Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Onslaught

Location: Upstairs, grabbing some quality time with Fisher
Mood: Like a kudu who's just caught a whiff of Cheetah on the wind
Listening to: John Williams' Spanish Guitar
Reading: Drood
Playing: Buzz! Junior Monster Rumble (ad nauseum)

Just a quick note to say it's all kicked off - and so far so good. Sister and sons arrived on Sunday while we were at a very chilled party at Phid and Wheeler's - as did the snow. We've got a pleasant few inches thus far, making driving cautious but nothing to be particularly concerned about. MaPa arrived about an hour ago, much to Gemmill's delight (he couldn't stop hugging his Granu), and we only await the arrival of Brother and Gaura tomorrow - weather permitting - to have a full complement. I've got all the pressies I'm going to get, I've wrapped them, and all that remains is for me to discover (horror of horror) on the day that I've forgotten someone.

Shit! I've forgotten Islander!

No, not forgotten, but haven't actually collected his present from the appropriate place. Shag a duck. I'll have to do that tomorrow.

Yesterday we went to the gym and I managed to fit in a sneaky 50 mins on various machines. I did a mile in 9.13 on the running machine, 6.55 miles on the static bike, and 150 calories on the elliptical machine. I swear there's something amiss with that thing. How can 10 minutes on the elliptical burn more calories than the same time running? Running is horribly hard in comparison. And the fact that the static bike burns about half as many is a constant source of fury. I work hard on the bike, always on cross country setting, and yet I never burn as many calories as I think I deserve. Woe. O woe is me. Anyway, I finished off with a few stomach crunches and proper press-ups, then went home and ate burgers and chunky chips. Good stuff.

Tomorrow I'm due to go into Edinburgh and meet up with Champaign Charlie, who is - hurrah! - over for the festive period. I haven't actually broken this news to the family yet, but it may be quite a good move as it could mean Ma coming in to Reekie to do some Xmas shopping.

Gah. Have bored myself.

See you later peeps. Keep your fingers crossed for my brother and Gaura tomorrow will you?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Run Report

Quick bit of dullness for my own records:

Ran for 1 hour from P.O in Dunkeld to the bridge crossing the Tay path, then back to the gym and round about a bit to top it up to an hour. Map My Run claims this is 5 miles.

In the gym did:
  • 3 sets 12 chest presses on 37.5
  • 25 sit ups
  • 3 sets 12 lat pull downs on 25
  • 50 bicep curls with the elastic twangy thing (official name) number 2
  • 10 evil leg lifts (on back with knees at 90 degrees, stretch out one leg and opposing arm until abs threaten to twang like the elastic twangy thing) on each side.
I still feel fat and overindulgent, but this goes some way to easing my conscience. And I'm very pleased I can still run for an hour without stopping.

Feeling chuffed.

'Tis the Season to get Trollied, la la la la laaaaaa etc ...

Location: Bed! Huzzah.
Mood: Tranquil, but likely to turn at any minute.
Listening to: Nothing.
Reading: Seven Years in Tibet
Playing: Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time

What a few weeks it has been, my loyal and patient reader. Much has occurred of a jolly nature, involving neighbours, Cheeseboarders and family, and I am now feeling much like a drained sponge (and of similar rotund shape).

After the visit of Sister and Tertius, Fisher and I went down to see Brother and Gaura. First we stopped at their country house in Staffordshire. It's a beautiful part of the world, with rocky ridges like dragons' teeth, dramatic glacial peaks, and pretty country towns dotting the area. We had a great time (mostly eating in pubs) and, after a couple of days, went on down to London. There, I met up with Koios who had kindly included me in a visit to the O2 arena where the world ATP championships were being held. We saw Davydenko beat Soderling in 3 sets, and I was impressed with the O2 as a venue. Koi also stayed at Brother's so we went out for dinner at the Painted Heron in Chelsea. This is one of the nicest modern Indian restaurants I've been to - giving the Cinnamon Club a run for its money - and even if we did have to wait until 10pm for a table, it was a great evening.

London was great, actually. As well as doing some fine dining, seeing the tennis and catching up with everyone, Gaura, Fisher and I also went to an exhibition at the V&A on the Maharajas. Indian history is something I know shamefully little about, so I was delighted with the whole experience. I was particularly interested in the warrior queen Chand Bibi, even though the only information was a single picture of her hunting with her attendants. Basically she acted as regent, and defended her realm against the Mughals. She came to an unpleasant end when her own troops turned on her, following rumours of her treachery with the Mughals. Anyway - she was one of a number of fascinating characters. It was also fascinating to see how times changed under British rule. I should emphasize that this exhibition displayed the treasures of the Maharajas - it didn't go into detailed political history - so the major changes witnessed were in terms of costume and treasure. It was truly fascinating to see the dichotomy that occurred: young Maharajas being educated at Eton and Harrow, dressing in western costume, and then returning to India and adorning themselves in the traditional dress of their home. And the dress itself changed, too - adopting some of the western style, such as trousers for men rather than full skirts, but staying true to itself. On a superficial level it told quite an interesting tale. India clearly never lost itself beneath colonialism; it adopted and learned western ways, but beneath Britain's ruling head beat a powerful Indian heart.

More disappointingly was a visit to Fortnum's for afternoon tea. We turned up at 5, had to wait and age to get a table, and then discovered that the traditional tea spread had been whittled down to the choice of 2 cakes. Not only that, but everything was extortionately expensive, very tourist-minded ... and there was a 12 % optional service charge added that incorporated bank charges and other costs into it. Outrageous! A service charge should be for service! We removed the charge and left a cash tip instead.

So all in all it was a terrific trip.

I'm afraid in my weakened state I'm rather hazy about dates of events, so I'm just going to chuck down all the things we've done in any old order. These include:

A trip out on the Tay with Kai to do a spot of out-of-season fishing. This means you throw back every cock salmon you catch, and take any hens up to the holding tanks to be milked for conservation purposes. Kai was after the hens, and we managed to catch 3 before a very welcome lunch of soup (home cooked by Ina) and a sarnie. By golly it was cold on the river! It started off fine, and with the catching of fish we managed to keep warm enough. Then the ice started to creep into our feet, and by 1 pm we were just about rattling the rivets out of the gunwales. Still we were game enough, once warm, to have another hour on the water. We didn't catch anything else, but floating on the water is so blissfully calm and beautiful it didn't matter. Plus, we weren't out long enough to get really cold again.

To say thanks for the trip we invited Kai and Ina round for Sunday supper, along with Epona and Shah to help make merry. I decided to cook something different - and when we discovered buffalo was on sale at the Perth market we snapped up a hearty rib roast. As a starter I served 3 different types of salmon (in honour of our 3 catches): traditional smoked, hot smoked, and a walnut and lemon paté with oatcakes. I did a horseradish cream to go with the hot smoked, and accompanied the traditionally smoked with a tiny shot of Caol Ila whisky. I recommended people dip a knife into the whisky and spread a little of it onto the salmon. Try it - it's lovely.

The main course was very exciting. As Shah is a cattle expert I was interested to find out whether he could recognise the breed. When I said it was buffalo, the news was greeted with great interest and excitement. Much comment flowed. "It's so fine-grained," said Ina. "It tastes like really well hung beef," I burbled, through an enormous mouthful. "It's like a Highland," Epona judged. Kai just ate. Shah then told me it was water buffalo, which I thought was wrong. I thought the picture had showed a bison, and said so. He politely demurred. I reiterated my belief. Then I thought I was probably being a bit of a tool, arguing with the King of Cattle, and ceded the point. But my curiosity was roused.

For the final course we served cheese and a "mouthful" of apple & prune crumble. The mouthful was because Kai had told us he doesn't have a sweet tooth and will eat only a "mouthful of crumble - nothing more." However, when we explained the egg-cup size servings, Ina promptly choked on her wine.

"So why did he eat two enormous meringues this lunchtime?" she squeaked.

Kai promptly turned bright red and fell off his chair laughing. Utterly, totally busted. Epona, who also professes not to have a sweet tooth and also to have been "full to bursting" and unable to eat another mouthful, promptly complained that the only thing wrong with the crumble was that there was "not enough of it." So I had to bring out the rest of the crumble I'd made - and it didn't last long.

As we cleared the dishes, I decided to settle the matter of the water buffalo/bison. So I dived into the 'bin and unearthed the meat wrapper. An interested Shah and Ina watched as I looked at the information. I read it. Gulped. And hid the wrapper behind my back.

It was Angus beef.

The man selling it had clearly got his beef and buffalo joints a bit mingled and just plucked something the right size without looking at it. I'd asked for buffalo, so I just presumed I was getting what I asked for. Alas, I was left looking a bit of a tit. Still - at least none of us went off on a rant about how utterly different it was to beef. That would really have been embarrassing.

Shah and Epona stayed until 11, which was pretty late for them on a school night - but Ina and Kai stayed until 1.30am and made good inroads on the wine. It was a terrific night - very entertaining, and lovely to spend some more time with our neighbours-but-one.

A couple of days later we continued our closer relations with Ina by taking a trip to Reekie for some Christmas shopping. We didn't end up buying much in the way of presents, except for Gemmill's and Wrecker's and some Christmas wine, but it was a very civilised day. We had lunch at Harvey Nick's, wandered the food courts of Jenners' and Harvey Nicks', pootled about the toy departments, checked for some carpets for the hall (no luck) and generally wandered happily. Then home. No fuss, no muss, no stress. Good shopping.

What else? Ah yes ...

Wheeler and Spartan have birthdays that are very close together, so I offered to throw them a join party. I was going to do a murder-mystery for New Year, but because so few people were available we decided to have one for the boys' birthday instead. I got stuck in, writing characters and having fun tangling a multitude of webs. It all got rather confusing, but it was - eventually and somewhat tardily - done. I sent it all off via the wonderful email, including, at the last minute, Wheeler's son Castor.

Briefly, this was the basic plot:

Two rival circuses meet at the behest of a mysterious Italian, who wishes to take the finest circus in Britain back to Rome. Which will it be: Daily's Phenomenal Spectacular, or Knightly's Circus of Stars?

Of course, there were stories within stories, alter egos, evil machinations and - naturally - murders. Each character had a list of tasks to complete by the end of the evening, which they should do by any means possible, and points were awarded for each completed task. In the end, the story itself was less important than the fact everyone just enjoyed getting dressed up and playing a different character for the evening. My favourite couple were definitely Tonta the Clown (Blarney) and Isabella de Barba the bearded lady (Spartan, resplendently repulsive in blue satin and enormous blond beard, complete with naked hairy back). It was great. People were killing, stealing, bribing and lying left right and centre. It was like a night out in Paisley.

The game was complete in an hour and a half or so, with twists and surprises along the way, meaning we could dine at a reasonable hour - then spend the rest of the night playing poker. Fisher was almost entirely to thank for the food. She did a glazed ham, baked potatoes, potato salad, coleslaw, salad ... it was all delicious. She also provided fairground style nibbles - popcorn, mini fajitas, peanuts, that sort of thing. Triffic stuff. This meant that, instead of rushing around like a frantic thing on Friday, I was able to accompany Wheeler on an off-roading jaunt at the Scotting Offroad Centre. This ended badly, with his Land Rover stuck, nose first, in a massive rut with its left back wheel off the ground. We had to call out a rescue tractor ... which couldn't help. So he had to leave it overnight and get it hauled out the next day by a visiting off-road club.

I should mention here that this was very much a joint effort. Yes, Wheeler was driving, but I was guiding him up the red run we were supposed to be going down. He was doing fine, wheels on track - and then the back wheels just slipped and dumped him in the ditch. We've decided that the main problem is that Wheeler and I aren't a good mix. We're both too gung ho. If we'd had either Fisher or Phid with us they would have acted as a tempering agent and stopped us from even attempting it.

Anyway, we both survived, which is a bonus.

On Sunday I had a pretty horrid hangover, although not as bad as Janus's, and was glad that everyone seemed inclined to be lazy. I wanted to take a walk up the hill and was joined by only 2.5 others - Spar and Janus, with Baby Belle making up the .5. Everyone else was happy watching TV or playing cards. They all left by 4pm, at which point my hangover returned with a vengeance in the form of a headache. Shah and Epona were taking us out to dinner at Breizh, which was lovely, but I fear I was in less than sparkling form. Nevertheless, it was most pleasant and ended at an early enough time for me to watch the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards that I'd recorded. Ryan Giggs won. I'd rather hoped Beth Tweddle would at least get into the top 3, seeing as she's a bit of a ground-breaker in the UK, but there we go. Even more outrageous was the fact the England men's cricket team won best team, simply because they won the Ashes. Meanwhile, the England Women's team romped to every victory there is to win. You can't even blame an ignorant public, as this was voted for by a team of 30 sporting 'experts'. The England cricket team is, frankly, pretty frustrating at the best of times and loses as often as it wins. The women had a run of astonishing victory - but no, they're not better than the boys.


And on that note, and despite the fact I'm sure I've not mentioned many occurrences over the last month, I'm stopping. It's time to shift some of the accumulated lard and go to the gym.


Monday, 16 November 2009

Location: Upstairs, listening to the parrot-squawks of Tertius from downstairs
Mood: Headachey
Listening to: Pit of Goodbyes
Reading: The Canon: The Beautiful Basics of Science
Playing: Killzone 2

I am fat I am fat I am fat. This is not news, but it's not something I feel every day. However, after a stonking week previously, where I lost a few pounds and thought myself INVINCIBLE I've promptly stuffed myself more stuffy than Mr Stuffy the stuffed pig. First there was dinner at Blarney's - which we survived! Huzzah! But only just ...

Then Fisher and I went to The Four Seasons with Wheeler and Phid, where they were doing a 6 course meal and wine tasting evening. Yum.

Now sister is here, with Tertius, and we've done nothing but feed her (and neighbours). We had Sunday supper of:

Starter: tomato, goat's cheese, thyme and garlic puff pastry tart.
Main: fruit stuffed lamb (the fruit being figs, prunes and apricots - all dried - with some walnuts), fruity gravy (made with the lamb juices and apple juice, in which I'd marinated the afformentioned fruits), roast potatoes, butter fried carrots and steamed courgettes (in a vain attempt at health ... snort).
Pudding: chocolate ice cream (organic, but not made by me).

Today I told myself I needed to get back on track with a salad for lunch and some chicken noodle soup for supper. Well, I had the salad. A salad Paysane from Breizh in Perth, no less. This is not a salad. This is an excuse to rest chicken, lardons, croutons, and a poached egg on about 3 lettuce leaves. Bah! So my only hopes rest on my having a small bowl of chicken noodle soup for supper and resisting the temptation to say "feck it" and eat everything in the house. You know - to 'get rid of it' and thus remove it from temptation.

But more about our previous fun. Can I gloss over Blarney's first dinner party (cooked by her) in so cavalier a manner? Well, yes, but not if I ever want her to speak to me again. Hmm ... tempting.

No. Obviously, it was a triumph. She sensibly stuck to simple fare and did them very well. First up was a massive shepherd's pie, which I'd predicted (with glee - one of my fave things in the world). This was followed with a delicious and really very well made cheesecake, topped with blueberries. Wait ... I think it was blueberries. It could have been blackcurrants. But how could I have forgotten? Quite easily, actually, as I proceeded to get completely blindsided by alcohol. I thought I was being relatively sensible, but 3am saw me bellowing out tunes with Spartan accompanying on the guitar, whisky sloshing as I waved my tumbler to and fro. I swear, I have no idea how I managed to nurture such a hangover, but nurture it I did. Next day we were supposed to go to North Berwick for a romp on the beach with the pooches, but I sobbed quietly in my bed all morning instead and only managed to drag myself out to meet Fisher and Blar for lunch at Dobbies garden centre. Ugh. I was furious with myself for being so careless, and for being so rude to Blar (who, to be fair, didn't really seem to give a shit as she and Fisher managed to find the best TK Maxx in the world ever - entertainment I could never have bested), and also for potentially destroying the wine tasting that night. My hangovers can last for days - but luckily this one cleared by about 2pm and I was very happy to get stuck into the Four Seasons' offerings.

We arrived at St Fillan's to discover that Wheeler and Phid, to say thanks for the outing, had ordered some champagne to be put in our room. Fabulous! So, when they arrived, we got them to join us and sipped a couple of glasses of fizz to put us in the mood. Funnily enough, I'd asked Brother via text if he knew any good hangover cures, and his suggestion was 'white wine', so I was happy to test it out.

The meal was great fun. 6 good courses, including smoked eel to start with, which is my new favourite thing. The wines were well matched, and we had a little introduction to each one before the course from the bloke from Tanners, who'd provided the wine. He was quite amusing, inadvertently, because every time he kind of bitched about the food, and how hard he'd found it to match the courses up. ("Soup? Who drinks wine with soup? They're both ... well ... wet!") Instead of a great fanfare you ended up just feeling as if he'd had to settle for doing the best he could with such a shit choice. But some of the wines were really lovely. I still maintain that Reisling is unpleasantly sweet, no matter what everyone says nowadays.

After the meal we chatted 'til after midnight with a whisky each, then retired to our rooms. Fisher and I had a chalet, where the dogs were curled up quite happily awaiting us, and we drifted off to sleep to the sound of torrential rain on the wooden roof. Lovely.

Next morning, we took Baffie, Bridie, and Wheeler 'n' Phid's dog Dougal for a walk up the hill behind the hotel. It was delightful, despite the continuing rain. We got really quite wet, but there were streams, little waterfalls, woodland and a pretty view over Loch Earn at the top. Back at the car we dithered over whether to part ways, then decided that we could stop in Comrie for some lunch (for me - I only had some toast and pastries for breakfast, whilst everyone else tucked into cooked brekkie of various sizes) and a cuppa. This we did. I had a vast prawn baguette ... and then everyone else decided they were hungry after their terribly, terribly exhausting walk of 250 metres (or so) and ordered baked potatoes.

This pleasant interlude over, we decided that, instead of parting, Fisher and I would go back to Wheeler & Phid's new pad and help out. Fisher's skills with constructing flat-pack furniture were called upon, while Phid helped her and Wheeler did some other construction elsewhere. Making myself useful entailed going into Dollar, picking up some food, and cooking a beef stew on their aga for W and P to eat that night. Frankly, I just wanted to try cooking on an aga. It was ok, but hotter than I anticipated. I hope the end result was palatable, and not just a small bucket of salt and tough meat. Phid assured me, after I sent a worried text, that it was 'delicious' - but then she would say that, wouldn't she?

We left the new lovely cottage at 4, as Sister was possibly arriving around 5, and made it back just in time to warm up the house a bit before she and Tertius arrived. We cooked steak and baked potato with salad (a light option!) and collapsed into bed. All the carousing had fair taken it out of me. But could I sleep? I could not. The 5 am news came and went before I slipped into unconsciousness.

Sister is here to do housey-type shopping, and Fisher accompanied her to Edinburgh yesterday. We were all up at around 8.30, as I discovered the newsletter I edit was in a bit of a state of disarray and needed my attention. I managed to get it in order by 1.3o, and gave the dogs a bit of a wander up the hill. Then I went to Tesco, bought some provisions for Sunday supper, left a message for Shah and Epona asking them to join us, then got cooking. I prepared and stuffed the lamb, which was a leg and therefore needed boning (I only cut myself once, which is some sort of record for me), then decided I was going to take a break. I played some Uncharted 2 (hugely entertaining game, by the way - best thing since Tomb Raider, and much longer than the original. Naughty Dog rocks!), and as I was just zoning out around 6pm, Sister and Fisher returned, Shah phoned to say yes, he and Epona would be able to come to dinner, and I launched into dinner mode.

Put like that, it all sounds a bit frantic, but it wasn't. It was very pleasant - relaxed and friendly, with only a small amount of alcohol consumed - and I was able to get a reasonably early night (for us), being asleep by 1.30am.

That brings me up to today, when I've finished off the newsletter bumf, gone into Perth for lunch with Sister and Fish, given the dogs a walk up the hill, and written my blog. I've been fighting a headache for the past couple of days, no doubt brought on by alcohol, dodgy sleep, and the weather, but I'm sure it'll be better tomorrow.

Right. I've dribbled on for far too long. Just a note on last blog's book - it's a very good read about an unlikely TV star. She speaks extremely poignantly about alcoholism and her abusive relationship with her father, as well as being quite colourful in her opinions about the countryside. I recommend it if you fancy a quick, entertaining read.

Adios for now tho'.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Swimming with Polar Bears

Location: In bed
Mood: Buoyant
Listening to: Soldier
Reading: Spilling the Beans, Clarissa Dickson-Wright
Playing: Uncharted 2

Ok, so I wasn't actually swimming with polar bears.

On Tuesday I went to the gym but simply couldn't face doing any more sodding running, or cycling, or getting hot and sweaty. Sometimes I just reach an impasse and can't go on. So instead I went for a swim, which I haven't done in yonks. I recognise that 1km front crawl isn't really enough exercise, so I decided to do a bit more. I always divide my swim into sets of four lengths, which not only gives me 'baby steps' to help psychologically, but helps me keep count. Basically, I recommend this practice to anyone who struggles with boredom during exercise. If you divide your workout into manageable sets, it keeps you from giving up. If I start a swim saying "I'm going to swim 60 lengths, it can seem interminable. But saying "fifteen sets of 4" works much better. As for the counting, I find "1 of 1, 2 of 1, 3 of 1 etc" is more likely to keep me from losing count. (The first number is the length, the second is the set number - obviously).

It was a crowded pool. There was a kiddies' swimming lesson going on behind a cordon, which was no problem at all and is always something I'm glad to see. On the other hand, it did mean that any kiddies who just wanted a swim were doing so in the section I was trying to do my lengths in. In actual fact, the kids weren't a problem at all. They tried hard to keep out of my way. The adults, on the other hand ...

First there was a woman who insisted on having a conversation with her friend, who was sitting on a sunbed at the side of the pool. No issue there - but I'd purposely put myself in a corner, out of the way of everyone, right next to the rope that was dividing the pool. So where does she decide to stand? Yep - right at the end, next to the rope. I kept ploughing up and down, figuring that after the first couple of times I'd had to swerve to avoid her before touching the end she'd decide it was courteous to move. But no. She continued to stand right in my path, and this time hung on to the rope. I was damned if I was altering my path, so, as I was approaching, I grabbed the rope myself and gave it a tug. She turned, startled, and apologised. I gave her the ghost of a smile but otherwise ignored her, continuing on my painful way. At last she got the message and moved. But for the love of God - why did she decide to be there in the first place? All she had to do was move a couple of feet to her left. I know, I could have moved too, but the pool was pretty crowded. There were 2 other people doing lengths, and the person nearest me was doing breaststroke, which always takes up more room. Also, for Christ's sake, I was there first! I was plodding up and down the same strip, well out of the way of everyone, trying to make life easy for all - and why she had to stand directly in front of me was anyone's guess.

And that wasn't the only example of poor adult behaviour. I've often found that women are quite unobservant when it comes to someone doing proper exercise, while men are more likely to give you your space ... until it comes to the kiddies. I've never been in a pool with a man in charge of children without him glaring at me like I shouldn't be there. This time a guy got in with two boys, one of whom immediately swam as fast as he could after me, trying to beat me to the end. That was no problem at all, as far as I was concerned. I kept my same steady pace, hoping he'd prove speedy enough to overtake, as I approve highly of children pitting their skills against a target. He didn't, but put up a good show, continuing his determined crawl for a second length before deciding he wasn't going to come off better. His brother, meanwhile, was enjoying a game of splash and wrestle with his father. Again, no problem there - except that the kid was getting perilously close to me. I kept my line. By this time, all the other swimmers had got out and there was a large space to occupy in the 'adult' area. I was still trying to keep to one side. The father and his sons had the whole rest of the pool to play in - so why, I ask you, WHY, was it necessary to thrash about in my path? And each time I passed the father gave me a glare, as if to say "my children, my children, how dare you obstruct my children?" I ignored him for several lengths, but I was getting really fed up with having to keep such a vigilant eye out, and often having to slow or speed up to avoid their little game. So I moved to the other side of the pool, which is annoying because there the corners slope inwards, meaning I have to take a few strokes to the left at each end to ensure I swim the right distance. But, you know, whatever. Pretty soon, two other men got into the pool to do laps, and lo and behold, the man and his sons immediately started playing in a very small area, vigilantly keeping out of their way. Perhaps he thought that, because they were men, their right to exercise was a serious matter, whereas some woman doing lengths was just a silly bint flapping about. I hope I'm being ridiculous.

Anyway, I did my front crawl click in just under half an hour, which is incredibly slow. I was trying to take it steadily, as I've not swum for ages, but it's a pathetic speed. The pool is 17m long, which means I have to turn more often, and I try not to kick off too much, but a decent time for 1k (in a pool) is about half that speed. In the sea, elite women do 1km in 15 minutes or so. But why beat myself up about speed? I know I should swim faster, but at least this time I did another 5 sets - or 20 lengths. 340 metres. I did them breaststroke, in 12 minutes. 36 seconds a length. Again, so slow it's daft - but the distance was an improvement, so I was quite pleased overall. And it's only when you get out of the pool that you realise how tired you are. It's nothing like as immediately satisfying as running, or any of the other out of water activities, but it gives you a slow burn and gets rid of a satisfying amount of calories.

Enough of exercise. Yesterday Fisher decided she wanted to go and see the polar bear from Edinburgh zoo, who's been re-housed near Aviemore. We were both distressed at seeing her when we took Gemmill to the zoo a few years ago. She was walking mindlessly backwards and forwards, obviously distressed by her small enclosure. I was horrified to think such a thing was happening in our country, in a prominent zoo, where the welfare of animals is considered a point of moral pride. It transpired that the zoo was well aware of the animal's distress and that steps were being taken to amend her condition. Those steps led her to the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie, where the colder climate and 'tundra like' environment is more suited to her. She was rescued from Canada where she was scheduled to be shot, after making a nuisance of herself raiding bins and scaring the populace. I think she had a mate in Edinburgh who died, and she pined for him (but this is information from Fisher, so don't quote me on accuracy), which didn't help her mental condition.

So, anyway, off we hopped. We stopped at Bruar for some lunch (disappointing) and arrived at the park about an hour before they closed. It was just enough time to drive round the open park, nervously avoiding herds of wild horses who can damage cars, meeting an enooooormous moose (elk) and various deer-like creatures, before heading to the enclosure where you can follow an on-foot trail and peer at other beasts. A delight for me was red pandas, one of whom climbed up a tall tree, then down again, then across the walkway above our heads, stopping and posing for photos like America's Next Top Panda. Fie-rce! as Ms Banks would annoyingly say. They really are about the cutest things you ever will see, with their fluffy fat faces and rusty red fur. We also saw tigers and their cubs, who are proud and beautiful and not a little terrifying. The mere sight of those massive shoulders and ferocious heads puts you bang splat in your evolutionary place. Meeting a tiger in the wild is not something I have on my wish list.

It was a very pleasant hour or so, and seeing the polar bear made the long(ish) trip worthwhile. Before, she'd been pacing, rocking, shaking her head. Now, our first sight of her was a mound of dirty white fur cuddling a branch as she snoozed contentedly. She continued to nap until the last minutes of our stay when, approaching kicking-out time, we watched a keeper come by to start the slow process of feeding her. Hearing his arrival, Mercedes the bear got langorously to her feet and started padding her way down to the water. She moved slowly, comfortably, and was a totally different bear, obviously content. Unfortunately we didn't get to stay long enough to see her feed, or see if she went for a swim, as the park was closing, but it was great just to reassure ourselves she was better off.

So that was yesterday. Tonight we're off for a Cheeseboard meet, sans Koios, who has a work do. Most excitingly, it's going to be a meal cooked by Blarney. So, if this is my last ever blog, let it be known that I've had a good life.


Thursday, 5 November 2009


Location: Back from the above
Mood: *Gasp* *Splutter* *Groan*
Music: See the World
Reading: One Day, David Nicholls
Playing: Wet

Decided to up my reading - hence the new tag above. Also to keep track of my PS3/2 games, as I have a tendency to forget whether I like them or not. So far, Wet is ok - but quite repetetive. It's the same shoot-em-up acrobatics each time. Not as bad as Assassins Creed, which was so dull I stopped playing it, but pretty same-old. Good story though. As for One Day - I've actually finished it, and I think it's excellent. The plot is uninteresting and relatively predictable, but perfectly readable. Its real strengths comes from the characterisation which, despite it also being slightly clichéd, is realistic, amusing and quite warts-and-all without being alienating. It's as good a modern romance as I've read. Then again, I don't really go for romances. The women are almost always pathetic and the men knobs, so I steer clear.

Anyway, this was really only a blog to make not of my first run outside for what seems ages. I did 5k in 33.58. I didn't go up 'our' hill, but instead went towards the village, then right and to the top of the hill there instead. Then back. I was quite happy with it, for a change, and felt like I worked hard. My Garmin said I'd burned just over 400 calories, whilst diet and fitness today claim it's just under. Guess which one I'm going to believe?

So that's me for the mo. Going to have a lovely long, lazy bath and read something new. Probably the Clarissa Dickson-Wright Wheeler gave me for my birthday.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Location: Back from Tesco
Mood: Chipper
Mood: End of the Line

Today, Fisher and I decided that there aren't enough euphamisms for ... y'know ... the old lady garden. The vajayjay. The ... see, now, I've run out. And I mean inoffensive ones - ones that don't make you wince slightly. So, as an experiment, we decided we'd read out every sign we saw and apply it as a euphemism. These are some of the best ... and the worst. Try using each one after the words "Ooyah, me ..." like you've just been struck between the legs by a football.

The best:
1. Fun Junction (name of a joke shop in Perth)
2. Flower House
3. Cake Topping (?!?)
4. Original Source (bath foam - doesn't sound quite so earth-mothery if you add that, though).

The worst:
1. Turkish Kebab House
2. Seriously Farmy Cheddar
3. Redroom (restaurant in Perth)
4. Ex-Servicemen's Club (quite appropriate, though!)

This is all I have to share with you today. Should I feel ashamed?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

She's Dead, Gym

Location: Struggling to sit upright
Mood: Somewhat crotchety
Music: Beatus Vir I a 6 Voci Concertato

Just back from the gym, hence the o-so-clever pun (come back Richard Whitely, all is forgiven). It's been the first bit of exercise for what feels like an awfully long time and has left me feeling wrung out like an ole sponge.

I ran from the gate to the gym in 11.28 seconds, which isn't bad for me. I don't know what it is about that stretch of road, but it just wipes me out. There's quite a long uphill stretch, but it's not that uphill - it just seems like running through porridge. Hmm. I'm getting the feeling of deja-vu. Have I written this before? Probably. I think I bitch about it to Fisher every single time, so it wouldn't exactly be a towering surprise if I let my bore-fest spill over to the written word.

Having arrived at the gym, I walked to catch up with Fisher who was walking the dogs along the Tay. I only just managed to avoid one of my killingly painful tum-craps ... tum-cramps, CRAMPS, dear God! Bloody speed-typing ... and managed to walk it off before returning to the gym. Once there I hopped on the static bike (if, by 'hop' I mean 'clamber like a groaning old crone') and did 30 minutes on cross-country setting. I managed to push it at the end and squeeze 6.5 miles out of my flaccid muscles. I then warmed down to the 7 mile point and did some core work. I managed 25 girlie press-ups this time, which suggests to me that I should start trying to do one or two full press ups at the start of each session. I also did 20 tricep dips, 12 Bastarding Sore Stomach Stretches (see post 23/10) - six each side, 5 horizontal jacks, and then lay on my back and tried to pretend that the agonising burn in my abdominals was enjoyable.

And that was that. Only an average work-out, being about 45 minutes of pure exercise (not counting the extra 5-10 mins walk), but by all that is holy, I feel quite pooped. Must be the tum-craps. Hah! My sense of humour is, as always, razor-sharp.

Now then - my next project is to find some upbeat music to play at the end of drunken evenings. Trouble is, my taste in music isn't exactly mainstream - at least, not in this country. I tend to hear things on TV shows that I like, then look them up and buy the albums. This means I have quite a lot of American, not-very-well-known artists in my collection, which is fine for general background music, but if you want people to start whoopin' and a-singin', it's a bit of a let down. So anyone with any suggestions for party, singalong music, please comment.



Sunday, 1 November 2009

Whirl of Gaity

Location: Home alone at last
Mood: Exhausted but happy
Music: Take Me By the Hand

Gracious. I feel like someone's taken me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me backwards through a funfair. It's been a terrific week, but by God am I knackered!

After the Jedburgh half, Fisher and I had Monday to relax and try and throw off the last of our lurgis. I felt much better, but poor Fisher is still hacking away with an irritating little cough. She didn't feel great on Tuesday, but she stuck her chin in the air and insisted on soldiering on. I'm glad she did. It was time for her to give me my birthday surprise.

First stop was Gleneagles, where she'd arranged a day of activity. The day was filthy - teeming down with rain, but not cold, and, luckily, not windy. We drove straight to the fishing school, where she'd booked me a 'taster' lesson in fly fishing. It was only an hour long, so I didn't really have time to get the hang of it, but it was enough time to get me totally hooked (no pun intended). It's hard. Trying to get a rhythm going whilst also remembering to feed the line with your left hand is not particularly intuitive - but I did get a few casts going. Just as I thought I was getting the hang of it, the lesson was over - which left us just enough time to grab a coffee and pastry at Deseo before moving on to the next thing. This was ...

Falconry! Totally cool. We got to handle Harris Hawks - just the most amazing creatures - and seeing them head towards you in a beautiful, swooping glide before alighting on your wrist to gobble up a piece of rabbit is just astounding. Not only are they beautiful to behold, but they're also pack animals, so as we walked around the grounds they followed us, alighting on treetops, tennis court fences, and anything that gave them a good perch. It was incredible.

After this, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Deseo, then set off for our final activity: carriage driving. I've wanted to do this for ages - but, in honesty, it was a bit of a disappointment. I've really always wanted to do proper sporting carriage racing, Ben Hur style, with blades spinning out of chariot wheels ... that kind of thing. I wasn't that fussed about being wheeled along behind a 13 hand pony called Sugar. But hey - it was fun.

Our day of Doing Stuff completed, I was then whisked away to a mystery location, which turned out to be Monachyle Mhor. It's a lovely hotel in the middle of a Glen, beside a loch - very remote, very beautiful. We had a splendid supper, with the only downsides being overcooked halibut for Fisher, and a tepid main course for me. Boozy and tired, we then shared an enooooormous bath before collapsing into bed.

The next day, we'd planned on going for an epic walk with the pooches. Unfortunately, I was overcome by tiredness and general lethargy so we only managed an hour's walk. We saw Rob Roy's grave (whaddever), enjoyed the damp beauty of our surroundings, then headed off to Loch Lomond. In truth, the best part of the day was just spent enjoying driving through spectacular scenery, which I really like doing. Not very active, but very good for the soul. We did manage to get out of the car and find a beautiful waterfall just off the road, but other than that it was an inactive day.

Back at Monachle Mohr we had an even better meal than the previous night, with some seriously spectacular starters, but encountered some rough types in the bar. I'm not averse to rough types, and, in fact, they were quite good fun as we joined their conversation after the meal - but when you're trying to have an elegant meal in the adjoining dining room, listening to ribald chat rather spoils the mood. Anyway, we did have a moment of fun with them. One of them, a chatty, laddish sort, exchanged a few words with us and then asked, in a direct sort of way, whether we had husbands.

"No," I said, "we're together."

"Are ye??" he said, with that sort of surprised, just-seen-a-bearded-lady excitement we Sapphics so often encounter. He then launched into this:

"Are ye? Well, I suppose that means that, if ye roll over in the middle o' the night, ye'll not be mistaking ..."

And then he stopped. The entire bar stared at him, agog as to how he was going to finish this sentence. I racked my brains. What could the end of this joke be? I was agog. I can usually spot a joke coming - but this one was totally elusive.

Unfortunately, so it proved to the laddie as well. Instead of making any attempt at finishing the sentence, he simply swivelled on his stool and buried his face in his beer. Fisher and I had a fit of the giggles, as did the other lads in the bar (several of them shaking their heads in amazement), and the conversation moved on. I'd still love to know what the hell we'd not mistake in the middle of the night.

Following my wonderful treat, we returned home on Thursday afternoon and began to prepare for the following few days. Y'see - I had another mystery treat coming, this time courtesy of Phid, which would take up all of Saturday. And, on Saturday evening, we were having a Hallowe'en party, which needed a lot of preparation. So, on Friday, we spent the day shopping for the festivities. We emptied every joke shop in Perth, bought wheelbarrow loads of pumpkins, bucked under armfulls of booze - and then returned home to decorate.

By the time Phid arrived on Saturday morning, to pick us up for the mystery trip, we had:

* Placed scary baby-dolls, decorated with pentagrams and bloody lips, on doors
* Scattered rubber spiders strategically about
* Mounted a severed hand on a door, so it peeked around the side
* Draped a slanket over a coat stand, with a white face mask glaring out - a ghoulish, death-like figure that greeted you as you came through the door. Strategic lighting illuminated only the face. It was freaky!
* Dangled spiders-webs and hair from door frames in the hopes they'd get in people's faces and freak them out.
* Built a coffin out of cardboard and arranged skeleton bones so it looked like a skeleton was crawling out.
* Arranged a vampire-head mask on a white sheet on the table, with fake blood all round the neck and a garlic clove in its mouth, so it looked like a severed head.
* Dangled a zip-mouth mask upside down from the chimney in the library, complete with freaky white eyes.
* Poked a disembodied, bloody-bandaged arm from out of a cupboard.
* Placed a cauldron full of bones and blood on a little altar, with further 'ingredients' scattered around - severed fingers and eyeballs, to be exact.
* Set a CD of spooky sound effects and music ready to play at the touch of a button.

With all this set up, we were ready to head off with Phid. And where did she take me?

To the SECC, for the Good Food Show. And it was grand! I'm not one for crowds, or hot, jostling, confined spaces - but I didn't even notice. There were around 80 stalls, and not only that but Phid had booked us into a taste session where we got to sample some crowdie, hot and cold smoked salmon, bread, and two whiskies from Balvenie while each producer talked us through.

Looking round the whole place took until 4pm, and not once did I flag. It was brilliant - truly wonderful to see so many national producers, all of whom seem so dedicated to home grown foodstuffs. We sampled a hell of a lot of cheese - that I can assure you. And I bought 3 chef knives for £60, which was a great deal. We also bought a lot of chocolate from the Chocolate Tree, and got a hell of a lot of info about foodie stuff around Scotland. I really hope the Cheese Board & Boys would like to do the Martin Wishart Cookery School, as it sounds fab.

Happy and inspired, we barrelled back home - and then it was all hands to the pump! I had a venison stew to make, the brazier had to be lit, and the lighting had to be arranged before we were ready for guests. It was touch and go for a while, but in the end it was all up and running, looking wonderful, for the first arrivals. Phid, Fisher and I all huddled in the sitting room at the far end of the house while the first guests found their way through the spooky rooms to the 'sanctuary'. There, they were greeted with cheers and glasses of Orc Blood (black wild berry vodka and orange juice). First up was Wheeler, with a very freaked out Dougal-dog in tow. He seemed entertained. Then came Pro, Koi, Janus and Badger, all of whom had driven up together. A considerable time later and Blarney, Baby Belle and The Doc managed to find their way to the house, after Blar managed to get lost. Getting out of Edinburgh. Where she's lived for the last 8 years. Blar's first job was to tell me how much she didn't appreciate plastic babies nailed to doors. But I ignored her, as Baby Belle was dressed in a with outfit, with a teeny tiny witch's hat, and nobody can get irritated with that in front of you.

Last of all was the arrival of The Neighbours. Epona was feeling a bit under the weather so she couldn't make it, but Shah, Ka'ula Kai and Ina all rocked up in good form. In fact, Kai was already pretty wasted from a day's shooting (and drinking), but it was all very entertaining. We ate, drank, went out and chatted beside the brazier, and had a very convivial time. The neighbours departed at around 11, while quite a lot of the Cheese Board called it quits around midnight. In fact, after midnight it was just me, Fisher, Wheeler, Badger and The Doc still up for a party. So we bobbed for apples. The Doc was by far the best, with her dainty teeth picking each apple up by the stalk. Fisher was the boldest, being the only one to properly dunk - and Wheeler was totally shite, and couldn't even get one. I, on the other hand, was damned if I was putting my face in that water after Wheeler had gurgled, spat and gargled in it, so I was not only a failure but a gutless failure. Poor show.

We finished the night, inevitably, with some poker. Well, there was a newbie there in the shape of The Doc, so we had to teach her. At 3.30am I was left chipless, Doc had waltzed off at 3 with a fat profit, and Wheeler was cackling on top of a vast pile of loot. The only consolation is that, in the morning, he was even later rising than I was. And when he did stumble blearily into the kitchen his first words, accompanied by a bloodshot glare in my direction, were:

"I blame YOU!"

Like I forced him to drink that cask strength Caol Isla! Through a straw ...

Yeh, I felt pretty ropy this morning, but shook it off enough to enjoy lunch at Breizh with Pro, Koi, Badge, Janus, Doc, Blar, Baby Belle and Fisher. After that, we went to Waterstones for some book browsing ... and then went our separate ways.

And that, my dears, is that. I feel like I've been On The Go since the beginning of this month, and now there's a little reprieve. Not that it hasn't been brilliant - it really has - but it does wipe you out a bit. I'm ready to get back into a routine of exercise, light food, work, and gentle play. I've got some events on the horizon to look forward to (murder mystery party on the 12th December, which I have to write ... and which, goddammit, may also coincide with a shoot with the neighbours where Fisher and I might act as stuffers. Also a trip to London to celebrate Brother's birthday, and stay for the ATP championships in November with Koi). I've also got a mystery surprise trip with Phid and Wheeler lined up in November, to help Phid keep her SADness at bay - so it's not a long, bleak winter of boredom by any means. But, just for the moment, we're Not Engaged!

And that's wonderful.

For the moment ...

Monday, 26 October 2009

Coughs, Peaks and Troughs

Location: Wallowing in a pit of slovenliness
Mood: Coughtastic
Music: Sunset Soon Forgotten

I feel rough as biscuits right now, but not as rough as Fisher, who's been running a temp of 102ºF. Luckily it's gone down now, but she's definitely got the same bug as I've been brewing. I felt pretty horrid on Saturday, just before heading down to Edinburgh. And why were we going to Edinburgh? Why, to stay overnight with Janus and Badger, who kindly agreed to cook a carb-high supper for Fisher and lend us a futon so we could get down to Jedburgh for 11am next day. And why were we going to Jeburgh at 11am the next day? Why, so Fisher could run 13.1 miles in the company of similar foot-sore masochists, including The Doctor.


But who is the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows her? In this case it was a veritable ship o' fools, because not only did Fisher and The Doctor run the bloody thing, but Phid, Janus and I watched 'em do it. We stood in the coooooold, surrounded by pooches (who thought us peculiar) and handed out jelly beans and wine gums to runners. There's quite a skill involved in placing sweets in the oustretched hands of cantering people, and several runners found their beans slipping to the muddy ground below. I chased a few who looked most in need, and made sure they got their reward, but, frankly, I wasn't there to run. Preposterous thought.

We cheered The Doctor as she scuttled by, assuring her and everyone around her that they were nearly at the top of the hill, and it was all downhill around the corner. Then we looked at each other.

"Er ..." I murmured to my accomplices, "are we sure about that?"
"Er ..." said Janus, nibbling a lip.
"Um ..." frowned Phid thoughtfully.
"So ... basically, for all we know, the hill could keep climbing for another two miles around the corner?" I gulped.
"I'm pretty sure it doesn't," Janus said confidently. Or as confidently as the words 'pretty sure' allow.
"Yeah. It was all sort of uphill in the car when we came, and they're going the other way, so it's downhill," Phid nodded. Adding, unhelpfully, "I think."
"You know, seeing as we're on the 11 mile point and these poor bastards have been running for quite some time, I might just nip round that corner and check the veracity of our downhill claims," I babbled. In my mind I saw hoards of furious, exhausted runners surrounding us at the end of the race, accusing us of giving them false hope and then beating us to a sweaty death with their running socks. So off I ran, and peeked round the corner. Luckily, we were right. Hurrah! So our cheers and encouraging cries of "nearly at the top now, then all downhill" redoubled - this time ringing with the aura of truth.

Can an aura ring? No. Poor, poor mixed metaphor there.

Anyhoo - we stayed at the near-top of that hill until Fisher staggered by, looking mutinous. She was behind her pace, so I knew there was something wrong. Turns out that her legs started really hurting at mile 6, and from mile 7 onwards she had to keep stopping to walk. Frankly, I would have collapsed immediately at the side of the road and snapped my fingers for the Red Cross minions to stretcher me to a warm hospital bed, but she - being stout of spirit and dragon-hearted - soldiered on.

Having seen her totter by, we all leaped back into the Drover (luckily still in one piece, despite Phid's best efforts on the way into the Jedburgh) and hared off to the finish line, tooting the runners encouraging as we passed. Only a few of them leaped in terror at the sound.

We parked under a bridge near the finish and went to find a triumphant Doc, who'd finished the course in 1.50.25. She was standing by the finish line waiting for Fisher, her lips totally purple with cold. I immediately handed over her jumper, which we'd thoughtfully doused in water for her. For some reason this didn't really warm her up much, so I gave her my coat instead. Looking at her 'wearing' it, I suggested someone else might also like to wear it with her. It was like a bed-sit on her. Anyway, it was more useful than her rain-soaked jumper we'd failed to dry for her, and she looked less and less like a blueberry ice pop as the minutes ticked by.

We cheered Fisher over the line only a few minutes later, and even though she was pretty ticked-off by what she inevitably perceived as failure, I was dead proud-like. It's not everyone would just suck up and push through bad luck like that. Anyway, I couldn't care less if she does 13 miles in one hour or three - what matters is what she achieves each time. She didn't manage a personal best, but she overcame every obstacle put in her way and finished the race. That's all a person can strive for in this life, and so - not to get too sentimental about it - she's a blimmin' champion.

Hm. Not sure why I started channelling Nora Batty then. Blimmin' chumpion, oor lass!

Anywayy - after the run, we went to The Buccleuch Arms in Newton St Boswell's for a mediocre lunch that, nevertheless, hit just the right spot with our runners. We were supposed, also, to stop off at Spar and Blar's for some afternoon tea, but after eating Fisher felt so horrid she just wanted to go straight home and flake. And so, after dropping everyone off in Edinburgh, this is what we did.

Today, she has come crashing down with my Nasty Bug - which is not swine 'flu - but, if it follows the course of mine, she will feel much better tomorrow. I, for example, while not feeling tip-top, did feel well enough to do a gentle work out at the gym. I did:

1 mile, fast (for me), on the treadmill. Completed in 9.14.
30 mins on the static bike, cross-country setting, 6.6 miles.
15 press-ups
20 sit ups.

So a good 40 minute work-out, which left me feeling extremely sore in the chest area (lungs, that is, not boobs) but content to be working off some of the crap I've ingested over the past few days. And I've had quite a good food day - 1 peanut butter sarnie (ok, not great, but it was a gym day), 1 v small bowl pea and ham soup, 1/2 small pizza.

Ok, ok, that sounds crap now I've written it down. But I did burn off around 500 calories at the gym, the pizza was around 400, and the sandwich and soup probably ...

O god. Just looked at what a peanut butter on wholewheat bread is on caloriecount.about.com, and it's about 340! At least the soup was light - probably no more than 160 - so that's 500 calories for the rest of the day. Under a thousand calories is good, but, Jesus! The nutritional value of what I've consumed today beggars belief. I'm not a bad eater - just a greedy pig - and this sort of nonsense is an abberation.

Must do better!

Although, I'm off on a mystery trip with Fisher tomorrow (woohoo! Exciiited!) and I'm almost certain this will involve Eating Nice Things. Ah, ENT. My nemesis.

Right, must let Baffie out. She's not peed for about 8 hours. The dog has a bladder the size of Alaska. More anon.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Yet More Grr-ing and Yay-ing.

Location: In bed (again)
Mood: Gettin' my funk on
Music: You Know Who (Willis)

I knew well and good, yesterday, that dinner was going to be An Event, so actually, I don't feel the need to beat myself up with a big stick about it. I prepared. I consumed only a small bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes before going to the gym, and this is what I did:

Ran outside for 37 minutes. Beautiful crisp, autumnal day, with sunset-coloured leaves drifting into the Tay. I tried to run as fast as the flowing water, but it was impossible. Such a beautiful run, spoiled only by the fact that a) I was running, and b) I passed a short fat couple walking along with their hands inside each others' trousers. I'm all for a bit of bum-fondling, believe you me, but I think I'd baulk at doing it along a public path. I said "whoa, cowboys," as I ran past (for some reason) and they leapt apart like they'd just encountered Javanese biting lizards in the butt crack. So they knew they was doin' wrong! Luckily I saw no-one else at all, else I might have stopped them with an indignant "can you belieeeeeve what I just saw, how outrageous, whatisthiscountrycomingto when short fat people can grope each other in public etc etc" and thus been immediately given a subscription to the Daily Mail. Still 'n' all ... ew!

Returned to the gym and did:
30 press ups (20 straight, then 10 later)
3 sets of 12 tricep dips
20 stomach crunches
10 ... hmm. Don't know what they're called. It's when you lie on your back, stretch one arm out behind your head and lift the opposing leg, straight, off the ground. You hold it for 3 seconds, then do the other side. I shall refer to them as Bastarding Sore Stomach Stretches. Anyway, I did 10.
20 minutes on the elliptical machine, on cross-trainer setting (two hills), varying the resistance from 8 to 13.

At the end of this I felt more than prepared for my supper - and thank god I was because it was delicious in every way. Ceegar and Meeper turned up at 5pm, bringing with them birthday gifts of a bottle of champers (mmm) and a new Pictionary game. We immediately got stuck in and found it rather hilarious. Instead of drawing pictures on bits of paper, the new version involves three plastic pieces on which you can draw - a small circle, a larger rectangle and a large plastic man. It was great fun, even though Meeper and I didn't really reach a meeting of the minds and lost to the others. It's ok. I'm a good loser, and the cheating, lucky bastards who won deserved it.

We left for supper at 7 and went up the A9 to East Haugh House Hotel. It's a lovely wee place, tucked off the main road and specialising in fishing holidays. We had 3 courses on a set menu for £45 - which is by no means cheap, but seems reasonable after you've eaten.

For starter I had red mullet on buckwheat vermicelli, with an oriental sauce (mostly soy), which was good. However, Fisher and Ceegar's duck liver paté was glorious, and Meeper pronounced her brie wrapped in prosciutto divine.

For main course, Ceegar and I had fillet and shin of beef, with celeriac gratin potatoes, asparagus and assorted other veg. The shin was wonderful - tender, flaked and bursting with flavour. The fillet was cooked just as I'd asked, and also wonderfully flavoursome. Meeper had cod with chorizo, which was excellent, and Fisher had duck - which I didn't try, but for which she had nothing but praise.

Pudding, according to Fisher, was a bit of a disappointment. I didn't have any - I had cheese instead - so I can't comment, but I will say that the cheeses were excellent. They were all soft, which was unusual, but as I prefer soft cheeses on the whole, that suited me just fine.

A lovely evening - and we returned to have a few more drams of whisky and watch the final of Masterchef. Rock on! Then bed, well content.

Now I must get up and see if our guests have stirred. I doubt it. It's only 11 am.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Grrrrr ... but also, yay!

Location: Surrounded by biscuit crumbs
Mood: Infuriated, but also in awe
Music: White Blank Page

Ok, I know it's That Time of the Month, but really! Is it necessary to eat - count 'em - 11 biscuits? The answer is, of course, no. This is not good. This is really, really not good. Yesterday I managed to spend the entire day doing well, then fell at the last hurdle. I simply couldn't bring myself to cook, after having cooked for 30 over the last 3 days, so Fisher and I went out. We found a brilliant, spit-and-sawdust type pub in Dunkeld where they serve stovies of all kind. I could have had stovies, actually. They're not too evil. But no, I had steak pie and chips. And 3 pints of beer. For FUCK's SAKE!!

Today, again, I was doing swimmingly. Breakfast was a muffin with only a thin spread of peanut butter. Lunch was a small Greek salad and another muffin (we're using them up before they go off). Supper was Chinese chicken noodle soup (home made) - and everything was looking rosy.

And then I ate 11 biscuits.

11 ... BISCUITS!!

I swear to GOD there is something wrong with me.

Ok, so I'm not doing very well on the diet front, but on the plus side I'm enveloped in a swelling cloud of glorious music from the marvellous Mumford & Sons. They're part of the London Folk scene, having played with Laura Marling (who is so good it hurts), Noah and the Whale, and - currently - with the Maccabees. This is folk at its absolutely heart-bursting best: rampant rhythm guitar, frantic-fingered banjo, sonorous cellos, dancing fiddles, and the ever-so-slightly smoke-husky tones of Marcus Mumford blending effortlessly with the harmonies of Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane.

The folk scene in the UK is utterly fabulous at the moment. Forget Seth Lakeman - he's the VH1 pin-up version of folk. Laura Marling, Kat Flint, Kate Rusby, Martha Tilston, King Creosote, The Devics - all these are in my music library, and all bring me great, wondrous joy, but I think Mumford & Sons might just have gone straight to the top of my list.

I wonder if someone told me I could only ever have EITHER great food OR music again, what I would do. Probably bash their head in with a big rock and walk off whistling, thus rendering the matter moot. But if I absolutely had to ...

Music. It feeds my soul.

But great food feeds my soul, too. And also, as a bonus, my tummy.

But that's a bad thing. If I gave up great food I'd be thin, and still have music. But probably quite choleric and fractious. Also, my friends only like me for my food so I'd lose all of them, too. And Fisher. Although, to be fair, she'd stay if I bought her more shoes.

It's impossible to choose! Thank God I don't have to. And with that ridiculousness, I bid ye adieu.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Birthday Part 2

Location: Still in bed
Mood: Scratchy
Music: Take You High

So, I'm 33. Big whoop. A few months ago I actually forgot whether I was 32 or 33 when putting my age into the static bike and had to work it out from my d.o.b. Clearly the difference between the two ages is negligible, and the fact that I'm mentally struggling with dicreptitude anyway makes turning from a 2 into a 3 makes no odds.

My birthday, in contrast to the insignificance of my age, was a bit of a blinder. Yes, the walk we took on Saturday morning was supposed to be a chance to get the heart rate up and excuse a large lunch, and unfortunately proved to be a gentle stroll through pretty woods. Yes, the food at the Meikleour Inn was only ok (my 'rare' lamb chops weren't even vaguely pink and took some chewin') but all that made not a whit of difference. It was a lovely spot and the chat was good, so who cares about the details?

On returning home we played board games, like the young rockers we are - and Blar and I were seriously screwed over at the end of Articulate. We were so far ahead it wasn't even funny, but because we couldn't get an All Play at the end (clearly there was a great deal of cheating and so forth going on) we were sneaked out of the race by the Evil Janus and ... who the hell was she with? I think Spar. God - it's worse than I thought! Blar being beaten by Spar! She'll never live it down. Anyway, having been sorely pipped at the post, we retired with dignity. I watched a bit of fitba with some of the fellers, and then cooked up some roast pork for the 10 of us. I slightly overcooked it, which is a shame, but the crackling was good and Fisher did the roasties proud. Afterwards, to my honour and delight, I was presented with a birthday cake - which Blar had made with her own fair hands. Considering this is a woman who looks at all things cookery based as if she's been asked to construct the Great Wall with her bare hands, out of pebbles, it was remarkably touching. Naturally I expressed trepidation, and pretended that it took my full body weight to cut into it, because too much praise is bad for any budding chef, but in actual fact it was delicious. And yes, we did tell her so. I hope she continues to make such things and give them to me. But if that weren't enough, Spar and Blar also showered me with gifts: a 4-hole punch from Blar (yes, there's a story behind it), and the promise of tickets to the St Johnstone v Aberdeen game in January; a beautiful black top from Monsoon from Blar; the Fallout 3 walkthrough book from Baby Belle (which, considering how gory and inappropriate that is, is genius).

I neither deserve nor expect such largesse, or such excellent friends.

The day finished with some serious poker. Only a fiver went into the pot, but with 9 of us that meant £45 up for grabs, which nobody objects to. It went down to the wire between Spar and me, but as the 3am bells rang out we decided we could do one of two things:

1) Stay up all night and battle it out for the pot, OR
2) Blow it all on one hand, winner takes all.

So - 7 card stud, nothing wild, me dealing. Two down, four up. Nothing to show. Last card, down and dirty. Chips down. Everything to play for. Everything to lose.

Quick look. Alcohol fumes cloud the air as we both exhale. My deal, his declare.

He looks. He smiles.

Two pairs.

My hand?

I smile. It's all I can do.

I think there might have been a king in there somewhere.

So he was triumphant, but it was a game to remember - especially some fightin' play from Pro, who went all in but was beaten by my freak 4 of a kind. I was dealt a pair of queens, two more popped up on the flop - he played the odds, tried to scare me off, really made me fight to keep him in, then swallowed it hook line and sinker. It was heart in mouth time, left me with a fat pile of chips and him on the deck - but better to go out in a blaze of glory than nibble away at your chips like a thrifty squirrel and lose anyway.

So, 3.30am saw us turn in, much the worse for wear for alcohol and adrenaline. The following day saw some sorrowful faces, especially Pro, who'd decided to attempt a Campari experiment, despite my advice to the contrary. Campari is revolting stuff - more bitter than an ant's arse (I imagine) and 23% alcohol, making it just dangerous enough to do some damage. Of course, if you drink half a bloody pint of it, mixed with orange juice, your taste buds may well have withered enough by the end to stand it - but I really wouldn't recommend it as a cocktail. Especially not sandwiched between red wine and whisky - even if it does have a sparkly straw in it.

We went and had some lunch at the ever-reliable Gloagburn, and then everyone went their separate ways. Fisher and I were left to flop down in front of the telly, put our feet up and consume all the leftovers in a flagrant bid to destroy my diet completely. This, I believe, I have achieved.

However - on the diet front, I am now officially Back On Track. Ok, dinner was a bit on the hefty side, but I only had a single muffin with peanut butter throughout the rest of the day, and I did go to the gym. Unfortunately my attempt at a run was pathetic. I did 1.1 mile on the treadmill, pushing myself for speed and getting up to 8m.p.h for a wee bit, but could go no further. I copped out and took to the static bike instead. I did 30 minutes on the cross-country setting, but only went 6 miles. I think that's about half a mile less than last time, which is rubbish! Still, I must learn to take positives from each session (apparently) so I mildly approve of the fact that I did, in total:

40 minutes cardiovascular (10 running, 30 cycling)
20 press-ups (15 straight, the final 5 with a short pause)
3 sets of 12 chest press (37.5kg)
3 sets of 12 tricep curls (on 8 - 20kg?)
10 ab curls, shoulder to knee (10 on each side)
5 ab stretches, legs crossing in a downward pattern (all I could cope with before painpainpain)
1 1/2 sets of lat pull-downs on 7. I just couldn't face doing any more.

In the meantime, Fisher was off doing a 12 mile run in preparation for the Jedburgh half. She thoroughly enjoyed herself, which is great, but there's one problem from my perspective and that is: when she works out like that, she always needs a massively carbie dinner. Unfortunately, rather than cooking 2 different meals, I always just agree to eat whatever she's eating - which means the amount of food I consume almost certainly far outweighs my workout. I'm going to have to watch this. A chicken and cheese baguette with packet of McCoys and salad is not the way forward.

So that's all for now. Look, it's 3pm. I should probably get out of bed.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Birthday Part 1

With the parents coming over for Tertius's christening, it was a delight to hear that they decided to extend their trip to incorporate celebrating my 33rd birthday. So, I thought this was a brilliant opportunity to gather the neighbours - some of whom aren't a million miles off their age - and have a dinner party. With Sister, Islander and Assisi finishing off the party it had potential to be a good 'un.

Good 'un? Blimmin' heck! It were one hell of a do - starting at 7.30 and finishing around 1am, with Ina and Ku'ula Kai being the last guests to leave. I've rarely been drunker, and most of today has been spent battling the horrid, headachey weariness that comes from a hangover. We ate, as a starter, blinis with sour cream, caviar, crevettes and smoked salmon. Main course was roast rib end of beef with horseradish yorkies ... which didn't quite work, and were more like little cakes than yorkies. They were tasty enough, but the horseradish didn't quite come across, so if I do them again I'll use fresh horseradish rather than cream. Pudding was amaretto syllabub, which everyone consumed with glee apart from my mother, for whom it was too rich. Fair enough - it is, after all, just whipped cream, sugar and alcohol.

We rolled into bed after doing a bit of tidying and taking the dogs for a late night ramble in a desperate bid to sober up. It was about 2.30 when we actually fell asleep.

Today I've felt awful from my excesses, but with the cheese board arriving for the weekend I had to go and do a fair bit of shopping, as well as help Fisher ready the house, and walk a couple of dogs for some other neighbours. MaPa and the Islanders only left at around 11am, so it was all a bit frantic until 4.30, when Fisher and I went upstairs and had a nap.

A nap!! I am SO FECKIN' OLD!!

Still, it was a good thing I did because having slept off the worst of the hangover I was then able to cook a big pot of chilli for the new arrivals,partake of a few glasses of wine with dinner, and enjoy a dram of birthday present Bruichladdich (thank you Wheeler!). Not to mention take great glee in all my marvellous birthday presents. Wheeler gave me whiskey and Clarissa Dickson-Wright's book! Badger gave me Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck book! Arrow and Lu got me two books - one on Why England Lose and other interesting footballing statistics, and the other on how to grow your own veg! Pro gave me golf shoes! (Which fit perfectly!!) Koi gave me a purple cloche-style hat that actually suits me! Phid got me a CD (which unfortunately I'd already got) but also a mystery day out (intrigued and can't wait!)! And Janus made me a beautiful black and white bandana with, amongst other things, dog paws on it. It's thick and beautiful, and is very cool because when people asked what I wanted, I said I wanted bandanas. I always wear them as I can't stand having hair in my face (brings me up in hives), so to get such a lovely one, hand made, was brilliant. I have to say, not only did Janus make me one, but Koi and Pro both bought me several more - one blue and red one from Pro and 3 lovely ones of different design from Koi.

Me pals are fab. Now I'm going to sleep so I can be refreshed on the morrow.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Location: In bed
Mood: Tired
Music: United States of Eurasia

This is really annoying. I got on the scales this morning and discovered that, not only have I lost no further weight, I've actually put on a pound. Still, I suppose I've been too busy to exercise since my long run on (?? Sunday was it?) and even though I've been careful with food, it's just not enough to actually help lose the weight. I wanted to go to the gym yesterday, but no go - too many things going on, not least the arrival of Sister, Islander and sons who arrived in a whirl of toys and demands to play The Monster Game. (This is Buzz: The Monster Game for PS2, which I highly recommend for great family fun).

Today, Sister and Islander went to Edinburgh to do some necessary stuff they can't do on The Island, leaving us holding the babies. All was ok, but Wrecker is feeling under the weather at present, and is a bit whiny. All he wanted to do was play the Monster Game, and I got slightly tetchy with him after he asked for the 25th time. They aren't allowed PlayStation until late afternoon (after 4pm), and have to spend the day doing more active, interesting things. This involved playing Barnyard Bingo, painting, playing hide and seek in the bale-field, climbing on top of said bales, and feeling perfectly well enough to delight in a large chocolate ice cream at the local dairy (but ONLY after he'd had a cheese sandwich). Gemmill, meanwhile, was very busy excavating Egyptian treasure from a large block of ... stuff (like soft sandstone), which looked like a brilliant game but did leave a layer of red dust over everything. Very authentically Egyptian, to be sure, but I don't really want to be sifting red sand out of my cornflakes unless there are bloody pyramids a stone's throw away. He also enjoyed romping in the bale-field - but, I gotta tell ya, children are exhausting. I think the problem lies in the fact that they wake you up at some ungodly hour of the morning, thus upsetting your Circadian rhythms and not allowing you the chance to acclimatise to their jet-lag effect.

I had to take the Drover in to the Drover Doctor to fix the faulty handbrake light that kept coming on. I was expecting it to be a problem with the switch itself, and was therefore glum to find out that one of the brake calipers was leaking, meaning I was losing brake fluid. This meant a 45 minute wait while they fixed it (I know - I'm not really complaining, especially as they only charged 30 minutes labour) and a whacking great £175 bill. Sigh. Bloody Drover.

While I was waiting, reading a back issue of Land Rover World (must buy Wheeler a subscription for his birthday. Oo. Hope he doesn't read this, as will ruin the surprise. Can't imagine that he does. Is far too busy/lazy and important/dyslexic) I felt an immense weariness come over me, and before I knew it I was napping in the waiting room, my Land Rover World drooping onto my chin. Never have I felt so perilously close to old age before. Sad. I was awoken by the charming tones of a Renfrewshire lass bouncing through the doors, demanding a sump guard for 'Wallie'. Whether 'Wallie' was her boyfriend, father, brother or Land Rover I will never know. Order placed, she then turned, took one look at me, laughed heartily and somewhat bafflingly, and bounced out again.

Home again home again, just in time to change, snatch a few precious moments to try and wake up, and head out for my evening massage. My Thursday client is lovely, and very chatty, so we spend quite a lot of time over the whole process, meaning I wasn't back until 8. Luckily, I returned to discover delicious curry smells permeating the air and dinner being prepared by Islander. Not only that but there was footie on the telly - so I recorded the England v Belarus game and watched it after supper. A good, solid 3-0 win for us - although the homoerotic fawning over David Beckham by Andy Townsend and Steve Bruce was slightly nauseating. He was only on for about 20 minutes but they gave him Man of the Match - which was ridiculous, and insulting to Peter Crouch, who had a very impressive game.

That brings me to here. In bed. At just gone midnight. Preposterous!! Just because I'm now officially 33 (by 15 minutes) doesn't mean I have to suddenly start falling asleep in the afternoons, working for a living and going to bed at 11.30pm. Must do better!

Oh - and ought to try and lose some weight pretty soon.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Longish Run

Got the pazzas staying at the mo, which is its usual mix of joy and pain - so what better way of releasing all those pent up endorphins than going for a long run?

I've been meaning to up the mileage for some time, and then inspiration from Janus and Badger, who both did a 4.6 mile run/walk recently, kicked me squarely in the backside. So, out I went and did the usual 5k route - up the hill, through the farm at the end, and back to the house. Then I ran past the house and down to the post box at the edge of town, before returning. I was struggling a little by the end but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. I managed 5 miles in 58 minutes and 19 seconds, which was around 11.50 mins a mile. The great news is that I suffered no cramping pains of any kind and completed the run feeling, if not bright eyed and bushy tailed, then at least still vaguely human. (Hm. Check out that mixed metaphor. How many humans with tails do you know?) I was able to take the dogs for a quick walk before jumping in the shower and rushing into Perth to meet Fisher and MaPa. We had lunch at Breizh and I had a small Mediterranean salad - which sounds very frugal, but is full of mozzarella cheese, and wasn't helped by vast quantities of bread and olive oil. Or the fact that, a few minutes ago, I consumed my 2nd bag of Twistees in 2 days (Ma brought me a couple of packets from Malta. Ok, she brought me one and Fisher one, but Fisher doesn't have the same worshipful attitude to Twistees and therefore generously allowed me to consume them both). At least the run burned 800 calories.

A very sad side effect of any kind of strenuous exercise for me is that it invariably gives me a stonking headache. I drank nearly a litre of water after returning from the run, so I can't imagine I'm dehydrated, but the headache would certainly suggest that was the case. I'm off now to down some loverly loverly ibuprofen.

Ciao, dahlings.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Double or Quits

Location: In bed shaking off the mild hangover and trying to stay warm
Mood: Resigned
Music: Cemeteries of London

Ok, so the diet didn't go so well. For the record, Pro did quite well, shedding 8lbs, although nobody's entirely sure how he did it. Bastard. But, anyway, we all would have lost the bet badly and been forced to do our forfeits has we not agreed to go double or quits. This time, we've given ourselves until December 19th to lose the weight. I have to lose a stone, not including the 4lbs I shifted (god, so rubbish) already. Pro has to get down to his target weight, which involves losing 13lbs, and Spartan has to lose a stone, including whatever he's lost now. After all, he doesn't have much to spare, so more than a stone and he'd start resembling chewed string. And the punishment? Well, it's the same as before (no PlayStation for me, no TV for the boys) only this is where the 'double' part comes in. Yes folks, if we fail it's a 6 month ban.

6 months!! There is NO WAY I'm letting that happen.

The superb news is that Janus has screwed her courage to the sticking plate and joined in. She only has a 3 month punishment if she loses - but if she doesn't lose more than 8lbs she has to do the full 6 months.

I've been pissing about with this diet for ages, but it's got to a point where I have to take it seriously. I'm 33 years old on the 15th, and the days where my body repairs itself from all the abuse I give it are over. The damage I do to myself now is the damage that will stay with me forever - and I've already fucked me back pretty badly. I have - have - to start looking at losing the weight, else my posture will only get worse and my back problems increase. Doing circuits every Thursday (not yesterday though - had the neighbours round for supper) is really good for my pathetic core muscles, and if I can just find the energy to do 2 more days of exercise every week things should start improving. I'd love to play squash or tennis with Spar once a week, even if it does mean a drive all the way to Edinburgh, and then a run/swim/bike in the gym would finish things off nicely. To be fair, I ought to do at least 2 runs a week, but I do so hate it. As long as I stay fit, that's the most important thing.

I'd been doing pretty well over the last few days, and had even dropped another couple of pounds, bringing my total loss up to 6lbs. That was yesterday. I'm not getting on the scales today - at least, not until I've been to the gym with Fisher (who's doing 10 miles, as part of her 1/2 marathon training). I really, really don't want to go. My parents are turning up at some unspecified time today, and I should be here to greet them - and Blar is coming up this afternoon with Baby Belle, stopping over on her way up north for a wedding. I want to be in good fettle to enjoy their company. But, more to the point, I'm cold, tired and crabby and the LAST THING I want to do is go and pound pavements around the gym, or swim, or get sweaty in any way.

But there are 3 things that make me reluctantly determined to go. Firstly, there's the fact that Fisher is going to be running for over an hour and a half - and like Janus says, if your partner does exercise you just end up feeling crap for not having gone with them.

Secondly, there's the fact we had Epona and Shah over for supper last night. I cooked a game stew - rabbit, venison, partridge, pheasant - which was supposed to be lean, dietary food. Unfortunately I added about 50g of butter - and we drank 2 bottles of wine between the 3 of us. Ok, 1 3/4s of a bottle and 2 whiskies each, but it's the same unit content. Now, you may think that 50g of butter between 4 people is a laughable amount, but we also had mashed potatoes flavoured with butter, and courgettes cooked in - you guessed it - butter. So we were a bit buttertastic. But does it end there? It does not. For I cooked a pudding: baked ginger cheesecake, involving crushed digestive biscuits (with butter), ricotta AND cream cheese. Stem ginger and ginger syrup added the flavouring. It went down well, but I overcooked the biscuit crumbs so I think they have a very faint bitterness to them which is a shame. More shameful is the fact I had 2 slices, with ginger and whisky cream accompaniment.

It's all too horrible. I mean, I tried to amend my food intake for the rest of the day (muffin for breakfast, not much else) but I'm definitely not letting the scales depress me until I have a chance to work some of it off.

And what's the 3rd motivation? Frankly, it's the knowledge that Janus is going great guns at the gym, pool, and on the pavements of Edinburgh, and if she can do it then I owe it to her to be just as diligent. I want us both to reach our targets. This isn't a competition, it's a challenge, and if she fails and I succeed I won't be happy. We've both got to do it! So, like it or not, I'm off to the gym.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Brrr ...

Mood: Feckin' cold
Location: Pit of laziness
Music: The Humanist Queen

I'm desperately trying to summon up the will to go to circuits, but I've been feeling tired and sick all day. I think this has to do with being really, really cold. Owing to the fact that the heating bill last winter was astronominominomical, Fishergirl and I have been trying very hard to be circumspect with the old thermostat. Her Dad came by and helped us out by putting the water heater temp up by a couple of degrees, which not only makes baths much more pleasant but actually saves money (you use less hot water because it's hotter, and so save on ... er ... stuff), but other than that we've only had the heating on for a few hours a day. We got the heating bill in, and it made pleasant reading, so hurrah for us. Unfortunately, so boosted was I by this news that I've refused - REFUSED - to give in to the seriously autumnal weather, and am now sitting with the hood of my hoodie over my head, occasionally breathing on my fingers as I type.

I shall light a fire. O yes. That is what I shall do.

Now then. Weight loss.

Nuff said.

I've got 2 days to go, and if I hit the 5lb loss mark I'll be ecstatic. More likely to be 4. This is shite. It's double or quits time ...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Pals 'n' Perspiration

Mood: Knackered
Location: Next to Bridie
Music: Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for my Sham Friends

Just back from a 5k up the hill and back. God, that hill is a killer - a full mile of varying steepness before even a hint of relief. But anyway, I managed it and did not die, which, frankly, is a bonus.

Time: 36.24.

I'll take that, even if it is quite shite.

We've had a lovely few days. First was dim sum in Edinburgh to celebrate Pro's 32nd birthday, which passed in fine (but fat) style. Then came a Sunday afternoon spent in the company of Phid, Blar and Baby Belle, which was lovely. We wandered with the pooches, scavenged for some blackberries, and then Blar made some excellent bramble scones. They were delicious, and consumed with lashings of cream and our homemade bramble jelly. Yumyum. Following this, we had supper together - Fisher's finest toad in the hole - and then fell asleep at about 9.30pm.

Next day, Fisher and I were up considerably earlier than Blar and Baby Belle, so I took the opportunity to weed the veg patch. The purple sprouting broccoli is a failure - far too enticing for bunnies, caterpillars and white fly - and resembles nothing short of a few green sticks with some green lace attached. On the other hand, the onions are ready to be plucked from the earth, and there are some ickle biddy courgettes appearing amongs the yellow flowers. How exciting! I'm thrilled.

Once Blar had emerged from her pit, we travelled to Bruar to see if we could find gifts for Janus, whose birthday approacheth (we failed), and then returned home to try not to fall asleep in front of the telly.

Today was an excuse to go to Gloagburn for brunch, and I managed only to consume a couple of slices of toast and butter. Add to that one Viennese biscuit thing and a 5k run (plus 1 mile walk with the pooches) and I'm doing ok for once. Trouble is, I'm feckin' starving!

Anyway, it was grand to see Baby Belle looking so well and to spend some quality time with her Ma - much enjoyed.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


Location: Just back from the gym
Mood: Smug
Music: The Frim Fram Sauce*

I've decided to take a leaf out of Janus's book and go back to swimming as well as running, in a desperate bid to shift at least some poundage before 3rd October. Alas, the delight of dropping below the stone mark was short lived. It's now That Time of the Month and I weigh heavy, so I'm back to X stone 0 lbs 8oz. Hopefully that's something that hormones and the fact I'm like a balloon stuffed with water (oh! which would be a water balloon, I'm a-thinkin') is causing, and will be but a passing thang.

Anywayyyy - Fishface and I are off to Edinburgh to meet up with the Cheese Board this evening, thereby inevitably scarfing down delicious chow courtesy of Janus, so I thought I ought to prepare. I've eaten this:

1 bowl (35g) bran flakes and half a banana. Actually, more like 28g as it's such disgusting stuff I couldn't finish it. And the banana was tasteless.
1 packet of energy bean things, just before the gym.
1/4 pack of Moroccan cous cous from Tesco. About 4-5 tablespoons.
1 Jacob's cream cracker.

I've also had a large cappu with 2 sweeteners. And gone swimmin'.

Some time ago I was horrified to discover that all the effort I'd put in to doing 1km front crawl was smacked in the arsecheeks by the fact that breast stroke burns more calories. Well, colour me stupid, but I found that hard to believe ... except that every goddam' website telt me that was surely the case - so I joyfully decided I ought to adopt it instead, as I've always found it easier.

Except it's not, really. It's easier if you're shit at it, like me, because you don't do it properly. Even so, I got in the pool today determined to do my click under the power of the breast alone. My front crawl time last time was around the 28 minute mark for 60 lengths - which is actually 1020m. So, 59 lengths of breast stroke later, I clocked my time at ... pa pa paaaa:

31 minutes 55 seconds.

Man. This is pretty slow - but it really does show what a lazyarse I am when it comes to front crawl, too. Can it truly be that I'm only 4 minutes faster when crawling? Anyway, regardless of this airy persiflage, it cheers me to look on the 'calories burned' website and learn that 30 minutes of boobstroke for someone of my heft burns THIS many calories ... pa pa paaaa:


Yes folks - I can now consume a small bucket of lard, guilt free! But I shall not. Nay. I shall, instead, be circumspect and eat a reasonable plate of food.

* This is a little thing that Logan Lo - a blogger I follow - does, and I like it, so I thought I'd steal it.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Lack of Progress

I'm so ashamed at how rubbish I've been at losing weight. I've got 12 days to go, and I'm too scared to step on the scales! Last time I was down 4 lbs.


This is so pathetic it's untrue. It hasn't helped my willpower that of late I've been doing many social things involving a lot of food - but I really, really have to find a way to enjoy being social without eating like an enormous lardarse.

On Friday we had Epona and Shah over for supper and I cooked marjoram& chanterelle mushrooms pancakes as a starter, then lamb shanks 'n' mash for main, and cheese to follow. All delicious, and extremely fattening.

This weekend we had a surprise visit from Sister and family, which was great. Unfortunately, I cooked us a roast chicken on Sat night, with garlic butter and parma ham under the skin. Islander and Sister brought us lobster to start with - which I can't eat, but which Fisher devoured with more glee than is seemly.

On Sunday we took the boys foraging, and they found us a good haul of chanterelles which Fisher and I ate for supper. We are turning into chanterelles. For lunch we went to Gloagburn and I had a chicken mayonnaise sandwich, which was more mayo than chicken. Gemmill nearly got himself eaten by a horse, who took a massive bite out of his jacket. There were no signs up warning us to be careful of the horse, which was in a field with an enormous wolfhound, next to the Tamworth pigs - which do have signs up saying they bite. It's set up to look like the animals are there to be looked at, so I was horrified when the horse proved so savage. It even took a bite out of one of the pigs! Islander sensibly informed the staff that they had a savage horse on their hands, and was thanked for the information. Appparently the horse is in the field as a favour for a friend. You'd think that a public restaurant with animals on display would want to be sure any visiting animals are tame enough not to attack visitors! If Gem hadn't been wearing a thick puffa he would have had a deeply unpleasant bite. I mean, really awful! And before anyone gets all sanctimonious about countryside common sense - lemme tell you, I've got plenty. I went to the horse first, before the children got there, and patted him. He lifted his lips at me and took a swipe - so I started to shepherd Gem away. It was actually as we were moving away that the creature leant right over and took a piece of him as a souvenir.

Anyway, Gem was quite upset about this - but it was soon forgotten after lunch when we went to Active Kids. Gem and Wrecker ran themselves ragged. Gem would be delighted if he could move in to the place - as long as he could easily get home in order to sleep in his own bed each night.

The Islanders left that evening, with boys dressed in PJs and tucked up in the car for the journey back to the West. Fisher and I consumed an enormous supper of mushrooms on toast, followed by delicious chocolate cake and cream. Brilliant, brilliant dietary work. Not forgetting the 2 peanut butter sandwiches I'd devoured earlier owing to starvation.

So, obviously, Monday morning saw me avoiding the scales like billy-oh and determining that, with the 12 days I had left of this stupid diet, I would eat nothing but the occasional lettuce leaf. Unfortunately (for the diet), we were honoured with a visit from Blar, Spar, and Baby Belle. It was terrific to see them, and we headed off to Abernyte antique centre to see if we couldn't find them a carpet for their living room. Of course, this involved having lunch there - so I chose the Fisherman's Platter in a poor bid to go low fat. A deep fried fish cake, no matter how small, is not low fat. Nor is mackerel paté - although I only had a mouthful or two of it, as it was slightly warm and nasty. Having skipped breakfast I devoured 3 slices of bread, too. I think bread is my downfall. I must cut it considerably.

Spar, Blar and BB left at around 6, so Fisher and I went to the gym. I did my usual run from the gate to the gym as a warm up, which is about 1.1 miles. I'd planned on doing that at a reasonable pace, then having a 1km swim. Unfortunately, this went tits up - and here's why.

Throughout my running 'career' (*snort* if it were any such thing I'd SOOO have been fired by now) I've been occasionally dogged by excruciating cramps in my lower abdomen - very much like period pains of the most acute kind. It used to happen every now and again around my time of the month - a week or so before, and during. Now, however, it seems to be happening with alarming regularity. It's particularly unpleasant when running downhill after running uphill for a while. Nor, I hasten to add, am I talking about actual period pains. They are as nothing in comparison. This feels like someone has taken my womb and is slowly wringing it between their hands. When it's particularly bad, as it was last night, I find myself seeking relief on my hands and knees by the side of the road, trying not to be sick. Unfortunately, kneeling, bending over, even lying on my back helps not one iota. The pain comes in waves, gradually building then slightly releasing (but not going away) before building again. It is truly agonizing - and I have a pretty high pain threshold.

So, anyway, after running about 3/4s of a mile I found myself lying on the grass by the side of the road just praying for the pain to stop. Interestingly, 3 cars went past me and nobody stopped to ask if I was ok. I'm sorry, but if I saw someone in running clothes crouched on their knees at the side of the road, I would definitely stop to see if they were ok. Fucking barbarians. It took about 10 minutes for it to pass, and by the time I got into the gym - where Fisher was pounding the treadmill with her usual determination - I was feeling pretty shaky. But the pain was gone, so I got on the treadmill and did half a mile, to make sure I'd covered the mile I'd promised myself.

I was still thinking I'd swim my click after the mile, but I couldn't face getting changed, showered, and into the pool. So, after 2 minutes or so of dithering, I got back on the treadmill and ran another 2 miles. I did them in about 21 minutes, felt no pain, and then attempted to do some weights.

I was pathetic. I couldn't do more than 12 reps on the bicep curl, with the weight at 6 (15kg?). I just hadn't got the energy. I was weak as a kitten. I did some abdominal work, which I badly need, but other than that I just sort of hung around while Fisher finished up her 7 miles. She was terrific - which made me feel even more pathetic, but v v proud of her.

That brings me up to date. In a second I will go and weigh myself, then shoot myself in the head. Then go to Tesco and buy naught but fruit, veg and laxatives.