Sunday, 6 April 2008

This Dieting Nonsense ...

Today I awoke, feeling a little sore from the 17 (ish) mile bike ride I took yesterday (more later), but otherwise chipper and raring to go. I made myself a cup of coffee and some toast, vowing to buy some Clover which I discovered, thanks to Phid, tastes far from revolting. These I ate, contemplating the fresh, lovely salads I will be eating over the course of the next month.

I then looked down and discovered I'd polished off half a packet of Belgian florentines, and half a packet of Belgian wafer thin chocolate biscuits.

What, I ask thee, is wrong with me?

In an attempt to curb this self destructive greed, I've decided that my blog is going to act as a diet confessional. This will, doubtless, make incredibly dull reading, but if I have to tell all my readers what a biffa I've been during the day it may act as some kind of deterrant. Although, if the thought of losing something I love for 3 months isn't deterrant enough I don't know that this will help.

This week I've lost one single, solitary pound, and it's really not good enough - especially considering the 6 mile run I took, and the 16/17 miler of yesterday. It's time to step up.

From this moment forward, everything that passes my lips is going into this blog. The mistakes I've made thus far are history - I think only forward, to the glorious future of health and vitality which awaits not only myself but my competitors, Janus and Pro.

Now then - what's been going on since my last pathetic blog?

On Thursday night we had a welcome guest in Phid, who I went to pick up from her brand, spanking new cottage in Clackmannanshire. It was all I'd hoped, from the outside - a long, low farm building with all the charm of a rustic postcard. An empty and tumbledown barn stands outside, with ample space for numerous summer parties - including a traditional hay loft, which just needs a new floor to make a superb outdoor den. If only we smoked pot and had illicit sex it would be some kind of nirvana, but as it is, it would make a brilliant gossip corner.

On collecting her, I refused to look round the place. Y'see, I'd been prepared for seeing it on our return from IKEA and had it all set out in my mind as to how it would all come about, and going to pick Phid up was a new plan which I handn't mapped out in my head. I didn't want to spoil my anticipation, so simply grabbed her and shoved her into Helga the Nazi VW, who was not happy to have been taken up a pot-holed driveway.

I'd booked a table at the Seafood Restaurant for supper, and because I was late we had to go straight there, pausing only to pick up Fisher from the lane outside our house. We'd phoned ahead to say we'd be late, but once there they kept us waiting half an hour before taking our orders. Not very impressive. The food, however, was as lovely as always and so was the bottle of Pouilly Fumé we decided to try - very citrussy and clean.

Back home, we sat chatting for a depressingly short period of time before bed beckoned. I'd recorded the 5.30 show on STV at Phid's request, as there was something work related she wanted to watch, but when I switched on the Sky planner, it wasn't there. Baffled, I wondered whether there was an error with our Sky box, which would be a nightmare considering we just got a new one, whether I was going crazy, or ...

With dawning suspicion, I turned to Fisher.

"Have you cleaned up the Sky box?" I cried.

"No!" she gasped, wide eyed and innocent. But I can read her like a book.

"Oh my God," I groaned, "you did, didn't you?"

"Yes!" she wailed. "I'm sorry - I couldn't help myself. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to record the 5.30 show so I just deleted it when I was tidying!"

I can't believe she tidies the Sky planner.

With no programme to watch, we all went to bed and woke shiny and new on the morrow. Fisher gave us a lift into Dundee to pick up the rental van, and then it was off to Edinburgh's IKEA, which proved a moderately painless experience. I refused to allow Phid to buy anything lime green, but otherwise I approved of all the things she bought. I'm sure that sets her mind at rest. She got a big dining table, a bookcase, a boot tidy, a coat rack, a mattress, curtains, a bed, a sofa and some cushions. I think she also got a chef's table as well, but can't remember if she decided against it or not. We had to wait ages for the sofa to be brought to the exit, and then had to be helped by two burly cockneys, who positively leapt to our aid. A young guy before them had also leapt to our aid when it came to loading the mattress, and although he wasn't really needed, we let him help. In this age of masculine confusion as to their role in life, I always find it absurdly touching to see them jump with true delight at the chance to help women lift things that are heavy.

Once everything was loaded, we set off, back to Clackmannanshire and Phid's lovely cottage. This time, I had a good poke about. There are four excellent sized rooms in a long line: kitchen, dining room, study, and sitting room. They're light and airy, with open fires everywhere, and decorated in light, neutral colours, which is a massive bonus. As Phid said, there's not an avacado bathroom suite in sight. The bathroom is, in fact, quite basic - but there's a bath and electric shower (in the bath), and room enough at one end to change into your clothes, so what more do you really need?

It's upstairs where the real charm lies. As is always the way, charm generally brings a few niggly problems with it, and in this case it comes in the shape of the guest bedroom. Both upstairs bedrooms are low-ceilinged and, being in the rafters, slope with the roof. I love this, but the guest bedroom has the added difficulty of having what I presume is the chimney shaft running up the ideal bed-wall. This means the bed has to go on the wall where the roof slopes, which limits the size of the headboard - but a small price to pay for such rustic charm, I say. The master bedroom is the same, but without the chimney, so easier to set out.

Having poked about the cottage, cooing with delight, and having checked out the ample garden space - which catches a great deal of sunshine - I was only too happy to unload. This we did swiftly, putting everything in their ultimate rooms - including the king size mattress.

Ah, the mattress. It had to go in the upstairs, master bedroom. All well and good - but the stairway to the master bedroom is about as wide as I am, and turns sharp right from a teeny-tiny stairwell at the bottom. Couple this with a door height of about 5 ft 9ins, and getting a king sized mattress up these stairs was ... interesting. When Fisher heard about our struggles she said:

"Thank God it was you and Phid doing it, rather than any other Cheese Boarders. You've got the brute strength and Phid never gives up."

I looked at her.

"Er ... of course, you never give up either, dear," she added, hastily.

Good to know I'm not just a meaty fulcrum, eh?

Anyway, once we'd heaved, cajoled and beaten the mattress far enough up the staircase for Phid to get her shoulder under it, everything became slightly easier. With bellows of "1 - 2 - 3 ... heeeeeave ..." we found it sliding its grudging way to the top, and could manhandle it into the middle of the room, where we both collaped on top of it and Phid vowed never, ever to move again.

With everything unpacked and ready for assembly, I bade farewell to Phid and headed home for pizza with Fisher, who was leaving on the morrow for a trade fair. Pizza is NOT part of my diet.

Next morning, Fisher woke me at 6 am and I waved her off. I then couldn't get back to sleep, so stayed awake watching old episodes of Cracker (so good!) until it was time to get up, let the dogs out, and run some errands before setting off to see Phid. I bought her a garden-warming present of a bench from Thai Teak, and it was rather entertaining packing that, my bike and 3 dogs into the car. The big labrador - Rosie - we're looking after, had to ride on the bench, and she scratched it to buggery. Typical. Superficial scratches, though, so should be ok.

Arriving at Phid's, we unpacked the bench and put it in the garden, where it looked very at home, then set off on our run/ride. It was going to be 17 miles, with Phid running and me setting the pace on my bike.

Ha ha. Hahahahahaha. Setting the pace?

First, Phid took us across a field. She then took us over a fence, which I carried the bike over, only to discover we couldn't cross the massive ditch on the other side. We tried going to the bottom of the hill, only to discover barbed wire - so back across the fence we went, down to the road, then back up a different track. As I was toiling up this unspeakable track of soft grass, I discovered my bike was refusing to go below 4th gear. Completely unable to pedal further, I had to get off and push while Phid disappeared around the corner and away.

Eventually I reached the top of the track, to find 2 routes available - one which bent around to the left but appeared to go to a farmhouse, the other which went through 2 gates, through a field, and up a hill. I figured she was probably going off road and following the hillside track. I was, alas, wrong. Huffing up the hill, I reached the top to see a jogging figure on the road below, heading towards me. I retraced my steps and met her, coming round the corner with a slightly worried look on her face.

"Ah good, you're not dead," she grinned.

I'm hanging on by a very thin thread, I thought to myself, but assured her I was fine, if troubled by my bike. We continued onwards, me lagging behind whenever there was even the faintest suggestion of a hill. However, having reached tarmac it soon transpired that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my bike - it just felt like 4th gear when being ridden across soft ground. Chastened and slightly humiliated I wondered whether I was going to manage 17 miles of this, but put my head down and tried to think only of the immediate task in hand - which was to whoop my way down a glorious stretch of hillside. Then followed several miles of beautiful countryside and a mix of uphill and downhill, track and tarmac, which made a great bike ride.

I have to say, being used to run-riding with Fisher, I was struck by the difference it made following someone of Phid's pace. On uphill stretches I simply couldn't keep up and lagged a long way behind. It didn't help that I didn't know the way. With Fisher, I can bomb downhill in order to combat uphill climbs, or at least build up some speed before tackling the hills. Not knowing the way, I had to stop and wait for direction before bombing ahead, and mostly ended up following like the Little Engine Who Just About Could But Would Much Rather Have Been In Bed.

We followed the multi-leisure route into Alloa, went to where Phid works, then returned to Dollar via the Devon Way. This I found pretty tough, being almost entirely flat and therefore needing constant peddling, whereas the way out was up and down, meaning every effort was rewarded with a lot of coasting. However, until about mile 14 I was having a whale of a time. It was a gorgeous day, on the whole - bright sunshine, a fresh wind mostly blocked by trees and lees, and stunning scenery. We did go through a very Scottish patch, involving baltic blasts that nearly knocked me off my bike, hail, rain, snow, then sunshine again. Phid just dipped her head slightly and strode stoically onwards, while I muttered curses and dark vows beneath my breath. If Phid's feet have dropped off today I can only apologise, and will re-evaluate my belief system at once.

Apart from being taken by surprise at how tough I found 17 miles on a bike, I was also somewhat embarrassed, on a couple of occasions, by my ineptitude at steering. While riding along a pavement in Phid's wake, I saw a fat, concrete lamppost. I then rode so close to this fat concrete lamppost that I had to fend it off with a hard blow from my wrist, which neatly took the top layer of skin off and dribbled blood into my watch band. All I can say is, thank god it was a lamppost and not a little old lady I knocked unconscious with a vicious blow. I was then confronted with a series of metal railings, through which pedestrians and cyclists must weave. The cyclist is supposed to ride through two little, parallel railings. I did so, only to catch one pedal on the railing and topple sideways like a galleon caught broadside by cannon fire. Phid's demonic cackle drifted behind her as she loped into the distance. More muttered curses and dark vows followed, and yet more whenever she bounced up a steep hill, crying:

"It's this way!"

"Of course it's this way," I snarled beneath my breath - or lack of it. "Of course it's uphill. There's a perfectly lovely downhill, but nooooo. Phidippida wants to go uphill. Naturally. And pot-bellied gutsack on the bike must follow."

At this point an elderly housewife carrying her shopping overtook me and gave a cheery hello, then heard my black mutterings, gave me a startled glance and crossed the road.

"Oh, it's not this way," Phid corrected herself, running back down the hill, "it's this way."

I swear, if I didn't love her more than my luggage ...

So, anyway, I finished with at least a modicum of my dignity intact, and refrained from bitching all the way round about how haaaaard it was to the person doing the 17 miles on foot. Well, I say 'refrained' ... I suppose I mean 'mostly refrained.' Back ache, chapped lips and a really, really irritating runny nose were the main points of distress which aren't exactly a big deal, when you think about it. Phid looked great at the end, and can proudly put another step towards marathon fitness under her belt. (Way to mix metaphors, Sesh.)

We showered, and I made toast then watched Phid as she started erecting her dining table. There was only one tool, so my offers of help were redundant. We then took the dogs for a quick ball of chalk in the fields, stopped for a chat with Phid's neighbour, who seems a nice chap, and then went - huzzah! - to the pub! We chose the Muckart Inn at Yetts o' Muckart, and it was nice enough. It was busy, so we had a brief wait for a table, but that was ok. It's cosy, the food is fine, and we had a good chinwag as we devoured appropriately unhealthy food. Rump steak, black pudding, pepper sauce and chips are NOT on my diet. Then coffee, before I took Phid home and headed back to an empty HC. Huzzah! Recorded footie on the telly, chocolate florentines 'n' wafer thin biscuits (yes, the other half of the packs I scarfed today), and I was like a pig in muck. I only managed to watch the first half of the Liverpool Arsenal game before I was nodding off on the sofa, so gave the dogs their last out and turned in. 10 minutes and I was deep in a dreamless, black sleep, marking the end of a really lovely day.

And that brings me up to date, and to the start of my new diet regime. Boy, I'm not looking forward to the sugar-shakes as I go cold turkey ...

PS - 01.20am. In the spirit of full disclosure, this was the sum total of my food today.


2 x slices toast with butter (tomorrow I will have Clover instead).
Half pack wafer thins, half pack florentines. Yes, we know about this. It was bad.
75g tagliatelli with sun dried tomatoes, 8 baby plum tomatoes (halved), half small pack pancetta, half a leek, 23g cheddar. Very nice, too.
Glass orange juice.
An orange.
A pack baked Walker's crisps, salt and vinegar flavour. They are only tolerable.
A handful of seeds and raisins. Yes, seeds and raisins.

This diet has already taught me something very potent, namely:

I do not eat enough fruit and veg. Also - seeds and raisins are no substitute for chocolate. Seeds and, indeed, raisins suck the big one.