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!

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.

Fat Club – Week Six & Seven

I can now do up two buttons on my coat (unless I breathe, then it’s one); it’s a great accomplishment, mitigated only by the fact that I’m now colder than ever, due to losing the layer of fat that was preventing me from buttoning up my coat. This absurdity is unfortunate, because the Island is currently hosting wind from Siberia, and it’s colder out there than an undertaker’s fancy woman.

According to Ma, it’s not as cold as the winter of 1947 (the winter all old people refer to, to prove they have endured greater hardships than us youngins). I should point out that Ma wasn’t even alive in 1947 – not that you could tell her that. You see, Ma has what you might call age-dysmorphia, that is, she thinks she’s way older than she actually is. She seems to think she’s knocking on 99, when, in fact, she’s only 60 something. She likes to cite the significant decline in her mental faculties as proof of her great age; the family, hard pressed to think of a time she was cleverer, are left mystified as to what faculties she’s referring to. None-the-less, Ma’s convinced they are gone, and that doom lies around the corner; for, aside from her waning mental acuity, Ma is very afraid: not of death, as you might expect, but that she’ll end up living with me (to be fair, I’m not immune to the palpitation inducing effects of such an idea). She is particularly afraid that I’ll put bows in her hair and chatter nonsense while pushing her around town in a wheelchair. To allay her fears, I recently found a mobility solution that will ensure she remains in control of her whereabouts – though I have made no promises about the bows and nonsense chatter.

Fear not, Ma…your chariot awaits!

It stands to reason, as time goes on, that the numbers at Fat Club will diminish; mostly because being on a diet is boring. Not only do you not have much fun (by fun, I mean cake and chocolate washed down with alcohol), but those around you have no fun either – if they know what’s good for them. When it’s 7 weeks in and the Siberian winds are blowing, a few carrots and a bowl of spinach leaves just ain’t going to cut it for most people, and it’s only the most dedicated (read, boring) souls that are going to carry on.

Being something of a dullard, I trotted off to Fat Club this week and was unsurprised to find, instead of the usual 100 people or so, there was only 10. I hadn’t been there long when I was joined by the lovely Maisy. Although Maisy and I work in the same office, we are there on different days, so Fat Club is the perfect opportunity to catch up. This week, we both had the added bonus of losing weight – Maisy 1 1/2 lbs and me 2 1/2 – each earning for ourselves a certificate for a 5% and 10% loss respectively. Except for my coat button and one-notch-in on my Fitbit, I can’t really tell that I have lost weight; never-the-less, I definitely know I am dull enough to see the diet through too the end.

Left: Week 1 – Right: Week 7

Daisy and Mabel didn’t make it to Fat Club this week; that’s because Daisy was at a party, for which she had plenty of spare points to use up – on account of her flu-induced starvation rations earlier in the week, and Mabel was at home making the most of her time with her family.

 

Fat Club – Week Three, Four and Five (yip, I’ve been slack)

I like having a fat belly (or, as I prefer to think of it, a fanny-pack full of snacks in preparation for the zombie apocalypse). Not only do I appreciate it for its life saving properties – which in my case are genetic, my ancestors having survived the Potato Famine (not by fleeing to America, but by staying in Ireland and living on their belly fat and, quite possibly, the neighbours), I also appreciate it for its artistic and tactile appeal. This has not always been the case; like most women in the western world, I grew up believing skinny is the ideal when it comes to feminine beauty. This, I now know, is hogwash.

I first understood this when I started taking life-drawing classes (i.e. drawing someone in their birthday suit) and soon learned: when it comes to drawing the human body, there is nothing more beautiful than a full-figured woman with dinner-lady arms, pot-belly and squished up against each other thighs. The hand gestures employed to render such a woman are graceful and flowing and feel lovely to execute, as Ruben’s clearly appreciated.

The Three Graces – Peter Paul Rubens 1630-35

I thought this discovery was an anomaly; that what was pleasing to the artistic hand/eye did not necessarily square with reality. That is, until I became a massage therapist and discovered that fat feels nicer to the touch than bony – which seems obvious now – one being round and soft, and the other, sharp and pointy. Plus, fat has the added advantage of tightening the skin, which, as you get older, is no small potatoes.

It is for this reason they say that a woman of a certain age has to choose between her arse and her face  – meaning, if you want a nice small bum, all pert and such, chances are you’ll look a haggard in the face. Choose, on the other hand, a full round face, and you’ll no doubt have a big round bum to match – or two bums, as is usually the case…along with a couple of chins. The only way to avoid the pitfalls of both these scenarios is to be rich; that way, you can have your arse put in your face, and have the best of both worlds.

Clearly this 40 year old woman has a lovely bum!

Now, you are probably wondering: if I like being fat, why the heck am I on a diet? The simple answer is: control. It is one thing being content with a few layers of life-saving apocalypse snacks, and another to feel like your weight-gain is out of control; especially when your coat doesn’t fit, and you look in the mirror and don’t recognise the chubby-chops staring back at you; and when you don’t want to go to social functions because you have to choose between feeling uncomfortable in fitted-clothes and wearing a muumuu; not to mention the fact that, when left to your own devices, you eat so much sugar, you worry about waking up in 10 years with diabetes, and in another 10, with no feet. When you go on a diet and get down to a reasonable weight, you can control all these scenarios. True, you might end up kicking yourself when the Zombies take over, but then, there’s always the neighbours.

Any way, Daisy, Maisy, Mabel and me have been on the diet 5 weeks now, and together we have lost about 36 pounds (that’s 16.3kg in new money). Not to skite or anything, but 15.5 pounds of that is mine. That’s because, of the 4 of us, I have the most to loose…and, when you are fatter, you lose weight quicker.

That’s 7 of these we’ve lost together.

Daisy – who can eat a whole bar of Dairy Milk chocolate between Shoptrite and Regaby – is a Fat Club Gold Member, having successfully reached her goal weight in the past. When you’re a Gold Member, Fat Club is free, unless you go 5 pounds over or under her goal weight, in which case you get fined. As such, Daisy – having reprised her Regaby chocolate dash abilities during Fat Club’s absence – has been getting fined these past 5 weeks. However, I am pleased to report she only has 1/2 a pound to go before she reaches her goal range, and looks to be a shoe in for reaching her goal weight first.

You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty impressive.

The other contender for reaching her goal weight first is Maisy. Maisy wasn’t at Fat Club last night, but was on the boat this morning eating pastries, so I’m thinking Daisy might be safe.

As for Mabel…she’s gone rogue. She’s like the cult member that doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid. She doesn’t bother counting points and enjoys her food like a normal person, and is probably happier for it. She put on 1/2 a pound this week and was thrilled to bits – especially as she was going straight home after Fat Club to drink the bottle of Gin her fella had bought her for Valentine’s Day!

Fat Club – Week Two

The secrets to successful weight loss are dieting, no social life and exercise. I’ve nailed the first 2, so this week I have been working on 3rd; to which end, I’ve been up and down to Albert Tower like a plunger at a vindaloo buffet. For those not from these parts, Albert Tower is to Ramsey what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It sits on top of a hill overlooking Ramsey, and rises an impressive 45 feet high. It’s made of granite, kinda ugly and has no use, but we love it, and walking up to it is a great workout. The only drawback is, you have to cross the Mountain Road to access it, which means there’s a good chance you will get run-over. Still, it’s a lovely scenic walk, with fabulous views over Ramsey when you reach the top.

Albert Tower, Ramsey, Isle of Man

The other thing I have been doing is a Cindy Crawford exercise DVD. I love working out with Cinds, because, by mirroring her movements, I get the sense that our bodies are the same, and rightly feel pretty chuffed with myself; until I look in a mirror, that is, and realise I am less leggy goddess, more potato. Still, I hope to make an ab one day, so I’ll keep going.

Surely in the same ball park ??

Joining a Fat Club is like joining a cult, and like any good follower, the first thing you should do is recruit new members. Ma, no stranger to chocolate Hobnobs, seemed like the ideal candidate. So, earlier this week, I gave her the lowdown on Fat Club, and told her all about the Points system: that is, the Wonderful Wizard of Fat Club has allocated all foods with a numerical value (called Points); they have then calculated how much each fatty should eat, in order to lose weight, and given them a Points ration accordingly. Upon hearing my message of thigh-chaffing salvation, Ma’s first question was, how many points for a glass of wine? And her second, how many points for a bottle?  Needless to say, Ma won’t be joining Fat Club any time soon.

She has a point…

As for me, on the whole I feel physically comfortable with the change in diet; emotionally, however, it’s another story. Basically, I don’t have the same coping mechanism as before – that coping mechanism being chocolate. As such, I’ve been doing a bit of hairbrush waving here and there; mostly about Dentist fees and things on telly. I also had a mini-meltdown at work. The weird thing was, I wasn’t even working that day, but had just popped in to swap a shift with the lovely Lou Lou; it all proved too much, and I stood there waving my hairbrush and giving everyone a blow by blow account of my schedule and details of how tired I was. Lucky for me, the everyone in question were none other than my fellow Fat Club members Daisy and Maisy, who understood my fragile state. I was further reassured to discover that Daisy had been doing a bit of hairbrush waving of her own.

My emotional state this week.

I am pleased to say, all my waving and walking up hills paid off, I lost 2.5lbs this week, bringing my total to 9 lb. Daisy, who is a Fat Club veteran, assures me this is very good. To be honest, I don’t feel any different, and I still can’t do my coat up; but I did earn a silver star at Fat Club, so I’m happy about that. Daisy and Maisy lost weight too – 2 & 1 lbs respectively.

As for Mabel, she was a no show at Fat Club this week; that’s because she has the great diet-misfortune of having a social life and fella who makes triple-layered butter-cream cakes. One night out alone cost her 59 points (almost 3 days worth), most of which I suspect were in liquid form…a woman after Ma’s heart. Ah well, there’s always next week.

Fat Club – Week One

Fat Club has been a fixture on the Ramsey social scene since Adam hesitated when Eve asked him if her bum looked big. That is, until last year when the classes suddenly stopped, and Ramsey women, of the ‘prone to horizontal expansion’ variety, were left to their own devices. As the pounds went on, the sweatpants came out, first around the house, then in the supermarket and then everywhere, until town was run amok with sweatpants.

Then, in late December, news spread that a new Fat Club would be starting on the 10th January. It was perfect timing, allowing for guilt-free gorging over the holidays and a couple of weeks grace and additional stuffing of all those things one would soon be denied.

Everyone has a ‘last hoorah’ before going on a diet; for some it’s chocolate, for others, chips, for me, it’s cream cakes. I can’t get enough of them. If I was stuck on a deserted island and all I had with me was the complete works of John Steinbeck and a steady supply of cream cakes, I would be quite happy.

My last hoorah!

So, for my last week of freedom, I bought this big box of cream cakes. I am pleased to say that I didn’t eat all of them. I decided to throw the last two away (though not before I licked the cream out of one of them), to show the fat fairies I was serious about my forthcoming diet

Now, where you find one fatty, you usually find a whole bunch; that’s because skinny people are annoying, and fatties don’t like hanging out with them, so they hang out with each other instead. This creates a conundrum: it’s not very comfortable being fat, but if you become skinny, you might feel comfortable, but you will be annoying and will have no friends. The best remedy is for you and your fat friends to become skinny together; no one else will like you, but that’s ok, because you’ll have each other.

In possession of such flawless logic, my friends and I decided to join the forthcoming Ramsey Fat Club together. The friends in question are Daisy, Maisy and Mabel (not their real names, to prevent future skinny shaming).

Staring from the green Tubby and going anti-clockwise: Me, Daisy, Maisy and Mabel.

Daisy is a second-timer to Fat Club, having first joined a couple of years ago. She did so well, we started to think of her as our little friend Daisy. During the Ramsey Fat Club hiatus, however, Daisy fell off the wagon and into the Chippy, so she’s back.

Maisy is our honorary fat friend; she is not actually fat, but we let her think she is, so she’ll come to Fat Club too, as its great when we all do things together.

Mabel brought pork pies to our first weight-in last week, making me feel less bad about my box of cream cakes. Mabel is getting married next year, so she’s determined to get in shape. She blames me entirely for her extra weight, saying that it all went downhill for her when she visited me in Australia…15 YEARS AGO!!! The fact that she has had two children since then and has a penchant for pork pies, is apparently irrelevant.

Mabel’s Fat Club contraband

Then there’s me. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been – except for the time I was fatter. Plus, I can’t do my coat up, and it’s freezing here!

So, the four of us dutifully turned up for our first Fat Club last week – as did the rest of the sweatpant-wearing townswomen! We had a wonderful time catching up – which we had plenty of time to do, due to the amount of people there.

Me, Maisy and Daisy waiting in line at Fat Club; Mabel was at the shop buying pies.

Getting weighed was ok, except for the fact that I am even fatter than I thought I was. Still, it motivated me to go to the gym with Mabel the next day. We had a great time and even managed to get some exercise in while we chatted.

Mabel killing it at the gym.

The first week has gone well so far. I’ve woken up feeling grumpy every morning and wondering if I have joined a cult; but as each day has progressed, I haven’t felt hungry at all, and have stuck to the diet religiously.

And, knock me down with a feather, we just had our second weigh-in, and, after one week of dieting, I have lost a whopping 6.5lbs. Either I have a tapeworm, or it is true what they say about a low-carb/high-protein diet, that is causes a process called ketosis to occur, which is a natural diuretic; and, being a bit of a water-retaining puff-ball, such a loss may not be unreasonable.

The girls did brilliantly too: Daisy lost 2lbs, Maisy 2.5lbs, and Mabel 2.5lbs. This is exciting news, for as soon as we have all achieved a 5% weight loss, we are going to celebrate with Champaign and Fish & Chips.

Melbourne: City with Soul

I have lost count of the times people have told me I would love Melbourne. They were right of course, it’s a gorgeous city and, after 3 days of wandering her streets, I love her very much. The locals are friendly and laid-back, the food is incredible, the architecture is eclectic and the cafés, bars, restaurants and shops are cool without being pretentious. But, most all, it’s the ease that descends in her presence, that truly endears one to her.

Infinitely increasing the glory of Melbourne was the fact that I was there with my beautiful Lauren and her equally beautiful friend, Alethea. For as long as I have known Lauren, I have heard about Alethea, and it’s not for nothing that in that 14 years she has taken on mythic proportions – she is a thoroughly gorgeous woman. Meeting her was definitely a highlight of my trip; she’s funny and outgoing, and has a warm, generous spirit that bathes you in light when you’re with her. It’s no surprise that her and I got on like a house on fire, as Lauren has excellent taste in women.

The Girls! (Alethea, me and Lauren)

Lauren is also a superb organizer; and for our Melbourne trip she did not disappoint. She found us an amazing apartment, through Airbnb, in the heart of Chinatown. The couple who owned the apartment were lovely, and gave us lots of tips on where to eat etc., and left personal touches, like chocolates on our pillows and a bottle of champagne to help us celebrate Lauren’s birthday. Despite the sun hardly being over the yardarm, we thought it was only good manners to partake of said champagne then and there; plus, it gave Lauren and Alethea a chance to catch up and for me and Alethea to get to know each other – which took all of two minutes, as it felt like we’d known each other forever. Oh, and for any Kiwis reading this, Alethea – who’d travelled from New Zealand – bought with her some Rashuns and Chocolate Macaroons, so it was a proper party.

Toasting Lauren’s coming of age!

After acquiring a fizzy glow and licking the Rashun dust off our fingers, we headed out into the beautiful summer’s day Melbourne had laid on for us. Now, while Lauren excels at oragnisation and the picking friends, she excels not so much at directions; Alethea is about on par with Lauren; and me, well, I couldn’t find my way out of a one exit tunnel. As such, it took us some time to find our way to the nearest tram stop, which, it turned out, was just around the corner.

When Google Maps got us lost, we had to go old school.

We got there eventually and took a tram to the bohemian paradise of Chapel Street – the King Street of Melbourne, though way cooler. I wandered around like a tourist, my eyes popping out of my head with the wonder of it all. There were shops selling remarkable things, much of it second-hand and eccentric; cafés and bars with footpath seating reeked of originality and understated artistic expression; and chilled and friendly folk milled about with no hint of aggression. Indeed, everyone was so chilled, one couldn’t help but wonder if Valium had made its way into the water supply

One of many magnificent shops on Chapel Street.

After strolling up and down the street, wandering in and out of shops, we made our way to Hawkerhall, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by Alethea’s husband. There we met up with Aletha’s friend Ruwai, who is just gorgeous. Also a Kiwi, Ruwai and Alethea hadn’t seen each other for eons, so it was great to be part of their reunion. I also had a reunion of my own, with the utterly adorable Anne-Laure, whom I’d worked with in the art supply store with Kat and Anna back in my Sydney days. It was great to see her again after 7 years and catch up on all that had happened in both our lives since then.

The gorgeous Anne-Laure and me.

After a good night’s sleep (good because we went to bed early like the nanas we now are), we set off mid-morning in search of adventure. Adventure soon found us, when we happened upon a beautiful Synagogue, home of the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. There were some gentlemen standing outside and, with Purim afoot that evening, we stopped and asked if they had any festivities planned; they didn’t as such, though they told us of some elsewhere in the city, adding that the morning’s Shabbat Service was about to begin and we were welcome to attend. We accepted their kind offer and made our way upstairs to the women’s section – being that it was an orthodox synagogue – which allowed us a superlative view of all the goings on in the men’s section below. Lauren and Alethea decided not to stay for the whole service and we arranged to meet up when it was finished. As for myself, I was enthralled; I have only ever attended reform services before, so I found it fascinating to be part of a more traditional one. I had the good fortune to sit next to a very kind and gracious woman called, Margot, who guided me through what to do when. The service included a blessing for a groom, which was beautiful, and after Kiddush (the ritual blessing and drinking of wine, which, in East Melbourne, included whisky – much to my delight) there was a luncheon in the bride and groom’s honour. The food was amazing and included the most delicious chocolate layered thingy I have ever eaten.

The Beautiful East Melbourne Synagogue

Feeling spiritually and choclatically sated, I met up with Lauren and Alethea, and we made our way, on foot, to the Rose Street Artists’ Market in Fitzroy. We saw some wonderful buildings along the way, which looked resplendent in the shining sun. The Market, though small, was excellent; Melbourne has some seriously talented creatives. We didn’t stay too long looking at all the wares, as much of the market was in a tin shed that was stinking hot; so, we ate the apples Lauren had brought with her (like the excellent mum she is) and we wandered back to our apartment in Chinatown, to freshen up before embarking on our afternoon and evening events.

Rose Street Artists’ Market

The main event was meeting up with Alethea’s old friend Nathan and his friend Matt (it may be that Alethea also knew Matt, or maybe not; either way, that’s who we met). Our initial meeting took place at a rooftop bar called Madame Brussel’s. It’s impossible to describe just how amazing the bars in Melbourne are, I have never seen places like them; it seems even alcohol vendors in the city of soul are creative geniuses. Madame Brussel’s was no exception; I thoroughly enjoyed being in such unique surrounds.

Alethea and Lauren enjoying the sun at Madame Brussel’s

Next, the 5 of us went to a dumpling restaurant, called Hutong, for which we’d received two separate recommendations within 20 mins of each other. Its reputation was well-founded and clearly well-known, as it was very busy. Everyone enjoyed their meal; everyone, that is, except me. It can be tricky being a vegetarian when you don’t really like vegetables, especially of the cooked variety, which is what restaurants tend do to them. Even so, I enjoyed being there, as the company was excellent.

Hutong Dumpling Bar

After everyone had finished eating, and I had ceased moving spinach dumplings around my plate, we went to Section 8, an outside bar and music venue favoured by New Zealanders. It was easy to why; it was laidback and grungy and a little bit dirty, just the way we like it. Instead of chairs and tables it had warehouse crates and oil drums, the roof was made of corrugated plastic, the front wall was a wire fence, the bar was a hut and the music was awesome, which, in keeping with the venue, was dirty and deep. We only stayed for one drink, as the music was too loud for conversation and we are old now and prefer genial conversation to shouting inane comments to each other while bobbing our heads and checking out the talent.

Section 8

Next stop was The Toff in Town, a bar come music venue come movie theatre spread over 3 floors. We went to a section which had these booths that were reminiscent of first-class train carriages. It was the perfect place for us, for, even though the music was loud, we were cocooned in our little booth, so we could still hear each other talk. Plus, there was a buzzer inside the booth that you just had to push to summon the waiter. On offer was an extensive and imaginative range of cocktails, which everyone partook of; everyone, that is, except me; not because they had vegetables in them, but because I was due to embark on a 23 hour flight the next day (which I happen to be on as I write).

A Toff in Town booth

In preparation for my long haul, I decided not go with the others to the next establishment, so they walked me back to the apartment (in case I got lost, which, if left to my own devices, I most assuredly would’ve have), before heading off to…actually, I have no idea where they went. For myself, I tucked myself up in bed with a bowl of Rashuns, two Macaroons and my book – which, while fascinating, is not what you’d call a ‘holiday read’, being that it is dark and rather depressing.

The next morning, I woke up feeling sick; not, as might think, from the Rashuns and Macaroons, but because in a few hours I knew I’d have to say goodbye to Lauren. We all had afternoon flights – Lauren to Sydney, Alethea to New Zealand, and me, the Isle of Man – so we decided to go out for breakfast and then have a little wander around the shops in the city Centre. We went to a gorgeous café called Magic Mountain Saloon, which Lauren and Alethea had found the day before when I was at the Synagogue. The menu was a bit too vegetably for me, but I did have the loveliest lime and mint drink.

Me and my beautiful Lauren in Magic Mountain Saloon.

After our wee shop, we caught a tram to the bus station and, as my flight was a couple of hours before the others, I said goodbye to Lauren and Alethea, with big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. I should probably point out that I didn’t intend to catch my flight from the bus station (I’m not that disorientated); rather, I was there to catch a SkyBus to the airport. Now I am sitting here, way up in the sky, marveling at what has been an incredible holiday. In the last 3 weeks, my heart and soul have expanded a hundredfold. I feel reconnected to something essential in myself and to the beautiful friends I made in Australia, before I fled, brokenhearted, to the gentle mist-covered island in the middle of the Irish Sea that I have called home for the last 7 years. A cycle is complete, of that I am sure; which can only mean, a new one is in the throes of beginning.


Postscript:

In the throes of a new beginning I may be, but it seems some things are set to stay the same. Yes, a mere few hours into my new life, I had yet another shoe debacle. This time it involved my chosen airplane footwear, my jandals (aka flipflops). I have been wearing my jandals since my King Street blister incident; and it’s been all well and good, except I spilt my orange juice on my first flight and didn’t discover until I was ready to disembark, that I had spilt it all over my jandals; as such, I spent my two-hour transit in Abu Dhabi airport with my jandals stuck to my feet. I did think of giving them a wash in the bathroom, but thought that might be a bit uncouth; not only in a general sense, but also, specifically, as I subscribe to my Uncle Ian’s philosophy on jandals, that they are not just for a summer, they are for life. In which case, if the central toehold pops out, you certainly don’t consider throwing them away, you simply bend down and pop it back in; and when they are minging and the heels have worn away, you continue to wear them, remaining loyal to your jandals until the there is literally nothing left of them. My jandals are about midway through their lifespan and, it has to be said, they have seen better days, and are certainly not fit to be waved around in a fancy Abu Dhabi bathroom. As such, I had to wait until I boarded my flight to Dublin, to give them a sneaky clean in the privacy of an Etihad lav.

As my uncle would say: There’s years of wear left!