Ma’s Wild Weekend

Ma has always said she only wants to live till she’s 70. Her reasons? Getting old is crap, and the old must make way for the young (I agree that getting old looks to be on the crappy side of the human experience but I doubt the young have their sights set on living with Dad and doing jigsaws if only Ma would get out of the way). Well, Ma turned 70 in October, and guess what? She’s still here! As the big day approached, Ma gave no sign of shuffling off, so my sister Angela and I thought we’d take her on holiday, to get her bonus years off to a good start.

Of all Ma’s 3 children, Angela is the most successful (by successful I mean rich). Mathew could’ve been successful, but he had children and insisted on feeding them. As for me, I’m as close to successful as a wooden bead is to the Hope diamond (still, I get to sit around painting all day, so it could be I’m the most clever). Lucky for us, Angela’s success is our success, so when she announced she and her husband Neil had bought a holiday home near the Norfolk coast, we were all thrilled to bits and looked forward to receiving our respective invitations.

A little slice of paradise.

As the months wore on, our invitations failed to arrive. Angela made vague references to how lovely it was and how much we’d like it; but as for a nailed-down “you can come on these dates” …nada! So, with Ma’s sep-birthday looming, what better time to invite ourselves. Worried inviting the whole family might be pushing it, I suggested a girl’s weekend for Ma, Angela and me. Angela thought it was a fabulous idea, as did our brother Mathew, who did a great job hiding his disappointment that he wouldn’t be coming with us. Of course, we had to break the news to Dad that he would be left at home for whole weekend without his beloved. He took the news well, as this photo of him at the moment of Ma’s departure can attest.

His sorrow was palpable!

Ma didn’t seem too enthused when I told her Angela and I would be taking her on holiday. Her chief concerns were that we’d all end up fighting and I’d make her run through the airport. We didn’t run through the airport as it happens, instead, we sat around eating the chocolate Ma had intended to give to Angela. Naturally, we felt guilty for eating it, but it neither stopped us, nor ruined the taste, in fact, if anything, it made it taste better.

The sweet taste of ill-gotten gains!

The Chateau

Angela’s holiday home is situated in Kelling Heath – a camping and caravan park for posh folk. While some would call it a static caravan, we call it The Chateau. The Chateau is nestled in the woods and comes complete with mod-cons, lush furnishings and Wi-Fi, as well as an impressive supply of toilet paper, brought in especially for yours truly. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of toilet paper, and while The Chateau supply was up to scratch in terms of volume, I’m sad to say, it lacked in terms of quality, as it wasn’t 3ply quilted.

Naturally, I wrote a note expressing my disappointment.

Kelling Heath itself is breath-taking, and even though it was miserable and raining while we were there, it was hard not be astonished by its beauty. Towering trees huddle together, creating a sense of otherworldliness, not alike the magical woods of European fairy-tales. It was love at first sight for me, as it was for Angela and her husband when they first visited 20 years ago, and why they have returned every year since, and why they decided to buy a holiday home there.

Holiday Highlights

As with all septuagenarian birthday holidays, the evenings were action packed.

The fun never ends!

Ma likes a good jigsaw. To be honest, I do too. In fact, you could say we are a jigsawing family. Which is probably a good thing, because you tend to find, when it comes to families (esp. boozy ones like ours), the more jigsawing, the less bludgeoning. Being the matriarch, Ma can be dictatorial when there’s a jigsaw on the go. Preferring to put in all the pieces herself, we, her subjects, are usually relegated to such tasks as finding the end-pieces and re-filling her wine glass.

Along with our jolly jigsawing evenings, we visited nearby towns during the day, one of which we went to by train, an experience which plunged one back into post-war Britain when everything was bunting and crustless sandwiches.

North Norfolk’s Poppy Line train.

The beautiful town of Sheringham.

Two little waifs enjoying the view of Cromer’s historic pier.

We also visited a stately home. To be more accurate, we visited a stately home’s gardens. They were beautiful, especially all the hens that were roaming about. We were meant to go into the house too, but it was expensive, plus, earlier in the year, I had a nosy around Buckingham Palace (which, if you ask me, looked a bit tatty), so I was thinking anything else would be a step down, plus, Ma had somewhere she wanted to be.

Ma strolling in the stately gardens of Holkham Hall.

The Carvery

Ma’s of that age where she eats lunch at 11am, her evening meal at 4pm, shouts at the telly, and goes to church on Sunday, church being a local pub where Ma is none too stingy with the wine.  Her fellow congregants are Da and their good friends Daphne and Ian. The four of them put the world to rights and afterwards go to a carvery (aka a self-serve Sunday roast) at another pub down the road. Ma loves a good roast, especially the tatties, gravy and a big fat Yorkshire pud. Ma’s also of that age where she likes to do the same things on a given day. As such, a Sunday is not a Sunday unless it involves wine and a roast (actually, the other days of the week involve wine too, but you didn’t hear that from me).

So it was, when Ma arrived at Kelling Heath and saw a sign for a Sunday carvery, she set her heart on attending; and although Angela told her (on several occasions) that the Kelling Heath carvery was not very good, Ma would not be dissuaded. By the time Sunday rolled around, Ma, using her impressive powers of passive-insistence (what nice people do when they want their own way, while pretending it’s neither here nor there if they get it), made it abundantly clear that she was going to attend the Kelling Heath carvery (crappy though Angela assured her it was) whether we liked it or not.

Actually, she almost didn’t get her own way, because when she asked Angela and I if we wanted to go to the carvery, we both said no (Angela on account of she knew it was crappy, and me because I too knew it was crappy, because Angela told me so). So, it was decided that we would go to the pub instead (which happened to be next door to the carvery). I’m not as in-chargey as Angela, so when Angela popped to the loo on the way to the pub, Ma took the opportunity to boss me about, so that when Angela re-joined us, we were not in the pub but in the carvery room. Of course, Ma made it seem we were in there by accident, but I think you’ll agree, the photo below shows Ma knew exactly what she was doing!

The face of triumph!

Needless to say, the carvery was crappy…not that Ma would admit it!

Ma and I are a lot alike, something Ma finds very annoying. It’s no picnic for me either, but I’d rather be like Ma than, say, Hitler. Our main similarities are we’re both fussy eaters, we both hate rubber bands (they are disgusting and made by the devil), and we both blow our noses…a lot! I’m not sure where the nose blowing thing comes from. According to google it can be anything from a spinal fluid leak to pregnancy, or even a foreign object. I did once stick a small pink sweet up my nose to see what happens when you stick a sweet up your nose (it turns out a trip to the doctor and a pair of pillars), but I was 4 years old and the sweet is long gone. Personally, my money is on a mild allergy of some sort, probably to housework or, in Ma’s case, idiots. Whatever it is, we’ve both got it. What does our nose blowing have to do with a trip to Norfolk? Nothing, except that I caught a cold on my way there (probably from the EasyJet air-conditioning), so my nose blowing reached fever-pitch.

Despite being a fellow blower, Ma didn’t have much sympathy for me, rather she kept telling me off for blowing mine so hard, warning me I’d blow my brains out and end up a dullard like my brother (ok, I made up the bit about my brother) if I didn’t stop. Well, I didn’t stop blowing it, hard as it happens, and, despite ma’s warning, my brains seem to have stayed put.

Another thing Ma and I have in common is a lousy sense of direction. When I say lousy, I mean non-existent. I’m not kidding, the pair of us couldn’t find our way out of a circular room with a flashing sign over the door saying EXIT. Where Ma’s non-existent sense of direction comes from, I have no idea (mine, of course, comes from her); no one else in the family has such an affliction, and therefore lack both understanding and sympathy as to what it is like to be so afflicted. As such, it is always a relief when Ma and I get lost and it is only us in the car, so there’s no one to tut and sigh at our silliness. However, just like Ma had no sympathy for my nose blowing in Norfolk (on account of its brain-dislodging intensity), I found myself unsympathetic when, on our way back from the carvery, Ma got lost. You see, we stopped at the Kelling Heath general store, to get ice cream and nose-blowing supplies, during the buying of which Ma got impatient and wandered outside and into the pitch-black woods.

Naturally, Ma headed off in the opposite direction of The Chateau, leaving Angela and I to wander about in the dark, shouting “Ma!!!” like two lost orphans. Normally we would’ve called her mobile, but prior to the trip Ma had swapped her iPhone for a Dorro – an old folks’ phone that she didn’t (and still doesn’t) know how to answer. Just as we were starting to get genuinely worried that we’d have to call out a search party and be on the telly looking all mournful that we’d lost our Mother, Ma appeared, not the least bit sorry she’d wandered off, rather, assuring us she knew where she was going all along.

I’m pleased to say we all survived Ma’s wild weekend, with our sanity mostly intact. It was great to spend time together, and, despite Ma’s reservations, no fights broke out. Unfortunately for Angela, she caught my cold and spent the next few days in bed. I felt crusty as well, but Ma arrived home fit as a fiddle, so much so, I doubt she’ll be shuffling off anytime soon, though, if she does, at least we’ll have this selfie she took to remind us of our wonderful wild weekend together.

Clearly Ma’s selfie skills are on par with her sense of direction!

The Horrors of Narrow Boating

Ma recently had a traumatic experience which challenged her physically and psychologically. No, she wasn’t caught in a great flood, nor was the town pillaged by marauding Vikings. Rather, she went on a narrow boat holiday.

Trauma is not something one usually associates with Narrow Boating; indeed, it is normally perceived as a leisurely tootle along idyllic waterways. Not so, according to Ma. Rather, in her mind, it is an experience that should strike fear in even the most intrepid of travellers. To understand what made Ma’s narrow boat holiday so harrowing, it is necessary to examine all the contributing factors.

1. Ma Herself

Ma is great fun. When you spend time with her, 9 times out 10 you’ll have a good laugh. However, in later years, she has developed a condition which affects 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 (numbers in the Isle of Man are much higher) and is the outer manifestation of an underlying ailment called lifeisabitcrapitis (Latin for I haven’t won the Lotto). The condition is called moaning.

Moaning initially presents as a mild irritation with the way of the world, then steadily progresses until it becomes full-blown, usually when one retires and has the opportunity to sit around and think of lots of things to…well…moan about. It’s easy to tell when someone has Moaning, both by the discussion of their favourite topics – the weather and their various physical ailments – and their frequent use of the adverb too (i.e. it’s too hot; it’s too cold; I’m too old; I’m too fat…etc. etc.). And, of course, there is the most recognisable symptom: frequent sighing.

Fellow moaning sufferer, Victor Meldrew

NB: It is important not to confuse Moaning with another more serious condition – i.e. Evil Cow Disorder (or the male variant, Miserable Git Syndrome). People afflicted with Moaning are generally good-hearted realists who are merely fed-up with the injustices of life and the inconvenience of growing old. Whereas, People with Evil Cow or Miserable Git, poison neighbourhood cats, scare little children and spread bitterness and dissension wherever they go, and should be avoided at all costs.

And so, it was, Ma went on her narrow boat holiday with a particularly bad case of Moaning. According to my sister Angela, who had the good fortune to be on the same trip, Ma’s chief gripe was the fact that she doesn’t have a hat head. Apparently, Angela looked very pretty in her bobble hat but Ma’s bobble hat, in Ma’s opinion, looked rubbish on her non-hat head.

Ma wearing her bobble hat on her non-hat head

2. Crew Dynamic

Da and Ma recently bought a share in a beautiful Narrow Boat, called Dawn Chorus. The holiday under discussion was their maiden voyage, and crewing were Da, Ma and my Sister, Angela. Da was Captain, Ma was First Mate, and Angela was Deckhand. Sound simple enough? Well, it would’ve been, were it not for the fact that Ma was also Admiral.

Captain and Admiral of the Dawn Chorus

As such, Da gave orders to Ma, who gave orders to Da, who didn’t want to take orders from the First Mate but had no choice but to take them from the Admiral, who, incidentally, moaned about having to give orders, but, being genetically predisposed to give orders, given that she issues from a long-line of stalwart Matriarchs, moaned more about taking them, but who shouldn’t have given orders to the Captain, but who had to, cause Da, whose peripheral vision is on the wane, crashed if he didn’t lookout, when Ma shouted lookout. Added to this, Ma tends to mutter and Da’s as deaf as a door post, so any orders that were given were not usually received. Angela just did what she was told.

My lovely sister and deckhand, Angela

Now, I should explain how Angela ended up on Ma and Da’s maiden voyage. Firstly, the invitation was presented as a once in a life-time experience, which, though it surely was that, it was not quite the restful sojourn through the tranquil Shropshire countryside she imagined it to be. Further, she was promised plush sleeping quarters, exciting excursions (see further ahead for just how exciting they were), relaxation and reverie. Who could refuse?

Angela’s plush sleeping quarters

Secondly, Angela’s husband and I were meant to go too. Unfortunately, Angela’s husband had a last-minute work emergency, and had to forgo joining his in-laws on their floating Winnebago (I believe he was devastated). I too had the great misfortune of not being able to attend. Though, to be fair, my invitation did not include the promised luxury which lured Angela; rather, I was offered the kitchen as my sleeping quarters and the role of Galley Wench.

Not so plush!

3. The Rigours of Narrow Boating

Narrow Boating may look easy but, according to Ma, it is not. Rather, it is a perilous way to travel, fraught with dangers. After all, you must float in a straight line, on smooth waters, at speeds of up to 4 miles an hour.

Clearly not for the faint hearted!

Then, of course, you must forage for your food at local, waterside public houses, and, in Ma’s case, find the nearest hoedown.

And let’s not forget the fact that you are in the wilderness, with only a bit of painted tin between you and the elements, and are, therefore, exposed to all manner of feral plants and animals.

Indeed, Australia might have its river crocs, but England has ferocious canal fowl:

And while Amazon river travellers have carnivorous plants to content with, the wayfarers of the British canal system must put up with these menaces.

Despite such deprivations and life-threatening dangers, you’ll be pleased to know that the Dawn Chorus cut a safe passage through the countryside and, all on board, arrived at the Nantwich Basin, well-nourished and unharmed.

4. The Perils of Excursions

Day excursions are an important part of Narrow Boating; they offer the crew the opportunity to relax and take a break from the rigours of floating, and experience some of the wonderful attractions England has to offer.

Now, it is not often that one of us kids end up on holiday alone with our parents. However, it is interesting to note where they take us when we are. For instance, the last time my brother Mathew was on holiday with them, they took him to Disneyland. Where did they take Angela?

She could barely contain her excitement!

It may surprise you to know that the Hack Green Bunker was not built for Royalty, or the Business elite; rather, it was built for Civil Servants. It is strange to envision post-apocalyptic England with nothing but civil servants running about, especially as there’ll be no one left to fill out their forms. Obviously, the Government thought it was a great idea, and spent oodles of Tax Payer’s money on the project.

Despite not having a log flume or magic mountain, Angela said her visit to the Bunker was very interesting.

Barely contained!

The crew also went on a day trip to Chester. For the most part, the outing went well. They visited all the local sights, then Ma and Angela did a spot of shopping.

Late in the afternoon, the crew returned to the boat, tired but happy. That is, until Ma realised she had lost her purse. Panic descended and everyone sprang into action. Angela and Da were dispatched back to Chester to scour the city’s ramparts, and Ma had a glass of wine to settle her nerves. Unfortunately, their efforts proved fruitless and the purse remained lost. After cancelling all her Bank Cards, Ma spent a sleepless night worrying that she had ruined their holiday and, by logical extension, the balance of the Universe.

She needn’t have worried though; when they went to the Police Station the next day, to request a television reconstruction of events and a countywide purse-hunt, there was her purse, safe and sound. Apparently, a lady had found it on a park bench Ma had sat on. Ma left the kind stranger a reward, and returned to the boat happy that both her faith in humanity and the balance of the Universe had been restored.

So, there we have it, all the shocking details of Ma’s traumatic journey. While these details provide us with a good idea of what Ma had to endure, nothing conveys the raw nature of an experience like a photograph. Indeed, a closer examination of one photo in particular, shows the true extent of Ma’s ordeal.

Oh, dear God, the horror! How did she survive!!!

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.