Thursday, 30 July 2015

Thought for Thursday - Birmingham How I Love Thee!

We recently travelled up to Birmingham for a work reunion and it was the first time I'd been back for several years. So I thought I'd document our lightening 24 hours in Brum!

We travelled up from Oxford by National Express coach which was an interesting experience. The collection of the tickets was a little fraught (OK I had a bit of a melt down!) but as the coach was running late it didn't turn out to be too traumatic. We had to sit right at the back of the coach, bringing back memories of school trips. The couple who were sprawled across the back seat weren't too chuffed at having to move but that wasn't our problem. They did have an interesting way of travelling, constantly shifting about in their seats, her on his lap, both draped across each other or wrapped up like Siamese twins. At one stage he was feeding her orange juice as if she were a child - I did wonder if she was ill but I think they were just trying to sleep. All this caused some eye rolling but as the journey wasn't too long it didn't prove to be much of an inconvenience.

We walked through the city centre and found our way to our hotel. We stayed at the Ibis Hotel on Lionel Street which was just around the comer from the bar where we were to meet our old colleagues  so that was a bonus. Our room was comfortable and perfect for an overnight stay.

There was even a complimentary chocolate on the bed - but being Brum it was a mini Chomp bar rather than a posh truffle!

The shower could have been more powerful but it was adequate for one night. I guess I've been spoiled by the wonderful power showers at the gym so I do notice a trickles of less powerful showers.

It took me ages to realise that the pattern on the walls was the outside of the Selfridges building in the Bull Ring!

We ate at Fleet Street Kitchen on Summer Row. It was really nice although I'm still not sure about these open restaurants where you can see through to the kitchens - I did spend far too long watching the chef grill steaks! I had a mushroom and halloumi burger which was lush. I do wish they'd dried the lettuce more as after a few bites the bun started to go soggy. Chips in a bucket of course!

Dessert was ice cream - two scoops of caramel and one of chocolate. I though the caramel was lovely but when I got to the chocolate I was purring - it was rich and creamy, simply  the best chocolate ice cream I've ever had! More please ...

I had to include some shots of the new library. It was the first time I'd seen it and it is certainly a stunning piece of architecture. I still have a soft spot for the old library - you can't beat a bit of Brutalism in my view!

It is rather sad to see it unused - I spent  many happy hours pouring over books there - and a few not so happy doing revision!

I love the serene expression on this statue's face. She sits at the bottom of the steps leading from Chamberlain Square to the top of New Street. Basking in the warm sunshine, just the way to spend a Sunday in Brum!

I had to include the Floozy in the Jacuzzi - even if they have turned off her bath and planted flowers!

I squealed with delight when I saw this shop - AVFC on New Street! Sadly it was closed and we had no time to spare so I wasn't able to pop in and buy anything - rather fancied a new season shirt...

These owls are dotted around the city. This is something I've seen in other cities and they're all individually decorated. I don't know who this one is designed by but I'm proud of the artistic road works I've captured in the background! Mental note to self: framing is important in photographs.

As we headed back to Digbeth to catch the coach home I looked back at the city and was fascinated by this shot of the old and new together - St Martin's and Selfridges. Rather sums up Birmingham - a fusion of old and new, always looking forward and innovating.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Book Review - Room by Emma Donoghue

I'm a bit late coming to this novel. I remember hearing about it several years ago but it was only recently that my sister sent me her old copy which I popped into my case for holiday reading.

This novel is told from the point of view of Jack, a five year old boy who lives in Room with Ma. He is a happy child, content to do his chores with Ma ( washing the clothes, watering the plant) and watching TV. He names all the things in Room such as Plant, Rug and Skylight. He is intelligent and caring, looking after Ma when she is 'Gone'. But there is something disturbing about Jack's world. He has to hide in the wardrobe when Old Nick visits and there is an electronic keypad at the door.

I was charmed by Jack right from the first paragraph. He is a delightful narrator and you are drawn into his little world. Ma is a caring mother who is doing the best for her son under extreme circumstances. Their lives are by no means ideal but they rely on each other and their love  for the other is clear.

The second half of the story deals with how Ma and Jack deal with life when they leave Room. Ma finds things hard to cope with. She has been used to taking care of Jack on her own and doesn't deal well with the input of others, particularly her mother. Jack is bewildered by the world and he is a total innocent in the outside world.  The way he reacts to things and the way he phrases things is wonderful and made me look at the world in a totally new way - I spent a while staring into the distance wondering about perspective from Jack's point of view.

I loved this book. It deals with a difficult and disturbing set of circumstances but there is lightness and joy in the relationship between Jack and Ma which is heart warming. There was a tear in my eye at times but many more chuckles.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

If I Could ...

I've been tagged by Jocelyn over at The Reading Residence to indulge in a little daydreaming. Nothing I like better to be honest so away I go ...

If I could live anywhere:
The heart shouts 'Florence!', possibly my favourite place on earth. It would have to be in the historic heart of the city not the soulless suburbs, a cute apartment up some stone stairs with a view of either the Arno or the Duomo. I'd start ever day with a coffee in Piazza della Signoria gazing at the beautiful fountain. I'd spend the morning wandering through the Boboli Gardens, enjoy a picnic lunch under the trees. Afternoons would be spent either in the Uffizi or the Galleria dell'Academia taking in all the wonderful art. Some days I'll wander over to the Brancacci Chapel to drink in the frescoes. Evenings would involve strolling across the Ponte Vecchio to window shop all the gold shops and buy some food in one of the back street restaurants.

If I could be anything:
I'd be an elf. Ever since I first read Lord of the Rings I've been in love with the elves in Middle Earth. When I was younger I wanted to be Galadriel, cool and mysterious. Now I'm a bit older I would chose Arwen - so I get to kiss Aragorn of course!

If I could have anything:
It would be kittens. I love kittens - so playful and cute. My husband seems to think that there is a limit to how many cats and kittens we should have but I'd happily go on adding to our brood for ever. As soon as our youngest becomes a cat rather than a kitten I start to get broody for kittens! I love having the little scamps racing around the house.

If I could bring anything back to life:
I'm supposed to say my parents but I think I'll choose Clyde. Clyde was the brother of our middle cat Bonnie who sadly had an accident with a car several years ago. He was a wonderful cat, he loved me in a way no other cat we've had and he was a real character. It still breaks my heart thinking about him and I miss him more than any other cat we've ever owned.

If I could live in any time in history:
In my heart I'd like to choose Georgian England but I think the more practical me would choose the inter war years - the Roaring Twenties and the Thirties before the Second World War. I love the fashions of that time so it would be lovely to dress like that all the time. I'd love to live in the Georgian era but I think the hygiene and health care would be too much for me to bear. At least in the Twentieth Century I might stand a chance of surviving childhood!

If I could live in any season:
I choose autumn. I love autumn about all seasons. The colours, the smells, the weather - all perfect. I love snuggling into knitwear; walking in the chill of autumn; the drizzly weather which means I get to wear a hat and not feel like a plonker; scarves and gloves; misty mornings and dark evenings; the perfect excuse to drink hot chocolate. What more could I wish for?

If I could be any fictional character:
This is a tough choice. My first choice would be Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair. She's a feisty woman who goes all out for what she wants, nothing stands in her way. I like the idea of getting what I want through any means and kicking against the conventions of the day. Then I think I'd like to choose Tess from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, another strong woman. But Tess goes through some things that I don't want to experience so I rule her out. Why does it have to be a woman? If this is fiction I can be a man. If I'm to be a man I'd choose Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. He's got it all - a great father, a man of principle, a pillar of the community. But I've decided that I want to be Moominmamma. She's perfect in every way - the perfect mother and wife, always full of useful advice, practical yet still a dreamer. Yes, I choose to be Moominmamma!

If I could be any blogger:
Now there's a thought! There are so many bloggers I admire - Jocelyn of course, Sara at Mumturnedmom, Elizabeth at Rosalilium - but I'd choose Callie at The Corner of the Curve. She has an awesome lifestyle and her blog is often very inspiring. As a plus size woman I can relate to the struggles she goes through and I admire the strength she shows in dealing with the negativity she encounters on an almost daily basis.

Enough daydreaming, back to the real world - there's ironing to do!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Prompt - To Read

When the screaming ended Polly was surprised to find she had a really sore throat. There was a groaning sound coming from the other side of the lounge but Polly had no idea what it was. She felt a pain in her right hand and looked down. There was a broken mug clutched in her hand and there appeared to be blood as well.

Polly's ears were ringing. She gently shook her head to clear it but the ringing continued. And there was the groaning. Where was that coming from?   

Slowly Polly moved away from the dining table. Her legs felt heavy and she walked like an 80 year old woman. Gripping the back of the sofa she moved slowly around to sit down. She could still hear groaning, it seemed to be closer now she was in front of the sofa. Gingerly Polly sat down and released her grip on the broken mug. It hit the floor with a dull thud.

She rubbed her temples and shook her head again. The ringing was clearing and Polly was bothered by the groaning sound. Something was different, odd in the room. Polly struggled to work out what it was. Something out of place. The chair! The armchair was overturned.

Polly was aware of time passing. The clock on the mantelpiece ticked. She'd always hated that sound. It reminded her of long, boring visits to her maiden aunts when she was a child. The ticking of their clock seemed to be sucking the joy out of her life second by second. Now as she sat on the sofa it marked the passage of time between now and - what? Something had happened but Polly wasn't sure what it was.

That armchair needed picking up. Harold would be so cross to see the chair sprawled across the lounge. Getting up and doing something about it seemed like far too much effort. Polly closed her eyes and rested her head against the crocheted antimacassar.

With a start Polly woke up. How long had she been asleep? The darkness through the window meant that many hours had passed. Her head ached, her mouth felt woolly and she had a nagging suspicion that something bad had gone on today.

From across the room she heard a groaning, fainter now than before. Slowly, gingerly Polly rose from the sofa and walked carefully towards the sound. A foot protruded from beside the table, a foot in a greying sports sock, a foot Polly recognised at once. Harold's foot.

She knelt down next to him and reached out to stroke his head. The groaning was louder and more urgent now. Harold flinched when she touched him and Polly instinctively snatched her hand away. Gazing in disbelief Polly saw there was blood on her hand. Someone had hurt Harold, injured him in his own home. Polly suddenly felt warmer as her anger rose. How dare someone hurt her Harold!

Then, as quickly as it had risen, her temperature plummeted. She began to shiver as she remembered what had happened. Her mind cleared and she was certain she knew what had gone on.

Harold groaned again, 'Why Polly? For God's sake why?'

Polly licked her lips and felt the tears spring to her eyes.

'I'm sorry, Harold. I didn't mean to hit you. I just wanted a quiet half hour to read my book.' 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Saturday Style - Style Icon

The more I think about style and realise that I don't really have one, unless bag lady chic counts, the more I've been looking at other women's style, especially celebrities. If I could wave a magic wand, who's style would I like to steal?

I've always had a soft spot for Audrey Hepburn, so chic and elegant. She always looked so beautifully groomed and dressed in what I call under-stated elegance.

I also like the style of Katherine Hepburn, that lady oozed class. She could wear a sweater and trousers and look elegant, whereas I always look as if I couldn't be bothered.

Modern day celebrities I like the style of include Alexa Chung and Billie Piper. Alexa carries off quirky elegance so well, always including some surprising element - statement shoes, an unusual bag. This sets her apart from the crowd and makes her an original. Billie Piper always looks as if she has thrown the first thing from her wardrobe on yet it so often works. She wear Doc Martins with an elegant frock, or throws a trench coat over an evening gown. Pillar box red lips and a sunny grin complete her look - aided by the perfect gentleman accessory in her handsome hubby, Lawrence Fox (my kind of eye candy to be sure)

So what learnt from this? Elegance seems to be a word that crops up several times, yet I never feel that I manage to look elegant. I'd be over the moon if I could nail presentable! There is much to think about if I'm to nail my signature style. Maybe one day I'll have that Hepburn elegance - either Audrey or Katherine!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Friday Fitness - So, How Did It Go?

Toady was D-Day. Time to find out how all my attention to detail with regard to nutrition had gone.

Disappointingly I lost no weight this week. Now normally that would be enough to send me into a tail spin of binge eating. This time however I had other data to show that things were moving in the right direction. I lost body fat and gained muscle mass. I also improved my hydration. So all good. Paige told me that sometimes it takes a week or so before the changes manifest themselves as weight loss. She was happy with the changes I have made and with the progress so far, so I am happy too.

 This coming week I have to get at least 2 sessions at the gym under my belt, especially as I had an interesting session today involving fainting, a banana and a bottle of Lucozade! I have also promised to avoid crisps all week - they are a major problem for me as I find it impossible to eat just one bag. In fact I can eat a whole multipack of crisps in one sitting!

So on Wednesday I have an appointment to sort out a gym programme with Ruth at David Lloyd. And I intend to do a cardio session this Sunday - a bit of rowing and cross trainer work.

So here's to a successful week and better numbers next week. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Thought for Thursday - Same Old Thing ...

A few weeks ago I was strolling through Debenhams having a browse when I noticed a gentleman walking towards me, scanning the rails. He was casually dressed in jeans and a blue check shirt. Nothing noteworthy about that you say. No, except he was holding in his hand three shirts on their hangers - all various types of blue check. Now I've heard of finding your signature look but only buying blue check shirts?!?

It got me thinking about how often I choose the familiar rather than try out something new.
So I confess, I don't like change. I'm happiest when surrounded by familiar things and folk. That makes me sound anti-social and I do like meeting new people but I get into a bit of a tizz before I do. My week tends to follow the same pattern - Monday is supermarket shopping, laundry and ironing; Wednesday is meeting hubby at the gym day; Friday is fitness day; Saturday is shopping and gym (with a lovely breakfast). I get quite stressed if anything crops up that means I have to change my routine. I don't have many new friends, preferring the ones I've had since college.

So does this make me boring? Should I be embracing new challenges and experiences?

The truth is change scares me. Even changing the look of my blog was a fraught experience. I agonised over using a new font, putting an image on the header, using new colours ... You get the picture. I'm always concerned that I won't like the new thing/look; that I'll have to put up with something that doesn't suit because changing again would be even more traumatic; that the new thing will make me sad/nostalgic for the old thing.

I love familiarity, I love vintage, I love nostalgia. I also love the convenience of new technologies, even if it takes me an age to really embrace them. So I face a dilemma; should I leave things the way they are or should I try the new?
I think I'll have to challenge myself to try some new things, to change some things, to rearrange things a bit.
But maybe not today ... I'll think about it tomorrow. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Read and Write - Super Shakespeare

For today's Read and Write I want to think about Shakespeare and why he is so important to me.

I can't really remember when I first became aware of William Shakespeare and his contributions he made to the literature and culture of our country. I suppose there must have been a time when I had no idea he had lived and written but that seems unreal to me. As far as I'm concerned Shakespeare has been the backbone of my literary journey from an early age.

Like many people who were educated in England my first encounter with Shakespeare's work was A Midsummer Night Dream. I suppose the gentle story line and all those cheeky fairies is what makes it the first of his plays that most of us comes across. I can't remember if I read it, had it read to me or acted in it but I remember loving the names of all the fairies - Moth, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mustardseed. I saw an RSC production in the 1970s which blew me away. I saw Oberon as a powerful force, not the 'King of the Fairies' with all the girly undertones that has; I saw Titania as a manipulative, jealous woman; I saw Puck as a schemer rather than a cute fairy. Even the fairies were a bit Goth!

The first play I remember studying was Romeo and Juliet. I'm well acquainted with it as I've taught it at GCSE numerous times. The gentle love story with the violent undertones is really captivating for a teenage girl and I fell in love with the romance of it. When I saw Baz Luhrmann's film I was stunned by the visuals of course but also with the darkness in the play which he exploited, especially in the scenes with Romeo, Tybalt and Mercutio.

Sometimes teaching a text can 'kill' it as a piece of literature. For a while I felt that way about Macbeth. I had taught it so often and struggled to see the poetry in it (most of my students did too!). A performance of the play with Sean Bean as Macbeth soon reminded me how powerful a discourse on power, ambition and how people can be corrupted by both. Always nice to gaze at Mr Bean for a few hours too!

My son is very interested in language and it's development so I have to mention the contribution Shakespeare made to our language. So many words and phrases that we use everyday were first used in the plays of Shakespeare.  For example - assassination from Macbeth; cold-bloodied from King John; green-eyed jealousy from A Merchant of Venice; puking from As You Like It.

So there you are, a potted history of my love affair with The Bard - roll on August when I'm off to see Much Ado About Nothing.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Prompt - Blue

Blue. The colour of his eyes. Like twin chips of ice yet alive and full of passion. When fully open they give him the look of a little boy; vulnerable, helpless, in need of looking after. When half closed they are seductive; passionate, full of lust, real 'come to bed' eyes. They were the first thing she noticed about him.

Blue. The colour of the car he picked her up in when they went to dinner at a fancy French restaurant. The night he proposed and she cried and said 'Yes!' in a squeaky voice. The night that all her dreams came true, when her Prince Charming asked for her hand in marriage.

Blue. The colour of the flowers in her bouquet as she walked down the aisle towards the man of her dreams. She could hardly stop smiling, her happiness was now complete. She'd brushed aside the doubts of her friends who said there was something odd about him; they were jealous of the way he treated her as if she were a porcelain figurine, wrapping her up in the warm embrace of his love. They'd soon see, he was the man for her and they were going to be blissfully happy for ever and ever.

Blue. The colour of the kaftan he bought for her on their honeymoon, preferring her to cover up. He said that her beauty was only for him and he hated seeing the lust in other men's eyes when she walked on the beach. So she pulled the blue kaftan over her head and strolled across the sand hand in hand with her new husband.

Blue. The colour of the little line on the pregnancy test which told them that they were to become a family. She saw him cry for the first time, tears of joy as he swung her round and called her his perfect darling wife.

Blue. The colour he sadly painted over in the nursery when their beautiful daughter was born. 'Next time, a son, and soon' he'd declared after the birth.

Blue. Her mood as month after month passed with no new pregnancy.
Blue. His mood as she failed to get pregnant time after time.

Blue. The colour of the circles beneath her eyes as she sat up night after night crying when she suffered a third miscarriage, again of the longed for little boy. The Little Boy Blue that would not be coming to live in their home.

Blue. The colour of the dress worn by the woman who walked past their house every day for a week. Tall, slim, blonde. A woman she didn't know, she'd never met, who kept looking at her house.

Blue. The colour of the stain dripping down the wall after he threw dessert at it. She asked who the woman in blue was. He denied knowing her. She pressed him. He lost his temper. The blueberry cheesecake hit the wall and he stormed out.

Blue. The colour of the nightdress she was wearing when he returned home, drunk. The nightdress that he tore from her body, pushing her against the pillows and screaming in her face. Screaming that she was a failure as a wife, a mother, a woman. No wonder he looked at other women.

Blue. The colour of the sunglasses she wore to cover her shame the next morning. A colour that she would notice on her body more and more. 

Blue. The colour of the bruises on her arms, her torso, her face.
Blue. The colour of the uniform of the doctor who stitched up the cut above her eye.

Blue. The way she felt as she walked into the station to report him at last, after three years of beatings.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Friday Fitness - Day One of Pain with Paige!

So I'm just back from my first session with Paige at David Lloyd, the first of 6 weeks learning about better nutrition and doing a Boxercise based session.

We started by outlining our goals, what we wanted to achieve by the end of the 6 weeks. I decided that I wanted to lose 10kg of weight and to have improved my nutrition. Paige then weighed and measured us, giving us some interesting numbers to think about. I wasn't really shocked at the Body Fat % although it's always rubbish to see it written down. I was shocked at how poor my hydration is - the number for good hydration is 70 and I'm at 35! So that means I'm only half hydrated; could this be why I feel so tired and headachy sometimes? In order to return to full hydration I would need to drink 4 litres of water each day - that's a bucket full! Needless to say Paige advised against that and suggested that I simply(!) improve my hydration slowly, so increase the amount of water and decrease the amount of tea I drink every day.

We then looked at our nutrition and there was some soul bearing there - confession about skipping breakfast, confessions about not eating enough protein (or even knowing what protein is), confessions about putting others first and grazing on junk food. Paige suggested small changes to our diets which we should find achievable and introduced the 40:30:30 meal to us. We should be aiming for 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat in our meals. She also pointed out that a portion is about the size of a fist and it's the cooked weight of pasta that makes up the portion (just in case I wanted to cheat on the size)

After what felt like information overload we headed to the outdoor gym space for a Boxercise type workout. As neither of us had done it before we needed to learn the techniques of punching. I'm sorry to say that my thumbs disgraced themselves all through the session by refusing to stay in! We practised punching, moved on to kicking and then had a weights session using kettle bells, ropes and tyres. I was soon totally out of breath and my heart rate was sky high. Paige was encouraging and kept reminding us to take a drink and breathe!

So that's the first step. Now I need to fit in a couple of gym session during the week and resist the temptation to cook a mountain of pasta for tea tonight!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thought for Thursday - Observation

Today I spent some time at Oxford National History Museum doing some observations as a volunteer. It got me thinking about how observant we are.

During the average day I must see thousands of thinks. Some of them are familiar things that I see everyday, including members of my family, my cats, furniture the garden - you get the idea. But how much do I really see them?

Of course it would be a bit unnerving for my family to have me stare intently at them - I know I wouldn't like it. So how would I go about observing them? After the best part of 33 years of marriage the days of gazing into my husbands eyes are long gone and a grown up son probably wouldn't want me gazing lovingly at him either. I'm not sure that's the type of observation I mean anyway. I'm thinking more about being aware of them as individuals rather than husband or son. Sometimes familiarity, even if it doesn't breed contempt, can make you take folk for granted.

So this coming week I want to pay closer attention to my family members; to notice how awesome they are; to celebrate their achievements however small; to really 'see' them.

They do say that you should try to see yourself as others see you so I also want to take an honest look at myself. Nothing heavy or critical, just to notice myself, catch myself being interesting or awesome and feel proud of the person I am.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Prompt - Trust

'Katya Loves Dave', written under today's date in her diary. Katya doodled idly round it, drawing hearts and flowers in a way that reminded her of being a teenager with a massive crush on the captain of the football team. Tonight was the night. Tonight was the night that Dave had promised, after much pleading and a little nagging, to play The Trust Game. Ever since Katya had started taking a course in counselling and therapy at her local college she'd wanted to involve Dave in what she was learning. Each week she had rushed home to share what she'd learnt with him and suggest a few things they could try to improve their relationship. Not that it really needed any work but it couldn't hurt, could it? And tonight was the night when he'd agreed to play The Trust Game.

Dave pulled onto the drive, pulled on the handbrake and turned the engine off. He sat and listened to the familiar creaks and pops as the car settled and cooled after the drive from the office. He ran his hands slowly round the steering wheel, feeling where it smoothed from years of wear. He loved this car. It had been a gift from his parents when he'd graduated and he'd loved it right from the first time he drove it. Dave daydreamed about past driving adventures until he could stall no longer. He had to be brave and go into the house. Sighing deeply, Dave opened the car door. Tonight was the night he'd agreed to play The Trust Game with Katya. And there was no way he could get out of it now.

Katya walked into the kitchen to pour more drinks. It was all going so well. Dave was being far more enthusiastic than she could have hoped. He'd closed his eyes and allowed her to guide him around their home to show he trusted her to help him when he was lost and helpless; he'd crossed his arms and fallen back into hers to prove he trusted her to keep him safe; he'd even let her pick an outfit for him to wear to work on Monday to show that he trusted her to send him out into the world presenting the right image. All that was left was the Truth or Dare part of the game, Katya's favourite part. During training they'd all shared some embarrassing truths about themselves and discussed how important in any relationship to be comfortable bearing the deepest, darkest parts of yourself.

Dave knew what was coming next. He'd overheard Katya and her hippy training buddies chatting over glasses of Pinot, he knew that the most important part of The Trust Game was the Truth or Dare part. He'd played versions of it with previous girl friends and so he knew the sort of things girls liked to hear. He'd played drunken versions at several stag parties and knew how animated things could become. Heck, the police had been called to Eddie's stag do when Phil smacked Eddie on the nose for confessing that he'd snogged the bride one Christmas! So Dave wasn't looking forward to this. He knew he could lie to Katya, spare her feelings but she might see through his lies and that would inevitably lead to an argument, tears and him sleeping in the spare room again. As the kitchen door swung open Dave knew what he had to do.

Katya sat on the sofa, ripping the damp tissue into tiny pieces. Her breathing was still a little ragged but she was re-gaining her composure.
'So that's it really, the worst part of me.' she whispered. 'The one time I needed to step up and I let my best friend down.'
Dave shifted slightly in his chair. He had no idea what to say to her. If that was the worst thing, the thing she was most ashamed of in her whole life...
'Your turn.' she chirped, no longer the weeping wreck of a moment ago.
Dave froze. Secretly he'd hoped she'd carry on crying so he could come up with a plausible lie to tell her. Then all this nonsense would be over and they could have more wine, a quick cuddle then off to bed for some, in his opinion, well deserved sex.
'I can't.' He looked at his hands clutching the wine glass slightly too firmly. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. He waited for Katya to say something but there was only an awkward silence.
'Come on Dave. You agreed to play The Trust Game and I've told you the worst, most cringe worthy part of my life. It's not fair of you to duck out now.'
'Honestly, Kat, I can't. It's not fair to ask me.' Dave's mouth felt dry and the words seemed glued to his lips. 'This game must stop now.'
He glanced at Katya and was astonished at the expression on her face. He'd never seen her look like that, as if she was going to explode. Oh, he'd seen her angry, he'd seen her furious with him, he'd even seen a violent streak when she hurled an ashtray at him during a heated argument. But this was something else. She seemed to radiate fury.
'Typical!' she spat the word at him. 'You make me go through it but haven't got the balls to do it yourself.'
'It's not that, Kat, honestly. I thought about telling a lie so that I could go through with it but you were so keen on the whole trust thing that I couldn't do that to you.'
He paused, waiting for a response, fearing what that might be. He risked another look at her but she still looked furious.
'You don't trust me, do you?' Katya asked. 'You think I'll blab your dirty little secret and your image will be tarnished.'
Her expression had changed to one of disappointment, terrible disappointment.
'It's not that I don't trust you, Kat. Of course I do.' Dave took a deep breath, exhaled loudly. 'It's me I don't trust.'
They sat in silence for what seemed like a lifetime, neither knowing what to say. Dave knew that he had to break the silence.        
'If I tell you then I have to do something that will make you very unhappy and very mad. There is no way to avoid that and I don't trust myself to be able to do it.'
Dave felt the sofa dip beside him as Katya sat next to him. Her hand reached out and held his.
'Tell me. Dave. Whatever it is we can deal with it together.' Her voice was soft, gentle and imploring.
'Just remember, Katya,' he said coldly, 'this Trust Game was your idea. I didn't want anything to do with it but you nagged and nagged and wore me down.'
He pulled his hand away from her, stood up and walked to the door. With one hand on the door handle he half turned to face Katya.
'My whole life is a lie. I don't really exist. All this, it's a lie, a fabrication, an invention. Dave Crawford isn't a real person.'
Katya's hand moved to her mouth and tears sprang to her eyes again. Dave slowly, quietly opened the door.
'And now you know that, I have to leave, now. You'll never see or hear from me again. I trust that makes you happy, Katya.'

Saturday Style - Plus Size Style

What is 'Plus Size Style'? Is there such a thing? Can it be that all plus size women have a similar style?

Look around any office, shopping centre or high street in any town or city across the country. You will see lots of different people. All ages, all shapes and sizes, all different. Some will be plus size. They all look and dress differently. Is it possible to pick out the 'Blonde Style', the 'Tall Style', the 'Mature Man Style'? No? Then why should we assume there is such a thing as a 'Plus Size Style'?

If you look at any of the inspiring plus size blogs you will see a whole varieties of styles. There are plus size Goths, plus size Rockers, plus size vintage fashion fans, plus size fashionistas, even plus size models. Every woman, whatever her size has to find her own style. Being a plus size just makes it a bit harder to source what you want to wear.

I'm not in the first flush of youth (clue's in the title guys!) but I'm struggling to find my style. I know what I like and what I don't, particularly when it comes to clothes for me to wear rather than clothes for me to admire on other people. I don't like clothes that are too fitted, they make me feel self conscious. That's why I've always like the loose, flowing styles of the 1970s. I like to wear colour but I don't know which ones suit me - I choose pink and purple but this could be out of habit. I don't suit jackets but maybe that's because I've never found the style of jacket that suits me. I have a terrible habit of wearing leggings because they are comfortable but I'm sure I look terrible in them.

So how do you find your style in your 50s with only a husband and son to help (they always say I look ok which is no help!)?  I'm hoping that the research I do for the blog will help. Any suggestions?

Friday, 10 July 2015

Word of the Week - Scheduling

This week's word is a word from last week and a word for next week, it's ...

In order to keep my new blog ticking over I've written a schedule of posts. This means that most days there is a post planned in advance for me to pop on the blog. However having a list written is no substitute for doing something about it and this week I've found myself racing to get a post typed up on the day it's due on the blog.
So next week my challenge to myself is to get some posts scheduled so that they appear seamlessly without the mad rush on my part. Sadly I can't schedule my WOTW post - that needs to be done on Friday with the wisdom of hindsight! 

Friday Fitness - How did it go?

Don't Friday's come round quickly? Only seems like 5 minutes since I was setting out my goals and here I am having to look back over the past week.

This week I have been taking things slowly and going for a walk each day and with the lovely weather we've been having I've really enjoyed getting out in the sunshine. It might not seem much but it's got me off the sofa and moving about. Until I get a settled gym routine it seemed better to do something rather than make all my usual excuses!

I've signed up for a 6 week Lose & Shape Up course at my gym which starts next Friday. It's based around healthy eating and Boxercise so should be interesting. I feel that I need a little push and some support to get myself moving. I lack willpower and motivation when it comes to my health and fitness. I know all the theory but somehow I never quite get into the groove and make those important changes which will mean my lifestyle improves.

I'm not going to say this is the last time I'll put myself through this but I so hope that I get things right this time and move towards that fitter healthier me that I want to be. 

So a slow week on the fitness front but much to look forward to - pop back to see how I get on with Boxercise - might bring out my inner Frank Bruno ...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Thought for Thursday - Inspiration

I wanted the new look blog to be more than a fitness, weight loss and lifestyle blog. I decided to include some of my reading and writing to keep a link with the old style blog. So I have decided to set aside my Thursday posts to think about a variety of things, what ever takes my fancy really.

For my first post I want to think about inspiration.  One of the tricky things about writing is where to get your inspiration from. I find that inspiration for me comes from a variety of sources. It can be something as small as an overheard remark which gets me thinking about the background story. It can be a face in the crowd - I enjoy people watching and have always wondered about the life story of people I glance at briefly on the bus or on the street. Most often these days I take inspiration from writing prompts. I link up with people who supply prompts which usually result in some piece of writing, large and extended or short and pithy.

Thinking about inspiration put me in mind of the inspirational posters that adorn many a wall in schools, doctors surgeries and council offices. They include a quotation which is supposed to 'inspire'. But do they? Can you honestly say you've ever felt inspired by one of those posters? I always think that they're a bit cheesy but maybe that's because I've seen so many of them, heck I've Blu-takked hundreds of them on classroom walls, mostly to cover the cracks!  One that pops up quite often is 'Be the change you wish to see in the world'. What is it that we are meant to take from this quote? This quote is often attributed to Gandhi and seems to suggest that, while as individuals we are not capable of changing the world, we are all capable of changing on a personal level and if enough of us do that then the world will be changed. On a simpler level it could mean only you can change yourself and, by extension, the world. I'm sure it's an idea too profound for most teenagers yet it pops up in schools around the country.

So why are these posters put up around schools? (apologies for banging on about schools but that's  where I spent many years so I noticed things about the school environment.) I guess Headteachers think that the young people who amble through the corridors and loll about in classrooms for so many hours each week need something inspiring to read on the walls. From my own experience I'd say that after a while these posters become no more noticeable or memorable than the paint on the wall. Whatever inspiration people are supposed to take from them vanishes as we stop reading them and eventually stop noticing that they are there.

That's not to say that the sort of quotes found on these posters aren't inspirational. I have my own personal favourites including 'If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be', 'A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous' and 'Don't let anyone ever dull your sparkle'. Thinking about it, those quotes are more aspirational than inspirational for me. Keep checking out my blogging journey to see if I get there - amazing, fabulous, classy and full of sparkle!       

Monday, 6 July 2015

The Prompt - Evaluate

I've been doing a lot of evaluation recently so this Prompt came at exactly the right time for a little reflection.

I spent some time evaluating my blog and what I wanted from it. I started this blogging journey many years ago with no clear idea of where I was going. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what blogging was all about when I started. So it felt like the right time to stop and think about the whole idea of blogging - what I wanted to do it for, what I really wanted to blog about and how I could integrate it into my life in a more meaningful way. I was a 'bitty' blogger - sometimes I'd blog several times a week then go for several weeks without thinking about my blog. With some help I have thought deeply about what I want this blog to be and what I want to get out of it. I have re-vamped it to help with the feeling of newness and I'm trying to stick to a posting schedule so I have more structure in my blogging efforts.

As part of the evaluation of my blog I have also been evaluating my lifestyle. While not wanting to label this a lifestyle blog, I am using it as a vessel to re-evaluate my personal lifestyle choices and try to improve my health and fitness. To this end I have signed up for a 6 week health and fitness course at my local gym. I feel that, although I know most of the things I should do to improve my health and fitness, I need some structure to achieve my short term goals - I also need a good talking to and a little light bullying to get me started!

I think that taking the time to evaluate where one is in life is a good and positive thing. It is all too easy to get in a rut, to muddle along. This is all too comfortable and it takes a shake up to reinvigorate things. This is what I hope to get from my re-evaluated blog and from my re-evaluated lifestyle. I'm glad that I took the time to evaluate these two aspects of my life - maybe I'll be brave enough to do the same with other areas soon.  

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Saturday Style - My Favourite Style

Saturday Style

This is the first in a series of posts looking at style. I'll be looking at style for the older woman. Is it true that those of us in our 50s can wear what a 20 something might wear? Is there a typical style for older women? And what about the myth that older women should wear their hair short? Anything and everything is up for discussion. I will focus on the plus size dilemmas of a 50 something and look at what is available each season.

For the first in the series I'm going to talk about my favourite style. I grew up in the 60s and 70s. During the 60s I was at primary school and my clothes were bought or made by my Mum. I love the 60s fashion but was always too young to wear most of it. By the time the 70s arrived I was at secondary school and starting to take more notice of fashion. I was also able to make more choices about what I wore. I had a Saturday job and my parents gave me a clothes allowance so I was choosing and buying all my non-school clothes and shoes. I have fond memories of platform shoes, Crombie coats, cheesecloth smocks, lots of purple, totally unsuitable triangle tops, hipster jeans, seed beads, Biba and Chelsea Girl. I could go on but you get the picture.

So it will come as no surprise that my favourite style is hippy-BoHo. I love loose, flowing lines and colourful prints in natural fabrics like cotton, linen and cheesecloth. I think part of this is because I'm a plus size woman. Tight clothes make me feel self conscious and some man made fabrics can cling and make me feel sweaty and hot. Nothing like hot and sweaty to make me feel graceful and stylish (not!)

I like the recent focus on vintage style and I have a soft spot for 40s and 50s styles. I think they are really feminine and elegant. There is also lots of variation within those styles - the 40s wartime style is minimalistic and utility was a watchword, with a real emphasis of hand made, home made clothes; the 50s styles can be glam with nipped in waists and blood red lipstick or casual and chic with pedal pushers and sweaters as seen in late 50s Elvis movies. I'd love to wear more vintage inspired cloths but I've found few outlets selling them in larger sizes. One of the real problems I've had is with vintage style dresses and bras - my modern style bras always show as they have a different cut to the vintage style bras. Another dilemma that I've yet to solve!

So there you have it, that's what I'd like to wear. Over the next few weeks I'll share some of the things that I actually do wear. Bear with me though, I hate having my photo taken and it will take some courage to post pictures of myself.      

Friday, 3 July 2015

Friday Fitness - My Journey So Far

Friday Fitness

This is the first in a weekly series of posts documenting my journey to better fitness. I thought that for the first post I'd look back at my journey to the unfit old body I have at the moment!

I was never a sporty child. Games lessons were a trial for me. I never managed to perfect the forward roll or a handstand against a wall. At least the world was rarely treated to a view of my knickers! Primary school games lessons could be spent hiding under the climbing frame or at the far end of the sports field picking wild flowers. Secondary school was a nightmare - last to be picked for any team, not wanting to join in at all, terribly self conscious about how I looked when running, jumping or having the dreaded after games shower. I began to find ways of avoiding games lessons and I think I just got forgotten about by the PE staff. I enjoyed playing tennis, mainly because I liked flirting with the lads who were doing athletics, but it was difficult to get on the tennis courts if you weren't a favourite of the PE teacher so I spent more time doing something, anything rather than any physical exercise.

When I went to college I dabbled with the odd game of squash with a friend. We were both rubbish at it and spent more time giggling and falling against the walls than playing squash. There was no organised physical activity at college so those of us who were lazy had no reason to get involved in anything active or sweaty (keep it clean out there!)

I tried a few exercise classes - I went to aerobics with my sister, we really enjoyed the G & T in the bar afterwards! It wasn't something I felt I needed or wanted to do.  Several years ago I joined a gym with my husband; I spent more time in the members lounge than the gym. Slowly I started to use the gym more and even took spin classes. Some exercise classes weren't for me - I tried a Combat class, lasted 15 minutes and then fled in tears!

So I have a chequered past with fitness and exercise. You may be asking 'Why on earth is she starting a fitness post series?' A very good question! The truth is I'm very unfit. That's not good for my health now and certainly not good for my future health. A recent visit to the doctor made me realise that, while things are ok at the moment, I'm potentially storing up some major health problems for the future. My family history tells me that. So I'm trying to be a grown up about it and make some changes to my fitness while I still can.

I'm planning on attending the gym on a regular basis. I'm not going to stick to a rigid plan to start with - I think it's more important that I get into a routine and get comfortable in the gym before I start any classes. I'm going to look at the variety of exercises and types of kit that I can use at the gym. I also hope to talk to some members of the gym team and get some advice about exercise of the older woman.

So look out your sports bras and join me on a journey to better fitness. The worst that can happen is that we bond over a G & T in the bar afterwards!


Word of the Week

Can't believe how quickly Friday seems to come round! I've hardly finished reading all the stories behind everyone's #WOTW before it's time to think of another word to sum up my week.

This week my word is ...

I planned to re-launch my blog this week and I managed it! It was a day later than I planned but my excuse is that it was too hot to do anything on Wednesday!
I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted the blog to look and feel. I was helped greatly by a Blogging Bootcamp I took so thank you Elizabeth +Rosalilium for all the wonderful help and advice. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have made it without you. I had little idea how to go about re-designing a blog but thanks to her wonderful suggestions and guidance I tackled it with a lot of enthusiasm. I had some help from my son who was my tech guru and it wasn't half as scary as I thought it might be.
I've got loads of ideas for posts so I hope that everyone will pop over, read what I'm posting and enjoy the content. Do leave me a comment telling me what you think and maybe pop in from time to time to see what I'm wittering on about!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thought for Thursday - Why I blog

Thought for Thursday

This is the first post in my weekly Thought for Thursday series. I aim to share a few thoughts each Thursday on a variety of topics. Some posts will be musings on a variety of words that inspire me; some posts will look at events in my life, my world and the world in general.
This week, as I launch the new look blog, I thought it would be a good time to think about why I write a blog.

I started this blogging thing many years ago. Lots of people were doing it and talking about it so I thought I'd better check it out. I had no idea what I was doing and the first two blogs I started died a quiet and unloved death in some corner of the blogoshere. Then I started this blog under it's old name. I posted every now and then about anything and everything. It was a bit of fun and it kept me happy for a while.

As I got more involved in the blogging community - following other blogs, taking part in weekly linkys, making virtual blogging friends - I saw the whole area of blogging differently. I saw it as a place that I could start to explore various parts of myself. I could share some of my writing - scary though that I sometimes; I could muse about things that I thought were important; I could connect with like minded people and share something of our journey through life.

Then I wanted more. I wanted to feel really connected with a wide variety of people. I wanted to integrate blogging more closely into my life. I wanted to be more than just an occasional blogger. Hence the re-vamp - I thought I needed a new look to symbolise my new attitude to blogging.

I've now got a whole schedule of posts planned. I'm super excited about all of them and I hope you enjoy them. I'm planning to share a journey I'm beginning to improve my health and fitness - trust me, it'll be a long and difficult ride; I'm a lazy, greedy person! I'm going to be sharing more of my reading and writing with you - that's scary as I tend to keep my writing close to my chest. I'm going to be looking at style and beauty when you get as old as me - damn this dry hair and rubbish skin! There must be products out there that can help the older woman look and feel like a million dollars (and I don't mean green and wrinkly!)

So my new, improved blogging journey has begun. I hope you will join me as it unfolds.  

I finally did it!


I've only gone and done it, haven't I?

The blog has been re-vamped and I'm really happy with the new look. I hope you like it too.

I've got lots of things planned for the blog so I hope you'll pop by and see what's going on here.

There are a few things that need doing to complete the new look - I've yet to get a decent photo that I'm happy to use but this will be sorted out soon (scary though, I hate having my photo taken!)

So there it is; new look, new times, new blogging me.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride!