A Lack Of Health

I have never been the healthiest person. I have been overweight since I was a toddler. I was pretty much always the fattest kid in my year at school. There have been a few times in my life where I have easily been over twenty-five stone, possibly nearer thirty stone. I have smoked, I have been a long-time alcohol abuser. And when not drinking alcohol, it would be nothing but full fat Pepsi all the way, none of that diet rubbish for me.

Pizzas, kebabs, burgers, ice cream, biscuits, chocolates, and anything else even remotely unhealthy has been shovelled down my throat, with nary a vegetable in sight (unless it was on the kebab). I was wearing four XL tops and fifty-four-inch waist trousers and allergic to any form of exercise.

The five years I lived in Manchester it was always a surprise to wake up each morning and be alive. My housemates would not have betted on me making it to my fortieth birthday, let alone for me to get into my fifties.

I was a walking (well, technically waddling) time bomb, and yet every (very rare) time I came into contact with a health check, the doctor or nurse would look at certain results, look at me, look at the results again, look at me again, and ask if they could redo the tests. Which would come back with the same results. I had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and perfectly normal blood sugar readings.

Since moving in with Helen most of my habits have become healthier. I no longer live on a compete diet of take aways. There are vegetables in my diet. I gave up alcohol completely two and a half years ago. I am now in XL tops and forty-four-inch waist trousers.

I got myself a full BUPA health check through employee benefits at work and went to have the medical on a Friday, ambling along to their centre near Euston. Only to find the so-called healthier version of me is a complete old crock now and there are at least three big issues with the results from the test.

The first is blood pressure. After years of low blood pressure readings, this one was so high that BUPA wouldn’t let me do the bike test part of the medical as they aren’t insured for me to pop my clogs whilst on their bike.

Then came the blood sugar readings. Which are through the roof, was above the top of the OK range. They have doubled in the last couple of years to a point where they would diagnose me with having type two diabetes.

Finally for this hat trick was Haemoglobin and iron levels. The first was well below the normal levels, which as it was said to me it was iron levels was a puzzle as Helen has us taking iron supplements with 120% of the RDA, and I have Grape Nuts for breakfast which have 80%, so that’s double before anything else goes into me during a day, but still not enough apparently. Only for me to get the full tests which suggest I have exceedingly elevated levels of Ferritin which stores iron in the blood cells. It is strange.

The cholesterol and ECG were both good, and the advanced tests came back with everything in normal levels apart from a below normal level of creatinine which may suggest kidney issues.

It would appear that it does all catch up with you in the end in a quite rapid and unexpected style.

It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to take out of my diet. Not quite bread and water – bread is a bit of a no go – but it will be close.

Having given up fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, crisps, ice cream, and pretty much eliminated bread and pasta (and taken with the fact I don’t really eat potatoes or rice anyway), the carbohydrate intake is way down. There isn’t much fat going in either, protein is staying about the same, but fibre is through the roof. In six weeks, I lost two stone, and that is still with a pizza Friday night and curry Saturday.

I had an appointment with the diabetic nurse and had to do new blood tests before going to that. The blood sugar level was reduced by a third, down from the diabetic range score of 66, to 44, only just inside the pre-diabetic range. And I am under eighteen stone. I really couldn’t tell you the last time I was at that kind of weight. There is still weight coming off as well. Not the big losses I saw over the first few weeks, but a pound or two a week, or a hundred grams in a week where I was away for five nights staying in hotels and eating out all the time, which was a bonus as was expecting a bounce back up.

A change in C foods will be the main reason. There is no cake, crisps, cookies, chocolate, cola (of the full fat varieties), candy, or chips, and a vast reduction in cheese. Instead, there is now celery, carrot, celeriac, cabbage, cannellini beans, chickpeas, and cold water. With lots of dashes of chilli sauce to replace the extremely high salt intake. The blood pressure was right down as well. At BUPA it was 159 over 90, at the diabetic nurse it was 117 over 73.

And it continues. Everything gets looked at now for calories and for sugars. It is an eye opener just how many ‘healthy options’ have much higher calorie, fat, and sugar values than items you might expect to be less healthy.

Aside from the shrinkage that has gone on, I have noticed another side effect of the weight loss. I’m cold a lot more often. I spent years of being warm all the time, wearing shorts and t-shirts in winter, and I didn’t own a jumper, or gloves. Now I find myself wearing multiple layers nearly all the time and gloves a lot of the time when out as my hands are cold most of the time when I’m outside.

I think it is like the drinking, it is easy at first to go cold turkey and not touch all those bad for me foods and drinks. With the alcohol I don’t miss it most of the time, but there is an occasional moment where I’d love a tot of rum, or a glass or port, or when sat in a French café in the summer sun, a cold beer. I am seeing crème eggs on sale, which were an absolute favourite. I look longingly at bottles of normal Pepsi, and a sausage bap or cheeseburger or doner kebab wouldn’t go amiss. Especially when working through a bowl of salad. But resist I will, as it is what is needed. For me, and those around me.

End Of The Tether

The trend is expanding, and it is annoying as hell.

And what trend is this I hear you ask? (Well, I don’t, no one gives a shit really.)

Drinks. Soft drinks to be precise. Manufacturers now tethering their plastic lids to their plastic bottles. It started, as most terrible, terrible things do, with Coca-Cola putting them on their brands. So, you can’t take the lid of the bottle and hold it away from the bottle to use it. it stays attached to the bottle making it stupidly awkward to drink directly from the bottle, or to pour from the bottle.

Now, I do understand why they think they need to do this. There are so many pieces of artwork around the country made from discarded plastic bottle tops. Dropped on the ground by thoughtless morons. But in doing this they are now punishing the millions, if not billions of people who aren’t complete fucking morons and are perfectly capable of putting the lid back on the bottle when finished with it and putting the whole thing in the recycling.

As ever it is all about making life harder for the customer as companies don’t give a fuck about the consumer or customer. All they are interested in are being box ticking cunts.

If they really gave a fuck about the environment, they so claim to care about then they would go back to the seventies and put everything in glass bottles with metal lids and have a deposit on them. It worked amazingly well back then.

Yes, there would still be a whole host of utter morons who would just discard the bottles as they do with plastic. But with the prospect of getting money back for them, there would be plenty of others who would quite happily go around picking them up to cash in on them.

So, just fucking stop it with your ridiculous box ticking annoying as hell shit tethers and let those of us who aren’t complete cockwombles carry on drinking and pouring unencumbered by your shit.

More Mindless Mumblings

We went to the previously postponed ‘Tea And Tales at The Mill’ on Sunday. It had been part of March’s WORDfest, I’m not sure where the three intervening months disappeared to.

Now, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but being read original versions of Grimm’s fairy tales, and HG Wells in front of a rotating mill wheel probably wouldn’t have been the first thing to spring to mind. It also pointed out how we take Disney versions of fairy tales to be gospel. Pigeons instead of fairy godmothers, cutting off parts of feet, they didn’t appear on screen in Cinderella.

But it was good, and the location is an unusual one to do this sort of thing, perhaps somewhere to bear in mind for next year’s WORDfest for the writing group.

Afterwards it was across country to the Plough for food. Only for them to be fully booked. We went to sit on the bench opposite the pub to check out alternate locations for lunch, only for one of the blokes from the pub to come out and say they could squeeze us in in five minutes time. Nice. Glad we sat down to work out where to go instead of doing it on the move.

There were a couple of old dears having Sunday lunch in the corner of the pub. I heard one say to the other that she didn’t drink. I suppose it could have been non-alcoholic wine in the large glass she was guzzling from.

They were also talking about going to Ibiza. We were laughing at the images that was conjuring up. The ones of some poor lad waking up the morning after with someone’s granny lying next to him. For some reason Obie Trice’s “Got Some Teeth” springs to mind.

Elsewhere I could hear one of the blokes from the pub telling another table ‘you can have double cabbage next week.’ I’m going to assume they actually want double cabbage. As to me it sounds more like a threat or a punishment. I’m tempted to run screaming from the pub. “NO, please don’t make me have the double cabbage. I promise I’ll be good from now on.” Or it sounds like something the old dear might say to the young lad in Ibiza. “Thanks for last night sonny, you can have double cabbage later.”

Single cabbage was bad enough, at least I could get rid of the case with the syrup pudding, which came in enough cream to float a battleship. And it still wasn’t as large as Helen’s sticky toffee pudding. At least we’d got a few miles to wander home to walk some of it off.

A Couple of Little Things

Why is it that when we go somewhere else apart from our own sofa to watch an England game, they are always such a crushing bore and usually not a great result? And is it just a coincidence that these games are the ones that are being shown on ITV. There appears to be a pattern emerging from recent tournaments. It did leave me wondering whether one of the channels hidden away in the upper reaches of the Sky channels is dedicated to watching paint dry. Just interested for alternative viewing for the next England game ITV show.

If the game wasn’t very good, it was a good gathering. Lots of Italian fare on offer. Pizza, dough balls, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks etc. I suppose it’s one way of getting the Italians involved in the world cup. I couldn’t resist asking Simon (pronounced See Mon) how Italy were getting on in the tournament in their easy group (consisting of themselves, Scotland, Peru, and New Zealand). He didn’t look impressed, not amused. Not that sarcastic me cares.

And if the game was bad enough, they left the same channel on, and so I got subjected to the first episode of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, in this lifetime. I failed to see any celebrities, and feel that none of those there should get out, in fact it would do many people a favour if they just landfilled the whole site with everyone still in situ.

There are some tacky TV ads featuring players at the World Cup, but none of them are as bad as the radio ad for Muller Rice. They have Declan Rice, and they sing Rice Rice Baby. If I ever find the person responsible for that shitshow then there may be a prison sentence coming in my future.

Anyway, Saturday morning came, and the long running bugbear about Maccy D’s breakfasts annoyed me again. When you customise an item, it costs extra to add items (obviously, fair enough), but it doesn’t reduce the price if you remove items. If it costs 80p to add an egg or sausage to a double sausage and egg McMuffin, then why doesn’t it take the same amount off when you remove one? I always customise mine to remove the egg and add an extra sausage. Both items show as being the same price, so why get charged extra when all that has been done is in effect a swap of one item for another of the same price? It’s just a way to rip customers off again.

It isn’t as if they are putting the extra money towards staff training. Even basic reading skills would be a bonus. If the order clearly says eat in, why is it not on a tray. Why is it in a crappy take away bag?

And since they removed the self-service area for serviettes, condiments, straws etc. why are none being added to the bag? Why are they staring at me as if I’m some kind of mass murderer if I ask them for a serviette and some salt.

I get it, they don’t want to be there, but by the same token, I don’t want to be having to speak to you. But if you make the decision to remove these items from self service then you have no right to be looking at customers as if they are a piece of shit.

And as for the arrogant teenagers in there. No, it fucking well isn’t your seat. You are not Ronald McDonald. If you are that desperate to sit in the seat, I am in then you can wait until I am done (granted I may now take even longer to eat my food than I was originally planning on doing). Or you can fuck off and find another seat.

October Flies By

The first weekend of the month was a write off, as I spent most of it working. I never want to see a sickness reason code again in my life. (And to be honest, I never wanted to see one in the first place, but such is life.) I racked up a lot of time, so took an extra day off on the Thursday of the next week to make it a four-day weekend. Helen was off too, but she was off to deepest darkest Somerset with her mum to visit other family members. Something I politely passed on, and so I was left to my own devices.

I didn’t spend the whole time playing solitaire on my laptop (though the draw to it was real), and I was up and over in Horsham before midday, full details of that trip out are in a piece I’m writing on my Medium page.

I’d let the furry fussy pest out before going out, and when I returned, Sniffles was laid between the plant pot and the meter cupboard to the side of the front door. It is a good snoozing spot for him as he’s protected on three sides. On hearing footsteps, he lifts his head and looks around to see who it is coming before he recognises it is someone who will let him in, and he lets out a welcoming whine. Well, I’m not sure if it’s welcoming, it sounds more along the lines of ‘where the fuck have you been?’

He did the same thing when I got in from wandering around town on Friday. There is something about the way he does it that makes me laugh. It reminds me of Brad Pitt playing Mickey the Pikey in Snatch when Tommy and Gorgeous George turn up to buy a caravan and he’s squatting down having a crap and his head bobs up to see who it is that has arrived. Sniffles has mastered that action.

Anyway, on my way out on Friday I was aiming to stop and sort out physiotherapy sessions. Helen had bought them for me for my birthday and after some unsuccessful phone tag I was still no closer to a session four months on. The physiotherapist is only around the corner from where I live so I thought I’d knock on the door. So, I ambled down Southgate Drive and knocked on the door. I did think it was odd that there was a big Volvo estate blocking most of the drive that I had to squeeze around to get to the door. And when the door opened it is hard to say who was the most confused about me asking about physiotherapy sessions; me, or the old Asian woman who answered the door.

The actual house I wanted was on Southgate Road, not Drive, so I went there on the way back from town. I walked past it once because I though the blocks in the large driveway were all saying number 10, but it turns out they were all the physiotherapist’s logo marking out parking spaces. I knocked but that didn’t sort out a session. They were going to give me a ring on the Saturday to sort one out. Two weeks later and there has been no contact.

The confusion stakes carried on later in the evening. Sniffles was curled up on the blanket in the corner of the sofa when Helen rang me. As I was talking to her, Sniffles got up, looked around, and then wandered over to me and looked up before heading back to the corner. Only to come back and end up with his paws on my chest staring at me all confused. I put him down and he got the hump and went to sit on the box of Halloween decorations in high dudgeon glaring at me. He eventually came back and investigated what I was doing, but it would seem he was confused that he could hear the voice of the nice lady who usually feeds him, and fusses over him, but couldn’t see her. He was looking at me as if I had somehow imprisoned her in my phone and was wondering when she was coming back. As when the phone call ended, he curled back up in his corner of the sofa and went to sleep.

After writing group on Saturday, which went quite well considering I was winging it big time. I headed for another afternoon of walking. I got a bus to Turners Hill and meandered back to Tesco’s at which point the walking boots I’m still breaking in were making both feet and knees scream at me, so I got the bus home and vegged on the sofa all evening.

Sunday saw a bit of cooking (well, chucking bits in the slow cooker for a chili, so cooking might be stretching it) and sport watching. The GP was odd, the football mildly entertaining, and the American football very entertaining. The 49ers eased to an easy win and top the division after five games as all the other teams in the division lost. And this win despite more injuries to key players (which came back to bite us the following week as we lost to the Falcons of all teams).

Crawley meanwhile lost whilst I was out walking on Saturday. 3-0 away to Grimsby Town. I had considered going to that game and had scoped out travel times for trains and hotels for overnight stays as there wasn’t much to do with Helen being away, but I decided against it. It was a wise decision by the look of things, as another poor result saw us ending up as the strongest team in the football league – bottom – holding all the other teams up. And it saw Kevin Betsy being sacked.

I still want to go to Grimsby. Well, Cleethorpes really, as I want some photos for other pieces I am writing.

Work was still shit when I went back, but it was only four days before ten days off. Although most of that time was going to spent with relatives of mine or Helen.

When work came to an end on Thursday evening, we went and picked Helen’s mum up and headed north. We were heading for Lichfield, as an overnight stop on the way to North Wales for a seventieth birthday afternoon tea.

Three times on the journey to Lichfield the ‘smart’ motorway signs signalled to move over for workmen in the road ahead. After there being nothing the first two times it was tempting not to move over the third time in a boy who cried wolf fashion.

We turned on the sat nav for the last stretch, only for it to immediately to yell turn left, only for that to be the exit to the south and a nine-mile detour to the next junction and back before we were on the right track again.

When we got out of the car at the Holiday Inn Express at Lichfield Helen’s mum asked where the cardboard box was. What box? The box that was in the porch. Well, at a rough guess, it’s still in the fucking porch, as it’s the first we’ve heard of a box. (A neighbour was rung, and the box retrieved).

Between Lichfield and north Wales, we were told of how Helen’s mum likes to stroke bees. Which both of us found a bit bonkers, but no one else we spoke to at the party batted an eyelid at. Who knew stroking bees was a thing?

Breakfast in the pub was interesting, as the coffee was served in a cafetiere, but appeared to be instant coffee.

The invites to the party did not have a standard start time on them. Some had midday, some 12:30 and others one o’clock. Most of the relatives going to the party were in the pub first, seemingly delaying the going to the party until the last possible moment. This included Bob whose party it was. In total there were thirty-five people invited, and a miraculous thirty-one of them turned up. But there was a mini exodus from the room just before the party games started. Strategic absences involved to avoid playing feed the baby and blind makeup. Packing up only took a few minutes compared to the hours setting up the room did, and most of the relatives headed to the other pub in the village straight after.

When it comes to it being time to leave the pub to drop off a couple of people at Joanne and Bob’s and to pick up Helen’s mum, we find that the room key to our room is still in the village hall, and there is no one there for us to be able to get it. Fortunately, there was a spare so we could get into the room and get the car keys. We may also have left some tweezers behind, as before dinner Helen’s mum asked if we had any tweezers as she couldn’t find hers, and she needed to screw the curtain rail back up. I still don’t know what the hell was going on, but our rooms didn’t have any curtains, let alone rails to hang them off.

There may well have been a spare key to our room, but it wasn’t fully legit. It allowed us to lock the room when we retired for the night. But it would not open from the inside in the morning. We had to get one of the staff to go into the crawl space outside the other end of the room for us to pass the key out of the window for them to come around and open our door from the outside. And that wasn’t even the worst part about breakfast.

We get out of the pub and drop Helen’s mum off at Joanne and Bob’s and head north to Morecambe for four nights at my mum’s. Despite the attempts at force feeding and the horrendous driving conditions over the next three days out, it wasn’t a bad stay. There are lots of write ups from those days out on Medium (or will be depending on which order I post things).

We met up with Joanna and Bob at Lymm services on the way home for a handover of Helen’s mum, and after dropping her off we were more than happy to collapse on our sofa and do nothing.

I know work is rubbish, but sometimes having time off can be more tiring.

Random Rubbish From An Overheated Mind

Helen bought some sun cream / lotion thing the other day. She read out that it had five-star protection on it. It sounded quite specific to me. Why would sun cream be able to protect you from 5 Star? Does it protect you from other random eighties bands as well, r is it just 5 Star? Is it because it protects whether it’s “Rain or Shine”? Or does it go on like Silk and protect like Steel? Stay tuned for more stupid questions.

Such as, what is the best time of day to go to the dentist? 2:30 of course. (Tooth hurty for all those who can’t quite grasp the extremely poor level of humour happening here.)

This morning, Helen’s sister was complaining about here mobile coverage, saying she couldn’t get any signal. I suggested helpfully that perhaps she should try changing to Colgate. It is lost on some people.

You have probably all heard the vast array of “why did the chicken cross the road” jokes. Well, around here there is the one about why did the cat cross the road? In Sniffles case it was so he could flop down in the middle of the road and start washing himself whilst holding any traffic up. It won’t be like the hedgehog visiting his flat mate, it will be a flat cat one of these days. It is more of a surprise that he isn’t flat already.

Although, saying that, he is laid flat out on the dry yellow grass in the shade in the back garden. I’m sure it’s only a coincidence that the shade is under the tree with the bird feeders in it. He’s not really trying to catch any bird with a lower IQ than Sniffles who happens to be stupid enough to try and peck at some of the fallen food.

Just in case I’ve never mentioned it before; I hate this weather. The only time it is acceptable to have a temperature in the thirties or forties is when it is being measured in Fahrenheit.

And I’ve got a train journey to deepest darkest Somerset to do in the morning. I had deliberately booked an earlier that necessary train to get there. Mainly because I’m an unsociable bastard and wanted to make sure that I was on a train that none of my work colleagues were going to be on so I could sit in stony silence enjoying my own company before having to spend the next twenty-four hours with hordes of them in an enclosed environment. My misanthropic behaviour may well pay off in unexpected ways. The journey will be early in the morning before temperatures and tempers have increased. Plus, I should get there before all the rails buckle due to the heat.

Yes, it is churlish to moan about warm weather. But as I’ve said thousands of times before; I’m not made for anything above about twenty degrees centigrade. I should have been born as an Eskimo.

It is boiling out. Just in case I haven’t mentioned the heat before, or how much I hate it. So, with Helen off in Greenwich with her sister and mother with tickets to a Canaletto exhibition, followed by a meal on the banks of the River Thames, it means that I’m left to my own devices to sort food out. Now in this heat, some people will be having an ice cream bath; possibly with chocolate sprinkles on (not the sprinkles in Eddie Murphy’s Delirious though). Or a salad, or a platter of cold meats and cheeses. But no one ever accused me of being sane. Not even slightly so. So, off I go, out in the sun, up the close and past the shops to the Downsman, where I order curry. Hot curry. To heat me up rom the inside.

I’m working on the assumption that people who live in hot countries all the time know what they are doing and the fat that all the hottest, spiciest, chilli laden dishes around the world come from countries firmly ensconced in the Tropics. And as I don’t want to beat them, I will join them. I may still be hot, but at least the food will be tasty, and I won’t have to have made it myself.

As I’ve been sat on the sofa in the heat of the afternoon, I have heard the faint tinkling of the chimes from an ice cream van. It can’t be that far away. And I put my trainers on so that I’m ready when it arrives. So, I can jump up, get out the door and hustle to the van and get my Mr Whippy fix. And I hear that tinkling, close, but not on the Close, from all around. One, two, three, four, five, six times, messing with my head with no reason or rhyme.

But it doesn’t appear. Two hours come and go, but the ice cream van doesn’t. Again. It never seems to come to the Close anymore. It used to be here every day, rain or shine, hail, gale, or snow. At night in the dark, or in the bright of the afternoon sun. But no longer it would seem.

On another purely coincidental note. The drug dealers moved out from the Close at a remarkably similar time to the cessation of the ice cream van services.

And Breathe

The Jubilee weekend is winding down. When it was announced there was only the upside in my mind of an extra Bank Holiday off work. I’m not pro or anti royalty, I’m just ambivalent to it all.

Our street had a street party on Friday. Five of the fifty-one houses on our cul-de-sac got involved in setting it all up, Helen being one of the main drivers behind it. There have been council meetings going on since April. And almost inevitably I was dragged into things.

Playing to my strengths I wasn’t given anything that involved talking to people, but instead to make spreadsheets to record everything. All the houses, who is coming, how many, what food are they bringing, raffle prizes, who’s donating to the bring and buy sale, the bottle tombola, who’s happy to have bunting up, who’s entering the cake making, the bin decorating, the races. Yes, there was a lot getting planned. Various people went around the houses in the close, asking different questions, dropping off different flyers with information on. It might have been helpful if all the answers had been written down, or if the leaflets had been posted in all the houses, but it was what it was.

The council authorised the closing of part of the cul-de-sac. The bunting starts arriving, along with flags, tablecloths, plates, cups, and a whole host of other party related items. The close being closed did throw a couple of flies in the ointment, but they were smoothed out.

Then all the other stuff started turning up, raffle prizes, books, games, toys, general bric-a-brac, bottles. All the stuff needed for the various stalls that were going to be running on the day. They were being run for charity, St Catherine’s Hospice, Manor Green School, and Crawley Open House. The raffle prizes were sorted out and sent across the road to another of the houses, but everything else; the book stall, the bring and buy sale, the toy swap, the children’s lucky dip, the bottle tombola, and all the decorations, were all in our house. It increasingly began to look like a cross between a charity shop and a worn out Poundland. Granted, a hell of a lot of it was ours, and whereas our lounge and dining room look like bombsites, the loft is the tidiest I’ve ever seen it.

The bunting went up in two stages, the first part across the large area at the end of the cul-de-sac on the Sunday, and then the rest of the street that was going to be closed on the day was done on the Thursday morning. The height of randomness came when I got back from doing some food shopping for the event to find there was a little (two-foot circumference) paddling pool on the side. I asked what it was for, to be told it was for the flamingos. WTAF, what effing flamingos? The toy ones Claire has, so they can sit in water on the day.

Then there was the day. Setting up started early on, setting up tables and chairs, carrying all the items from the houses up to the end of the street as all the cars disappeared and the barriers were put up. It was amazing how long it took to make some sandwiches and stick some pickled onions and cheese on cocktail sticks.

People are out eating as I’m still setting up all the stalls. Someone has erected swing ball, and there is supposed to be face painting and a table football competition, both of which never happened due to everything else that was going on.

It’s only just three in the afternoon and the dignitaries start to arrive. The head of Crawley council arrives with the Labour candidate for the soon to be Southgate by-election. They the Mayor turns up with her daughter. Both the council leader and mayor have only been elected to their posts in the last couple of weeks. There is the feeling that they have lucked out in doing so as they get to go around to all the street parties being held over the weekend and get free food and drink.

There is lots of food and drink out. I’m mildly annoyed by the fact that someone took all of the cling film off the sandwiches I made straight away and so they are getting hard and curly quite quickly. Seriously people, that’s why there was cling film on them, to stop that kind of thing. Then when the rain starts in about six in the evening, there is a consolidation of food onto one table covered by parasols and umbrellas. However, one of the neighbours gets a bit trigger happy and bins a load under the auspices that it could be unsafe. It included half of Helen’s home-made cake, which took ages to make, and was something that could have been taken and put in a fridge. She wasn’t overly happy with that either. It was one of the things that is always a downside to events like this. There was no plan as to what to do with the leftover food. Somewhat ironic considering one of the charities was Crawley open house. (I did also manage to save the tub of flapjack I’d made the previous day – if others didn’t want to eat it, then I certainly did, even if I might still be eating it weeks later.)

The raffle went reasonably well, and there were lots of decent prizes, with a lot of local businesses having donated prizes and vouchers for use. The bottle tombola went OK, with tickets still being sold the following day. But the bring and buy and book sale didn’t go as well. In fact, after a couple of people dropped stuff off at the stall, we ended up with more left at the end of the day than we started with. So, it all came back in, and now the living room looks like the dodgy back room of a charity shop.

And it meant there was nearly as much to bring back as daylight faded and the rains came. By the time everything had been done, I hadn’t left the close all day, but still managed to rack up over twenty thousand steps. And most of them had been made whilst carrying boxes full of stuff, or chairs, or tables, or food

Nine pm came and the barriers blocking the end of the close off were taken away. By one minute past cars and vans were already making their way back to their parking spaces. Some people were still out partying though. A barbeque was up and running, and there was still some food remaining from earlier in the day laid out undercover. The music in the street had been shut off, but there was still music blasting out from a marquee in the next street, and the bizarre conversations had started.

I spoke to a number of people I hadn’t spoken to before. Some of whom I’d never even seen before (but am reliably informed they do live on the street). I’m hoping that normal service is resumed quickly where they don’t stop and say hello and allow me to go back to scuttling past without making eye contact and having to talk to people.

The final stragglers made it back in by about two. Pretty much everything in the street has been tidied away. There may still be some bins to be undecorated,

and there will need to be a car boot sale / charity shop drop off for the rest of stuff next weekend, and the bunting will need taking down at some point (a couple of lengths have fallen down already), but on the whole it is all over, and nearly four hundred quid has been raised for the charities. (Although it may well have been cheaper just to give them that amount without any of the rigmarole of the event – there has been a lot of money spent – and a vast overestimation of what could be sold in a closed event.)

I can safely say that whenever the next street party is spoken about and the date is known, I’m going to book a four-week holiday, so I don’t get dragged into this lunacy again.

The Slowest Cooker In The World

As a wedding present, Ciaran and Marta had sent a link to Helen to a slow cooker on Amazon.com. so, Helen had ordered it and it had arrived. However, the link was for the seven in one version, whereas they had wanted the ten in one version, and so, a reorder was done and the extra special, walking, talking, singing, dancing affair turned up.

Ciaran had messaged to say thanks and that they were going to make chilli in it on Tuesday. But when Helen messaged later in the week to ask how it had gone with making the chilli, the message came back that they hadn’t made a chilli yet. They needed to wait until they had more time so they could work out the instruction on how to use the multi-functional slow cooker.

Let that sink in.

They need to work out how to use a slow cooker. One of the simplest things in the world to use. Chuck all of the ingredients in, turn it on, and leave it for five hours.

But apparently the ten in one is complicated. There’s a lot of things it can do (including making yoghurt apparently) and it takes some working out.

It needs pointing out that both of them have PhD’s. Ciaran in maths, so I’m sure he could explain the logarithmic scale increase in complexity that having ten function poses, even if he can’t cut through that difficulty. And Marta’s one in Psychology means she could explain why building up to working out the instructions is so necessary for a happy and successful use of the slow cooker.

It does however look like the slow cooker will be living up to its name, and it will be many months before something is cooked in it.

Finally, how many doctors does it take to make a slow cooker work? More than two apparently.

Under 20

I’m not a great one for doing it, and it’s been a few months since I last weighed myself, and during that time it hasn’t been a case of minding what I’ve eaten or drank, and 10,000 steps a day is rarer than not by quite a distance.

But I weighed myself this morning and after a few laps, the dial showed 126.3 kilograms. Which after some careful maths works out to be just under 278 pounds. It was a loss of four pounds since I had last bothered weighing myself, which isn’t a great amount, but it did break a barrier. I am now under twenty stones. For the first time since I was in my twenties. And this is without going to the gym or being force fed calorie-controlled meals. I think it is from being happy in life generally.

Some of those who have known me for a while will know there was a period of several years where I was forced to go to the gym at least four times a week, and food intake was watched like a hawk. And I fucking hated it. I hated the gym with a passion (mainly for the freaks it attracts). I was thoroughly miserable. I used to sneak off and stuff myself with burgers and chocolate when the gestapo wasn’t watching. And during this time the lowest weight I got to was twenty-one stone and four pounds, just under three hundred pounds, a set barrier that didn’t get the rewards that were promised for it.

Then after the breakup of that toxic relationship I went back to overeating and drinking and a total lack of exercise, and absolutely no weighing myself, but I probably went back up to at least twenty-four stone.

Yet since being with Helen I’ve lost more than four stone without trying. Because I’m happy and comfortable. I don’t starve myself. There are probably a lot more vegetables in my diet nowadays, but I don’t feel the need to sneak off for side food not.

Recently I have pretty much stopped drinking alcohol. I haven’t had a drink since August, which will be a shock to most of you. I’m very much a binge drinker. If I have one, I get the taste for it and will pour it down until I fall asleep. But if I don’t have a drink, it doesn’t bother me. Plus, it’s likely that I’m mildly allergic to it now. Granted, not drinking will help with weight loss, but if I could give up the very addictive sugar loaded Pepsi then there would probably be even more loss.

But gradual loss continuing is good, but it does mean I need a refresh to my wardrobe. All of my clothes used to be 3XL and 4XL for tops, and 52 or 54 waist for trousers. Now all tops are 2XL, with an occasional XL in there. I only have three pairs of jeans at the moment, all the other trousers have gone because they look like they belong to Coco the clown. Two of the remaining pairs are 46 waist, granted one is stretch, and the other are what I call standing up jeans, but I really can’t remember the last time I got into 46 waist trousers of any description.

And for a few brief moments whilst I write this, I can feel quite happy with myself.

What Was She Doing?

After chilling and relaxing post spa, we did manage to drag ourselves out of the hotel for something to eat. As is traditional in any place we stay for more than one night, it was time to find a curry house. On our wander around the previous afternoon we had seen quite a few, and Helen had been scoping some out on Trip Advisor. But we went down the wing it route and just wandered into the centre of Basingstoke and picked one we liked the look of at random.

The food was great, and the service was really good as well, but there was something about the place that was just odd. Part was the clientele. When we arrived, there was a table of sixteen finishing their meal. Judging by the fact most of the Christmas decorations were still up inside the restaurant, I’m going to say it was the local Dungeons & Dragons gaming group’s Christmas party. It would also appear that both the Addams Family and the Munsters had tables there as well.

It wasn’t the clientele that really caught the attention. It was the white woman wearing full on scally wear hovering in the background. She was in the back corner, and wasn’t doing any work as far as we could tell, but she was watching the staff like hawks, and was checking all the order slips and payments. Every so often she would get a phone call and disappear behind a curtain to talk, and then be back. Watching.

Theories as to what she was doing.

  1. She was the actual owner of the restaurant and was watching the hired help, just like the woman in the curry house we went to in Prague.
  2. She was a local enforcer for the mafia / whatever local dodgy gang there is. Watching the takings so they could get accurate figures on what their protection money take should be.
  3. Some kind of drug dealer, supplying class-a’s, hence the disappearances behind the curtain when delivery drivers turned up to collect food.

Only for a final time, the curtain closed behind her, and when it was reopened by one of the serving staff, she had disappeared like some kind of Adam Krauss trick.

Whatever the cause, it was just like Prague when she had disappeared. The guys working there all seemed to cheer up.

We left a bigger tip than usual though, just to help with any protection payments.