Monday, November 27, 2006

Wasted Effort...?

Some of my regular readers will know that over the past 21 months, Maggie and I have made major changes to our eating habits resulting in a fair amount of weight loss (my own journey can be traced from August last year on my other blog, Losing a Hundredweight).

It has not always been easy and at times it has had me crawling up the walls in frustration through to being curled up in a ball, whimpering from withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes the pounds have fallen away, sometimes they have been more or less static for months and sometimes that have begun to find their way back again.

At times the cravings have had me seriously considering chewing my own arm off.

The result of all this is that between us we have lost 191lbs (or 13stone 9lbs in old money), so far.

But it seems that all this sacrifice, all this time, effort and energy was a complete waste of time. Technology has come up with an infinitely easier solution than finding the willpower and motivation to overcome the cravings for chocolate, crisps and deep-fried pizza.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the new range of Hewlett Packard cameras with the Slimming Feature (do check out the demo). Never worry about whether you should have that extra doughnut again.
To use the slimming feature, first take a photo. Then, while in playback mode, use the arrows to select an image and press OK.

Highlight the Design Gallery menu tab using the arrows.

Use arrows to highlight Apply Artistic Effects and press OK. Then highlight Slimming and press OK.

Adjust the slimming level using the arrows. Then press OK, and you're finished.

I feel as stupid as Frodo Baggins must have when he was rescued from the side of Mount Doom by the Giant Eagles and realised that if they could have flown in to pick him up, then surely they could have flown him there in the first place and saved a great deal of time, effort and thousands of lives (not to mention one of his fingers), if only he'd thought of it earlier.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Revisited...

I was down in Chesterfield visiting my father over the weekend. The stinking cold that still hasn’t left my system yet, combined with the even stinkier driving conditions of heavy rain, strong winds and glaring headlights meant that the journey was only possible by consuming vast amounts of coffee strong enough to dissolve a teaspoon. Today I’m feeling fragile, jumpy and very irritable.

While I was there he gave me a copy of his new book, Donald Ayres’ Exmoor Revisited, which is a follow up to his original Donald Ayres’ Exmoor.

I was about to write a humorous and witty sales pitch for the book, recommending it as an ideal Xmas present etc, when I caught site of the dedication, which I missed first time round. It’s no surprise that it's to the memory of my mother, but what caught me off guard was:

Ann Marguerite Ayres
1937 – 2003


Strangely enough I’ve not seen the dates of her life written down. The 1937 bit is familiar enough to me, but it’s the 2003 after it that was the punch in the stomach. Despite it being nearly 4 years since she died, and me now being 40 years old, suddenly I just feel like a wee boy who’s lost his mummy and I can’t think of anything witty or humorous to write.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Deep Thought #361

You spend your whole life digging your own grave.

If you're extremely lucky, it's finished before you lie in it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Diary of a Cold

Saturday
10.30pm - Been feeling steadily worse as the evening has progressed. We kept Meg off school yesterday because she had quite a nasty cold. Think I must have caught it

11.30pm – lying in bed reading and my left nostril is completely blocked and yet is dripping at the same time. Have to put a couple of sheets of tissue on the pillow beneath my head.

Sunday
2.30am –
difficulty breathing and swallowing. Left side of my throat has swollen up and my mouth feels like I’ve been swilling battery acid. Left nostril is now clear, but right one is completely blocked and dripping. Feel crap.

3.30am – cannot get back to sleep - keep having to blow my nose and whimper each time I swallow. Maggie is sound asleep. Consider waking her up for a bit of sympathy. Think the better of it. Left nostril is blocked again but the right one has cleared. Feel crap.

4am – give up trying to get back to sleep. Go downstairs and watch an episode of Torchwood I recorded earlier in the week. Faeries are evil, psychotic killers, apparently. Feel crap.

4.30am – bloody freezing. Put heating timer on override. Take ibuprofen. Feel crap.

5.am – Meg gets up early. Send her back to bed. Am a little dizzy when I stand up. Feel crap.

5.30am – watching Countdown. Carol Vorderman really shouldn’t dress like she’s 30 years younger. Feel crap.

6am – So tired. Ibuprofen beginning to kick in. Start to drift off on the sofa, but keep waking up with a gushing nose. Feel crap.

6.30am – make myself some breakfast now that I can swallow without too much pain. Meg gets up permanently. Feel crap.

7am - Feel crap.

7.30am – Go back to bed but every time I try to snuggle into Maggie I have to leap away again to avoid my dripping nose coating her hair. Feel crap.

8am – Can’t sleep. Maggie gets up. Feel crap.

8.30am – pillowcase is getting sodden. Feel crap.

9am – Cough. The vilest tasting phlegm in the universe comes up and my throat and chest feel like I’ve been gargling with broken glass. Feel crap.

9.30am – trying not to cough. Feel crap.

10am - Feel crap.

10.30am - Feel crap.

11am - Feel crap.

11.30am – Try doing a Sudoku puzzle. Makes my eyes hurt. Feel crap.

12pm – Take more Ibuprofen. Feel crap.

12.30pm – Bowl of Maggie’s thick, homemade, vegetable soup. Feels wonderful while I’m eating it. Once I reach the bottom of the bowl I feel crap.

1pm - Feel crap.

1.30pm – Maggie’s off to see Rogan playing the trumpet in the school concert. Feel really low that I’m going to miss it. Feel crap.

2pm – Put “Alice in Wonderland” on the DVD for Meg. Feel crap.

2.30pm - Feel crap.

3pm - Feel crap.

3.30pm – Feel better! Just kidding. Feel crap.

4pm – Maggie and Rogan get home. Maggie is drenched. It is chucking it down with rain outside. It was dry when she left so she put on a warm jacket rather than a waterproof one. Maggie feels crap.

4.30pm – starting to drift off on the sofa again. At one point I manage ten whole minutes asleep before waking up with a painful cough. Feel crap.

5pm - Feel crap.

5.30pm – warm soup with a homemade scone. Bliss. Cough. Ouch. Feel crap.

6pm – finding it increasingly difficult to move about. Get bursts of dizziness every time I stand up or try and walk. Feel crap.

6.30pm - Feel crap.

7pm – Maggie’s watching the Antiques Roadshow. I wanted to watch a programme about a woman swimming with sharks but as Antiques Roadshow is just about the only programme she insists on watching while I have complete control over the remote for the rest of the week, I don’t make any headway, despite using the puppy eyes. Feel crap

7.30pm – Feeling really crap. It feels like every nerve ending is hypersensitive, and when I move my legs it's like ice suddenly shoots through my veins

8.pm – desperately want more ibuprofen but can only have 2 more today so had better save them for when I go to bed. Feel crappily crap.

8.30pm – The heating has been on all day, I’m wearing several layers, I’m under a blanket on the sofa and I’m feeling cold. Crap, crap, crap.

9.pm – As well as the cold and pain, when I try moving I get bursts of uncontrollable shivering. Take the ibuprofen. Crap, crap, crap, crap.

9.30pm – Crap, crap, crap, crap, crappity crap, crappity crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.

10pm – I want to die.

10.30pm – Don’t think the ibuprofen is having any effect. I am so tired, I hurt, I’m cold, I’m dizzy, I’m shaking, my head is pounding. It takes me a while, but eventually I make it up to bed.

Monday
12.30am
– Wake up in a pool of sweat, blasting out enough heat to melt the One Ring to Rule Them All. Take off remaining layers.

2.30am – wake up again and feel ok. It doesn’t hurt when I move. Smile. Fall asleep.

8am – feel a bit fragile, but I can breathe, I can swallow, I’m not sore and my nose isn’t dripping.

I'M ALIVE!!!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dentists, the NHS and Poland

Dentists! The very word sends a shudder through the heart and teeth of most adults. It used to be about having to visit one, now it’s about not being able to visit one.

For several years the number of dentists offering NHS treatment has dwindled, but even if you have the bucks to pay for private treatment, there is a chronic shortage of them in SW Scotland. Last year, when the last NHS practice in Dumfries decided to go private, and thus dump 4,000 entitled-to-exemption-from-payments people off his books, people started queuing from 4am – over 1,000 of them that day - desperate to get onto his list and pay the £22 registration fee (not to mention annual fees for being allowed to remain on it). Rumours of an increased crime wave as people sought funding for their dentistry needs was never confirmed.

The only alternative has been to go for emergency treatment at the local hospital, but they lock the doors after admitting the first 40 or so people in – typically within 10 minutes after opening them.

This year the region managed to recruit 5 Polish dentists into the area and we were finally placed on the waiting list. Today was a family occasion as we took the kids out of school, dressed up in our finery and all went along for our very first check-up in years. The fact that we had to wait nearly half an hour past our appointment time to be seen, only added to the sense of theatre.

Overheard conversations with the receptionist were not encouraging.

“Your next check up is in January, Mr Wallace. Is that OK?”

“Well, I’m not sure. We might be away in January…”

“The next time I can fit you in would be July if you can’t make that one, Mr Wallace.”

Suitably humbled, Mr Wallace hastily agreed to rearrange his holiday plans.

And that’s the truth of it: in Dumfries & Galloway, you will organise your vacation, your vocation and your children’s schooling around the demands and expectations of the dental practice if you have been fortunate enough to get on their books.

Ms Czaja seemed a pleasant enough person and was quite gentle with the children, although Rogan has a cavity and will need a filling. She seemed a bit cold with me, took a cursory glance around my mouth and told me I was fine and wouldn’t need to be seen again for another year. Maggie needs a scale and polish.

Back out at reception to make the appointments, the earliest Maggie and Rogan can be seen is June 7th next year. Given the extreme advanced notice being given I asked if I should book next year’s check up now. I was told quite firmly that I would be sent my appointment nearer the time, which could easily be beyond 12 months due to the number of people they still have to see between now and then. It was made perfectly clear that as we were NHS and not private then we should have to expect to wait.

She’s right. In the current dentistry climate we cannot complain, we cannot choose to go anywhere else and we cannot expect to be treated as anything other than 2nd class citizens. We just have to be thankful that we now have access to a dentist at all.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rugby

It’s difficult to put into words just how much I despise the game of Rugby.

I spent a large part of my childhood in Wales where everyone is expected to be feverishly devoted to this national sport. Rugby is a real man’s game: a full-on contact sport for the strong, virile and powerful. Rugby heroes are gods. Soccer, by comparison, is for poofs.

For me it is the embodiment of everything I loathed about school sports – standing in a waterlogged field in the cold, wind and rain in a thin shirt and shorts, where my worth as a human being was decided on how well I could kick, catch or throw a ball while 15 of the most battle-hardened, brutal and merciless bullies in my year were put together in the opposing team, hell bent on breaking every bone in my body and drowning me face down in 6 inches of mud.

And when it was over, it was back to the changing rooms where, as an adolescent, self-conscious, pubescent lad, I was expected to take showers with other boys whose sole purpose was to try and humiliate and intimidate those who didn’t fit in when they were naked and at their most vulnerable.

When I watch films about army boot camps with sadistic sergeant majors, where the recruits are expected to follow the most inane orders and carry out despicable acts on weaker members in the name of discipline and even patriotism, it reminds me of sports at school. The first time I saw Full Metal Jacket, for example, I realised that had we been learning to use guns instead of a rugby ball for combat training at school, then Private Pyle would have been my role model.

So why this little nostalgic trip down memory lane?

My son’s friend goes to Rugby practice on Sundays and invited Rogan to go with him at the weekend. I kept the rush of fear, loathing, disgust and panic that instantly surged through my veins under control and calmly let Rogan know that it was perfectly acceptable for him to turn his friend down. But no, he insisted on going to see what it was like.

He thoroughly enjoyed himself and can’t wait to go back next week.

Just when you begin to think you have an idea of how the world works, it slips from your grasp and demonstrates you haven’t a clue really.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Remember Remember the 5th of November

There are times when you stumble across a news story and you fear for the future of the human race.

This incident - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/6132140.stm - surely has to be a contender for the Darwin Awards.

In fact, I'll just go and submit it...

...there, all done.

UPDATE

Just discovered another version of the story here, which goes into a bit more detail:

http://www.sunderlandtoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx? SectionID=1107&ArticleID=1868989

ANOTHER UPDATE

In fact, I think I've just discovered the action caught on a mobile phone camera and posted on YouTube. You can't see much, but judging by the laughter over the guy's screams, his friends aren't that sympathetic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6QV2spzrA8

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Advice From Fit People


powered by ODEO

With wee bits of advice and name calling (Jessie, Dr Maroon?) going on in the comments of my last post (When do the Endorphins Kick In?) I felt the need to try and clarify the psychological barrier I’m up against.

Feeling the pangs of mortality – midlife crisis and all that - I’m aware that it’s not just about how long I might have left to live, but the quality of that life. I’d rather spend my 60s and 70s in relatively good health than struggling to get up the stairs and worrying about every heart palpitation.

I’ve been on a healthy eating drive now for 90 weeks, 22 hours and 17 minutes (see Losing a Hundredweight), which has resulted in the loss of over 6½ stone. And while losing 93 pounds of excess fat will certainly have helped, weight is not everything – it’s also about how efficiently the organs are working which will contribute to the length and quality of the remaining years. Exercise too, it would seem, is something of a necessity.

But this is something I’ve always struggled with: while I enjoy a bit of Tai Chi here and there, I’ve never been into exercise. It always seemed like way too much effort for so little reward to me.

I want to be fitter; I’d love to be fitter; I just don’t want to have to go through the process of getting fitter. Quite frankly it terrifies me.

The reality is that I have NEVER been fit. I have no idea what it feels like to be fit. I cannot imagine it. I cannot visualise it. All I have to go on is fit people telling me that I’ll love it, despite all my personal experience to the contrary. If I go for a brisk walk I feel knackered afterwards. My 20-minute bike ride on Sunday took most of the day to recover from.

The arena of fitness has always been a mystery to me. From my perspective, looking into the world of exercise is like standing at the side of a frozen lake, wrapped up in several layers of thick clothing and wishing you were sitting next to a nice log fire with a glass of whiskey instead, while in front of you there are people making holes in the ice and diving in naked saying “Stop being a wimp – it’s good for you!” I’ve remained unconvinced while the participants couldn’t comprehend why.

My formative experiences of the fit were sadistic PE teachers at school who had no time for uncoordinated children who found no joy in running up and down a muddy field on cold, wet and miserable days, dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt.

Just like those who can eat 2 Maltesers out of the packet and put the rest away for later will never understand the severe and monstrous cravings of the food addict, and dog owners will never understand that when this beast the size of a shire horse with fangs like a sabre-tooth tiger comes bounding up to my terrified daughter that their words of “it’s ok, he’s just being friendly” act as no comfort to her whatsoever, so fit people never seem to understand the massive resistance there is from the never-fit to engaging in physical activity.

So when fit people offer well meaning advice, telling me I should start with 20 minutes of warm-up, 2 hours of actual exercise, followed by another 15 minutes of cooling off activity (I have no idea what that even means), and build up my regime from there, it hardly fills me with motivation and enthusiasm. The 20 minutes of warm-up alone seem beyond my ability.

My only hope is to do something that I can reasonably enjoy, start off at a low level and gradually work my way up. If I have to engage in activities I loathe (jogging, for example), in a miserable environment (out in the wind and rain), for periods of time that are going to leave me feeling physically sick (currently more than 10 minutes), then I just won’t get round to doing it.

I want to be fit and healthy. But never having been so means I have to rely on the advice of people whose expectations of what I’m capable of are far removed from my own perceptions on the matter.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

So When Do The Endorphins Kick In?

It’s quite amazing how much of an incline flat roads appear to have when you’re cycling. Roads I have driven on, even walked along, which I was convinced were nothing but 100% horizontal have turned out to be bumpy, uneven, full of potholes, drain covers and manholes, and are always either uphill or downhill.

My last bike had 3 gears, which was considered quite advanced technology in my youth. This one has 3 on the left handle and 6 on the right and I think it’s as basic as they come these days. At least half the energy I expended this morning went on trying to figure out how to use them without changing gear every 2 seconds.

Still, at least this time out I was sensible enough to plan my route so that the majority of the outward journey was up the flat road and the return was mostly downhill.

Despite being breathless as I wheeled the bike through the gate, I began to think perhaps it wasn’t too bad after all. As I locked the shed and returned to the house however, I was suddenly overcome with tiredness; I stepped in through the door and was hit with a wave of exhaustion; I struggled to get my shoes and bike helmet off, flopped onto the sofa and the room began to spin.

It took half an hour and a strong cup of coffee to recover a vague semblance of normality, and finally be able to answer Maggie’s question of how far I’d travelled on my quest to push my body to the limit and test the boundaries of human endurance. I was able to boast that in the 20 minutes I was away I’d covered a little over TWO miles.

Every doctor, health advisor, fitness magazine, video or TV programme insists that exercise is good for you. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to equate the experience with the faith.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Where's the money going?

After putting it off and putting it off some more, Maggie and I finally got round to looking at our cash flow this morning – income vs expenditure – and it makes for depressing reading.

Really depressing reading.

So depressing that we’re going to have to discuss it over lunch in a nice café down the road to try and cheer ourselves up...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A letter from the BBC

I received a letter today from the BBC – sent first class, no less.

I got all excited.

A few weeks ago I entered their BBC7 New Talent Search (see Funniest Post), which required submitting an outline for a radio show and up to 5 minutes of me being hilarious in mp3 format. I only discovered this a few days before the deadline and didn’t have time to create something new but figured I had nothing to lose by stringing together a few blog entries.

The talent search was titled “Witty and Twisted” so I figured that they were probably looking for something a bit more bizarre and surreal than my style, but if you don’t try then you certainly can’t succeed. I wasn't going to get my hopes up though.

It said on the site that those in whom they were interested would be invited to various workshops around the country, from which they would then choose the best to turn into short radio shows. If I hadn’t heard anything by the end of the month then I should assume I hadn’t made it through to the next round.

So when I received the letter this morning, I couldn’t help but get my hopes up. Visions of being lauded as the next Ricky Gervais instantly sprang to mind and I was immediately composing my BAFTA acceptance speech as I tore the envelope open.

The letter read:

Dear Kim, (you can’t help but feel that it’s a good start when they get your name right)

Thank you for taking the time and effort to enter Witty & Twisted – the recent new comedy talent search (yeah, yeah, where and when do you want me to turn up for the next stage).

We received over 600 entries and the standard has been very high. (Hey, I’ve really seen off some competition then!)

We are sorry to say that on this occasion your submission has been unsuccessful.
I can’t make out the rest of the letter as the ink ran after my floods of tears, before it was scrunched up, torn into several pieces and set fire to, but I think it went on to say that it wished me all the best with my future comedy endeavours.

However, I did promise that I would post my submission once I knew whether I’d been invited to the next stage or not, so here it is.

Feel free to tell me how fantastic it is and that the people who didn’t shortlist me must have been out of their minds, and that young comedy executives these days wouldn’t know something funny if it turned into a pilchard and stuck its tongue up their nose.