs, and to attend to those needs separately (such as the need to face up to an emotion, prospone another task, practise genuine self-care).

Clear as chocolate, huh?  But someone else has thought about these things harder than me, and I’m going to read up.

Mindful, or intuitive eating, is my New Years resolution.

That and to keeping exercising.  Exercise will always be vital.  Not because it makes me look good, but because it makes me feel it.

untitled

This Girl Can. Sport England

I stuck to September’s resolution of running the Percy Pud 10K.  Here’s a picture of Bea and I a few minutes after smashing our sub-hour target.

 

percypud.jpg

 

Bea posted a similar selfie on Facebook, with the inevitable torrent of likes and congratulations.  And guess what?  Someone actually commented on her hair.

But much as I’d like to criticise them for that, the reason I posted this picture here and not Bea’s version is that this one makes my chin look subtly “better”.

What can I say?  The grim reality of women judging women (and ourselves) on our appearances is set to continue in 2016.

Image

Kids, Weddings and the Tash

starwars

 

We’re driving to Scotland.

Snowflakes in the windscreen resemble the Star Wars titles.  The kids (thank goodness) have fallen asleep.  Radio 3 is featuring a jazz soloist ‘on electronics,’ which is the sort of soundscape a manatee might swim around to on a nature programme.

‘Do people listen to this stuff for pleasure?’ I ask hubby, ‘Or just so they can call themselves open-minded?’

‘Shhhh!’ says hubby.

The music wells.

‘Listen!  The manatee has seen a fish!’

‘Stop it,’ says hubby.

‘Oh shit,’ I say.

‘What?’

‘I forgot to pack any shoes.’

shoes

Last year we got a wedding invitation.

And another.

Then another.

And two more.

I won’t make bus-waiting analogies, but suddenly my family and friends were so busy nuping-up in different corners of the country that my car-tyres and my dress started to look worn.  In fact, I bought a second dress.

I know.

You’d think that having been a bride would make me critical of other couples’ weddings, but I’ve soppily adored them all.  I’m not one of those wedding-describers-and-comparers.  I’ve brought kids; I’m more worried about other people judging me.

Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean nobody’s judging.  Plenty of loved-up thirty-somethings are transparently conscious that society expects them to sprog.  Such couples try to use your example to confirm to themselves that parenting would be amazing (or managable, or terrifying, or the end of their social lives as they know them – all of which are true).  And eveyone comments on your kids’ behaviour.

At weddings  you want to make your children and your parenting look idyllic.  Like Facebook in real life.

Damnit! –  I wasn’t even a perfectionist in the days when all I had to remember were a dress, some shoes and a present.

Nowadays it’s a military operation remembering:

  • my insulin and sweets
  • to disappear my moutache (it’s thick and curly thanks to sprogging hormones)
  • to wash the kids
  • ..and brush their hair
  • a ribbon matching my daughter’s dress (and keep her still enough to apply it)
  • my son’s trousers, shirt and matching socks
  • a spare set for after he vomits
  • nappies
  • food to bribe them with if the photographs take ages
  • wet-wipes for their fingers
  • and of course – when he joins us – cuff-links to put on hubby.

The cuff-links aren’t important; hubby can improvise them from things found around the hotel-room. Some people would cringe if their partner rocked lime-green pipe cleaners, but it’s a fabulous ice-breaker at wedding-breakfast.

Another good ice-breaker:  “it was my fault the bride was so late”.  One time the rain was pouring down, the motorways were slow and the map on my phone kept flipping upside-down and loosing its signal most unhelpfully.  The stupid roads had plenty of decision points but nowhere to pull in.  The kids kept asking ‘Are you lost, Mummy?’  and giggling like hyenas.

I found the hotel.  The staff directed me through the rain to my room without offering to help with my two giant suitcases or two small, trailing children, but I chilled out when I saw my huge, golf-course-view suite.  Said suite was quickly strewn with clothes, disguarded sandwiches, crumbs and dirty nappies while I sorted us all out and packed us back into the car in record time.  We drew up outside the church just as the bride’s father came out to see if the coast was clear for their arrival.  He kindly held things up to let me get the family into position.

wedding2

Sitting in the service is the most risky part of the day and I’ve learned (the hard way) to sit near an exit.  It’s amazing how much blushing you can do between your pew and the church door.

Years ago, a priest stopped a wedding service I was attending:  ‘everybody.  Listen to that.  A crying baby.  What a beautiful sound.  Now then, who’s going to jiggle him while we say a prayer for crying babies parents….’

At the time I was one of the afore-mentioned thirty-somethings.  Now I look back and wonder how those parents managed to restrain themselves from hugging the guy.

Wedding-breakfasts are great.  Children hate sitting still once they’ve finished throwing food everywhere, so a little club of parents meets in the corridor outside.  They pretend to drink responsibly, selectively listen to the speeches and coo privately over the gorgeous sight of their little ones toddling around.

The fewer Toddlers there are the less sociable the corridor, but also the more you stand out.  Walk anywhere and someone will say:  ‘He went that way.  And isn’t he gorgeous!’

Toddlers are like dogs for getting you into conversations with admiring stangers.  But should the conversation become interesting, it’s hard to stay in one place to see it through.

Who cares?  I’ve had a super time chasing my kids round weddings.  We’ve visited hotels and beaches.  Danced to jazz-bands, discos and ceilidhs.  My daughter had one whole dance-floor doing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to Abba.  Couples and guests alike have been wonderfully welcoming of our offspring.

 

wedding3

 

Of course, not every invitation has extended to our kids and I’m pleased about that too, especially since these weddings have been in Scotland where I have willling in-laws. I’d forgotten what it was like to sit still for dinner, and be able to dance and drink too much and to introduce myself to a stanger who doesn’t instantly label me ‘mother’.

The night with the Star-Wars snowflakes, we were due to arrive at the in-laws’ around two am and set off early next day.  I thought I’d save time by waxing my moutache and eyebrows in the car.

The following morning, replacing the forgotten shoes in Edinburgh was easy.  What I couldn’t replace, sadly, were my eyebrows:  they’d completely disappeared.  And there was a big, ugly flesh-crater waxed out of my upper lip, too.

The point is that one can’t always blame one’s kids for one’s social inadequacies.

Perhaps I ‘ll blame the manatee-Jazz.

 

manatee-1812056

 

Clipart from:  http://www.clipartsheep.com/manatee-clipart-1812056.html.   Also:  http://www.cutecliparts.com and Nate Krien (title picture) @ twitter.com