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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Here, but not really here, but....oh, here anyway.

My annual August internet detox has failed miserably, so I'm going to try it again in October when I'm full of post-holiday good intentions.  Hmph.  Anyway it's soon September and I'll try and fit in as much blogging stuff as time allows.

I'm still battling anxiety and depression.  There, I said it, and I'm trying to do something about it. Whilst I am completely honest, open and upfront about what's wrong with me - something which I have struggled with for almost 15 years - why do others have such a problem with it?  Let's just sweep it under the carpet.  After all, when you have the ongoing Groundhog Day bore-a-thon of the Ice Bucket Challenge and the daily Facebook obsessions, then why bother with someone who does not share your interests and quite frankly, just doesn't give a flying f**k??  Try independence of thought sometime.  You might like it.

No offence to those who have actually done the Ice Bucket Challenge, and all the money it has raised for charity.  Some of the video clips are admittedly funny, but it's just not for me.  The most annoying thing about this well-meaning but egotistical exercise is the peer-pressure placed on those with a mind of their own, who choose not to join Facebook and/or participate in this daily nightmare without end.

"Who hasn't done it yet??"  It's like a revival of school bullying, reinvented for adult life.  If you don't do it, there must be something wrong with you.  Don't you like a laugh?  Well yes, I do as it happens, but as the saying goes, are we not at "peak bucket" yet?  And in a summer where I completely unravelled and found myself in a very dark place, getting someone to throw a bucket of water over me is the least of my worries.  Get a life, people.

It is just over two weeks until I go on holiday: now there is something which fills me with excitement.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The journey from Naw to Aye: my last word on the Scottish independence referendum

Finally, this is my last word on the subject.  (Aren't you all glad of that!)

In September 2013 I wrote a blog post on why I would be voting No in the Scottish independence referendum which takes place on 18th September.  By June 2014 the confirmed 100% No voter had become a Yes-with-reservations, as I devoured every intelligent argument (online of course - you won't find these in the Scottish press) about the reasons why Scotland should be an independent country, and a potentially successful one at that.  But I still had my doubts.

The referendum is now just over 5 weeks away.  I will be voting Yes.

So what changed my mind? Well, I have taken the time to explore all views and opinions, for and against, from all sides of the argument.  It has been a long time and a lot of work, but the research is worth it when the future of your country is at stake.  I have deliberately avoided the arguments from the SNP and Better Together, preferring to focus on rational, intelligent arguments and explanations by people who are independent (pardon the pun) of thought.  The Scottish National Party (SNP) may have facilitated the referendum, but I do not share their views and I can't stand its leader Alex Salmond.  And don't even start me on that awful TV debate last week between him and Better Together's frontman Alistair Darling: a shouting match which did neither side any favours.

I know more people who will be voting No than voting Yes.  Everyone to their own decision, but I would guess that many of those will not have taken the time or trouble to seek out all the information available, and only listened to the fear-driven arguments of much of the Scottish media.  I have chosen to take the time to make an informed decision. 

Breaking away from the UK is going to be a tough decision to make.  We have so much in common, we like a lot of the same things, we watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, we have shared experiences.  But Scotland's political life has always been more distinctively different from the rest of the UK: we have always been more left-wing/socialist in our outlook.  There is a lot of exciting debate coming from the radical left and who knows - this could even lead to the creation of a new political force in our country.  Whilst acknowledging there are certain parts of the country which will always vote for other parties, the fact remains that in all my life Scotland has always 'been Labour' and which in the past two Scottish Parliament elections, punished the party for its swing to the right in the rest of the UK.  This brought the SNP to power and ultimately gave that party a mandate to hold this infamous referendum. 

The decision to choose independence for Scotland is purely based on our right to run our own affairs.  It's a chance for Scotland to reinvent itself, to make a fresh start as a progressive country, to create a  fair and just society where people are not punished for being poor. As the southern part of the UK dangerously spirals towards an extreme right-wing future and a potential Tory/UKIP coalition, can you blame us for not wanting to be part of that?

The forthcoming referendum has had some positive side-effects.  Political apathy took hold of this country a long time ago, so who'd have thought that so many people are getting out there to attend public meetings?  I had never been to a political meeting in my life, but recently I attended a public meeting where more relevant points and questions were raised and addressed in one night than you would ever get in a year's worth of televised debates.  Finally, people are beginning to take an interest in the future direction of our country.  However, when it comes to voting time, I just can't see the majority of my countrymen and women voting yes. 

But I have finally made my own decision.  In answer to the question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?".  I will be voting yes.  In the words of John Lennon, Citizen Smith and Molly Smitten-Downes: power to the people.

The countdown

After some rather gloomy previous posts, I thought I'd move on to a bit more positivity now.  I have this little whiteboard on my bedroom wall where I'm now doing a little daily countdown to my holiday, and writing my daily fitness goals and ticking them off.

I've been doing quite well over the past couple of weeks.  I'm still sticking to Weight Watchers, but my weight loss is very slow.  The most important thing for me is to lose a few inches, which is more important than what the scales say.  So I have returned to the aerobics routines which I remember from the twice-weekly aerobics classes which I went to at the beginning of the 90s.  OK so I may be older and heavier, but I still have the moves :)

Slight but positive changes are beginning to happen.  Of course with only a few weeks to go until my holiday, there isn't too much time left to achieve any drastic weight/inch loss - and I don't like that anyway, because in the world of dieting, slow and steady wins the race - but there is enough time to make a difference.  Onwards!

Ho-ho-no

Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of my ambivalent feelings about Christmas - once it actually comes, I enjoy spending it with my loved ones and of course I enjoy the week off work.

However, the lead-up always feels like someone's got their hands around your neck and squeezing tighter and tighter: the packed shops, the Christmas songs on repeat from October (I feel so sorry for those people working in retail having to suffer all that), the overpriced meals in restaurants, the Christmas lunches/nights out, the forced jollity, the Secret Santas, the pressure which builds and builds due to additional tasks at work, the general view that if you're childless by choice that Christmas is somewhat more worthless for you, need I go on?

But before all that, the first danger signs of the C word appear.  Today I read this and became extremely annoyed: http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/lifestyle/u/summer-is-over-retailers-put-christmas-cards-on-the-shelves.1407825651

Summer is a very short season in this country.  Can we please, please be allowed to enjoy what's left of it?  It's only August.  The rain may be back, the temperatures plummeting and the nights are getting darker, but officially it is still summer.  We will be in winter soon enough.  I've been reading a lot about mindfulness and the importance of living in the moment, yet no-one told that to the retail industry.  So we have Easter Eggs and Valentine cards in January, summer clothes appearing in February, winter clothes appearing in August, and months of the pre-Christmas hell.  I wish they would stop this acceleration of the seasons.  The only exception to this is, of course, Eurovision season!  That goes on for months and months, and that's just fine by me :)

Monday, 4 August 2014

An open letter to my unwanted, unwelcome guest

NB: To male readers of this blog, you will want to ignore this post. To younger female readers, meet the Ghost of Hormonal Future.  To older female readers, some (or all) of this might just be familiar....

You hovered around for a couple of years and caused some minor havoc, before you moved into my life almost a year ago.  With your arrival, you immediately banished that other unpleasant and painful monthly visitor.  Which admittedly provided some cause for celebration, although this was brief, as you then proceeded to wreck my life in many ways with almost debilitating consequences.

Where there was once a reasonable body temperature, you brought excessive heat and sweating which recently intensified to a stage where it made almost every minute of every day unbearable.  'Hot flushes' does not begin to explain this almost permanent, unpleasant state.  Even for this social-phobic, you have made it virtually impossible for me to be in any social situation.  Purple is my favourite colour, but a purple face with water pouring out of it is so not a good look.

Where there was once sleep, there has not been a night since your arrival that I have been able to have a full night's sleep, hell no, not when I can wake up at least 5 or 6 times a night.

To a once happy, calm and pleasant person, you have brought depression, anxiety, mood swings, panic attacks, palpitations, irritability, negativity.  To a once overweight but reasonably fit and healthy person, you tipped me over the borderline into obesity - what a horrible word, but that's what my BMI is telling me - and you made it so much more difficult to lose this extra weight which was gained so quickly.  It is hard to believe now that just 3 years ago I was size 14, my perfect weight and size.  That feels like another time and place now.

It's strange now to think that I once looked forward to your arrival: that this would signal the end of one chapter and the beginning of a whole new one.  "The change of life", they called it.  Well, it was certainly a change, but not for the better.  I can't go anywhere without wondering if the temperature will be too hot.  Even the beautiful summer temperatures of recent weeks became a strain.  And in the winter, my favourite seasonal garments - scarves and jumpers - are now off limits as I can't stand the heat.  Every thing I do, every place I go, every decision I make seems to be influenced by you, piling on the misery when I am trying to make the best of life.

Now I hear you telling me that what you have brought me is not an illness, but a natural progression, the end of a hormonal cycle.  The one thing we can be sure of is that every woman will go through this.  Fine, then, but I have also read that you could be around for up to 10 years, maybe more?  How can anyone possibly stand this level of discomfort, day after day? But I'm not going to be beaten. I am a great believer in natural/herbal remedies, and am working my way through all possible options to deal with your impact, and every day I'm trying to find a new way not to let you grind me down.  I'm currently fighting you with a fitness regime which hopefully will not only get those extra pounds off, but will also give me the mental and physical strength to cope with the daily challenges you throw at me.  It will get better.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Finding my way back

After the extreme depression and alienation of recent weeks (and gloomy tweets), it is a relief to write a blog post which isn't soaked in doom and gloom.  Yes, I'm hoping that I have finally turned the corner.  I woke up on Friday morning and for the first time in weeks, the massive cloud had lifted, the fog started to fade and it was as if I had finally got myself back again.  Other little things have happened too, which will probably help me to move onwards and upwards in the coming weeks and months. 

Oh, and we have finally booked our holiday to Croatia in September!  These days of course, we can't really plan too far ahead, but fingers crossed that all is well at that time, and I finally get to fulfil one of my outstanding holiday ambitions at long last.

One thing which never changes is my continuing quest to lose weight, and have started yet again.  I've lost 3lbs in two weeks, a slow but steady start.  The unexpectedly warm weather of the past few weeks - no, I never thought I'd ever see myself writing that sentence either! - has been very nice, but it's been too warm to throw myself back into an ongoing exercise programme.  I have been back on the exercise bike though: it's a great way to exercise, although I'll need to get back to doing my aerobics if I want to get the desired results in the coming weeks. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Wanted: daylight

So anyway, the depression has been eating away at me again, I've been in a bit of denial and haven't really acknowledged it until the past week.  I shouldn't feel this low during the summer months, but the fact remains that it is happening, and it all came to a head over the last couple of weeks.  I have my own theory on what's really behind it.  So I had put it out there, that I'm suffering from a summer variant of SAD, and I know the reason for it.  All things being well, this may be resolved by the end of this month.  Or not.  Here's hoping anyway...

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately (that's what the noise is) and after the stresses of recent months, I'm trying to find a way back to the old happy me, rather than the current unrecognisable unhappy variation.  They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  7 years ago, when I started blogging, I was in a bit of a dark place.  I know that it is a bit of a cliché, but blogging really rescued me and changed my life. 

Over the past couple of years I've had other priorities, other things eating into my time, and just not enough hours in the day, which has completely irritated me, and the blogs have suffered as a result.  I want to get back to that good place.  I want to start blogging again, to recapture the buzz which I once felt.  Times have changed: mainstream music is mainly crap, and I can't really connect with it any more.  But there are so many things which I still want to write about, and it's about time I got back there. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Here's what I made earlier

Been a long time since I did the blogging thing, so time for a catch-up!

Firstly, I've been on holiday over the past week - a welcome "staycation" with a couple of fab day trips which I'm hoping to blog about very soon (my version of 'very soon' at the moment is any time between 4 to 7 weeks...)
 

I finally took the plunge and bought a Galaxy SIII mini smartphone four weeks ago.  I am surprised that I have not gone bald since then, as I've been tearing my hair out over even the most simple aspects of it.  It's a good enough phone, but why are these bloody things not supplied with a manual?

Talking of hair, I have made several attempts to lighten my too-dark brown hair, and now I have some kind of half red, half brown dip-dye-in-reverse thing going on.

After weeks of outrageous weight gain, I managed to lose a few pounds by sticking to WeightWatchers Online.  Then proceeded to undo all the good work over the past 9 days.  Oh well...back to work tomorrow and back to the discipline of counting daily points.  I feel I'm in a good position to lose a few more pounds/inches for our big summer holiday, which is just 11 weeks away.   Croatia is calling - but there are so many options that I'm getting a headache just deciding where to go!

So I believe there's some football tournament on at the moment?  Yes we are in the midst of the World Cup, but if I'm honest, the first phase has pretty much passed me by - too many matches, too little time, and no prime time highlights programmes.  I'm trying to keep up with the knockout phase though. 

At long last I managed to post my Eurovision 2014 reviews over at EuropeCrazy.  Hoping to post the Copenhagen holiday diaries pretty soon too :)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The countdown is on...but I'm still a 'don't know'.

We are now hurtling towards September 2014 and Scotland's independence referendum.  Previously I was a confirmed 'No' voter but things have changed over recent months.  I've decided to avoid the 'yes' and 'no' campaigns, both of which seem to resort to childish mudslinging at every turn.  Neither of these campaigns would convince me, so I have tried to ignore the campaigns and gather information and educate myself on all aspects of independence, both positive and negative. Heck, I've even downloaded and read the White Paper (and was even still awake at the end of it!).

Although I briefly swayed towards voting yes, I still have some major doubts about whether we could succeed on our own, for example in terms of economy and defence, so the yes camp still has a lot of convincing to do.  However, the idea of establishing a fairer society is highly appealing.  The opportunity to create a fairer benefits system, or abolishing the bedroom tax, would be a positive aspect of independence.

Historically, this country has always been more left-wing than its southern neighbour, and I still believe that a lot of the SNP's success in the last two Scottish elections was down to protest votes and disillusionment about Labour's failings during the Blair era.  However, in an independent Scotland, we will inevitably be led by politicians.  With all their MPs removed from Westminster, this would be a perfect opportunity for Scottish Labour to reinvent itself as a party to represent ordinary people in Scotland, who watch on in horror as the Cameron regime drags the UK further down into a climate of intolerance and hate, with seemingly no opposition in sight and the possibility of a future Tory/UKIP coalition ruling the country.  Do we really want to be part of that?  It's interesting that Salmond and Sturgeon are now targeting disaffected Labour voters like myself and trying to convince us that a Yes vote does not necessarily mean a vote for the SNP. 

I have still to be convinced however, about how independence would work in practice, in a number of areas.  Even the most simplistic matters become complicated.  Just over a week ago, I queued with my fellow passengers at border control at Edinburgh Airport, on our return from Denmark.  At that point I wondered about the differences in our national status, post-independence, as travellers from Scotland to Europe.  Would we then need to join a different queue, for 'non-EU' travellers?  As a newly independent country, Scotland would need to reapply to become an EU member.  How can we really be sure that acceptance into that 'club' would be a formality? 

There are so many unanswered questions around our national status, and the economic cost of independence from the UK.  On the one hand - yes, in an ideal world we should be an independent country.  Why not?  But the whole 'UK' thing has been around so long - give or take 500 years - that it's only natural to wonder whether we would be doing the right thing by divorcing from the UK.    How do we defend ourselves, for example?  How do we pay for all the transition, when many  'UK' businesses are already getting uncomfortable about the idea of an independent Scotland?  You can't count on oil, Mr Salmond, no matter what you say.  Just where will all the money come from?

As I said, so many unanswered questions.  Perhaps the referendum should have been extended to the whole of the UK, rather than just Scotland: that would have provided a more accurate result.  Oh, and by the way, could they make referendum voting compulsory please?  It's hard to take something seriously when only 30-odd per cent actually bother to turn up at the polling station.  This is the future of our country, after all. 

To conclude: I'm still in the 'don't know' camp. With 3 and a half months to go till the referendum, will someone please convince me one way or another?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Onwards and upwards - now we need a Copenhagen hotel!

4 weeks on, my mum is making slow and steady progress, particularly over the past few days - dare I say she has turned a corner?

Anyway it's looking good for myself and faithful travelling companion for our planned short break to Copenhagen in just over three weeks time.  In an ideal world I would have been there for ESC week but the rip-off hotel prices would have blown our holiday budget for the year (and beyond).  It was a difficult decision to make, but eventually we decided to hit the Danish capital a couple of weeks after ESC.

The flights were booked some time ago, but now we will need to book a hotel.  After some considerable research over the past couple of weeks, I'm none the wiser.  What's the best area to stay in, for a short break to Copenhagen?  All helpful suggestions welcome :))

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Some small steps forward, some small steps back

Mum continues to amaze me with her recovery, considering how seriously ill she was two weeks ago.  For such a frail little thing, she is such a fighter.  Over the past week she has made incredible progress, however there was an unexpected setback this week which has required medical attention.  Anyway, the nurses are in every day for monitoring visits, and she continues to get the rest and relaxation which she needs.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

8 days later

After 8 days in hospital, mum is home, and I am happy.

However, it is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another: the recovery.  Which is going to take a bit of time, due to her lack of mobility and general state of health.  But on the plus side, out go the hospital visiting marathons :) Now she is home, and no-one's clock-watching and she can recover at her own pace, in her own time.

As for me, being my mum's carer is a pleasure and a privilege, so it's all good :))

Monday, 31 March 2014

Busy doing....everything

Mum is still in hospital, and apart from my intensive visiting schedule, I'm reinventing myself as domestic goddess (ha!) and doing some painting, cleaning and decluttering around the house this week. 

I forgot how therapeutic (and messy!) painting can be.  You do feel some sense of reward at the end of it, seeing a room transformed into something fresh and new again.  I thought it would be a good idea to paint mum's room, to make it all fresh for her coming home, whenever that will be.  Last night, I painted for 3 hours and really enjoyed it.  Oh, and I would recommend 70s disco tunes for a painting soundtrack :)  I'm hoping to finish the room tonight after coming home from evening visiting. 

It seems no time since a couple of weeks ago when I was shortlisting my clothes for the holiday-that-never-was, when I discovered so many items of nearly new or unworn clothing in my wardrobes.  Some good stuff in there too, but it's taking up too much room and it has to go.  (Top tip: never buy clothes and say you'll slim into them later, it doesn't work).  I am an obsessive clothes-shopper and hardly a week goes by without me buying something new, so it's definitely time for another clearout and bag-filling for the local charity shops. 

And as for the cleaning, well I've invested in one of those steam mop thingies so hopefully once I get to work with that, the place will be gleaming!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

It's getting better :)

It's been a little while since I posted on here, so let's recap.

I never lost all the weight I wanted to lose - but I lost 7lbs.
I got an exercise bike and went from crippling pain to power-walking fitness again.
Work's still tough, but it's getting easier.
Weeks of insomnia completely stopped me functioning, but I'm finally sleeping again.
I caught another very nasty cold, but I'm now trying to shake off the leftovers.
I'm still a long way from where I want to be,  but I'm getting there.

Best of all: I'm going on holiday in a few days, and that's the best feeling in the world.  Now I need to get on with the packing and preparation for our first ever trip to Cyprus :)

Of course you can expect all the usual gratuitous food photography and travel tales when I eventually publish those holiday diaries...!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A grumpy old insomniac with an exercise bike

After the physical and mental stresses and strains of recent weeks, I finally decided last weekend that enough was enough.  I bought an exercise bike.


I've only been using it for 6 days but can tell you that it has made such a difference to my physical fitness already, and I'm able to walk again at a speed beyond crawling, after months of inactivity, weight gain and comfort eating saw my legs just virtually give up, in sympathy with the recurring left foot problem.  Although even that is beginning to subside and I'm no longer in constant pain. 

Unfortunately, I'm struggling to pull myself out of a pretty dark place just now.  Insomnia night after night can leave you struggling to function - that's just one of many things getting me down.

God this is getting to be such a depressing blog.  I want happy Laura back!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

And in other news...

It's a long story but the other week I stupidly damaged my laptop.  It's still working though, apart from a damaged screen, but now the touchpad has decided to start messing with my mind.  Today I invested in a wireless mouse.  Now I've never had one of these before but I'm quite impressed - yes I'm easily amused. 

I've decided to wait until June before having it repaired, for the sole reason that February to May is the most crucial period of the year - national finals, Eurovision, spring holiday planning, summer holiday planning - in other words it's a time not to be separated from ye olde laptop and all the worry about how long a repair will take.  And then of course when it's wired up to the telly with the HDMI cable, all is well :)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Today's bulletin

Juggling stress, anxiety, exhaustion, depression and that whole feeling of being completely overwhelmed...and even the diet's on hold for a couple of weeks as that would just completely push me over the edge. 

There is some happy stuff coming up very soon though, so it's not all bad.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Dino's in Glasgow is closing! :(

In the overcrowded environment of Glasgow's restaurant scene, three cuisines stand tall: Italian, Chinese and Indian.  And when it comes to Italian restaurants, one stood above all others: Dino's in Sauchiehall Street. It feels like it's been there for ever - but the sad news came today that Dino's is closing down (for reasons unknown at the time of writing) and becoming a bank.  (Yeah, like Glasgow city centre needs another bank.)  Anyway I thought it would be the perfect time for a post about the legend that is Dino's!




As I said earlier, Dino's has always been there.  Sitting proudly slap bang in one of Glasgow's busiest shopping areas, not down a side street or a back alley, it was a special place.  It was, for me, "the people's restaurant", a place which was inclusive to all, and always welcoming.  Many a cold winter's day was immediately made better by a trip to the 'cafe side' and no trip to the equally legendary Glasgow Pavilion theatre was complete without a lunch or dinner at Dino's.

Step through that door and you immediately step into Italy - Italian music wafting through the speakers, waiters busily buzzing around, and the smell of pizzas, coffee and ice cream.  This restaurant has a special atmosphere which is a rarity - only the now defunct Bath Street eatery Sannino ever managed to capture that same unique atmosphere for me.  The fast-growing and impressive Tony Macaroni chain may be growing in popularity, but while it has good food and a good atmosphere, it's not the iconic Dino's, is it?

You always were guaranteed a good meal at Dino's, whether pizza or pasta or anything else on the varied menu.  And you always got a damn fine cappuccino.

Time is running out to enjoy the Dino's experience, as the restaurant is due to close on March 16th.  Get in there while you can and show your support.  I doubt if anyone will be as enthusiastic about the Halifax bank which will replace it :(

(pictures courtesy of www.dinosglasgow.co.uk)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

My winter shutdown

I started 2014, not with New Year resolutions doomed to fail, but with realistic, clear-headed goals. One thing was for sure: I didn't want a repeat of 2013, which despite its high points (mostly holiday-related) will be remembered for unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety which led to comfort eating, weight gain and ill health.

So, with January almost over, I'm taking stock.  6 lbs lighter than I was at the start of 2014, feeling considerably fitter, the foot injury's gone from crippling to manageable.  I've had a new mattress for exactly two weeks which has improved my sleep immensely, and the other health problem I've had since September is finally being kept in check.  There has been a lot of decluttering at EuropeCrazy HQ, so I'm not going to end up on one of those 'world's biggest hoarder' documentaries after all, and the local charity shops have been the beneficiaries of some rather fab brand-new-but-doesn't-fit-me-anymore clothing.  So, it's all good.

However, it would appear that in my day-to-day life that I seem to have reached a level of social detachment of Saga Noren-type proportions, which has raised some concern that I might be depressed again, when in fact I'm not. I may have 'shut down' for the winter but I'm just in the zone.  I'm focused.  Just trying to get stuff done.  You know how they always say on a flight that you should fit your own oxygen mask first?  Well, that's what I'm doing....getting my own life in order so that I can deal with all the challenges ahead, including forthcoming changes in my working environment.  The next few weeks will be very trying, but there are also good personal things happening which might just balance the trepidation which change brings.

So, all in all, I'm getting organised.  Blogging, as ever, has been a casualty of 'other stuff' but I'll try and fit a few posts in here and there when I can :))

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The other side of the story

We didn't know him, yet over the past couple of days he became "our" child.  And now we mourn. 

When little Mikaeel Kular was reported missing from his home in Edinburgh a couple of days ago, he immediately went from being just an ordinary three year old child to being the centre of attention in all our lives.  The little boy had been put to bed by his mother on Wednesday evening, and the next morning he was gone, seemingly having disappeared overnight.  Fuelled by non-stop news coverage, he was the main topic of conversation.  Where could he be? How could he have got out of the family flat on his own?  Who could have taken him when there was no evidence of forced entry?  We all hoped and prayed for his safety, but this morning the country woke to the devastating news that Mikaeel's body has been found in Fife, the home of a relative is being searched, and that his mother has been detained.  That's all we know just now. 

I can't find the words right now to describe how angry, hurt and horrified I feel about this.  But plenty of others can, because Twitter court is in session.  We don't know the full story as yet, but one thing is for sure:  Twitter court is already passing sentence and is ruling that it's all social work's fault. 

Yes, yet again a child dies and the social services are to blame.  Just sit back now and watch the media outcry, as the usual indignant suspects take to their laptops.  They will say that Mikaeel died because social work was not doing its job. 

They will not say that social services budgets have been cut to ribbons, a caring profession brutally undermined by the most uncaring government since the Thatcher regime.......as inexperienced social workers with unacceptably high caseloads, face burnout almost from the minute they're qualified.  Social work staff are doing the best that they can do, with the minimum of resources, to help families exist and survive amid a timebomb of mental health issues, drug and alcohol misuse and real poverty - the DWP's got to meet its benefit sanctions target, remember - and in these sick and sad times, it's harder than ever to improve the quality of people's lives when they are being eroded by the day.

Never mind that the high profile murders of children in recent years were, in many cases, an act of unforgivable evil by a parent, a relative, or a mother's partner who was not the child's natural father.  All services involved with children, not just social work, have a role to monitor children but they can't do this 24/7.  Short of having someone live-in with every family 'known to social work', or CCTV cameras in every home, this is an impossible task. 

There will of course, be an inquiry.  But the strange thing is that at the time of every inquiry into why a child was murdered, we don't hear the government of the day stepping in to increase the funding for social services, for increased free nursery provision, for mental health support/counselling, for services to empower women, for better education, for valuable services such as the Citizens' Advice Bureau or Women's Aid.  We don't hear anyone banning those hideous payday loan providers or those high street shops which will sell anyone a sofa or a large-screen TV as long as they're willing to pay it back at 50% interest.  We don't hear anyone taking steps to reform the buy-to-let housing market which has led to people living in unacceptable housing conditions whilst the landlords make big money - the sections of the media which demonise people on housing benefit always forget to mention that this goes to those landlords.  And we don't hear anyone attempting to improve the quality of vulnerable people's lives.  Who would have thought in this day and age that we would need food banks?

None of this, of course, may have had anything to do with Mikaeel's death.  It was, as I said earlier, an act of unforgivable evil.  Yet in such a dark time there was one positive factor - the way the local community in Edinburgh came together to search for him, in the hope that he would be found.  In a time when 'community spirit' is a thing of the past - how many of you even know your next-door neighbour's name? - it was inspiring the way everyone came together.  It's just a shame that it had to be in such dark circumstances. 

Rest in peace, Mikaeel.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Hello 2014!



Since my last (rather gloomy) post on here, some things have changed.

I have a new moose, which I bought at the Edinburgh Christmas market last month.  That was a pretty fab day, despite the torrential rain which has been pretty much a daily occurrence over the last few weeks.

The Christmas and New Year break was pretty fabulous, thanks to the most simple pleasures in life - lots of rest and relaxation and quality time spent with my two favourite people, lots of lovely gifts, a Christmas dinner triumph and ....happiness.

We have now arrived in 2014 and it finds me in a much more calm, upbeat mood.  Things haven't really changed that much, but I've entered the new year with a more upbeat attitude and a determination that it's not going to get me down.

After the stress and weight gain of recent months, I decided to rejoin WeightWatchers Online between Christmas and New Year, and have very positive news to report.  I have lost 5lbs in the past two weeks, and am pretty delighted about it.  A combination of hard work, determination and being very focused on mini-goals rather than less achievable targets.  Unfortunately I'm still struggling with the (inexplicable) foot injury/cramp, which has slowed me down to power-limping rather than power-walking :(

Nevertheless, onwards and upwards!  Better times ahead, and hopefully some holiday news soon!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Tis the season to be grumpy

Apologies for this being a rather long ranting post but I need to get it out of my system.  As I get older I am becoming increasingly more grumpy and intolerant, and I seem to be firing on all grumpy cylinders at the moment. 

And nothing raises my grumpy levels more than this time of year.  Not Christmas itself - I actually love Christmas and if it didn't exist they would have to invent it to brighten up these cold, dark winter days.  However, the irony hasn't escaped me that for what is supposed to be a happy, hopeful and peaceful time, it's anything but.

The torrent of Christmas TV ads with dreary slow songs (a.k.a. "the John Lewis effect") all urging you to spend spend spend, as if that will really make a difference to your life.  TV shows and ads building up an unrealistic expectation of what Christmas should be like, rather than the reality. 

Particularly in these times of economic gloom, Christmas overspending is not only wrong, it's offensive and obscene.  Cash-strapped families are being placed under further stress and resorting to vile moneylenders in the respectable guise of 'payday loans' so that their children won't be bullied at school for having the wrong type of presents.  

Our parents, growing up during and after the war years, literally had nothing.  This period, when all you got in your stocking was a piece of fruit and an annual, or a doll if you were lucky, is often mocked by comedians.  Yet when you speak to those who lived through that time, they have only happy and fond memories of their childhood Christmas. 

Now, people buy televisions for two year old children - WHAT???? - and it seems that your love can only be measured by how many multiples of £100 you spend on someone.  WRONG.  Will they love you any more?  No.  They'll just wait for you to top that, next year. While there are people in the world who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

Then there is the  'I must buy a present for...' syndrome.  Why must you buy a present for some obscure nephew or other?  I'm with the money saving guru Martin Lewis on this one: 'ban unnecessary Christmas presents'.  Give the money to charity instead. 

(Oh and whilst I'm on a rant, if you're clearing out good stuff, give it to a charity shop, rather than one of those places which give you about 50p for 10 kilos or whatever.  I once saw someone I know, who is so well-off she only needs to work part-time, going into one of those 'we buy your clothes for cash' places with bags and bags of stuff.  Is there no limit to some people's greed?)

Then there are the subtle reminders that your Christmas experience is never going to be worth as much as theirs...

"of course you don't have many people to buy for, do you?"
I am regularly reminded that you-are-not-a-parent-therefore-Christmas-is-immediately-devalued.  The "Christmas is for the children" brigade.  There seems to be this notion that Christmas is irrelevant if you live in a child-free world.  Well, it's not.  It's better. 

"of course you're not having a big dinner, are you?"
The subtle reminders that you-don't-have-a-big-family-therefore-Christmas-dinner-is immediately-devalued.  I'm not the person slaving over a hot turkey for hours on end!  (We have never had turkey for Christmas dinner).

The Christmas Card list

As almost all of our closest family relatives are no longer with us, the 'family' is more a group noun for various cousins and second cousins whom you never see from one year to the next.  In fact, they only get in touch with you when there's a family funeral.  Funny how they never get in touch when there's good news! 

But they should know how to spell your surname.  Or at least write the name of the town you live in on the envelope.  Oh, and it would be nice if they told us that they had a new partner so we could include their name on the card.  And one more thing, can they please tell us when they've moved house before we sent their card to the old address?  These are not just hypothetical gripes, they're all true and have all happened to us over the past couple of years.  (Before you suggest 'e-cards', my mum's in charge of the card sending and she'll have none of that). 

The forced jollity

This one's mainly in relation to office night outs. I know it's the season of goodwill and all that, apart from the people you like (who happen to be all the people in my section - yes I'm very lucky) would you really want to be stuck at a table with someone you can't stand?  And what's the point of getting yourself glammed up to go to a night out to eat mass-produced substandard food followed by dancing to the musical equivalent of Guantanamo Bay?  Doesn't sound so appealing now, does it?

Let's get the deccies up!

Last week, the office Christmas decorations were going up and I couldn't even raise a smile, never mind any enthusiasm.  Which is a shame really, as the more enthusiastic and festive members of the team put in a lot of effort and did a great job.  I'm just too stressed, anxious and agitated at the moment to care.  The lead-up to Christmas in my office is always a stressful one, and this year is more stressful than most.  It's been the busiest year I can ever remember, and some of us will still be feeling the fall-out of it for a while to come... :(

Shop till you drop

I've bought most of my presents online this year.  It's the best way to go if you want to avoid the 'joys' of the traditional town/city shopping experience, bad-tempered parents, screaming children and Bing Crosby singing 'Happy Holiday'.  Oh and if you need to go to Primark, you'd better be prepared to queue just to make your way from one end of the shop to the other!

All these rants aside, I do love Christmas.  Because the best Christmas is what you make it, the one that makes you happy, the one that is on your own terms, not the one that people think you should have.  Now, I'm off to wrap a few (necessary) presents!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

What part of 'I'm not interested' don't you understand?

Cold calling is a menace these days.  As if all the usual PPI/double glazing/conservatory nonsense isn't bad enough, it's even worse when you're being constantly harassed by a company which you receive a service from. My ISP in this instance.

Persistent calling about the same thing.  "You receive this service from us, but did you know that you could save blah blah blah per cent if you switch your phone/TV etc....".

Now times are hard these days and everyone's out to save money wherever they can, but do we really need reminding 3 or 4 times a day that "if you switch....."?  I know from talking to some other people that they've had some negative experiences when they switched phone/internet/TV services.

Even though you tell the caller that you're not interested in changing at this time and you will contact them should you change your mind, that's not enough for them.  They will call and call and call until they break you down.  But I've got news for them - this is just making me more and more determined not to take what they're offering.  I've even made a complaint to the ISP about it.  Which is presumably going straight to Deleted Items. 

Strangely, since I made that complaint there has been a noticeable drop in my internet connection speed....

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Welcome to October / BMI, baby!

It's been a long week.  Although it was my birthday last Monday, it was overshadowed by the triple threat of:
  • returning to work after 2 weeks off
  • The-Virus-Which-Refuses-To-Die despite antibiotics and every lozenge and decongestant imaginable;
  • the impending doom of jury service.
So as you can imagine, I've had better birthdays, although the lovely presents and cards certainly softened the blow of another year on the slippery slope towards The-Next-Big-Landmark-Birthday....

Work wasn't that bad after all. I'm trying to adopt a more positive attitude to avoid the stress and anxiety of the past few months repeating itself.  

The virus still refuses to die, although the cough is no longer coming at millisecond intervals.  Could do without my voice breaking up in mid-phone-call at work though; I start speaking as myself and end the sentence as Barry White.  

Oh and the jury service....along with a couple of hundred other people, I attended court but wasn't selected. It turned out to be a very unsettling week for this couple of hundred people, as we had to phone court daily - twice daily some days - to find out if we were required.  Happily it was all resolved by Friday and we can all get on with our lives as normal for another couple of years or so before the dreaded citation envelope drops through the letterbox once again. 

I ended the week with a sense of triumph and a delicious birthday dinner with faithful travelling companion at our favourite local Indian restaurant.  

Talk of food brings me onto one of this blog's regular topics....I've tried lots of different ways to lose weight, but one thing is clear.  It has to go. 

My health's not as great as it used to be, and the doctor told me my blood pressure is "slightly high" which after the stress of the last few months, doesn't surprise me in the least.  I've been reading a lot about BMI - no, not the now-defunct airline, although I wouldn't mind another holiday! - body mass index, which defines whether you are 'normal', 'overweight' or 'obese'.  http://www.nhs.uk/tools/pages/healthyweightcalculator.aspx?WT.mc_id=101007 

Obese starts at 30, and my current BMI is 29.  So major alarm bells are ringing all over the place.  I've decided not to go for any quick fixes, but focus my next weight loss and fitness plan over the next 12 months, between now and my next birthday.  To get my BMI down from 29 (overweight/borderline obese) to 25 (overweight/borderline normal) will actually involve losing 24lbs which is a big ask.  But over 12 months that just works out at losing 2lbs per month, which sounds so much easier and 'do-able'.  Here goes....

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

(COUGH! COUGH! COUGH!).


Holidays excepted, the last 11 days have been pretty horrendous thanks to what started as a cold and turned into a horrible throat infection, leaving me with one of the worst, prolonged, forceful, painful coughs and sinus infections ever.  Every decongestant, pastille, lozenge and the always-reliable Olbas Oil (pictured above) was tried but only turned out to provide short-term relief.  Finally, I admit defeat.  I give up.  The doctor's appointment is made - bring on the antibiotics and whatever else they want to prescribe!

Hopefully whatever I'm prescribed tomorrow will help to salvage the last days of my fortnight off...

Yes? No? None of the above?


One year from now we will know whether or not Scotland has voted for independence from the UK.  The independence referendum takes place on 18th September 2014

The question, of course, is "Should Scotland be an independent country?".  Well yes of course in an ideal world it probably should be, but we are a country already.  We have our own flag, national education system, justice system, parliament, banknotes, national football team, etc etc. 

But it is not an ideal world. 

Scotland has not recovered from the destruction brought by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s as a brutal punishment from our traditionally left-wing country not voting for her party.  Unemployment, child poverty, declining living standards, lack of housing have all been major issues in this country, even in the 'boom years' before the banking crash hit in 2008.  There are particular cultural issues in this country which remain unresolved - sectarianism, anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug use.  Would independence change any of these issues?  I very much doubt it.  Scotland needs fixed before it can even consider going down the independence route.  Slap bang in the middle of a worldwide economic recession is the worst possible time to even think about the financial costs of independence for example. 

The SNP's win at the last Scottish parliament elections gave them a mandate to run an independence referendum.  After all these years in power, I'm still not sure what the SNP stands for apart from independence, and the cult of personality around its leader Alex Salmond and sidekick Nicola Sturgeon.  I'll say one thing for them - their management of the media is fantastic.  Not a night goes by without them being on the Scottish news on TV.  Do they ever take a day off?  Probably not.  But they are also supposed to be running this country.  Yet they remain a one-issue party, only occasionally throwing out crumbs to all the disillusioned socialists, myself included, but always coming back to "....in an independent Scotland..." and so it goes on. 

Salmond has been very smart in his choice of 18th September 2014: coming off the back of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games which I guess he's hoping has the same national-pride effect as London 2012 had on the UK as a whole.

My disinterest in the independence cause could probably be traced back to my own non-Scottish ancestry which has always given me a more international outlook.  But regardless of our origins and ancestry, apathy is in our blood - just look at the turnout for local/European elections, for example, and most people you speak to are more concerned about trying to find enough money to feed themselves or to pay bills, and couldn't give a hoot about the whole boring political circus.  (Contrary to TV anchorman 'I'm John MacKay' on the STV News at Six who seems to think everything revolves around the tedious independence debate).

I'm no patriotic flag-waving Brit either though: the 'English-as-British' dominance of our media and day-to-day life can be a major pain, especially around the time of the football World Cup/European Championships/royal weddings/Queen's various jubilees etc.  Those times suddenly make you proud to be Scottish! There's a lot of things wrong with being ruled by a UK government - especially one with David Cameron in charge.  Where there is poverty, recession and hopelessness, may we bring more poverty, recession and hopelessness....every blow administered by Cameron is further fuel for the Yes camp to boost their campaign. 

It's a shame they didn't give us the option to vote on 'devo max' - a more appealing option which would allow Scotland to remain part of the UK whilst being given extra autonomy on issues like taxes, welfare benefits etc.  This option could also be offered to the other countries within the UK, thus keeping everyone happy.  That may be a simplistic view, but I'd have voted for it as I'm sure would many others - unlike the straightforward 'yes/no' option - the result of which, regardless of whatever it will be, will only bring an unsatisfactory conclusion.  Except, presumably for John MacKay, who will have more newsroom fodder to bang on about for a long time to come.  In the immortal words of Avicii: "wake me up when it's all over"!!

Dead Laptops Society (continued)

This is all a bit #firstworldproblems for which I can only apologise!

So anyway, self-determined digital detox is fine, but not when it's forced on you.  Especially the week before our holiday, when the control freak that I am goes into overdrive and needs to research every aspect of a trip.

In these days of smartphones and tablets, people may question the need to have a laptop at all.  But there's a lot of tasks which you need a laptop for, apart from the internet.  I do a lot of "word processing" as it was once quaintly known back in the day.  You can't print to your old-school wired printer, or scan to your old-school scanner, or access that digitised recipe archive.  You can't shop and print off that confirmation email.  You can't watch obscure telly clips with the hdmi wired up to the telly.  So there in so many words this is my digital life, my friends.  Which needs a laptop.

Anyway, it was out with the old ....


...the seemingly future-proof Acer Aspire.  I thought we would grow old together, being parted only for system upgrades as and when.  But that was not to happen, as it came to the end of its life just 3½ years after its arrival.  For this is 2013 and electrical equipment is not built to last - that's how the manufacturers make their money after all.  A computer is almost instantly obsolete the day after you buy it, depreciating in value to zilch with the arrival of faster processors, bigger memory, bigger drives. 

In with the new....

...just a few days before my holiday.  It's an HP Pavilion G6, and it's purple.  Which is a bonus as you know that's my favourite colour, but I bought it for the specifications which were pretty decent as at mid-September 2013.  The down side is that it's running Windows 8 which screams AVOID!AVOID!AVOID! as some bright spark seemed to think we wanted apps instead of the conventional start screen.  Well, that kind of thing's all very well for the smartphone and tablet brigade but is pretty useless with a conventional non-touchscreen laptop with a mouse pad.  But I'm not going to let it beat me and I'm determined to get to grips with it (and bought a book to help me).  Apart from that, we have bonded well and after the usual teething problems of reinstalling various programs and software, things are running smoothly so far.  I wonder how long this one will last?

Meanwhile, I've started up a savings fund and putting by a couple of quid per week to save up for the next one....! #ohyeoflittlefaith

Friday, 13 September 2013

Dead laptops society.

Just borrowed faithful travelling companion's laptop for a quick post... Last weekend, my trusty laptop which was once state of the art back in the day (2010), decided to conk out. Unfortunately, it can't be saved and is fit only for the bin. So that's the reason why I've been offline lately and am now on the search for a new laptop. Despite Friday the 13th living up to its reputation, I can't stop smiling because I'm now on holiday from work for two weeks! We're counting down the days to our holiday and all things being well, I'll be back in blogland towards the end of the month. New laptop and everything else permitting of course :) See you all later!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

August.

So, how was August then?  Well, quite frankly, August was rubbish.

The unseasonably hot weather of July gave way to more traditional Scottish summer weather - i.e. lots of rain and four-seasons-in-one-day although it has to be said that the temperatures were still fairly agreeable and all in all, it has probably been one of the best summers in years, weather-wise.

However, this month the stress of the working week which has built up over the last few months crossed over into my personal life and I found myself unable to handle it all - anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and a very noticeable personality change from a usually happy, cheerful person to a sour-faced miserable wreck.  Although when you reach that low point there is only one place to go, and that's up.  And there are always some sobering things in life which make you realise just how lucky you are.

So I am starting September with a new, blank page and ready to write a much happier story.  After all, September is always my main holiday month, with two weeks off work and a lovely city break to look forward to, and I am back blogging again which always makes me happy :)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Detox? Nah....no thanks :)

As a follow-up to my first Universal Contour Wrap last Sunday, I decided to do a mini-detox which involved cutting down on soft drinks (I can't totally give up my diet Pepsi/diet Irn Bru), drinking more water and completely cutting out coffee.  

The first couple of days were fine, and were helped by an enjoyable couple of days off work, however by the time Wednesday arrived I was like a bear with a sore head - literally, as the headaches were unbearable - and was an agitated, anxious wreck.  Everyone who knows me, knows that I'm normally a very laid-back, calm and cheerful person but even my boss noticed that I was "flat" and she thought my depression was back again.  No, I told her, I'm just detoxing! 

By yesterday (Friday) I'd had enough.  At 8.30 last night, I fired up the coffee machine and everything was ok with the world again.  I'm still cutting down my soft drinks intake and drinking more water though, and with the temperatures finally dropping a couple of degrees I'm back on the exercise regime.  With 7 weeks to go till our next holiday, it's time to start paying in sweat.  Once again.  

But firstly....it's coffee time :)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Summer fragrance...

This is a catch-up as I just remembered that I hadn't done my usual summer fragrance post.  Summer fragrances are limited-edition lightly fragranced perfumes which are only available during the summer months.  I've been a massive fan of Escada's summer fragrances over the years and as is an annual event, made my way to the Perfume Shop a couple of months ago to buy their 2013 edition, Cherry in the Air.

It's all in the name: a summery, lightweight scent of cherries, which is one of my favourite smells anyway.  I wasn't so keen on "Sexy Graffiti" which I bought last year, as the initial strawberry scent gave way to something more reminiscent of a household cleaner or a washing-up liquid.  (!)

Cherry in the Air has been perfect for this lovely warm summer, and as a fan of all fruity/citrus smells I would thoroughly recommend it.  The only negative thing I can say is that, as with all summer fragrances, the smell doesn't stay around for very long,   I've checked out some online reviews and this perfume doesn't really appeal to everyone, but I like it anyway. 

Wrappers' delight!

As a follow-up to my last post, I had reached the point where drastic measures were required.

I'd been thinking for a while about trying the Universal Contour Wrap to kick-start my inch loss regime.  This is a treatment offered in many beauty salons and involves being smothered in clay and wrapped up in bandages, then when they are unwrapped after an hour or so, you should have lost some inches as all the horrible toxins are removed from your body.  So far so good, however it has to be said that in these times of reecession and watching your money, the cost of around £200 for 3 treatments is a bit steep. 


Happily, there is another, cheaper way to do this treatment - at home.  The Universal Contour Wrap people sell a "Self-Slim Kit" which includes all the equipment you need for approximately three treatments, and it only costs £40.  One other thing you need for the treatment is a "sauna suit" which is a top and pair of trousers made of silvery metallic-plastic material, which you put on after wrapping up the bandages.  This costs £35 from the Universal Contour Wrap people, however you can get it at the moment from Argos for £6.99. 

So, I ordered the Self-Slim Kit and bought the Sauna Suit, and was ready to transform myself yesterday morning into a spacesuit-wearing bandage-wrapped mummy, all in the cause of inch loss.  You must measure the areas where the clay is being applied before the treatment, and note the measurements so that you can compare this with the results after the treatment.

The 'Slim Clay' is applied first.  This is rather runny, so it's a little bit more difficult to apply than expected.  The bandages are soaked in warm water then the water is squeezed out and you proceed to wrap the bandages around the area you are treating. After applying the bandages, it's on with the "spacesuit" and lie down and relax for 60 minutes. 

After the 60 minutes, it's off with the spacesuit, unwrap the bandages, wipe off any extra clay and then the moment of truth - measuring time.  You need to be very careful that you are measuring the exact same area before the treatment to get the correct result.  Over the waist and thigh-to-knee area which I treated yesterday, there was an inch loss of - are you ready? - 8½ inches in various places.  The skin is so much smoother and there has been a definite reduction in cellulite. 

Of course this treatment is only a quick-fix, and long-term results are only guaranteed with a healthy eating/exercise regime.  As it is a detox, it is a good idea to keep the nasty toxins away for a while, so I'm having a few follow-up 'healthy days', drinking lots of water and avoiding coffee and cola.  Which is a major challenge as caffeine is my drug of choice.  However, it is a small price to pay to get started on what will be a long task ahead.  This time there are no goals, no targets, no deadlines.  I'm focusing on inch loss rather than weight loss this time round, and not becoming a slave to the scales. 

My big fat summer

Who'd have thought it? The summer of 2013 has been a surprising revelation.  More or less, since the end of May, the weather up here has been, on the whole, dry, warm and pleasant...and the last couple of weeks have given us continental temperatures which are more Greece than Glasgow.  Holiday clothing (and all the horrors that brings) has replaced the usual anoraks and umbrellas which symbolise the relentless rain and low temperatures which characterise our Scottish summer.  Usually, if we get a couple of dry days, that's our summer.

But having a few weeks of sunshine, dry weather and clear skies has completely changes our lives and given us a glimpse into what life could be like if we actually had proper, defined seasons.  People are smiling more, they're in a better mood, they're being nicer to each other.  We're all happier. 

For the first few months of this year I struggled, not just with my usual winter blues/SAD but also with stress and anxiety, and completely lost my confidence.   (One particular benefit of this nice summer has been the vast improvement in my mood and getting my confidence back, particularly at work, which has helped me through all the challenges presented by a heavy workload and staff shortages).

However, in the first half of the year, I turned to comfort/binge eating, gaining a stone over a short period, and my physical health plummeted.  Where I previously power-walked uphill to work, it became a struggle to even power-crawl.

You will know from previous posts that I did try to get the weight off, but these were only very short-lived with no commitment.  Over recent weeks, the realisation about what I've been doing to my body became very apparent, firstly going on holiday and then during the recent hot spell.  All those summer clothes hanging in the wardrobe, which can't be worn because they don't fit any more.  Going into fitting rooms and not recognising the person staring back at me.  How did I allow this to get so bad?  It has finally given me the motivation to do something about it. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sc-hot-land!

And before you ask, this isn't going to be one of those posts complaining about how hot it is (but just a tiny, tiny request - could you please turn the temperature down to about 21/22?).

Compared to the last couple of years, we've actually had quite a decent last few weeks which probably constitutes "summertime".  From May into late June, the sun remembered to come out, the rain actually remembered to go off, and the temperatures were just perfect - for us, that would be the 21/22 degrees as stated above.

Then we were plunged into winter again, and even had to resort to central heating.  In June!

In recent days however, the real hot summer has arrived, with temperatures heading up to 30 degrees.  Now regular readers will know that Scotland is not known for its good weather - a "good spell" is two dry days in a row. So as you can imagine, it doesn't take much for all the "weeds" to come out - and I'm not just talking about my much-neglected back garden here - as the parade of fashion disasters hits the streets.  I'm still in a state of trauma from the guy with the 9 months pregnant belly and the dangerously low-slung shorts who was walking in front of me all the way down the road on the way home yesterday.

Being the pale-skinned impersonation of a milk bottle that I am, I take the same precautions at home as I do abroad: cover up and slap on the factor 50+.  So please excuse me if I don't want to join in the sun-worshipping.  But a few more weeks of dry, reasonably warm weather, would do nicely.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Trial by jury (service)

The envelope made its way through the letterbox and hit the floor.  Another bill perhaps?  Another unsolicited "invitation" to change phone/TV/internet provider?  

No.  Although I'd have actually preferred a bill to this mysterious white envelope.  That letter ruined my weekend.  Once again, for the 2nd time in 7 years, I am faced with the possibility of being selected for jury service.  Although at least this time, when it happens, I'll know what to expect. 

Back in 2006, just one week before our holiday in Krakow, I was cited to the Sheriff Court, which deals with both criminal and civil cases, to present for jury service selection.  I remember about 60 people being there, everyone was given a number and the numbers were then randomly called to select the jury members. Mine was the very last number called.  Damn. 

Having grown up watching "Crown Court" and later being a "Boston Legal" obsessive, not to mention watching all those daily dispatches from the OJ Simpson trial all those years ago, I can tell you that none of those actually resembles a real-life trial.  There is no Denny Crane-style showmanship here.  

And trial is a good word to describe the jury service experience, as much of it involves being sent out to the jury room and sitting with a group of people whom you would otherwise not normally have selected to spend three days in a closed environment with.  Like the 'considerably richer than you' mob for example.  I may only be a humble little working-class office worker but on a jury we are all equals.  Although here, as in real life, some were  inevitably more equal than others and there was very much a class hierarchy in place.  I wonder if this happens in all trials or just some?  I guess the most forceful personalities always come to the fore.  

The trial lasted three days, although with all the stopping and starting it could have been over and done with in half that time.  The overwhelming aspect of jury service is.....the boredom.  I was desperate to get back to work!  If I hadn't been chosen for that jury, the clerk advised that I would have ended up on the jury for another trial starting later in the week, which, he grumpily advised, would have meant that I would have had to cancel my holiday.  So maybe it's just as well that I got on the Monday to Wednesday trial eh!

On the plus side, it's a fascinating process to be part of, even though it was very dull and dreary at times.  And then, you reach a verdict only for it to be overruled by the Sheriff who subsequently admonished the defendant.  So, basically, the whole thing turned out to be a waste of time.  

Anyway, that was then, and this is now.  I am a different person from my 2006 self, and once I get over the dread and fear of going through it all again, who knows...I might even enjoy the experience!?!  So now, the waiting game is on.  Hopefully whenever I am called this time, it won't coincide with a holiday!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Sunshine!

It's such a rarity to have a day without rain, or gale force winds, and even more rare to have a warm day.  Today, unusually, we had a beautiful dry and warm day.  It is probably the only dry and warm day we have had for months, and life will be back to normal tomorrow with the return of the wind and rain :(

Needless to say, my back "garden" a.k.a. jungle, hasn't seen a lawnmower all year.  Until today when we had the annual ritual of the first cut of the year, closely followed by me complaining all night about aches and pains and how flippin' exhausted I feel.  In other words, the usual.

The little fitness regime does seem to be paying off though, as I am actually beginning to feel fitter and today I was able to walk uphill and downhill without the aid of the knee support bandages.  Getting there slowly but surely!!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

Recent weeks haven't been great.  I've been experiencing lots of stress and anxiety, or more to the point I've been struggling to deal with it.  Last week was particularly distressing as I was 'nominated' to speak at a work event in front of a very large group of people in a large hall. It was a pretty embarrassing experience all in all, but I'm beginning to laugh about it now.  Which is a big change from last week, when I couldn't laugh about anything.

My mood swings are on the up again, and I'm getting back to my usual upbeat cheery self (although still increasingly grumpy about almost everyone and everything in the world).  I have so much to be thankful for and that keeps me on the bright side.

I'm heading into one of my favourite times of year, the spring holiday.  Although it couldn't be more different this year... Out goes the short break and in comes a week long Eastern Mediterranean cruise!  Just a few hours after the credits roll on the Eurovision final, we'll be heading off on our adventure.  It's a whole new experience for us and of course I'll be writing my travel journal every step of the way and publishing excerpts from the cruise diaries over at EuropeCrazy.

In the meantime, there's lots of planning and preparation to be getting on with, so that's what I'm concentrating on this weekend!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Snow is falling all around me...

....well not actually at the minute, but the fact remains that the last few weeks have been pretty freaky on the weather front as we had a lot of snow, which as usual managed to bring the place to a standstill, and some very icy winds which made Scotland feel more like Siberia.  Last week it was snowy and sunny at the same time.  You know all about that British obsession with the weather? Well, who can blame us when it's so unpredictable!  At least the snow has stayed away for Easter weekend.

During one of the coldest spells a couple of weeks ago, the boiler at EuropeCrazy HQ developed a major fault which resulted in us being left with no heating/hot water for various periods of time and a continuous 48 hour spell.  No wonder I was comfort eating (more about that later....)


I thought it would be a good opportunity to post a pic of my two little Easter chicks.  Aren't they cute?  These are knitted by the mum of one of my friends at work, who is shortly due to deliver a little chick of her own in May.  There's a massive baby boom in my office at the moment which makes me wonder -was the TV really that bad a few months ago?? :)

So what happened to the fitness regime, I hear you ask?  Well, sad to say, it crashed and burned.    The snow/bad weather put paid to my long outdoor walks, I've been comfort eating and snacking relentlessly, and some days I'm so mentally and physically exhausted that I have no energy to exercise after work. 

But with only 7 weeks to go until my holiday, can it be turned around?  I think it can, although not with as significant results as I'd hoped for.  If I'd continued the February fitness regime I might have been looking at a dropped dress size by now.  Oh well these things happen....as that well-known saying goes, "the diet starts tomorrow" and it'll once again be time to start paying in sweat.  And that's no April Fool! 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Weight loss and fitness 2013: Part 5 - Crikey! More good news.

Bit late with this one as I should have published it last Friday but anyway here goes....

I tried very hard to keep the momentum going and got yet another good result, with another 2lbs off, making it a total of 5lbs lost in 2 weeks.

My fitness levels are on the up, as demonstrated by a 2.5 mile lunchtime walk in town last Wednesday which took 30 minutes and involved some rather steep climbs.  However since Friday, my willpower seems to have taken some time out and I've decided to take a break from the scales this week.  Next weigh-in will now be on 15th March.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Weight loss and fitness 2013: Part 4 - Shock Result!

A lot has happened in the 7 days since my last post.  After the long walk last Saturday I threw myself into a pretty punishing exercise regime involving aerobics, dancing, weights, drinking water, walking and long sessions on the mini stepper, with the help of the sauna belt/shorts which I bought last week.  It wasn't all work and no play though, as I set out to prove this week that the only thing which really works for me is exercise, and that I could continue to have a few treats along the way.

By Thursday, my body ached all over, but there was no pain when I took to the scales to discover that I had lost no less than 3lbs this week!  That's a shock result, as I'm not one of those people who loses a lot of weight very quickly - as all those years on Weight Watchers Online would testify.

Needless to day I'm very happy with the rewarding end to what's been a non-stop week.

I'm not walking today as it's snowing outside and there's lots of housework waiting to be done :( however I'll be back into the exercise routine again today after a couple of days' break from it.  Not expecting to lose so much weight next week but will start to focus on inch loss: after all, that's my main goal this time so that I can get back into my holiday clothes for the cruise which is now just 3 months away....

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Weight loss & fitness 2013: Part 3 - Keep on Walking!

Let's be truthful: it's not going well.  For every one step forward there has been several steps back.  And there has been weight gain.

However I have been galvanised this week for one very good reason: the holiday is booked.  As I mentioned the other day over at EuropeCrazy, we're going on a cruise and I'll need to get myself ship-shape (groan). 

I've decided to focus on improving my fitness and losing inches over the next three months, and thanks to the offers of the week in Lidl I now have two extra weapons in my war on weight!  Ladies and gentlemen: sauna shorts and sauna belt!


 
I do a lot of walking in my day to day life: I'm lucky enough to work in the town where I live so I walk to and from work, and at lunchtime.  However despite all this walking I still don't feel as if my fitness is as good as it should be.
 
So I have decided to introduce longer walks into the fitness regime, and I'm just back from the first of these today.  Thanks to Google maps, I drew up a 2.4 mile route taking me around various streets in town.  It only took 35 minutes for me to walk the route, and was surprisingly effortless!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Weight loss and fitness 2013: Part 2

It was weigh-in week this week, and no real surprise that I haven't lost anything.  But a nice surprise was that I haven't gained anything either.

I have had an utterly miserable week, my mood's been at rock bottom and when I feel like that I can't stand being around people (with a couple of notable exceptions).   I have also been experiencing nasty headaches and needless to say there has been a whole lot of comfort eating, no exercise and no self-discipline.  I hate feeling like this, but I've been there a million times before and know that this feeling will only be temporary. 

So I have decided yet again to make another fresh start, as time's getting on, chop chop, we're almost at the end of January!

Next update in 2 weeks.

Monday, 21 January 2013

What's in a name?

In one of my many paradoxes and contradictions, I'm not in the maternal camp, yet I'm always pretty fascinated by the issue of baby names.  Every year, lists of the most popular names for new babies are published, causing us to throw our hands up in the air in horror at the latest naming fashions, from chavvy horror to traditional to just quite frankly bonkers. 

Today The Local (link) published the list of the most popular baby names in Sweden for 2012.  What immediately strikes me is that many of the names in the list don't sound that "Swedish" at all - William is top of the boys' list, where you can also names like Elliot, Kevin, Julian, Colin, Levi, Eddie and - wait for it - Elton (!). 

Meanwhile, Alice tops the girls list where there are more conventional Swedish girls' names alongside the likes of Nellie, Tyra, Alicia, Nova and Siri. 

On the whole though, some sense has prevailed, unlike in my own country where there is a horrendous fashion for mis-spelling names to make them that bit more original.  Why call your daughter Abigail when you can call her...oh...Abbiegayle? Abi-Gale? Abby-Gail?  Sounds like an Abi-fail to me. 

Or maybe you want to keep it brief.  Why give your son a name when you can call him AJ? CJ? DJ? TJ? Tee-Jay?  Tea-Jae?  Tea-Bag? (right, that's enough!!)

And don't start me on that 2012 crop of Kayden, Jayden, Jaydyn, Cian, Kayleb, Kristofer, Maddisyn, Mirren, Murron, Summer, Storm, Rain, Willow....the list is endless.  And I pity those poor schoolteachers having to differentiate between Jaden, Jayden and Jaydyn!

What the hell, maybe I'm just bitter and twisted because Laura is out of fashion :)))

Anyway I'll stop now and direct you to a really funny old website http://www.stupidkidnames.com/ which truly does what it says on the tin.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Weight loss and fitness 2013: Part 1

Since my previous post when I announced that I was quitting dieting, I have honed my plan and set out my targets for the year ahead. 

Initially I wasn't going to weigh myself but changed my mind and now the weigh-ins will take place fortnightly and I will measure on alternate weeks. 

Almost three weeks in and things are going reasonably well, considering that I'm still polishing off the great post-Christmas mountain of sweets!  I have lost 2lbs so far, but am particularly delighted that I've lost 4 inches from various places.  That's probably thanks to the mini-stepper and the extra walking. 

It's only the beginning and there is a long long way to go, I'm not expecting miracles overnight but I'm hoping for some big results by the time of my holiday in May.  (I'm very excited about that: expect an announcement within the next four weeks or so, all being well). My plan will have three phases: between now and May, between May and September, and between September and Christmas.

January hasn't really been easy though.  Stress, almost daily headaches and a nasty sinus infection so far.  I've also been very tired, too tired to blog.  Nice things have happened too, though, and on the whole I'm keeping the January blues at bay.

Fortnightly updates to follow....

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Well, hello 2013!

But firstly, we had the unfinished business of closing the story of 2012. As usual, the Hogmanay tradition of a meal with faithful travelling companion at our favourite local Cantonese restaurant, followed by a couple of Kopparbergs pear ciders at Wetherspoons.

The days of staying up all night after the bells are now long gone: these days, staying power is in very short supply so I retired very early to listen to Radio Five Live for a while and then it was lights out just after 1.00 am. Living life on the edge eh!!!


I finished work on Christmas Eve and have been on holiday since then: it's been a brilliant, relaxing time but all good things have to come to an end.  Talking of which, the dismantling of the EuropeCrazy HQ Christmas tree (pictured above) ceremony also took place today.  It's like the closing ceremony of the Olympics, only without the flag being lowered, or a speech from Seb Coe, or numerous rotten musical performances.  (Although with regard to the latter, we did have a 'top tunes of 2012' show playing on one of the music channels: insert witty remark here...!)

Tomorrow is the last day of my Christmas and New Year leave and then it's back to work on Thursday :(  I feel completely unwound, but no doubt that feeling will be short-lived once Thursday morning comes!

As ever, I got my hopes up for the sales but only Boots and Matalan delivered: I'm sorted for bath stuff, perfume and cut-price knitwear for the rest of the year :)

Over the past 6 months I lost my dieting-mojo and the weight-gain went out of control.  As usual, the shops are full of fitness DVDs and the newspapers are full of the usual old 'new year, new you'-style rubbish. Yes I absolutely do need to lose weight and get fit, but this year however I'm flying solo on the dieting front and not following any official weight-loss plan: only the EuropeCrazy Frank Sinatra "I Did It My Way" diet and exercise plan between now and the end of April.  No crash diets here folks: just a sustained period of healthy eating and sensible exercise, punctuated by the good things in life - this time of the year is dark and depressing enough without denying yourself some treats!  I will only weigh myself on the last day of every month, so check back here on 31st January for a progress report. 

So what's ahead in 2013?  Well, it's an odd-numbered year so there's no Olympics and no summer football tournament to distract us: let's just hope that the weather is better this year so that there will be lots of exciting adventures to write about over the summer months. And then there's the small matter of our spring and summer holidays to plan :)))))

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Decem-brrrrrr.



So here we are in a new month, and it's started just as the last one ended - sooooo cold.  Even my usually cosy living room feels colder than usual, and I'm sitting here with a great big scarf round my neck, to supplement my Matalan-version-of-the-Sarah-Lund-jumper (as opposed to the original iconic garment, pictured above).

One encouraging thing I've noticed over the last couple of years is that people are finally coming round to dressing to suit the season.  Of course, it is a peculiarly British trait to be inappropriately dressed for the weather.  Check out any town/city centre on a Friday/Saturday night for evidence of that.  It may only be a fashion trend, but knitwear is back, back, back.  I'm not sure if it's due to winters becoming colder, or the nation's recent obsession with all things Scandinavian, but much to my delight the shops are now full of winter-themed knits, for men, women and children.  Even the much-reviled "Christmas jumper" is back on the rails.

Even if the nights are dark, the weather is freezing and the SAD lamp is back in circulation, we might as well embrace winter.  That's something else we can learn from our Scandinavian friends.  So with that in mind, I'm all prepared: lots of knitwear, hats, scarves, gloves, big winter boots, wellies, snow grips, snow shovel etc etc....now all we can hope for is that this country doesn't collapse into an even bigger mess than it's in already, when the first snowflakes arrive.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The big decision: I'm quitting dieting

It's hard to stand up and admit defeat when something hasn't worked out, yet that's what I'm doing today. 

Since an illness a few years ago threw my metabolism into chaos, I've been fighting the weight loss war ever since, with mixed results.  Of all the weight loss plans around, I would definitely say that Weight Watchers Online is the very best, the easiest to follow, and it does bring definite results. I would always defend it in an argument when those followers of other weight loss plans tried to convince me that their diet was right and mine was wrong.  What any weight loss plan requires is constant commitment for it to work, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, I can't manage that level of commitment any more.

Since returning to WW exactly two years ago this month, I worked hard and by the spring of 2011 I'd reached my own preferred target weight and did the impossible - dropped a dress size. 

It wasn't long before the good work was undone and I proceeded to comfort-eat my way through the past 18 months.  There were brief bursts of effort but for every two steps forward there were three steps back.  I'm just not mentally focused on the rules of dieting any more, and the weekly weigh-in has become a thing of dread. 

Which is why I've made a big decision: to quit dieting and the weekly weigh-in.  I am stressed and anxious enough as it is, without the added tyranny of the scales.  Why do we torture ourselves in this way? 

That's not to say that I have given up on losing weight and getting fit: the method is just going to be a bit different, that's all, and I know what I need to do to get back into my "thinner" clothes again.   I know it may sound trivial but you can become obsessed with what weight you are.  What really matters is being fit and healthy.  Here goes....

Monday, 19 November 2012

Cleaning up at EuropeCrazy HQ

Today I became the proud owner of that must-have gadget which I've been saving up for - a cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner.  It's pretty fab too.  The down side is that you have to charge the battery unit for a while and only get 15 mins hoovering (or should that be Dysoning?) in return.  But on the plus side it just means that you have to move pretty fast to get all your cleaning done before the battery runs out.  But look on the bright side....it cuts the housework time down and leaves more time for fun stuff! 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Weight Watching goes back to basics!

As the great Neil Diamond once sang, "hello again, hello".

Where have the last few weeks gone?  One week is racing into another and I've been either too busy or just too tired to blog, as it's been quite a busy (and slightly stressful) time.

Inevitably I'll be dragging  the SAD lamp out of the cupboard soon - yet another unavoidable symptom of "summer" (although we didn't have one) turning into autumn and winter.  However I am tackling it head-on with a diet and fitness regime to take my mind off it all.

Drastic measures had to be taken, so over the past three weeks I've gone back to basics with the combination which works best: doing Weight Watchers Online combined with lots of walking and exercise.  There have also been social events, lunches, dinners etc, so it hasn't been easy!  I have lost 2lbs in 3 weeks, which maybe doesn't sound much to those people who lose about 5lbs in a week, but I like to go at my own pace and that just suits me fine.  Most importantly I've lost 4" from various places (!) in the past 3 weeks.  Early days, but so far, so good.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Grumpy old woman post #1: Turn it down!

Strictly speaking of course, my particular gripe isn't a sign of getting older as it's something which would equally have annoyed me 20 or 30 years ago.

Now, I love music, always have done, always will do. And lots of that music demands to be played loud (although as a long-time flat-dweller that also has to be balanced against respect for your neighbours and avoiding an ASBO).

Then there is the issue of personal music through headphones: when I'm out walking with the iPod on, the volume is only ever at background-music level and I'm always aware of the surrounding street noises. As I sit here typing this post, I am listening to a random set of tunes through a powerful, high-quality pair of headphones but at a lower and more bearable volume which allows me to think at the same time.

So what is all this leading to, I hear you ask?  I refer, ladies and gentlemen, to the curse of noise.  Specifically, the need for music to be played at as ear-shatteringly loud as possible within the most confined space in any social setting.  That was probably one of the main reasons I quit the social scene - my hearing isn't great and I don't have a loud voice, so it's double-difficult to attempt a conversation or hear what someone else is saying as they try to compete with 10 million decibels.  Some people seem to manage, but over the years I haven't yet mastered the art of conducting a conversation all night whilst being blissfully unaware of the racket. By the end of the evening your throat is wrecked by shouting and you end up with a voice as deep as Barry White's.

But what if the DJ turns it up even louder, the thumping hum starts to feel as if it's vibrating through your stomach, and unpleasantness turns to distress?  Where's the fun in that?  Call me a killjoy, but when that happens it stops being fun for me.

It's a shame really, as many a good night in good company is ruined by the volume being turned up to the max :(