Saturday 29 December 2012

Hibernation and teenage makeovers

The SP and I have hibernated.  We have been going to bed earlier and earlier each night and getting up later and later.  We lie, side by side, like medieval effigies, under two duvets, and occasionally an extra blanket.  Outside the rain falls steadily and inside, well, the rain falls steadily too.  What do we do, the SP and I?  Well, I can’t speak for the SP but I just lie there, not exactly thinking.  Not exactly meditating. Sort of freeform musing really.  Vagueing.  Suspended animation.  I’m not depressed; not sad even. Just… hibernating.  On ice. 

Eventually, of course, I have to get up and do what needs to be done.  And then, when that's sorted, the SP and I snuggle up on the sofa in my office, swathed in blankets, with the possible addition of a hot water bottle. Occasionally (see pic) Asbo joins us. I try to write but it’s kinda tough when there’s a small pseudo beagle on one’s lap.  And then, as soon as it can be justified, I light a fire in the Oak Room and we transfer operations to there. I’ve pulled the armchair that usually sits in the window to the fire (my arse was getting numb on the stone bench in the inglenook).  And the SP looks expectantly and, as soon as I’m ensconced, he jumps on my lap and we settle down to watch the flames.  At some point James will wander in and then we’ll all curl up on the sofa instead, under a blanket, and watch crap movies.  Or, occasionally, a good movie. 

Am I reading? Not much. Am I listening to music? Not much.  There’s just the soundtrack of my head and the soft whup whup of the flames. 

But it will have to end.  Much as one may think nothing changes, it does, drip by drip.  And I will have to wake up and rejoin the world.  And then I suppose I really ought to get my act together and try to make myself look vaguely presentable.  At some point over Christmas we went over to see my friend Rachel and her family for lunch.  It was lovely; it always is.  My godson was his usual edible self and his sisters begged me to be their quasi godmother and I said I’d think about it, because being a godmother is an expensive business (cash-wise, not soul-wise). And they made me laugh a lot and I admired their hair and nails and stuff, the way you do, and they said, ‘Hey, we could do your hair and nails.’ And their mother looked slightly alarmed but I said, ‘Cool.’ 
‘We could give you blue streaks,’ said R (15).
‘No,’ said Rachel. 
‘Maroon?’ said R.
'We're good at dipping,' said H (13).
'What about ombre?' I said. 
I think they have this in mind. :-)
'Oh God,' said Rachel.
'We haven't done ombre before,' said R.
‘Whatever,’ I said.  ‘I’ve got to go to London soon for some filming thing – you could give me a makeover. I’m in your hands.’
Rachel’s mouth formed a perfect O of horror.

‘Maroon then, and copper, and maybe a bit of blue and…oooh, and crackle glaze for the nails.  And we could do a face pack – those 99p chocolate ones.’
Rachel shook her head violently from side to side, mouthing urgently at me..
H picked up a clump of my hair (now cascading alarmingly down past my shoulders).  ‘It could do with a cut.’
‘Go for it,’ I said.

Rachel quietly and repeatedly banged her head on the table. 

Monday 24 December 2012

If Christmas suddenly blindsides you...

Funny how one thing can set up a chain reaction of emotions, eh?  This afternoon I was looking through old photos, trying to find the worst of the worst for the post before.  And I kept stumbling over the past, tripping over memories, falling headlong into old emotions and thoughts.  Christmasses past.  People no longer here. 

And then I was talking to someone who is spending Christmas in hospital, with his mother who is dying.  And it got me thinking back to four Christmasses ago, when my own mum was dying in hospital.  And then James yelled at me that The Snowman and the Snowdog was coming on TV any minute.  And so I went through and I said to him, ‘Is this really a wise idea?  Let’s face it; I cried my eyes out when we watched the trailer.’  And he said, ‘It’ll be fine, Mum.’
But pretty much two seconds into it, I started crying and, let’s be very honest here, I haven’t stopped since.  Which is ridiculous, cos I always thought the original was well schmaltzy. 

But hey...I guess I was looking for an excuse cos crying is a release, isn’t it?  Like laughing.  And I’ve been grinning so damn hard lately that my jaw is seriously aching from the effort. 

So. There you go.  And really, it’s fine.  Of course it’s fine.  It’s just life.  Sometimes you stop pushing everything away and…wallow.  Just for a bit.

And I guess I’m saying that it’s very easy to watch everyone having a fantastic time, or what you perceive to be a fantastic time, and somehow feel a bit…rubbish…if you’re not all Deck the Halls and Fa-la-la-la-la.
But it’s okay.  It’s okay to feel a bit rubbish at Christmas.  Nobody can tell you how to feel.  Not nobody.  J

Just…if you’re moaning about family or obligations or whatever…just maybe…you know?  Or not.  J

Me?  I’m fine.  How could I not be?   I’m going to finish off the bottle of Cointreau and take myself off to Midnight Mass.  Alone?  Sure.  My family don’t go in for that kind of malarkey.  And that’s equally cool.

So. My love and blessings to all of you, readers dear…at this strange and special time.  Whatever your belief, or lack of belief…  

Just…all my love.  xxx

PS - if you're not fine...and, who knows, some person reading this might not be remotely fine... my online pal, Kellie (@BigFashionista) asked people to post up her list of helpline numbers. it is. Just in case. 

0300 123 3393

08457 90 90 90

Alcoholics Anonymous
0845 769 7555

Info line 08000 50 20 20 

London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard
0207 837 7324

0845 767 8000

Preventing young suicide 

For people in Northern Ireland
0808 808 8000

0800 1111


0808 2000 247

Eating Disorders Association 
0845 634 1414

0808 800 4444

NHS Direct 
0845 4647

No Panic
0808 808 0545

Cruse Bereavement Care

What's the worst picture anyone has ever taken of you ever?

Anyhow.  I took a look at Facebook yesterday and saw someone had posted a pic of a pal of mine.  ‘Shit,’ I thought. ‘That’s a rotten picture. She never looks that mank.  Not in real life.’
And, within a pulse-beat, said friend posted. ‘REMOVE.’
And the poster did that really annoying thing of…’Oh, sorry. I would.  I will.  Oooh, I can’t work my phone…blether blether blether.’
Which actually was quite funny as it was a bit of a case of the biter bit…
Ouch. I felt her pain.  I mean nobody likes having unflattering pictures plastered over the Internet, do they?  As I think I’ve said before, you kinda get used to it as a journalist cos picture editors delight in picking The Very Worst pic they can of the manky writers (why? Basically it’s an old war – picture eds never get taken out to lunch). 

But anyhow.  I figured, as it’s Christmas, I would give you a laugh by posting up the worst picture of me ever taken by anyone anywhere anyhow.  As far as I know.  

Actually I originally posted a Top Ten but then decided that, really, I didn't want to put your off your mince pies and, anyhow...less is more, right? 

So here you go.  The picture that makes me laugh like a drain every time I see it.  From my trip to Walt Disney World with Linda, Becky (yeah, that's the jammy bitch next to me looking cool as a cucumber and bloody gorgeous), Alice, Lulu, Erica, Laura and Mary Poppins.  And I have been promising them for the longest time that I'd post it - but I couldn't find it. Honestly!  But then I did.  

Now. Honestly.  Can you top that?  Cos frankly I doubt it.  But if you think you can, I double dare you to post on your blog and link back to me so I can have a snigger.  

Sunday 23 December 2012

Dulverton becomes an island

Pic: Gina McIntyre

Last night Dulverton became an island.  The rivers burst their banks; the bridges couldn’t cope.  It didn’t surprise me somehow – I could feel it coming as I drove back over the moor.  A restlessness in the river. 
I came through a deep flood on my way into town, thankful I’d followed my instinct to drive straight back from Braunton. I got through fine with the Toyota’s high wheel base but I figured it wouldn’t be long before the road was impassable. 

When the main flood came, it came quickly.  ‘We watched the water rise up against the bridge,’ said Kenny, the landlord of the Bridge Inn. ‘And we cleared everyone out of the pub and put up defences as best we could.  Then, it crested the wall and just swept over in a tsunami of water.’ 

People here were their usual stoical, sensible selves.  Vulnerable people were checked; offers of help abounded.  But rumours spread, the way they will.  Someone had heard there was fire; other people were concerned about relatives they couldn’t reach.  There were reports of cars being swept under bridges, of people stuck in cars.  Social media is great in emergencies, but it can also breed panic.  So we went out to check up on a few things, hopefully to separate fact from fiction, to report back and reassure if we could. 

Adrian patrolled the pubs, of course.  I turned away from the town centre and walked up Northmoor Road to check on a property up there, where the owners are away. 

The river roared alongside me – just a few inches of wall separating us.  It crashed and smashed over the weirs, a maddened beast flinging itself against rock and tree.  The ferocity took my breath away – it was majestic, a barely caged lion and I felt like the stupid child, standing at the bars, almost tempted to poke its finger in. 
The street lights flickered out and I walked on in darkness.  Just me and the river.  Until I came to the place where the road ended in black water.  And found the fire brigade.
‘Are you all right?’ one asked me.
I explained I was there to check on a house and we tried to see the names by torchlight.  Then I stood and stared at the water.
‘You’re not thinking of going across, are you?’
I smiled.  ‘Of course not.’
He gave me a beady look.‘That’s good.’ 

And I bid them farewell and walked slowly back to town, resisting the urge to wander up into the woods, having to stick my fingers in my ears to avoid the siren call of wind and water and darkness and feeling more than a bit guilty for loving the wildness so much, when it causes such destruction and such misery for so many people. 

PLEASE NOTE:  Dulverton is no longer cut off.  Please do continue to support our pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants over the Christmas period.  The Bridge Inn hopes to re-open as soon as possible.  Probably Boxing Day.

The bridge last night (pic The Bridge Inn)

The bridge normally (yes, that's me on the bench!)
The Anchor - pic by Alice Hounslow

Exebridge the following day. Pic by Sam Gardiner

Exebridge following day by Sandy Takel

Saturday 22 December 2012

Greek restaurants, delinquent Christmas trees and floating in Braunton

I missed my vocation, huh?

Anyhow, we had a good lunch yesterday with the in-laws at Zeus, the Greek restaurant, having not been Raptured on the motorway on the way down to Plymouth.
Ron ordered surf ‘n’ turf and Sheila had steak and chips. Both of them went for rare and the waitress nodded approvingly.   Adrian ordered moussaka (the waitress looked faintly surprised), James went for a kebab (a slight raise of the eyebrow) and I ordered the vegetarian kebab.
‘I beg your pardon?’ she said.
‘The vegetarian kebab.’
‘The what?’
I pointed.
Was my diction that bad?  Then I glanced around.  Pretty much everyone was eating roast turkey or steak.  Crackers and party hats and all.  Really, it was totally ace. 

Anyhow, it was a very fine kebab indeed.  In fact the whole meal was splendid – despite having to race out for Panadol half way through and despite Adrian gurning at his father at every available opportunity. 

We diverted via Buckfast Abbey because Adrian needed to stock up on more Christmas beers.  And I popped into the loo and this woman went into the cubicle next to me and let off the loudest volley of farts I've ever heard and cheerily shouted out, 'Pardon me!' which I thought was pretty cool of her.

And when we got back, I did a couple of hours of meditation and then got the fire going and struck up the Solstice incense.  And I was just sitting, musing on things, as you do, thinking about Solstice, about Mayans, about changes, about signs and signals and what have you – watching the flames, watching the smoke from the incense burner wander around and find its way to the chimney and then – Kaboom! – the Christmas tree decided for absolutely no reason whatsoever to hurl itself out of its bucket, throwing water and decorations and stones (from the bucket) absolutely everywhere. 

And I thought, that's it.  All the old decorations, the ones James made, and the ones he and I chose (we used to have a ritual of buying a new one each year) would be smashed.  But, miraculously, no.  Just one bauble – a very old one that we'd had back at the Old Rectory – had lost its green glister, the paint just slid away to reveal the plain silver beneath.  And when I picked up the angel (another Rectory relic), it had lost its halo. 

And I wondered, is it a really really bad omen for one’s Christmas tree to implode on Solstice night? 

Anyhow.  This morning I was due to go to Hands On in Braunton for my alignment float.  Those who don’t go for my hippy dippy stuff can skate over this bit but let’s just say that these three days (December 21st -December 23rd) see the precession of the equinoxes go in a complete circle – apparently it happens only once every 26,000 years.  Spiritual evolution taking a little leapfrog.   And I decided that, sod it, I’d go and get my body vibrating to Solfeggio frequencies while floating.  My solstice treat to myself.

Except…when I got up this morning, North Devon appeared to be flooded. 
‘It’s not looking too good,’ I said to Adrian. I'm pretty gung-ho but hey...
‘It’ll be fine,’ he said.
I looked again.  
‘Er, Braunton’s cut off.’
‘Just take it easy.’
‘There’s five feet of water.’
‘You’ll be fine.’
And at first I thought, hmm, just a tiny smidgeon of concern might have been nice.  But then I thought, sod it, he’s right.  I’m being a wuss.  So I got in the car and bunged on Eddie Vedder's soundtrack for Into the Wild (probably not the best choice in the circumstances) and made my way over the moor to the coast, basically following the sound of police helicopters and driving along roads turned into rivers.
And lo, the roads were indeed all blocked.  But Phil talked me down a tiny tunnel into town – and the joy of having a car which looks like this... that when you're stuck in a jam down a tiny lane, people take one look at your car and start reversing fast.  But actually it was funny cos, had this been in a city, it would have been all shouting and swearing and road rage but, cos it was Braunton it was all sort of 'yeah' and 'ah well' and smiles and shrugs and whatevers. 
And I pulled up right by the point where the road ended and the (new) river began.  
Pic posted by Phil on Twitter
And I floated. In the floatation tank, not the delinquent river (or I'd  be floating out somewhere in the Bristol Channel by now).  And it was fab.  And at one point I felt a vertebra in my neck pop back into place, and every so often a muscle would twitch or jerk violently.  And then, bizarrely, my stomach started to make the most wild noises (a sort of belated counterpoint to the Buckfast woman's concerto).  And I saw the most incredible patterns forming in front of my retinas – so intricate, so so involved, like some kind of circuitry or map, and every so often a tiny pathway marked out in electric blue.
And Phil was well chuffed when I told him.  ‘Stomach noises are the body releasing old emotions,’ he said firmly.
‘My stomach never makes noises,’ I said.  'Apart from today.'  
And it dawned on me I was hungry.  Not for food.  Just for…change. 

Thursday 20 December 2012

My Christmas diet

Ooops. Wrong search. :-)

I’m on a diet.  Well, not a real ‘diet’ diet cos I don’t do those, but really I’ve been getting a bit lardy lately and something had to be done. You know, this food stuff catches up on you.  You go to a party and are loafing around by some occasional table with a huge bowl of stuffed sweet chilli peppers and you pop one in your mouth because they’re there and you think, mmm, that was nice, in fact that was damn nice and so you have another one and another one and then you start looking round in case people notice you’re being a greedy little cow.  And then, before you know it, the bowl is looking suspiciously empty and so you shift the few remaining around so the plague of locusts doesn't look quite so obvious, move on and stand by another table and lo, that one has crisps or peanuts or what have you and lo, the same thing happens.

Yup, that's probably him. 
So. It’s fine stuffing your face if you also exercise like a crazy loon.  I have tested this theory and it works – but it takes SERIOUS exercise.  And, to my huge sadness, my exercise quotient has dropped.  First to go was my yoga class.  Now I LOVED my yoga class so so so much.  Really it was 90 minutes of pure joy.  But then my yoga teacher announces he’s up and awaying to India, to work in the slums of Mumbai.  I mean – what can you say?  It would be beyond inappropriate to bleat that actually any old sod could do that but not anybody could unravel Dulverton’s collective knots and kinks. Charity begins at home?  Sigh. 

And then my lovely Zumba teacher announced that she was going to stop Wednesday Zumba because she was overdoing it.  That she needed to get some balance in her life.  And I get that.  She really does have to eat mountains to keep up with the calories she expends doing gazillions of classes a week as well as running.   And her classes aren’t like normal classes – forget all that nice stuff you see on YouTube – she would go mental and have us flinging around monstrous heavy weights while dancing like nutters. And yes, someone really did break her wrist doing MoshZumba to Black Sabbath.  So that just leaves Kettlebells (twice a week, once in church; once by the river) and Power Pilates (yeah, with heavy weights).  But that ain’t enough.  And, anyhow, now ALL the teachers have decided to stop for Christmas and eat mince pies instead.

Not the cream ones - they're mank.
Yes, I could do it for myself.  And, to be fair, I do walk the SP a lot, and I bounce on my rebounder, and do crunches by the fire, and so on.  And I must, must MUST get back to doing my Tibetans.  But, frankly, right now it’s easier just to…not eat so much. 

It’s not a hardship actually. I don’t really like most of the traditional Christmas nosh.  Mince pies and Christmas cake leave me cold.  I don’t eat meat and try to steer clear of dairy and wheat too (my body really doesn't enjoy them) so that cuts out a large swathe of the rest of the festive fare.   So.  I started off with a couple of days fasting and now I’m on the next phase of the tofu, red wine and Quality Street diet.  Anyone wanna join me?  J

PS. What will I eat for Christmas lunch?  Roast vegetables.  Followed by Turkish Delight.
PPS.  Off to the inlaws tomorrow.  They’re taking us to eat at Zeus, a Greek restaurant in Plymouth.  Apparently the steaks are good. I shall probably have chips.  J
PPPS.  To amuse you, I have posted this picture of me last night, after two hours of exercise – hot, sweaty, not a scrap of makeup.  And yeah, that's an England rugby T-shirt.  And yeah, those are reindeer antlers. What of it?  

Monday 10 December 2012

Why I haven't blogged

“You don’t blog anymore.” 
“When are you going to blog again?” 
People (okay, two of them) keep asking me this and, really, the answer is very simple.  I really don’t have anything much to say.  Seriously, my life is so boring, reading about it would be the literary equivalent of watching the proverbial paint dry.

See, right now I’m sitting at my desk, writing my agony aunt column for Natural Health magazine. It’s so cold that I am wearing the following: thermal vest, jumper, fleece, James’ old body warmer/gilet thing; jeans; knee-high boots; James’ bobble hat; fingerless mittens (thanks Zoe!); fleece dressing gown (over legs); plus (obviously) bra, pants, socks (two pairs).  I bear a rather unfortunate resemblance to a Womble or a Victorian invalid swaddled up in a bath chair. 

‘You need a pipe,’ said String on Twitter. 
‘I need a heated keyboard and mouse,’ said I.  And actually, wouldn’t that be wondrous? 
‘You need a small modern house with good insulation,’ said the uber practical Em.

But really, the house can be warm as toast. Yesterday I threw caution to the wind (and probably a shedload of money out through the gaps) and had the heating on. It was bliss. Total, utter bliss.  So blissful in fact that I clean forgot I don’t drink alcohol and downed a bottle of wine out of sheer joie de vivre and warm fuzzy thoughts, stumbled around a bit and promptly fell asleep at 9pm or thereabouts. 

But that was Sunday, oh feckless reckless weekend feeling. Today was back to austerity.  Getting up at 6.30am in the cold and dark possessed its usual lustre of…er…beige.  Usually it takes me about half an hour to summon up the wherewithal.  Today the SP rather helped matters by making retching noises from the bed so I literally hurtled him downstairs and outside before even realizing I was standing stark naked and freezing cold at the door. 

And then we took James in to see the doctor cos he’s got yet another problem. This time apparently it’s Osgood-Schlatter disease (aka tibial tubercle apophyseal traction injury or epephysitis of the tibular tubercle) (yeah, I know...apparently they used to call it simply growing pains). And then Adrian said he’d treat me to a coffee and an almond croissant at Costa Coffee and so we sat there and stared gloomily across the table.  And the croissants were stale and the coffee (decaf capucchino) was kinda luke-warm but neither of us could be arsed to complain. And by then the health shop over the road had opened so I went over and bought a packet of tofu (basil flavoured), a packet of spelt flatbreads and some agave syrup (nice on porridge).  And then we drove back (in the caved in car) and then I piled on the layers and got to work. 

And there you are. And there you have it. A snapshot of my life. 

And that’s why I haven't blogged. :-)