The Image of Yoga

You say ‘yoga.’

Who do I picture?

Here, in the UK?


1) white

2) middle-class

3) slim

4) female

5) herbal-tea-drinking

6) smug

…and I myself tick five and a half out of six of these boxes.

The half is down to a poor commitment to the drinking of herbal tea.  I prefer caffeine in a morning.  I prefer caffeine at night.  And even mid-way through the day if there’s breathing-space (mid-way through a bouldering session, for example).  Herbal teas might be healthier.  They might even smell interesting.  But the taste rarely lives up to the aroma and – worse – they are completely caffeine deficient.

In fact, whenever I buy the things (they help me to feel temporarily smugger), I’ve learned to go for the red ones because at least when I don’t like it, I can let it cool down and feed it to my poor naive kids, who think it’s ‘juice’ and get absurdly excited.

And yes, I admitted to ‘smug.’

Well, what is ‘smug,’ anyway?  As far as I can tell it means being pleased with yourself / proud / confident when the user of the word thinks such feelings are inappropriate.  I have plenty of cause, I’m sure, for owning that label – even when I’m talking about myself.

But back to the stereotypical yoga woman:  I both love and hate that she exists.  Love to notice patterns; hate that people accept them as rules.  Or even, actually, as real patterns.  Patterns are a trick of the light. plus-sized-yoga-jessamyn-stanley-2.

I decided I loved yoga in India, and breifly once while pregnant.  If I haven’t followed up on it, it’s because I haven’t wanted to conform.  It’s almost as though being a Mummy and owning a baby-sling automatically suggest yoga as an appropraite use of ‘me-time.’  Or at least, it’s an obvious option.  Kung-Fu or fox-hunting would have a more interesting social impact, that’s for sure.

* * *

The 30-day ab. challenge (which took me 45 days) made a massively appreciable difference to my body.  I can put my hands on my waist feel something slightly firm.  I’ve even got suggestions of the start of paired vertical lines on my abdomen (rectus muscles?)

But like any crash diet, it was painful and boring and when the effects are no longer being admired and the commitment no longer a novelty, the tendency is to forget about it.  I simply don’t want to make time to do 100 sit-ups, 200 crunches, 100 leg-raises and 2 minutes plank every day, let alone extend this so that I can make some form of ‘progress.’  If anyone is so motivated for the sake of two little lines on their tummies, they are – quite simply – vain.

I need to be getting more out of my exercise.  And preferably I need exercise that I can get more out of at home, while the sprogs are (at best) in bed, in a bit of lounge 3m by 4m and with little in the way of specialist equipment.

Suddenly I’m no longer surprised that so many Mummy-types choose yoga.  I sigh and start to google.

Stereotype City.

‘Weight-loss yoga.’

‘Work-out that tones your butt, abs and legs’

This sort of headline came out tops in every search.  ‘Stress-boosting’ and ‘mind-energising’ and ‘feeling good’ were there too though, so hope was not lost.

And there are hundreds – literally – of videos to choose from.  Although of course, they heavily feature slim women with manicured eyebrows, magazine bodies, sports bras and frequently make-up, demonstrating a range of work-outs.  The one exception I’ve found so far was a video narrated by a man, though with a sculpted female following his instructions in front of an ‘atmospheric’ fire.

Other exciting locations include the desert and underneath various trees.  There is a surprising absence of ‘sunset’ films (google stills of yoga and there are hundreds); presumably it doesn’t work too well for the camera.

But there are plenty of other irritating features: ‘soothing’ Muzak riffs; camera shots that are too busy admiring the woman’s body to pan out and show you the shape you’re supposed to be copying; commentary that feels patronising (‘just sit it out if it’s too hard for you’) or else dismissive (‘just flip up here, like this’ as her toes elegantly tickle the backs of her ears).  Some of the exercise routinres around my level are labelled ‘hardcore’ in  some sort of amusing marketting bid, which is helping to make up for smugness lost when I am feeding strawberry tea to my kids.

But do you know the worst thing?  That I am enjoying it despite myself.  To go with some of the jargon:  there is something satisfying about getting ‘deep’ into a pose; getting your body to relax when it is, in a way, under stress; to pushing it deeper.  Alone, in my room, not worrying about people watching, I find I can get into the state they call ‘flow.’

In fact, I might be finding my exercise outlet:  it’s making me feel great.  I’m feeling toned despite sillhoette-altering side effects not feeling like the main advantage.

The only problem is that I’m distracted by a trick of the light: being the sort of person who is interested in yoga might be something with which I never, completely, come to terms.

About Kindness

Kindness is an old-fashioned virtue.

Alexander McCall-Smith characters muse about things like kindness.

My Grannie was a character and she talked about kindness a lot.  She wasn’t from Edinburgh or Botswana, but perhaps Alexander McCall-Smith met her once.

* * *

Anyway, I did an Internet personality test the other day and encountered the question

‘Would you prefer your children to grow up kind or smart?’

The version of Grannie that lives inside my head took it to mean ‘Would you rather your children were kind or formally dressed?’

I mentally explained that ‘smart’ means ‘clever’ nowadays.

‘Frightful Americansim,’ complained Grannie. ‘And awful grammar, too.’

She would have answered ‘kind’ though.  I ticked ‘smart;’ didn’t give it another thought.

* * *

‘You DID?’ Asks my friend Kai Lai, looking startled.  ‘Smart?  Why are we friends again?’

There is an awkward pause.

‘But hey!  Opposites attract,’ she adds cheerfully..  ‘That’s why we’re friends.’

* * *

I always loved June: days that go on forever, evenings you can climb a few V-diffs in (even if you worked til 7pm) and bats flickering across dusky skies.

But then kids happened.  Opportunities to appreciate bats and climbing are limited when lone-parenting.  Long days play havoc with sleepy-time.

‘It can’t be, Mummy.  The sky’s still light.  Why do I need to go to sleep when they sky’s so bright?’

‘Because you’re tired.’

Tears.  ‘But I’m not tired.’

‘Big Sprog. Just go to bloody sleep can’t you.  I need five minutes to myself before my bed-time.’

I’d like to pretend I don’t say things like that to my children.  I’d also like to pretend that I didn’t try to fob her off with stories about doing your best growing in your sleep (she now thinks that Auntie Kai Lai, who isn’t very tall, suffered from childhood insomnia).

And I’d particularly like to pretend that I haven’t tried to bellow her into submission.  But for the record, shouting ‘Go to SLEEP!’  doesn’t work either.

Tiddler is worse.  With Tiddler my only tactic is to exercise him until he’s knackered, timing it so that he falls over with exhaustion somewhere around 8pm.  If he drops too early or naps in the car driving home, I’ve had it.

Anyway, he wakes up early too, like a computer-game zombie that refuses to stay down.  ‘Hewwo, Mummy!’

I open my mouth to say ‘Hewwo, Tiddler,’ but other words have a nasty habit of slipping out.

This was the state of affairs before the heat-wave.  Add extreme heat, heat-rash, Mummy fear of sun-burn, child fear of sun-cream.  And imagine.  The only way I could get a smile out of Tiddler was to sit him in a bucket of water. Tiddler sat in a bucketful of water in the garden for the best part of two days.

When it got too hot even for that, we had some lively one-sided discussions about why he couldn’t bring the bucket of water into my living room where it was cooler.

* * *

Anyway: compassion fatigue happens.  It’s alarming how bored you get when they fall over for the hundredth time that day and start to bawl their eyes out through sheer exhaustion, hotness and frustration.

And of course, it’s not just them getting wound up.


‘I mean, Big Sprog.  Or whatever it is you want to be called these days *sigh*

‘Have you got your shoes on?

‘Put your shoes on.

‘What?  You’ve taken your socks off?  But I just put them on you.

‘Oh, for – OK get your socks on then.  Hurry up.

‘Oh for heaven’s sake come over here and I’ll do it for you.

‘NO!  Face me, Big Sprog.  TURN AROUND!

‘Look!  I’m helping you so you need to help me.  FACE ME!

‘Keep your FEET STILL!  Just behave yourself!

”Tod – Big Sprog.  Look down and PUT YOUR FOOT IN YOUR SOCK PLEASE!’

‘Right. Where are your shoes…..

‘What are you doing?  I thought you were looking for your shoes!   Stop pretending to be an aeroplane and PUT YOUR SHOES ON!’

And that’s straight after morning coffee, when I was about as fresh as it got.

* * *

That day it was fractionally cooler, so we went out.  We’d just got to the playpark when the sky went black and the clouds started to flicker.

No coats.  I put Big Sprog in the buggy with Tiddler on her knee and started to push them both home.  They were still smiling at this point.

But not for long.  I was just crossing the road, trying to pop the front wheels up onto the kerb, when I I realised the load was too heavy to lever up.  Shit!  The driver of the car that had stopped for us looked pissed off, but a nice man passing by lifted the front of the buggy up the kerb to help me out.  The buggy instantly buckled under the weight of two kids and the frame bent irreparably in half, spilling the children onto the pavement.

And then the rain arrived.

The passer-by should have bolted.

Instead, he offered to make a detour and carried one of my kids up the hill.

And waited while I rifled through the wreck of my buggy to find my keys.

And then waited while I admitted I’d lost my keys and broke into my house through quite a high window.

By the time I’d managed to open the door from the inside, the rain had stopped and the kids and bloke were standing, sopping wet, in the sun.  He politely declined a cup of tea.

I put the kids into a warm bath.  But the little one wanted to go outside in his bucket.  The first time I shouted was about that.  What made me shout even louder was when they argued over a shampoo bottle.

* * *

Then I remembered Bea Marshall ( ) saying that actually, it’s all about kindness:  being kind to your partner, your children and yourself.

So I phoned ‘Auntie’ Kai Lai and told her I needed help.  She turned up still in her work uniform with a takeaway and gossip.  She played with the kids for me til bedtime and an hour later I was feeling much better.

I’ve been working on kindness to myself since then.  I’ve never been another week without Ninja training, no matter how hot it’s been.  In an evening I sometimes do my core yoga even if I’m supposed to be doing another job.  And when I went to see the in-laws for a scheduled break, or drove them to Cornwall for a wedding, I let other people do a lot of the work.  My family are very kind.

And do you know?  Kindness pays off.  Because I am beginning to find the mental energy to be kind again. To calm down and hug them instead of shouting so much.  And often that’s all they want actually, and then they’ll co-operate and go find their shoes.

Of course we’re getting used to light nights and the weather’s a lot cooler now anyway.  Unless there’s another heat-wave, there’s no real ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison to be made and it’s all guesswork.

But I know now that Kai Lai, Bea Marshall, Grannie and (I suspect) Alexander McCall-Smith are all going to turn out to be right.

Kindness is important after all.

Chore Exercises

I have done exercise before.

I have walked for hundreds of miles because I love the fresh air, the landscape and the solitude.  I love the curiosities that I come across and the moment when an unexpected animal dashes across my path.

I have trailed along behind climbers because I love a climber.  I also love the adventure, the challenge and (some but not too much) excitement.  I love touching rock and I suppose I love swinging around on the end of a rope, remembering that various butresses are bigger, stronger and more awesome than me.

But the 30-day ab challenge is different.  Nobody is pretending that there is any motivation for doing this other than having exercised.  Exercise for exercises sake:  for nothing but changing my body.


We thirty-day ab challengees are not alone.  Plenty of people who run on roads to improve their fitness have told me that they hate running.  And I find it unlikely that the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK with a gym membership all love the inside of a gym.

Never-the-less, the girly magazines would have me believe that this sort of exercise is the norm; that it’s ‘good for me’ to keep fit.

I’ve heard that I should exercise to loose weight.  To avoid diabetes (ahem).  To have a good figure.  No pain, no gain.  Remember:  the tedious chore of uncomfortable exercise is important because it will make me look good and feel healthy in the end.

One might use similar language to persuade a young child to eat boiled cabbage.  Is it any surprise that each generation is doing less exercise than ever before?

And the worst thing is, that none of it is true!

Exercise doesn’t have to look like THIS:

It can look like THIS:



Or THIS! plus-sized-yoga-jessamyn-stanley-2.

You saw the This Girl Can promotion.

This Girl Can. Sport England

This Girl Can. Sport England

It’s full women loving what their bodies do for them!

Relishing the feel of endorphins running through their veins.

Because here’s the secret about exercise:  get it right and it feels good!

I used to have a pet rabbit called Misty.  Like many animals, you used to see Misty running up and down the garden for the sheer joy of it.  You never saw him counting his bunny-hops or doing X reps of 50, in order to promote his wasit-line or long-term health.

Sometimes it was different though; sometimes he’d run because he felt that he had to escape, either because I was coming to put him back in his hutch for the night, or once because he was chased by someone’s cat.

Which brings us nicely to physiology.

Say that Mistry is being chased.

His body goes into flight-or-fight mode, or stress mode.  The heart beats faster, the lungs breathe deeper.  Things that aren’t essential in that moment – salivary juice, gastric secretions, distracting sexual feelings (Misty had lots of those) get switched off.  Oh yes, and the sugar in the blood?  Well, with those cats hanging around, you never know when you’re going to need extra energy.  The stress-steroid, Cortisol, actually encourages it to be stored as fat for later.

Now comes the bit that I learned from a TED talk today (the speaker seems a bit nuts but she’s a biochemistry professor so I trust her).   It’s good:  watch it later at

The pace of modern life versus our cavewoman biochemistry: Dr Libby Weaver at TEDxQueenstown

Humans following an exercise program can force ourselves to train harder.  We can squeeze in a work-out that we don’t feel like doing between the office and home.  But in doing this, we risk persuading our already-stressed bodies that tiger-eating must be about to happen.  The body turns flight-or-fight mode on.  Blood cortisol increases.

Sexy feelings reduce.  Fat deposition increases.  And so on…..

I’d like to mention smugly that the fat thing’s OK by me because I’m not doing exercise to loose weight.  I rarely weigh myself nowadays – I no longer associate low numbers with awesomeness – and that’s very liberating.

But I AM doing the chore-abs by numbers because I want to feel stronger, firmer and more Ninja-like.

And it’s currently working.  I’m half-way through an feeling pretty good.  I can do handstands and monkey-bars like a kid again.  At the moment, I’m loving it because Becky and I are spurring each other on.  Because there’s rapport from the online team and it’s cool to see my body change.

But isn’t that like a crash diet just before you go on holiday?  The dieter would feel skinny, better-looking and more confident.  Yet research has shown that participants in diet projects are more likely to have gained weight 2 years later than people who never dieted in the first place.  Because despite initially fantastic results, maintaining a diet is hard for us:  we’re programmed to store food not waste it (that’s the cortisol kicking in), especially if it’s in short supply.

And guess what?  Maybe when core exercise ceases to be a novelty , it will become a daily chore – a stressor – that I have to fight to keep up.  Perhaps the stress steroid Cortisol will strike.

And it also may be possible that i am not narcissistic enough even to do one hundred daily sit-ups for the sake of my tummy.

So when it’s all over, and Becky and I have hi-fived each other and felt smug, won’t we just flop back to wobbly-belly syndrome?

Unless, of course, I find a way to turn chore exercise into joyful-like-Misty-in-the-garden exercise – exercise I am motivated to do for the joy of it.  The only woman I know who actually maintains a daily core work-out (and has done for the two years I have known her) does it because of the joy it brings to her climbing.


I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Ninja Training

“I thought you said you were going to become a ninja?”  asks hubby.

With alternating three-month blocks of locumming and childcare, my life is neatly split into chapters.  This means I’m always reiventing my goals:  I have more fresh starts than Miranda and Gary.

A childcare chapter is just beginning and the search has begun for something physical I can work on while supervising a Toddler and a Tiddler.  Hubby, as ever, is full of answers:

‘I thought you said you were going to become a Ninja.’

But what constitutes a ninja – exactly?  I didn’t really mean that I was going to join the medieval Japanese mercenary (although I’m sure I’d have blended right in).  Neither does modern-day martial art appeal: I’m a hippy at heart.

Yes, I hear what you say.  But Ninja’s such a cool word.  Perhaps I could just redefine it to mean someone who looks good in a cat-suit?

No, wait…..

Maybe just someone who feels fit?  Who ripples as they walk around?  (I, for the record, have occasionally been fit after mountain walks, but never in my life have I rippled).

And of course, when I was fit I didn’t ‘feel’ fit.  I suspect I’m someone who takes any fitness I have for granted and concentrates on the fact that I’m not fitter.

The problem I am leading to, of course, is that there’s no objective goal here.  How would I identify that I had reached ‘Ninjadom’ even if I ever got there?

But there’s no point worrying about the finer details.  It’s the start of June, hubby’s about to leave and nobody’s come up with a better idea.

Ninjadom it is.

On Facebook there’s a thing called the June Abs Challenge.  I click, because Ninjas probably need good abs.

I see a guy who might be South African or Australian or from somewhere else in the world entirely, who is so busy pumping iron that he doesn’t do any gardening.  You can see the dandilions pushing out between the flags on his backyard.  He has set up a Facebook event involving the mass performance of a 30-day abs workout.

Like the Personal-Trainer stereotype in my head, he is warm and likable but talks downwards.  He tells me unequivocally that I need to use a yoga-mat if I do my exercises outside, then neglects to use one himself.  ‘I don’t use one down to personal preference,’ he mutters at one point, to show that as an immortal soul his own rules don’t apply to him.

Then he apologises for his ‘form’ in the sit-ups, adding that he never does sit-ups himself.

What is this?!?!  And yet you want me to do hundreds of the bloody things?

Then again, he probably does one-armed leg-raises on the monkey-bars or something instead.  And he isn’t asking me for any money.

I decide that I can probably once again put up with being a pu- pu- punt- p- punt-arrrghh!


One sit-up completed.  Nobody saw me tugging on the weeds coming up from between the flagstones of my patio there, did they?

Oh good.  So how many more of these things do I have to do, then?  Gotta say; the ground’s really hard around here.  I could do with a yoga-mat or something.

Anyway; day three.  I’m sticking with it.  I have an extremely tidy lounge (I have to clear the kids’ train-track and Duplo away every time I want to exercsie in my own living room).

Yes, I hear what you say.  It is high summer and life should be full of opportunities to exercise outside.  But not so.  My garden is horrifically sloping, making sit-ups either very hard or very easy.  And when I tried to do my challenge at the play-park, the planks ruined the whole thing.

That is, the wobbly planks that the kids walk on:  one of them’s on a pivot they kept needing me to get up and hold their hands as they walked along it.  I would like to say that they also walked along my planks, but –

Yeah.  I’m sure you don’t need me to describe the pile of Tiddler and Toddler on top of a very flat Mummy on the floor.

Then there were the three young guys with six-packs who kept balance-walking around the top of the fence around the playpark.  Climbers, I suspect.  When they turned up, I prosponed the whole project until after kiddy bedtime.

Yes, yes.  I hear what you’re thinking: a ninja wouldn’t care about what other people thought about them.

But you know something?  Becoming a Ninja probably takes time.

The Yo-Yo and the Ninjas


When my blood sugar is too high i feel sluggish, tired and irritable.  When it’s too low I become light-headed, useless and prone to keeling over.

And then, there is yo-yo-ing

I woke up with blood like syrup this morning so I took extra insulin.  I was a little too enthusiastic about the insulin: two hours later I was light-headed and had to steal biscuits at play-group.  Of course I ate too many and ricochetted to syrupy highs again by lunch-time.

Up, down, up.  It’s hard to describe how this feels, so let me tell you: it’s worse than being a hormonal teenager ever was.  Today is the last of my precious Thursday afternoons with hubby and I look set to be spoiling it.  We have an argument in the street: he thinks I am low and should test, but I disagree and stamp and shout.  He turns out to be right.

‘For f***’s Sake,’ I complain as we arrive at the climbing wall, ‘That was bad.  I still need cake before we start.’

It happens they’ve got my favourite – coffee and walnut – but I have temporarily forgotten to be positive again.  I have felt sick all day.

I have forgotten to be positive, that is, until hubby sits us down at the window overlooking the climbing wall.

Suddenly I perk up.  ‘Excellent view,’ I say.

There are some boulderers bouldering down there.  Actually, bouldering is too strong a word.

Boulderers are to climbers what racing greyhounds are to canines:  extremely fit buggers who perform short bursts of athletic prowess but spend the rest of their time content to lie in the sun.

So boulderers do short, strong powerful bursts of climbing and then lol about, looking at the wall and considering.  At least, that is the sort of ‘bouldering’ that is going on below me right now.

And did you know that greyhounds have perfect anatomy with not an ounce of fat, so you can see the outline of every muscle?


Cliffhanger 2009, Women's Final.  Photo by Milnes, posted on UKC

Yes, you guessed it.  These boulderers are lazing around, the male ones sans t-shirts, looking like a band of Greek Gods.

As I said: excellent view.

One of the Gods starts talking about a route.  I know this the same way as you can identify a group of climbers across a crowded pub:  he lifts his hands and starts miming a sequence of holds.  There seems to be a sit start, a side-pull matched to a very horrid-looking crimp, and an unfeasable leap from there to the top.  Not that I am paying attention.

I am just finishing my cake when one of them finally moves.  It is a woman and she practially flows up the wall, with all the body-tension of a ballet dancer.  I am now turning somewhat green.

‘D’you think I’m too old,’ I ask hubby wistfully, ‘to ever be like that now?’

Hubby swirls his tea.

‘Maybe not.  Not if you trained at the wall four nights a week and did Ninja-yoga on your days off.’

‘Hmmmm’ I say.  ‘Not realistic.’  Hubby’s about to bugger off for three months and there aren’t four nights a week worth of child-care.

The children-impeding-exercise problem is probably universal.  Supervising Tiddler on the play-park one day – a nice, cold grit-stone day – I notice two little girls who appear to be unnatrually good at the monkey bars.  Then I clock their Dad, twitching violently on one of the benches until he can contain himself no longer.  He goes over, grabs the monkey bars himself and starts pull-ups.

I watch him sideways.  He has a lot of muscle over his shoulders compared with his chest.  There is little meat on the rest of him at all:  he’s the chicken drumstick that gets left on the barbecue.  And when he finally starts monkeying along the bars, he isn’t swinging:  he’s holding his body rigid.  Reaching out and grabbing the next one as causally as if he were reaching a banana.

I go over to my daughter, smile, and – so that the bloke can hear me (my hubby tells me that this is an objectionable and distinctly South-Yorkshire way of communicating with strangers) – I say:

‘Hey Toddler!  I’m playing a new game.  It’s called, ‘Spot the frustrated climber.’

‘Stop the fust-ated climber, Mummy?’ Toddler asks, innocently.

And the guy smiles sheepishly and I grin back, feeling a flicker of sympathy – empathy, even – although he is obviously a Ninja already.

It gets me thinking.

Another weekend, another playpark.  This one is full of cool, modern-style climbing-frames but amongst them I notice one of those rocket / rocking-horse things that were common in the eighties.  And a set of parallel bars, hand-distance apart, that puzzle me at first – until I remember that in my day, these had barrows positioned beneath them (as confirmed by this picture google found of that very same playpark in an earlier life).  Now, to stop kids breaking their necks, the barrel has been removed.


Perfect for attempting leg-raises.  Even if you’re the sort of person for whom attempting leg-raises is a bit like trying to undo wheel-nut with a kids’ plastic spanner.  I wander over to it, try to look nonchalant, and begin another phase of my early mid-life crisis.

Then I have to break off because I can feel my sugar going low.

You know that thing South-Yorkshire people do, when they address someone by ignoring them and speaking to someone else?  Well hubby is begining to embrace it.

He’s taking advantage of my mouth being full of jelly-babies.

‘Do you know,’ he says, conversationally to his Dad, ‘if she didn’t have to eat so many sweets because she’d corrected with too much insulin, she’d probably have a figure like a greyhound.’

A Positive Diabetic Story


I tried to be positive for a week.  It was not altogether very –

Wait.  I’ll rephrase that.

My positive week had great potential to be more positive.

I find that negative things sometimes fly out of my mouth the moment it is open, a bit like a cat desperate to escape its carry case.

Or more conventionally, you can think of it as a reflex arc: just as a hammer hits the patellar ligament and the knee jerks upwards, so information reches my brain and my tongue forms negative words.

Or else my fingers do. Yesterday I had a conversation on a closed Facebook group (therefore the context has been completely changed) that went a bit like this:

Someone: – Do you think we should bring elephants along?

Me: – Oh yes.  I hate it so much when elephants get excluded.

Someone else: – I think involving elephants would be a really positive thing.

My forehead hit the table in frustration.  DOH!  That’s what I should have said!  It sounded so much warmer!

But anyway:  relax and breathe deep because I have a positive story.

On Thursday I was sitting in the pub with the hubby and a Pale Rider –


Yes!  A beer!  See, it’s positive already.  My current locum job involves Thursdays off.  The kids are already in nursery on Thursday afternoons which means that hubby and I have a few hours alone together.  Yesterday we spent them at the climbing wall, followed by a couple of swift halves.

Anyway: the pub door opened and in came a couple.  She had on a running top and outdoor-style trousers.  And clipped to her trouser belt I spied an insulin pump.

And yes; that’s it.  That’s my positive story.

Elspeth Oct12-pr13 140

If the positiveness of this experience is yet to smash you in the face, let me expand.

It’s rare to meet another Type 1 diabetic.  That’s not scrictly true:  there are 400,000 Type 1s in the UK so one in one-hundred-and-sixty people has it.  But it’s rare to meet one knowingly.  No matter what the Daily Mail tell you, we’re not instantly recognisable because we’re fat or slow or on the floor having a hypo or blind or one-legged or carrying a sack marked DRUGS that we have just robbed from the NHS.  No: diabetics look normal, like me (Ho! Ho!).  So how would you ever pick one out?

It might be easiest to spot the injectors.  Injectors tend to have an injection when they eat.  But a lot of injectors scuttle off to the toilet at this point, so as not to offend any of their company.  (Well it’s not because the public toilet is the most hygenic place to receive a subcutaneous injection, is it?) Or else they have perfected such slieght of hand that their dining companions barely notice.  There are probably a few like I used to be who just stab themselves publicly and have done with it, but that invites comment on their manners (and often on their meal choice) so I expect that they are very few.

Pumps in comparison are extremely descrete.  You can hide them under your clothing and operate them from your key-fob.  And a lot of the pumping population use them subtly like this, because wearing an insulin pump can be like wearing a label:

I have very, very bad diabetes.

I need a bionic pancreas.

Or simply, I am a freak.

I once tried to explain to a care assistant I was working with that I didn’t have a pump because my diabetes was ‘worse’ than average (surely, your body either makes insulin or it doesn’t), but because I wanted to control it better.  She wasn’t having any.

‘My friend hasn’t got one and her diabetes is really, really bad,’ she said, ‘so I can only think what yours must be like.’


But anyway, I have forgotten to be postive for a while so let’s go back to Thursday. There were two women in the pub on Thursday, completely independent of one another, who:

a)  had impeccable taste in beer

b) had indulged in some healthy exercise

c) had insulin pumps on the outside of their clothes.

These women were not worried about people knowing about their pump, or that they were diabetic.

The presence of a pump was probably lost on most of the people who saw them, but the point is that had anyone happened to look twice, they would have seen that diabetic people can have a lovely time, can exercise and can drink beer.  And that having an illness is a very tiny and coincidental part of who they are and not something that they feel they need to cover up.

And if that’s not positive, I have no idea what is.

Extreme Positivity

Or:  How is Positivity like Ironing?


My friend Becky says I was hard on myself last week when I discussed my own parenting.  To put it into perspective, Tiddler and Toddler are generally happy-enough little buggers so we’re probably doing OK.

When I criticise the slack, wobbly aspects of my body there is often someone who says that I ought to be kinder to myself about that, too.

But I know that I would undoubtedly feel, look and perform better if I ate a lower-fat, lower-carb diet and if I did my core exercises.  And my kids would undoubtedly be happier and more confident if I was more positive.

Still.  It’s been a long day, I’m tired and stressed and at the supermarket. It turns out that cream-cakes are on special.  Naturally, I am thinking, ‘Ah Well. I’ll eat sensibly tomorrow.’

And that same supermarket trip, Toddler is whining.  It’s as though she hasn’t noticed the cream-cakes in the trolly.  She’s hungry, she wants to buy jelly and Tiddler is poking her.  But remember:  I’m stressed and busy and also cross with myself about the cream-cakes.  So I tell her to be quiet.

And now I am stressed, busy, cross with myself about the cream-cakes and about snapping at my child.  I swear to do better tomorrow, when I’m less stressed.  Honestly, I will…..

And before I know it, tomorrow has arrived.  And have positive parenting, exercise and healthy eating got any easier while I was asleep?

…. How can i say this positively? ….

Perhaps they will do tomorrow.

I answered an advert for a free 30-minute try-out with Bea Marshall, a parenting coach (  I think this woman is super.  Apparently, she doesn’t ever say ‘no’ to her kids – and we’re talking in a ‘guide-the-children-positively-to-make-confident-effective-decisions-for-themselves’ sort of a way, rather than a ‘letting-them-walk-all-over-you’ sort of a one.

It’s not a policy I can see myself adopting, but I do find her inspirational.  Not so much her lack of negativity with her children or even her articulate speaking on the subject (U-tube), but the fact that she didn’t say anything negative to me.  We had maybe five interactions.  During this time I inarticulately criticised her blog, took a coaching session, admitted that it was extremely helpful, wavered a lot, found what I perceived to be a problem with the booking form on her website, questioned her prices and then announced that I was not prepared to pay them.

(Yes, I know that you can’t put a price on improving interactions with your children, but everyone has a budget).

What did she say to that?  Of course, she thanked me for my feedback, said that she ‘honoured’ my decision and added:-

I also deeply admire and appreciate your honesty ….. that honesty and ability to ‘own’ your choice is powerful. Thank you.

So.  Bea says everything that the buisness communication books would reccommend.  And she says it with genuine warmth.  It is the very skill that I’d like to get better at.

But when I thought about it, I started to worry.  Is such studied warm communication healthy?  How would I ever know if someone like Bea liked me or not?  And if I was so disarmingly nice to everyone myself, how would I be myself?  How would I distinguish my friends?  By insulting them (even) more?

And then I realised:  I am having these thoughts under the assumption that Bea is a negative person hiding beneath a mask of postivie speaking.  Maybe this doesn’t have to be.

Maybe Bea is actually genuinely always positive; maybe it’s not a mask.  I’m not saying that she got my e-mail and her very first thought was:  ‘Wow!  Look at Liz; see how she’s owning that decision!’

But I certainly believe that she would walk around the supermarket thinking not ‘how tired and hungry I am’ but something like: ‘I can’t wait to get home and enjoy all this food.’

And not ‘What a horrid noise my Toddler is making’ but ‘How good it is that my children are communicating their needs to me!’

Perhaps she’d discover which of her children’s needs were most pressing and find time to deal with one or two.  I’ll bet you she would have found a way to make the cream-cakes on a offer a good thing, without eating too many.

Do you know, I think extreme positivity might be a little bit like the anceint craze of extreme ironing.  It seems faintly ridiculous from the outside but when you start doing it, perhaps it makes you happier; leads to great things; makes you stand out.

In fact, I’m going to try.

I have a good relationship with my children and my post was just me being strong enough to identify where this needs to be improved.  I would also like to bring my diet into balance and obtain a stronger core…..

But most of all, this week I am going to try to be positive for a week.

I’m sure that I have the potential to be excellent.