Category Archives: peri-menopause

It’s good to talk

I think I must have one of those faces. One of those ones that encourages people to talk to me randomly in the street or in a supermarket. It happens A LOT. I also feel invisible some days where it seems that no one even looks me in the face let alone wants to talk to me.

Today was one of the former. It’s been quite nice.

I had a routine doctors appointment booked at 10am. Now that we are flying solo on the school run front, I had to take the kids into the town (I usually call it the village as that was how we referred to it when I was growing up there, but now that we don’t live there – we live in one of the actual villages – it can be confusing if I call it the village. See you’re confused now aren’t you?) at 8am and as it made no sense to go home for an hour and a half and then back out again, I went to a coffee shop and did some work.

At least, that was the plan. I ordered a drink, whilst scoping out the available tables to find the perfect one. I prefer to sit with my back to a wall, rather than have a table of people behind me. I don’t know why. Don’t question it. I prefer to face outwards to the room, so I can people watch and keep my head down if I see someone I’d prefer not to. I spotted a table one table down from a guy who was also in there working and next to an older man who was having a coffee and reading the paper. The only other option had croissant crumbs all over it. I opted for the first choice.

I settled in, laptop out, wi-fi connected, spreadsheet open, started tapping away. Bang! The man one up from me (the other worker) had dropped his bag very heavily onto a chair forgetting he had one of those steel water bottles in there. Made me jump, made the old boy next to me jump and that was when he started a conversation. He had hearing aids in a pouch on the table, joked about not putting them in if the other man was going to make noise like that. He meant it nicely. I think he had been looking for an excuse to talk. Bless him. Over the next 20 minutes or so I learned that he is getting divorced (he must have been 80 if he was a day) and that he is still living in the same house as his wife and she has fleeced him for £30K. He has a daughter and son in law who both worked in the Met and a gransdon who has just got back from a stock car race in Mongolia. His daughter goes on a lot of mini cruises and arranges weekends away for other female Met officers. She looks after him, taking him to dr’s appointments – he’s not well. I saw photos of her, her husband, the grandon. He himself used to be in the military, Special Ops. He probably has incredible stories to tell, memories of his time in service. He is clearly incredibly proud of his daughter. She has a medal for bravery, for disarming a gunman. He is right to be proud. I was happy that I could spare him the time to talk to him. After a while he apologise for disturbing me and said he’d better be off. Bless him.

Fast forward an hour or so, some work done, I headed off to the doctors. Of course, I was early by about 15 minutes. It was baby jab day so it was busy and you can’t beat a load of wailing babies to help pass the time. Or to create a cause for conversation. The very chic, elderly lady next to me asked if I had children, if I remembered how awful it was getting their jabs. Of course I did, I felt like the most evil person on earth, making them go through that. But all for their own good. Unlike the man from earlier, this lady asked me a bit about myself. If truth be told, I prefer other people to do the talking, I don’t have much to say, am happy to listen. But we chatted about kids, how it’s harder bringing them up these days with “the web” and all the dangers. I suspect she was a Daily Mail reader and probably a “leave” voter, but I didn’t hold that against her. I have one of them in my family after all (ha ha! naming no names!) She was lovely really and we chatted for ages having established that we were both seeing the same Dr and her appoinment was 20 minutes before mine. Clearly the doc was running late. She was eventually called in. Turns out there was another lady in between our appointments and when she came out she stood and talked to me until it was my turn to be called in. She told me she is on HRT still (after 30 years) and is having to switch to another type as her one is one of those affected by shortages. I told her which one I am on and we compared notes. I was almost disappointed to be called in, at which point she took my hand and said how lovely it had been to chat and wished me luck in the future.

I went into the doctors room feeling pretty chipper, had a good chat with the doctor who, I still maintain, is heaven sent. I really am very lucky to be able to see her. Blood pressure checked, repeat presciription sorted, off I went out into the world again. Well, back home where I felt far more positive and ready to face some more work.

It really is good to talk. And sometimes it’s even better when it’s for a short time to a stranger. I wonder if the old boy or the chic elderly lady both felt the same? I must try and use my approachable, talk-to-me face more often. It was certainly a lot nicer than being invisible.


A very different sort of Friday

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, or know me at all, you will know that most Fridays (during term time) I spend the day or part of the day with Mrs F. We don’t always do anything especially exciting, but we normally always do something, even if it’s just popping to a garden centre or Wilkinson’s. Or sometime we do something special like our trip to Cambridge, or a long walk somewhere with a pub lunch.

During the school holidays I have tried to arrange to do something with A on Fridays – my day off. T does his own thing most of the time now and wouldn’t really want to do the things that A wants to do anyway. One example is Primark. A loves Primark – she is not into designer clothes, she likes a bargain. (We always recycle unwanted clothes and she gets plenty of wear out of whatever she buys, so feel slightly less guilty about shopping there than we otherwise would). A new mulit-level, all singing, all dancing Primark has recently opened in Birmingham city centre and A and her friend S were both pretty keen to go, so I arranged a trip on the train.

Mrs F and I have been up on the train twice now and it was very easy both times – straight through to New Street from Hemel Hempstead – two hours each way. Easy. So, I thought nothing of booking for me and the 2 girls to go. By opting for a non-transferrable ticket and off peak times I was able to get tickets for under £25 for all of us, return. Bargain. We arrived at Hemel in plenty of time yesterday morning and got seats easily on the train and a straightforward two hours later we were in New Street. I spent the two hours reading my kindle and people watching, with the girls two rows back from me who spent the two hours happily chatting away as only teenage girls can. A’s friend S is one of the only girls she has stayed friends with since primary school, and they don’t see each other very often, so it was lovely to hear them catching up and getting along so well. A tends to describe herself as “awkward” but when she is with her friends there is no sign of it all. She is fun and chatty and lively and lovely.

I love arriving in New Street. Straight up the escalators into Grand Central where the roof always makes me smile. I love the noise and the shops and the brightness of it all. There was no time to stop though as the girls were on a mission. They wanted to go straight to Primark, where they planned to spend the 4 hours that they had, even insisting that they would have lunch there – they were very keen to try the Disney Cafe where they had read you can get Mickey Mouse pancakes. Okaaay. So we were off and straight through to the Bull Ring and out to Primark where I left them with Strict Instructions not to leave the shop and go anywhere else without telling me.

I headed off to M&S where there was a chicken and bacon Caesar salad with my name on it. I’m a creature of habit and when I’m flying solo (without my partner in crime) I always gravitate to the familiar, and you can’t go wrong with an M&S cafe. I’m happy enough to sit alone and read my book and not worry about what’s going on around me. And there’s always a loo nearby. Lunch eaten, I had a plan to go and visit the Library.

A few years ago, K and the kids and I had our first trip as a family to Birmingham into the city centre to check out the Bull Ring and do a bit of sight-seeing. When we got back to K’s parents for dinner, his mum asked if we’d been up to the top of the library to see the garden. No, because we didn’t know about it. Because she didn’t think to mention if BEFORE we left. So, it’s been on my list of things to do since.

The trip with the girls presented the perfect opportunity, as I knew I’d have quite some time to kill. I didn’t want to go into the shops. I don’t really enjoy shopping with no purpose and couldn’t spend all day in M&S cafe! So, with hood up (the weather wasn’t great yesterday) and armed with the little knowledge I have of the area, I headed off in the direction of Victoria Square (which I love for some reason) and from where I knew I could reach Centenary Square and the Library. I was impressed with my navigation skills (not something I am renowned for) and easily found myself in Victoria Square. There’s a lot of building work going on whilst Birmingham Council install a tram network so I found myself being diverted around the old Town Hall and along a boarded up walkway into Centenary Square, which was fine as there were plenty of signs reassuring me that I was going the right way. I didn’t want to have to stop and consult the maps that are strategically placed around and about as I was aware of being on my own. Anyway, I arrived at the Library without any issues, apart from being a bit hot and bothered under my pac-a-mac and slightly damp hair from being under my hood. Oh and my feet were a bit wet as for some bizarre reason I’d opted to wear flat sandals! What a wally.

My first impression when I walked into the Library was of being a bit overwhelmed. I knew it was going to be big – it spans 9 floors – but had no idea where I was heading, having not even Googled it before we went. Not afraid of looking like a tourist in there, I consulted the directory and headed off up the escalator in search of the Secret Garden on Level 7. I wouldn’t normally use an escalator these days, preferring to get some extra steps in, but there was only the choice of escalator or lift, so escalator it was. I could have walked up but actually the escalator was perfect as it meant I could look up and enjoy the amazing view. The escalators go up straight (obviously) but the floors above and around them are circular, with bookcases appearing to spiral up and up. They don’t but the illusion is spectacular. The bookcase tops are all beautifully lit with hundreds and hundreds of fairy lights and it all looks just lovely. If I was a student at UoB I would spend every spare minute in the Library. But, I would ride up and down the escalators all day and probably not get much studying done. There are armchairs dotted around, study rooms (all fully booked that day), little corners with a handful of desks in, larger rooms with more desks and plate windows giving views across the whole city.

I had to take the lift from level four up to seven to the Secret Garden. Bearing in mind it was a nasty day weather-wise I could have been forgiven for just looking at it through the window but despite the fact it was blowing a hoolie out there, I still went out and had a walk around. It must be lovely when it’s dry and, when all the building work has finally finished, the views might be quite nice. I’m not really a fan of looking out at sky-scapers and cranes, so the view didn’t really do much for me. It might have been better to have K with me as he may have been able to point out landmarks. I could make out John Lewis and the Bull Ring, a small glimpse of the canal at Brindley Place and the BT Tower but that was all. The garden was nicely done with walkways cut into raised beds which had been filled with wildflowers and lavenders (A’s worst nightmare as it would be bee-heaven) and lots of nice seating for a dry day. I walked all around (there were 2 other nutters out there as well who I left taking pictures of the “view” – maybe they were more familiar with what they were looking at than me) and then went back inside and up to the Shakespeare Memorial Room on level 9. The room has been restored from the original Birmingham Library where it was originally created back in 1882. Demolition of the old library meant it was taken apart bit by bit in 1974 and put into storage before being rebuilt in 1984 as part of the School of Music until 2013 where it now sits at the top of the new library in the rotunda. It was quite busy up there, but I was able to get in and have a look around. It’s pretty impressive, especially considering the number of times it has been relocated!

I made my way back down to the ground level where a cappuccino and a piece of flapjack were calling to me. By this time I’d started to almost get used to being on my own. I’m never very comfortable walking around places or sitting in cafes on my own and I expected to feel a bit exposed especially being somewhere I’ve only been a few times, but I was surprisingly confident walking around (even the walk through the city centre was fine) and I didn’t really give it too much thought. I’d planned to sit in the cafe until the girls were ready to leave Primark. Our train home was due at 4pm so I expected to be sat there for about an hour. I’d just taken my last sip of coffee (the flapjack was long gone) when A called to say they were done and please could they go and have a look around the shops in the Bull Ring? I was about 15 minutes walk away so they agreed to wait in the entrance to Primark until I got there. It may seem a bit overly protective not to want them going alone, but A has only been into the centre twice (with us) and is a bit like me when it comes to a sense of direction and S hasn’t been at all. We met up and headed back into the Bull Ring. I didn’t want to go into makeup shops or Victoria’s Secret (funnily enough) and definitely didn’t want to cramp their style so I loitered around feeling a bit stalkerish until I spotted a seat where I could wait for them. They weren’t long and armed with Bubble Tea (don’t ask) wanted to go back into Grand Central as S wanted to get her mum some sushi! I was more than happy to go back and wait for them there, close to where we needed to get the train and I could look at the roof.

By this time I was ready for another cuppa (I know, it’s all about the food and drink) so got green tea and sat people and roof watching. One thing I noticed about being on my own was people seem more inclined to talk to you. When I was in the lift going up to the Secret Garden a group of three people got in and started chatting to me about weather (clearly British), another woman spoke to me in the Shakespeare Room and when I bought my green tea at the cafe in Grand Central the guy behind the till was very chatty and friendly. Unless, it’s a Birmingham thing. I’ve never really given much thought to the Brummies other than to wince a bit at the accents, but maybe they are a friendly bunch? K was friendly enough when we met but he was on holiday and had been drinking!

We got to the right platform at the right time to get on the right train to get home. It was very busy (yes, Jane, it’s Friday and 4pm, what did you expect?) and I was pretty sure we weren’t going to get seats. The train was delayed by about ten minutes. And then a member of staff announced it was actually coming in on the platform next to ours, not the one it was due on. Mass bundle across to the next platform. Now even more convinced we weren’t going to get seats. We barely made it on the train. Squished in like sardines with a woman and buggy and small child trying to get on because she couldn’t get into First Class where she had paid £500+ for seats in. It was a nightmare. We moved to the other end of the carriage where there was a small space to stand and waited. And waited. And waited. We eventually moved off. After about an hour the train had started to get a bit less packed and A managed to get a seat. S had made herself a little nest of coats on the floor in the small space that we had and was quite happy. She and I then eventually got seats at Northampton, an hour after we had set off. Only to be told that the train would be terminating at Bletchley. Miles away from Hemel. We had to get off the train and wait for the next one which we were assured would take us to Hemel. We’d been on ten minutes to be told it would be going to Leighton Buzzard and then straight through to Euston! No stop at Hemel. We had to get off again at Leighton Buzzard and get on another one to take us the 4 stops to Hemel. To be told that there were trespassers on the line and wouldn’t be moving until they had been cleared. We eventually got into Hemel at 7pm, an hour and two trains longer longer than we should have been. I always think it’s such a shame when a lovely day ends with a painful journey home but the girls were reasonably upbeat.

One thing I noticed about being on trains these days is how inconsiderate technology has made people. Not just the loud, should-be-private conversations on mobiles; not even the tinny sound of music from headphones. Some people don’t even bother with headphones at all. One guy across the way from me was watching a film on a tablet out loud, and it was clearly pretty very violent from the sounds of machine guns and yelling and dying. A seat became free next to him at one point and the guy standing in the aisle next to it offered it to me. I declined. I didn’t really want to be able to SEE the action , hearing it was bad enough. Whether it’s because most other people are plugged in to headphones themselves or asleep it doesn’t bother them but I could NOT go on public transport every day if this is typical of how it is. Give me a car any day, with my own space, my own choice of music, and a guaranteed seat.

So a different Friday to what I am used to. But I am proud of myself for going it alone with the girls, for finding my way around, for not being phased by anything and for surviving the journey from hell.

Next week: London.

Just me and A.

Watch this space.

A bit of a boogie and a piece of string

On Sunday, the four of us went up to Birmingham for the day. This is not unusual as K’s parents live there, but we weren’t visiting them on this occasion. I had managed to get hold of tickets for A and me to attend a recording of The Greatest Dancer at the ICC and decided that it would be a good day out. K agreed to drive us and T came along to keep him company(*) whilst we were at the show.

We had to be there by 10.30am at the latest to get our wristbands (which would guarantee us a seat) so we set off at 8am. We had pre-booked parking close to the ICC and as the weather got steadily worse the closer we go to Brum I was very glad that we had. We got to the ICC around 9.40am and joined the queue to get our wristbands, and tickets. The queue looked awful but was actually pretty quick, taking us about 20 minutes to get through. We were then told we could go off until around 11.30am when they would start sending us through to our seats. We had a lovely (and, surprisingly, very cheap) breakfast in Cafe Rouge around the corner and then grabbed some snacks before heading back. T and K went off to The Bull Ring to window shop and we went off to get our seats. Unfortunately, although the initial queue was bearable the next stage started to be less so. We waited in a holding area (like cattle waiting to be…) for around an hour. Luckily, I’m not suffering with my hip hardly at all now so was able to stand without getting a dead leg, which is always a bonus. A lasted about 15 minutes before finding a spot on the floor!

We were finally shown through to our seats, one of which, to my pleasure, was next to the aisle – hurrah – but sadly were not “voting” seats. For those of you unfamiliar with the programme, the general idea is that dance acts perform in front of giant two-way-mirrored doors (i.e. they can’t see the audience or judges, but we can see them) and if enough of the audience votes for them the doors open and they then perform the rest of their routine in front of the audience and judges and are then through to the next stage. If the doors don’t open they are not successful and basically just go home. A bit brutal. So, we were a bit disappointed not to have the power to vote, but were happy to have a good view and were going to enjoy it. And I had an aisle seat. Did I mention that?

However, after a short time the staff said that they would endeavour to move those of us in non-voting seats, into voting seats depending on size of party and if seats were still available. After much to-ing and fro-ing we found ourselves in voting seats, still with a good view, AND I still had an aisle seat! I can’t tell you how important this is to me. I don’t like being hemmed in (I don’t like sitting on a sofa with people either side of me (yes, even family members) and really don’t like being halfway along a row in the cinema/theatre/planes. It started with a need to be able to stretch my legs out but has in recent years become more of a phobia. So, I was very happy to say the least.

The “warm up guy” was someone we have seen before at other recordings that we’ve been to and he is always very entertaining. I was throughly enjoying myself until he said that we had to learn a dance routine, as they were filiming the grand opening (although we were the third session) and they would be involving the audience. Now, if I don’t like sitting halfway down a row, I REALLY don’t like dancing. I have two left feet, un-coordinated arms and no sense of rhythm. Not a good combination when it comes to shaking your thang. (I promise never to use that expression every again, very sorry). I hoped beyind hope that he was joking. Then they brought some dancers out and the choreographer! He wasn’t joking. We actually had to learn a routine. I was on the end of the row, I was conspicuous. I had to do it.

It was torture, but a sort of wierdly fun torture. Luckily, as we were standing in front of our seats we didn’t have much room for manouevre so it mainly involved arms and a couple of dips. I could just about handle it. I think. We ran through it a few times and then they wanted to record it with the judges coming out onto the stage and, on our cue, we were to do our bit. We did it, I have no idea how bad I was, but I think I was pretty awful. Now, during the run through the “warm up guy” had pinpointed a poor bloke on the front row (Martin) who he pronounced to be “dreadful”. (Poor Martin came in for some serious stick for the rest of the afternoon. I was relieved to be at the back. That could so easily have been me.) After the proper go at it, “warm up guy” wandered over for a pow-wow with the floor manager and came back shaking his head. We were going to have to do it again. And, yes, you guessed it, Poor Martin got the blame. “The rest of you were all brilliant, but Martin, Martin, Martin, what were you thinking?”. So, they got set up again, the judges all went off and the dancers got re-limbered up. And we did it again. And then again. Thankfully, by the third go I had just about got my arms going in the right direction. Not that I will be seen on the TV but by then it was a matter of pride – I had to get it right!

The rest of the afternoon flew by with ten acts for us to vote for. As a collective we voted six out of the ten through the doors. I voted for eight of them, but what do I know? Not enough people agreed with me about the other two! There were two acts that really stood out for both A and I, but the final act really did it for me and I found myself a bit misty eyed. There’s something about certain types of dancing that I find very emotive. This act was a group of boys/men (aged from 15-28) doing contemporary dancing (my favourite) and the theme was “acceptance”. They were all in black except one of the group who was in a red top. At the beginning he appeared to be being bullied by some of the group and as the dance progressed we saw him becoming accepted by them and then at the end he took off his red top and was all in black like the others. I’ve described it appallingly, too simplified. It was very beautiful and heart wrenching. I loved it. I really hope they make it far through the competition and will be routing for them!

On another note, I have been carrying on with my attempts at healthy eathing. I lapsed a bit while we were away and found myself eating bread and other things that I have been avoiding. It didn’t make me feel good and my tummy definitely suffered for it, let alone my weight. Since we’ve been home I’ve been avoiding bread and have been keeping K company on his Fast 800 diet. He needs to lose about 2 stone to be classed as healthy – he was teetering at the obese line before we went away, which I think acted as a bit of a wake-up call. He was like the condemned man having his last meal on the day we came home, tucking into a cooked breakfast, knowing it would be his last for a while! He’s read the relevant chapters of the book and is very determined. We’ve been planning meals together so that he can still have tasty food, just less of it, for a few weeks. He wants to lose a stone and then revert to the 5:2 plan that we both know works well. He can go back to doing a week of Fast 800 if he starts to struggle.

It’s all going OK so far, with no complaining and he’s been eating what we’ve decided on without asking for extras. This has helped me too, meaning that I am now the lowest weight I have been for about 5 years. I want to lose another 7 pounds to be comfortably in the healthy range for my height and this will make me almost back to my pre-children weight, which although I was never completely happy with at the time, would be a dream now! As we all know BMI is not an exact science as it doesn’t take into account waist measurement (which is a big issue, especially for women my age and up). I am pleased to report that, as of this morning, my piece of string from now meets easily around my middle, with a little bit to spare. I am very, very pleased with myself.

*he didn’t need much encouragement – he’s always happy to have a look around Selfridges at all the clothes that he can’t afford.

A letter to my husband

We’ve known each other nearly 23 years. That’s nearly half my life. When I think of it like that it doesn’t seem possible. Who’d have thought a holiday fling could last this long? I know we had our doubters and, at times, fleetingly, I’ve wondered if they were right, but here we still are. You and me. Me and you. (Don’t finish the song!)

You drive me mad at times. Well, OK a lot. You make stupid jokes, talk in silly voices, make horrible smells and you can be really infuriating when you ask me “where’s that thing?” – you actually expect me to know what the ‘thing’ is. You will try and carry on a conversation we had three hours or sometimes 3 days before and expect me to know what you are talking about. It’s maddening.

But, often we will start to say the same thing to each other. We will be thinking the same thing and go to say it at EXACTLY the same time. Then we do that stupid thing about being so in tune with each other, because we don’t take that stuff too seriously. I mean, we’ve been together 23 years, if we weren’t in tune with each other it would be worrying.

When I say pardon – because I haven’t heard what you muttered – you repeat only the last word, when I haven’t heard any of what you said. I have to ask you to say it ALL again. And then you say you cant be bothered. And then I realise that actually I am the annoying one because I never hear what you say mutter.

When I do hear what you say, I often take it the wrong way. You’ve said to me, more times than I care to remember over the years, that I take everything to heart and I need to stop being so sensitive. I used to argue that I can’t change who I am, when really you are right, I am too sensitive. But, one of us has to be! You don’t take much notice of silly upsets. You don’t take much notice of me when I am in a strop. You don’t think it’s necessary to say “sorry” all the time and I know I say it too much, not just to you but to everyone. I’m working on it. You know how to be sensitive when the occasion requires it. When my lovely Auntie B died and I was devastated you cancelled your meeting and came home (you should have been away overnight) and and held me tight.

You can be very stubborn and unyielding and then at other times you are easygoing and laid back and go with the flow. I like to plan ahead; I like to be in control. You are generally happy to allow me to plan and control. Until I go too far and then you will snap. Usually I will know, I know I’ve gone too far, pushed too much (just like I used to with Dad when I was younger) but I can’t help myself, and then I reserve the right to be upset when you blow your top.

It does my head in when you tell me something that one of the kids has done wrong – too long in the shower, still up at stupid o’clock, not clearing stuff away, leaving lights on – as if it’s all down to me, that I’m the one that “trained” them and me alone, therefore I am responsible for their failings. I know you don’t actually mean it like that, it’s just me taking things the wrong way again. What you’re actually saying is that it annoys you. I tell you to tell them, not me, I am not in charge. Ha ha.

We don’t argue much. I don’t like confrontation. I am a dweller, not a shouter. You say it as it is (well, how you see it anyway) and I clam up. And sulk. Our lovely A is more like you. T and I will apologise, say we know we were wrong. You and A hate to admit to any failings and will rarely apologise. If either of you ever do have to apologise we always joke that we should mark it on the calendar, it happens so rarely.

We can go on long car journeys and not say more than a few words to each other. Sometimes it really bothers me that we have nothing to say to each other. But then you say something stupid and I wish you would stop talking! I am not a great conversationalist so I can’t lay this one entirely at your door. On the other hand sometimes when we go out for dinner we will not stop talking for 2 hours, apart from when we’re chewing. Maybe we make more effort in public, ha ha.

You don’t show loads of affection. I know you love me – you tell me every night before we go to bed and you tell me every morning when we leave the house, but more than that, I just know. I’ve never been one for holding hands, especially when I’m walking – I need my arms to swing freely, or I can’t seem to keep in step with you. If I ask for a hug you will oblige, I’ve trained you well. T is the best at giving hugs though – he has the height advantage and I can rest my head on his shoulder. Because we’re the same height, you and I, I get a cricked neck if I try that with you. (By the way, I know we ARE the same height, you just like to think you are talller than me.)

You’re really helpful. You will do anything for anyone. If one of the kids needs anything, you are there. Not necessarily for the emotional, crying stuff or the personal, icky stuff, but on a practical, hammer-at-the-ready stuff you’re there. If a neighbour needs a power tool, you are the man for the job and will quite often end up doing the job for them. You’re hardworking, you’re conscientious. You set a good example to our kids on this front. They’ve got me for the emotional or icky stuff. I have no clue about hammers. It works.

You let me choose what to watch on TV, but complain when I fall asleep. You don’t laugh at me when I cry at 24 Hours in A&E. You don’t understand my fears, but you mainly overlook them. Except, you make me hold the ladder for you even though you know it terrifies me. You ask me to drive at the weekend but then tell me I shouldn’t park there or to be more careful of the alloys (even though you promised you wouldn’t) and I hate driving with you in the car. But you fill my car up with fuel because you know I hate doing it and you rarely take me up on my offer to do the late pick up when T has been to a party. You may not open doors for me or make sure I am with you when you nip out across a busy road when we are out, but you have your own version of chivalry, of caring.

When the kids were smaller we lost full sight of each other for a while. We stopped noticing each other in all the day to day-ness of having a young family. And of course, I wasn’t well for some of it. You coped with all that really well. But, now they’re older and they’re out most of the time and we have more time to ourselves, we’re seeing each other again, going out on our own, having afternoons and evenings just-the-two-of-us. And it’s lovely. It may be the hormones getting back into balance and I’m feeling better, but I am starting to like you a hell of a lot more again. As your Nan said, on our wedding day, you’re alright really. She thought the world of you and I reckon she was a pretty good judge of character.

Thanks for the last (almost) 23 years. We’ll keep planning, keep rolling along, keep not talking on long car journeys, keep this balancing act going that we have managed up til now. You and me, me and you.

A plan, another plan and some plans

T had a great time during his work experience week last week. It not only gave him an insight into some of the roles there are within the force, he met some great people, felt part of a team and got to hear different people’s perspectives on “the job”. He has been feeling under pressure from school to continue into Further Education, despite explaining that he wants to join the force. He has been told to think about applying for a policing or criminology degree. He just wants get on with being a police officer. We went to the Recruitment event which was held on Saturday at our nearest HQ. Although we were only there around 20 minutes, it was (combined with the chats he’d had during the course of the week with staff he was working with) incredibly useful. He spoke to a female PC who had come into the role later in life, having been a pub manager and PCSO in a previous incarnation. She seemed to take an instant shine to him and was happy to chat.

He can’t start his application until his 18th birthday which is over 12 months away. This was a bit disappointing, but she was reassuring that the process should only take around 4 months so he was not too disheartened. He will hopefully be able to apply for a degree apprenticeship:-

Apprenticeships allow you to train as a police officer, get paid as you learn and provide a permanent job when you qualify. The training is a partnership between you, the police force and a higher education institute. As well as practical on-the-job learning, 20 percent of your time will be spent studying in higher education.

This way he will get practical experience and training (and pay) for three years, with 20% of his time spent studying at a FE college or Uni. Everyone he has spoken to this last week have suggested that this is the best route; getting experience whilst studying, doing the job – not just writing about it – and getting paid at the same time. If he goes to Uni to do a policing degree he will not have to train for 3 years but he will likely be more respected by others in his team if he has had “on the ground “training. This has completely made his mind up that the apprenticeship is the way forward and we’re all very happy that he has ‘a plan’.

I have a plan. Over the weekend I was suffering with my stomach troubles. I’ve not been careful about what I am eating and, despite settling down considerably when I stated HRT, I have been struggling for a few weeks; eating the wrong things and feeling more and more uncomfortable. I have taken a long hard look at what I am eating and, although I have been calorie counting and exercising, I can’t ignore the fact that I eat a LOT of the wrong foods and exercise alone is not going to help with the digestion and other issues that I have. So, I have read up on it all and have decided to cut back hugely on my carb intake – I am not cutting it out completely but cutting back on anything but good carbs; I’ve bought wholemeal pasta and rice for when I do want carbs – I don’t want to have to cook two different meals and am hoping that I will be able to serve wholemeal to the rest of the family and they won’t notice (wishful thinking); I’ve got some nice lunch recipes – today I made chicken noodle soup (with some of the wholemeal spaghetti) and it was delicious, with enough leftover for lunch at work tomorrow – that don’t involve bread and I my delivery yesterday contained more veg than fruit and lots of fish and I am going to see what reaction I get from the rest of the family.

When we went to Sherwood Forest at Easter we had a problem with the hot tub and, without complaining or asking for any sort of ‘sweetener’, we were offered: a partial refund; 15% off our next visit (with no restriction on how long before we re-booked – they normally offer this anyway but you have to book within a certain number of weeks); early check-in and late check-out; and a free Entertainment Pack giving us Wi-Fi and films to watch. So, rather than leave it and leave it and not take advantage of the offer we have booked for October half term and we are going to the Forest of Dean. We’ve never been to this neck of the woods on holiday before and it will be nice to go somewhere different, whilst knowing that the accommodation will be good. The lodges are somewhere between Ross on Wye and Monmouth (where I have been – for a day when I worked for the building society) and the area looks beautiful. It’s a bit of a gamble going at the end of October, but it will be a break, we are not scared of a bit of wet weather and we will have films to watch if the weather beats us. We’ve only got a week in the summer this year so it’s nice to have a plan for later in the year.

In the summer, A and I are going to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, as I was able to get two tickets on the Kids Week offer. We haven’t been up to London on our own since we went to see Wicked three years ago so it will be nice to have a day out together. We might try and have afternoon tea somewhere – if I can find somewhere that doesn’t cost the earth! More research needed. We’ve heard great things about the show and can’t wait to see it. Hopefully it will be more successful than our trip to the screening of The Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet performance on Sunday. The performance was broken up into three acts. We sat through the hour-long first act and during the interval I asked A for her honest opinion – neither of us have seen a ballet before – and she said it was OK but she was glad she knew the story (she’s just read the play in English at school and has watched the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio) or she would be completely at a loss as to what the heck was going on and I had to agree. The dancing was lovely, the music was pretty good (I had no idea that the theme music from The Apprentice would make an appearance!) but without dialogue or even a bit of singing I felt a bit bored. Perhaps we are just not cultured enough or maybe R&J was not the ideal one to see for a first foray. However, we agreed to give the second act a go – it was only half an hour long – and then decide what to do about the final act. By this point by stomach was really painful and I really just wanted to come home and get my pyjamas on! but we endured it. It didn’t turn around for us and we left during the second interval! As it was a screening, there was some chat during the interval from the presenters – Darcy Bussell and Ore Aduba – with people involved in the production. It was explained that this particular interpretation of the ballet was a very “natural” and didn’t really contain many classical moves. Perhaps that was where we found it underwhelming, not being familiar enough with ballet to appreciate it. Perhaps if we went to see something more classic like Swan Lake we would be moved. I am not sure I want to take the chance and so I think we’ll stick to plays and musicals for now.

I like to move it, move it.

I haven’t managed to get out for a walk this week until this morning. I promised myself I wouldn’t let bad weather stop me because, as they say, there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing. I have decent walking boots and a waterproof coat – there’s even a pair of waterproof trousers in the cupboard from when T went on his DofE trip that would fit me if needed – so there’s really no excuse. Other than motivation. I was NOT motivated to go out in the pouring rain. However, I have exercised: Pilates on Monday night and some strength training (weights and lunges; that sort of thing) for half an hour, not too sweaty, at home on my own last night. It seems that there is some truth to this idea that moving your body makes you feel better. Who knew?

I branched out a bit again today. I normally just walk around the fields a few times and then home but last week I got carried away and rather than circling the fields I carried straight on and into Flamstead, the same route that AMJ and I often take. Rather than heading back in to the fields, I walked through the village and back along the A5. Not a great last part to the route as it can be pretty noisy but it’s exactly 3 miles door to door and suits me. There are a couple of sections in there which are a bit – what the 5 year old in me would call – spooky. If anyone was going to murder me on my walk they would be hiding in one of these spooky sections. I know, it’s ridiculous and I don’t know where I get it from. It’s just a thing. But, I was “brave” and went through, head high and not looking behind me. Ha ha. Everywhere smelled lovely, fresher and cleaner somehow after all the rain. The mud was not great though!

I’ve seen other people whilst out on my travels today: a neighbour on her way back from a run “you off out for a walk?” she said. Er, yes. Clearly. “Yes, I don’t have enough energy to go running like you”, I replied a little defensively to her back as she trotted off. (Yes, I still feel like walking might be seen as a bit of a lame form of exercise by some. She was just being polite and passing the time of day. I am overly sensitive); a group of 3 women running through the fields (in all that mud) with dogs attached to them via ropes or leads tied around their waists – like huskies pulling a human sledge. One woman had two dogs! I pulled into a gap in the crop to let them through. They all puffed a quick thanks. Not one of them looked like they were enjoying themselves, not even the dogs; and finally once I was back in the lanes, an older couple having a walk. They were smiley and said hello. As I passed the recreation ground in Flamstead I heard the (I suspect encouraging but to my sensitive ears positively terrifying) shouts of the boot camp leader geeing the group on. You may remember, I went once with Mrs L (she’s a self-confessed boot camp addict and loves it) but I have not returned, although I enjoyed it at the time. I was happy to keep walking. Me and my very muddy boots. I may not be running (with or without dogs) or boot camping it but my fitness is improving and, more importantly, my mood has improved hugely.

It seems that it is true that when you find something that works for you, it’s a Very Good Thing.

Little things

It’s funny how sometimes it’s the little things that can really get you down or, equally, make you feel better.

This weekend has been a bit of a come down. We had a lovely time away (apart from the sleeping side of things, obviously) and although it was nice to come home and sleep in our own beds; to have lovely sunshine still (helped with the washing); and to have 2 more days before the dreaded return to work and school, it was all just a bit flat. T was working on Saturday, K and I got on with chores while A finished some homework/revision and I just seemed to get grumpier and grumpier as the weekend progressed. Little things, like forgetting to serve the carrots with the Sunday roast (discovered in the main pan of the steamer when K started the washing up – far too late!) to name but one, just seemed to make things worse.

This all meant that I didn’t go to bed in a great frame of mind last night, and it wasn’t much better when I woke up. But, as the day has gone on, I have started to pick up.

I’ve coped with work (so far) which is great, as it’s my busiest day of the month again – end of one month with all the reporting to do and a new month to start buying more stock again – and I always get a tad worked up about it. But, so far so good.

I have managed to get in a walk before it gets too warm. I treated myself to a new Fitbit with some birthday money and it’s really helping to keep me motivated. I can monitor my heart rate with this new one and I can see on the app if I am in the right heart rate zone for fat burning. I’ve been disappointed lately that the increased walking, along with calorie counting, hasn’t seemed to help with weight loss. I’d started to get disheartened but am hoping this will get me moving the right way. I don’t plod along, but I do tend to go at the same steady pace. I’ve realised I probably need to alternate steady sections with a few faster pace sections and hopefully this will start to help!

And then an email dropped into my mailbox from a local hospice charity. I donated some clothes a few weeks back as I was having a cull and getting rid of anything I didn’t feel good in (my wardrobe has way more room in it now!). The email says that my donation has made around £60 for the charity, so I am well pleased. The old adage of doing a good deed to feel better about yourself has some truth in it. I’m not completely saintly, I did eBay some other stuff and earned myself around the same amount!

And, finally, Google has just asked me to look at some photos from this time last year. How thankful I am that I am sat here working, with the garden looking lovely outside the doors (my peony is about to bloom for the first time ever) and the kitchen is fully functioning and relatively tidy. This time last year, the garden was a mudbath, we had no sink, no worktops, no flooring and I was not a happy bunny. At least this year, I am not washing up in a bowl under the outside tap!

Little things.