Ellan Vannin

Ellan Vannin is Manx Gaelic for Isle of Man

The imagery of this collage is taken from the line in Eliza Craven Green’s poem:

“My own dear Ellan Vannin with its green hills by the sea.”

In the upper left corner is a pair of wallabies. In the 1960’s two red-necked wallabies (native to Australia and Tasmania) escaped from the Curraghs Wildlife Park in the North of the Island. Free to roam in an expansive habitat and with no natural predators or competition for food, the wallabies thrived and multiplied. It is estimated that over 120 wild wallabies live on the island today. Although most live in and around the Curraghs, there have been sightings as far south as Braaid. Far from being invasive, the wallabies play a vital role in keeping wild grassland under control, which has a positive impact on other animals.

Ellan Vannin – 22″x30″ hand-cut collage

Ellan Vannin (detail.1)

Ellan Vannin (detail.2)

Ellan Vannin (detail.3)


Fat Club – Weeks Ten to Fourteen

History is littered with crazy weight loss regimes: including electrocution, arsenic, yogurt enemas and fat-reducing soap. No stranger to crazy, when I put on 1/2 a pound the other week, I knew it was time to bring out the big guns; so I dusted off my sauna suit and got ready to sweat like a mouse in a cat-lady’s pantry. For those not in the know, a sauna suit is a non-breathable latex garment designed to maximise the intensity of your workout. Its predecessor was the sauna pants (more kinky lace-up pantaloon than workout enhancer) which promised to make you liftable. Next came an inflatable variety, daubed the Health Wonder of America, which guaranteed to ‘wake up’ your body, never mind that you looked like a lilo.

It makes you  wonder if intelligent life on other planets have evolved to the point of inflatable exercise clothing?

The modern iteration of the sauna pants is the sauna suit. I first came across this wonder of human ingenuity at a carboot sale a couple of years ago. It cost me £5 and I bought it with the intention of giving it to my brother. My brother and I, like all good siblings, keep each other’s egos in check by pointing out the other’s flaws and having a jolly good laugh at them. Thinking he was looking rotund, I thought a sauna suit was just the ticket and relished the thought of presenting it to him. But, beguiled by the sauna suit’s promises and aware of my own bulbous state, I decided to keep it.

The outfit of champions!

The sauna suit is labelled an accelerator product; and what it does is accelerate the sweating process. As the material is non-breathable, all the heat generated by the body as you move about, is trapped in the suit, thus raising the body’s temperature and producing an impressive amount of sweat. You don’t have to go to great lengths to exert yourself either, you could check Facebook status, do the dishes or, if you don’t mind looking like a twit, pop to the shop for a pint of milk, and, hey pesto, puddles of sweat will form in your suit.

…well, little puddles anyway.

Me, I like dancing in mine. I put my music on real loud (through headphones of course, so as not to bother the neighbours) and happily prance around the room, sometimes with weights, sometimes just flailing my arms about. Over time I have taught myself to be light footed, because when I started – and this is true – the fellow in the apartment below me asked if I was building something.

If you fancy doing a bit of sauna suiting yourself, let me give you a couple of pointers:

First and most important, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES  pass wind in your suit. Normally I would not be so uncouth as to mention bodily functions, being a lady and all, but this point is so very important – indeed, your very self-respect is at stake – that I feel I would be remiss not to warn you. That warning is:  it does not matter how long you have your suit on, if you pass wind, IT will still be in there when you take your suit off.

Second, drink lots of water.

Third, if your a flailer like me, get yourself some duct tape. Sauna suit seams aren’t very strong, and vigorous pulling can tear them; that means heat can escape and your suit is effectively useless. If this happens to your suit, don’t just throw it out, patch it up with duct tape and it’ll be good as new!

That there is Kiwi ingenuity!

I am not the only one who has been exercising; here is a photo of Daisy on her hollies in Dubrovnik:

Don’t you just want to fold her up and put her in your pocket?!

As you can see, Daisy reached her goal weight just before she left. However, after a daily round of Slovakian ice cream washed down with a few G&Ts, as well as her 2 day post-holiday scoffathon, not only did she fall off the wagon, she rolled down the hill and got stuck in a ditch until the wagon was a dot in the distance. I am pleased to report that she has managed to claw her way back and is happily in the ‘maintenance’ phase of her diet.

Maisy has been on holiday too – a cruise to be precise. By all accounts (that account being Maisy’s), she was very self-controlled and ate salads and such. Somewhat mysteriously then, she magically gained 2lbs on her return, which one can only assume was an increase in muscle mass from all the shuffleboard or deck-chair reclining.

As for me, I have popped. Popping occurs when you move from one body shape to another. Mostly dieting is slow going, with imperceptible changes, until one day…pop! You and everyone else can see you’ve lost weight. It can happen then the other way too. Like if you’re slim and you get a new fella, you let your gym membership lapse and cement you bond with pies, you start gaining weight and moan about it to your friends but they say they haven’t noticed, and perhaps they haven’t, then…pop! You’re back shopping at Evans, and he, if your lucky, at Big and Tall.

I won’t lie, it’s great popping down. Though, like all good things, it has its drawbacks; like when I mention my weight loss: pre-popping it was like “good for you, fatty”…now it’s like “go away, you’re a bit annoying!” and when I reach my goal weight and pop again, it will be “bugger off you skinny cow!” Ahh well, wandering around town with my coat done up more than makes up for it!

The Garden

22″ x 30″ hand-cut collage

Commissioned by the Head of Tutorial & Admissions at Girton College, Cambridge.

This collage is based on the theory that there once existed in old Europe a matriarchal society that worshipped the divine feminine (or Great Goddess) – a time when peace and wisdom prevailed. The imagery used recalls the symbolism of the Great Goddess (inc. the bird, snake, bull and various flora), as described in the work of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Although Gimbutas’ work is criticised for its idealism and unsubstantiated conclusions, her vision of a matriarchal world is inspiring nonetheless; a world where the life-giving and life-sustaining powers of woman are revered, where the earth is respected, and where life is lived in harmony with nature free from war.

The Garden (detail.a)

The Garden (detail.b)

The Garden (detail.c)

The Garden (detail.d)

The Garden (detail.e)

The Garden (full)



Fat Club – Week Eight & Nine

I’m about as handy as a dog lead made of sausage, so my attempt to fix my washing machine was bound to go awry. According to Pete on the Google, it’s easy peasy: if the water in your washing machine won’t drain, just whip off the back and check to see if anything is stuck in the pump. For some reason, Pete saw fit to fish out a pair frilly knickers by way of demonstration. My knickers, which haven’t seen hide nor hair of a frill in many years, are unlikely to fit in a narrow washing machine pump, still, I followed pervy Pete’s instructions – except for the bit about clamping the hose, which was a shame, because when I unhitched said hose, all the water that was in the front of the machine came pouring out the back.

Pervy Pete’s instruction photo

When the chaps from the appliance shop delivered my new machine the next day, I was mortified to show them my failed repair attempt – which included sodden carpet, scattered parts, a fixing platform made of books and the distinct smell of stagnant water. I’m thinking Shirley – Shirley being my old machine – might have been broken for a while, which would account for the terrible clanking sound she’d been making for the past few years.

Shirl and Frank

Frank is my new machine, and despite his petrochemical smell, he’s brilliant…which is all very nice, but what do my washing machine woes have to do with Fat Club? Well, according to a new study (that study being a conversation between me and the stationery shop lady), the biggest threat to sticking to a diet is stress. So, anytime you manage to navigate a stressful situation and not self-sooth with sugar-coated trans-fat is a victory.

As I mentioned last time, the sheer boredom of dieting can be a deterrent to success as well. Most of the time you inch along with no tangible benefit to all your dull living; until, every now and then, a benefit pops up – like my coat button I can do up and, as I discovered the other day, the fact that I can run without dying, which is all thanks to shedding 20 pounds.

Actually, scratch that. 19.5 pounds. I went to the Fat Club weigh-in last night and it appears I have put on half a pound. I’m not sure why, as I was as dull as ever all week and even managed a couple of  runs, during which I didn’t die. Perhaps my Potato Famine genes thought I was running from a hungry neighbour and went into fat-retaining overdrive thinking I might need to hide under a bush without food for a few days. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t feel good to go backwards.

Not only was Fat Club stink weigh-in wise, but I was also a billy-no-mates, due to the absence of Daisy, Maisy and Mabel. Actually, Mabel is on a Fat Club hiatus at the moment, in favour of enjoying life with the aid of cheese cake, pork pies and gin. She said she may come back in the summer, which would be great because, if last week is anything to go by, I will likely still be there.

Maisy couldn’t make it due to a dog thingamajig she had to attend. Maisy has a gorgeous dog called Bonnie, who is both delightful and, thanks Maisy’s care and attention, the happiest dog in the world. Having grown up as a cat person, I’d never been that fussed about dogs, until, that is, I met Maisy. You see, Maisy is something of a dog-whisperer, and witnessing the way she communicates with dogs has enabled me to see them in a whole new light, and now I genuinely love them…well, mostly I just love Bonnie and my brother’s dog, Tom; still, it’s a start. Maisy even bestowed on me the great honour of looking after Bonnie one day. We got on like a house on fire and had a lovely time together until we came-a-cropper with a cat and a car…otherwise known as ‘the incident.’

Bonnie, pre & post ‘the incident’

Despite her broken foot and 4 months rehabilitation, ‘the incident’ traumatised me far more than it did Bonnie, and I still feel anxious when I think about it (including now as I’m writing this). On the plus side, although ‘the incident’ brought my half a day dog-minding career to an abrupt end, it did help me bond with Bonnie, and now I love her to bits and get just as excited as her when we see each other.

As for Daisy, she missed Fat Club in favour of a well earned break, after a gruelling week of work, late night child-minding and generally helping everybody out. Daisy is one of the people I most admire in life;  she is sweet and funny, has formidable organisational skills and a moral compass that would make Gandhi look a bit wayward. She may be small, but she’s not afraid to tell anyone a few home-truths, and if she does it while wagging her finger…look out!. I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of Daisy’s lectures in my time – which, I admit, have been on point – but, I am pleased to say, never the finger.

You don’t mess with the finger!

Despite my gain last week, I am determined to keep going – not least because, if I gain half a pound while on a diet, goodness knows where I’ll be if I go back to my old ways. Besides, as Daisy said the Fat Club leader said,

Losing weight isn’t a straight motorway, its more like a country road, all twists and turns, with hills to climb, then downhill; so keep heading for your destination and you’ll get there.