Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Read & Write Book Review - The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I don't know how to convey how much I love this book. I've just finished reading it for the second time and I just know that I will read it again in a few years.

I seem to have read a few books about magic recently - is this a trend? I'm not particularly drawn to stories featuring magic but this one is a cracker. The Night Circus is a magical circus which appears and leaves with no warning. Inside the circus are many tents containing circus acts - illusionists, contortionists, tarot card readers to name a few. Unlike a regular circus there are also tents containing other attractions - ice gardens, wishing trees, labyrinths - which are sustained and developed with magic.

The central relationship in the novel is between Celia and Marco, both magicians drawn together by a magical contest woven through the circus. As their magical powers develop they learn more about each other and their relationship deepens. The denouement of their relationship is at the same time heart wrenching and life affirming - no spoiler here!

Their are other wonderful characters - Bailey, a young American boy who loves the circus and discovers true friendship their; twins Widget and Poppet whose whole lives are bound up with the fate of the circus; Isobel who loses her love but finds friendship in the circus; Tsukiko who is far more mysterious then she at first seems. I could go on, there are so many characters to love.

The narrative swings between the earliest days of the circus and the contest between Marco and Celia which happens when the circus is maturing. Because of the magical nature of the circus meant that I was happy to accommodate these swings of time; in fact it seemed perfectly natural that a circus such as The Night Circus wouldn't be bound by the normal rules of time and space.  

Erin Morgenstern is currently writing her second novel which isn't a sequel to The Night Circus. I'm really looking forward to reading her next book and seeing where her phenomenal imagination takes us next.  Although I am still hoping that there will be a sequel in the future - I'd love to find out what happens to Bailey, Poppet and the rest as The Night Circus rolls on.    

Friday, 21 August 2015

Friday Fitness - Fit 4 Life

This week hasn't been a good one for fitness. I've had some health issues which have meant that I've not been able to get to the gym. I have managed to keep my healthy eating on track so I'm pleased with that. No new numbers to share apart from having lost 3 kg since I started this journey.

I've recently started to go back to Fit 4 Life spin classes. I've always loved these classes. They are different to other spin classes as they're less reliant on standing up for which my knees are always grateful! Helen who runs the class is lovely and supportive; she encourages you to work at your own pace and slowly improve week by week. By gradually increasing the gears on the bike you make the workout harder but there is no pressure to move up until you feel ready. The interval training part of the class improves your cardio fitness and by alternating with recovery periods you feel as if you're working hard but not killing yourself! Helen also has great taste in music so rather than feeling as if you're in a nightclub you feel motivated by the steady beat of the music (Helen also likes to sing-a-long which is nice!)

So here's to a better week next week!   

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Thought for Thursday - Music

Recently heard a debate on the TV about surgeons listening to music while operating, the pros and cons and whether the music had a beneficial effect on both the surgeon and the patient. I'm lucky enough never to have gone under the knife so have no personal experience to draw on but it got me thinking about the importance of music in my life.

Now I'm not one of those people who has the radio playing all the time, although I did in my younger years, so music is something that I make a conscious decision to listen to. I have eclectic taste in music so I have to fit the music to my mood.

The music I listen to most is probably Sigur Ros. I first encountered this Icelandic band when they acted as a support act fro Radiohead. I wasn't sure about them at first but decided that I'd invest a little time getting to know their work and I'm really glad that I did. I find their music very relaxing, it soothes me if I'm feeling a bit anxious and so I always listen to it when flying as I'm a slightly nervous flier. When I listen to Sigur Ros it seems to speak to my soul; it's exactly how I imagine music in paradise to be. In fact I've decided that I want their music played at my funeral (yes, I've thought about that!)

If pushed to name my favourite band I'd pick Radiohead. I am constantly surprised by the originality of their work and how each new album differs from the last. They never rely on a formula and this is why their music always sounds fresh. Lots of people find their music depressing and bleak - I can understand why they think that but I always find something to cheer me in their work - maybe having a dark sense of humour helps! My two favourite tracks are Fake Plastic Trees and Idiotique - both great for a sing-a-long!

I've tried to get into classical music but so far without much success. I always worry that I'm not 'getting' it, that there's a deep hidden meaning that is too deep for me. If someone could suggest an easy way to get into classical music I'd be interested to hear it but so far I've only enjoyed The Planet Suite and some Debussy - not very good when you think of the wealth of classical music out there!

I have other bands and pieces of music that I like. As a teenager I was heavily into David Bowie, Two Tone, The Stranglers, Pink Floyd, Glam Rock - I could go on and on. Sometimes I enjoy a nostalgia fest and listen to all the songs that I loved as a teenager. The memories come flooding back and I'm 15 again wearing cheesecloth and flares!   

So there you are, some thoughts about music. So which music would I like played if I go under the knife? I suppose I'd want the surgeon to feel calm and in control so I choose Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros. Then if I woke up mid surgery I'd feel calm too!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Read and Write - My Son's Birthday

For today's Read and Write I'm being a little indulgent. Today is my son's birthday so I thought I'd pop down a few thoughts about how he has impacted on my life over the years. I hope I won't embarrass him too much but then again, that's what Mum's are for, isn't it?

Over the years you've bought so much joy to my life. As a baby you were the cutest thing I'd ever seen, and I've seen kittens! Every Mum thinks their baby is perfect but when you were born I was amazed that I'd managed to produce such a perfect little person - and yes, I know your Dad had a small part to play but after all that effort I was feeling a personal sense of achievement.

I longed for the day you said your first word, desperate to hear what your voice would sound like. In the years that followed you never stopped talking - sometimes that wasn't such a joy but you often had such interesting things to say. You invented new words for things and we soon learnt to interpret but to this day we have no idea what you meant when you pointed through the car window and shouted 'Paywoll!'

You grew into a thoughtful young man with so much promise, even though some failed to appreciate your unique take on the world. You could startle with an observation or start a conversation that wandered down many a blind alley or took off at a tangent. You struggle to find your way in a world that doesn't seem able to accommodate your particular talents but you insist that all is well when we fret and worry. The future stretches out before you and you have no map - I worry that you may lose your way but Mum's always worry about something, don't they?

I am proud to call you my son. You are a unique and special person who brightens my life and frustrates me in equal measures. Don't stop being the man you are and never compromise to suit the conventions that you so despise.

Happy Birthday!  

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Word of the Week - Organisation

A fairly boring word from me this week.

This past week stuff has run away from me again. Despite all my best intentions I have found myself falling behind with everything. So this week's word doesn't sum up the week that's past so much as highlight what has been missing and what I need to address next week. It's not as if I've not got enough planners to help me!
So here's hoping that I can get everything back on track next week and chose a more thrilling word for my next #WOTW!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Read & Write - Tuesday Fiction

I thought this week I'd share a piece that I wrote a while ago which has sort of ground to a halt. I'm not sure if it's worth persevering with or if it's just a little bit of whimsy that has had it's day. So I'm sharing it here in the hope of a bit of feedback, good, bad or indifferent!


I stood and waved frantically as the car moved slowly into the distance.  I think I waved long after it had vanished but I wanted to be sure they had gone and I was finally alone.  The quiet was almost solid and I drank in the silence.  This was exactly what I needed, some quiet and solitude to sort out my thoughts and hopefully to get the second novel on track.  If nothing else, going ‘off-grid’ would stop the nagging of my agent who was staring to call twice a day.  Second novel syndrome; the inability to put more than three words on a screen before doubting your ability and hitting ‘Delete’.  Plenty of writers had suffered from it in the past and I was the latest in that long line.  

 I turned towards the cottage and took in all the 'period features'. It was more run down than I remembered, desperately in need of a lick of paint and the garden was a wilderness that made my small plot at home look like Kew. Everything needed some attention. But that wasn't my problem; I was here briefly to sort my writing out and to chill for a while away from the annoyance of other people's expectations. 

I picked up my bag and entered the cottage.  Luckily I’m not the tallest soul or I’d have knocked myself out on the beams.  This cottage screamed quaint, although it wasn’t quite chocolate box.  First things first, tea!  There’s no problem too thorny that can’t be sorted out with a cup of tea.  The kettle wasn’t electric or even from this century but that didn’t matter too much.  But the clanging from the taps was another matter.  It gave up a dribble of water with a degree of reluctance.  At this rate it might take a while to make a pot of tea!

But, like many things, I’d exaggerated. I was soon curled up on the saggy sofa with a nice cup of tea, halfway through a packet of digestives.  The soothing qualities of a cup of tea settled me immediately and I became aware of how tired I was.  Despite not having done all that much recently I was amazed at how weary I felt.  Not the sort of tiredness that comes from hard, physical labour but the sort that comes from what my father called ‘world-weariness’; a feeling that everything was too much effort, too much trouble.  I just felt worn out by life.

My eyelids began to feel heavy and I was in danger of tipping the cold dregs of my tea into my lap.  Time to turn in and refresh myself.  In my usual slovenly fashion I left the tea cup on the draining board, swilled the tea pot out and turned the kitchen light off; out of sight, out of mind.

The bed wasn't made up so I pulled my sleeping bag out of my luggage and decided that all domestic tasks could wait until the morning. Winding my alarm clock I was shocked to see that it was only 9 o'clock. Still, I wasn't going to be playing by the rules for a few weeks so if I wanted to turn in nice and early then that was my business. Thankfully it was dark enough and quiet enough for me to sleep.

I woke with a start several hours later.  Had I been dreaming?  It wasn’t unusual for me to wake in the middle of the night from a vivid dream.  In fact some of my best story ideas were loosely based on dreams I’d had.  Not all dreams were suitable of course; who wants to read a dozen stories where the heroine gets rescued by either Johnny Depp in Captain Jack costume or Benedict Cumberbatch in Speedos and a deerstalker?  No?  Just me then!

 I had no recollection of a dream and I was pretty good at remembering my dreams, or at the very least whether I had been dreaming. It was still dark outside and by squinting at my clock I saw that it was only 3 am. Perhaps I hadn't been as tired as I thought and this was all the sleep I was going to get. I struggled out of my sleeping bag (must get that zip fixed or I'd end up entombed) and padded into the kitchen to make tea. The taps clanked again and I was glad that there were no neighbours to wake. At home they'd be banging on the door to complain about the noise by now - did those people have nothing better to do than listen for the slightest sound we made? 

While the kettle was boiling I wandered into the lounge. I'd left the curtains open last night and I was stuck by how dark it was. No street lights, no neighbour's windows in view, no security light going off every time the cats went out. True and pure darkness. The sort of darkness that looks like velvet, soft and rich. I half expected to hear a violin playing melancholy music to accompany the atmosphere. On the other hand it was the kind of darkness that things could loom out of. The kind of darkness which, with a touch of mist and a chill in the air would be perfect for the Hound of the Baskervilles to race out of.
I was wrenched out of my reverie by the kettle whistling in the kitchen.  Enough imagination for one morning, Kitty, pull yourself together.  As I poured the water into the teapot, something caught my eye outside.  The merest movement on the edge of my vision.  Almost too small to register but by this time I’d got my imaginative juices going so was feeling  extra sensitive to everything around me.

 I peered out of the window but all I could see was my reflection in the window and the endless velvet darkness. Probably a branch blowing in the wind. Nothing to get excited about. I took my tea and went back to bed. The sleeping bag had gone cold and wasn't as welcoming as I'd hoped. I lay on my side and watched the steam rising from my mug. The alarm was set for 8 o'clock but I didn't think I'd be able to sleep for a while so I switched the alarm function off.

I daydreamed for a while, making patterns from the steam swirls, trying to decode the faded pattern on the curtains (Roses? Horses? Houses?).  My mind wandered off and once again I found my eyelids getting heavy.  I allowed my eyes to close and I was soon in that blissful place where awake and asleep meet.  The warmth of the tea spread through me and I felt all my muscles relaxing, the tension leaving me as I drifted off again.

Suddenly I was wide awake. There had been a sound.  Something from somewhere, loud enough to wake me but not distinct enough for me to identify.  I was laying full length in my sleeping bag, tensed up and stiff as a plank.  Get a grip, woman.  What’s the worst it could be?  You’re in the middle of nowhere so it’ll be a branch breaking or an animal barking.  It’s not like the nutter noises you hear in the city; drunks trying to break into the shed thinking it was their Auntie Rose’s house, teenagers who thought the whole street wanted to join in their drinking games, wannbe ganstas with the windows of their VW Golf’s wound down sharing their dodgy taste in music.  Those were things to worry about in the early hours, not the odd badger coughing.

The sky was starting to lighten so I glanced at the time; 5.37am.  Early enough to feel virtuous if I got up but also early enough to get a jump start on the day.  I fought the battle of the sleeping bag zip again and grabbed the mug from the bedside table ready for the first cup of many.  After some clanging and groaning the tap relinquished some water and I began the ritual of tea making.  The morning was lightening and I could see more of my surroundings.  The garden was very unkempt, messy beds which may have contained a range of bedding plants once but now just looked like a mass of leaves and stalks.  There wasn’t a flower-head to be seen.  The shrubs were desperately in need of pruning and for a millisecond I wished that I’d bought my pruning saw with me.  The only garden tool I really loved; it gave the impression that I’d done loads of work in the garden when all I’d really done was saw through everything in sight and pile it all up under the tree ready to be shredded for mulch.

Those overgrown shrubs and trees were obviously the cause of the noise this morning.  The slightest breeze and they would have tapped against the window panes, putting the wind up tired, nervous wannabe writers.  Having solved that mystery I felt up for the day.  Rummaging through the cardboard box so carelessly plonked on the kitchen table I found a loaf of bread, some butter and jam.  That was breakfast sorted out, providing I could work out how the grill worked on the antique cooker.  The last time I’d seen a cooker that old had been before my mother had updated her first kitchen.  It was beige and stood on little cabriole legs, the door opened out on a hinge and it fastened with a little hinged clasp.  The highest heat was gas 15, hot enough to fire up the local crematorium or to shatter Pyrex (I have experience with this one!)  The grill was at eye level and needed lighting with a match – and yes, it did blow back making me jump the first time I did it!  As I wasn’t familiar with how it behaved I stood and watched the bread toast with eagle eyes and panicked that it was toasting too quickly, pulling the grill pan out too hard and dropping it onto the burners with a clatter.

Despite all this I managed to cobble together a decent breakfast including my third cup of tea of the day.  I decided that after washing the dishes I’d go for a walk around the local area and then try to get myself sorted out ready to tackle some writing.  Before I got any new writing done I needed to go through what I had and do some honest editing of what I already had.  With any luck there would be something that could be salvaged or tweaked, something that had the germ of a good idea or sparked an idea.  Nothing I’d come up with so far and got my creative juices flowing and if this retreat didn’t help the maybe I was destined to be a one hit wonder.    


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Joining Bloglovin

I'm joining Bloglovin - pop over and follow me (if you like, no pressure...)

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13336461/?claim=h589gqkz3p3">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Read and Write - Much Ado About Nothing

On Sunday hubby and I went to the Bodleian Quad to see the Globe on Tour production of Much Ado About Nothing. This is an annual event for us and a trip that we both look forward to.

We enjoy a matinee performance as it gives us a chance to have a meal in Oxford before the performance. This year we went to Pizza Express and I managed to stick to my health eating plan by having a Superfood Salad which was delicious and very filling - lettuce, spinach, broccoli, avocado, goat's cheese, beetroot and pine nuts.

We lie to sit 'front and centre' to get the best view of all the action and this year was no exception. This is the view of the stage from our seats.

The Globe On Tour always seem to use a stage like this which is reminiscent of the original Elizabethan stages where Shakespeare's works would have been first staged.

The Bodleian Quad is a lovely setting as well and the stonework really glows when the sun shines.

Despite my better judgement I'm including a picture of me waiting patiently (and excitedly!) for the performance to start...

The performance was wonderful; funny, energetic, accomplished. Some of the actors had appeared as part of the Globe On Tour Company in the past and it was lovely to see them again. My favourite performances were from Alex Mugnaioni as evil Don John and bumbling Dogberry; Christopher Harper as Benedick; and Emma Pallant as Beatrice. Although the whole company were terrific. The musical numbers are a particular delight in the Globe On Tour performances - every member of the company plays an instrument and sings competently (that sounds like damning with faint praise but it's not meant to be)

The lovely weather, interval ice creams and plenty of wicked/filthy humour made for a super Sunday afternoon and I'm already looking forward to next year - I wonder which play they'll be doing?      

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Saturday Style - Fabric Rant

I'm a plus size woman. This makes style and fashion a challenge at the best of times as most of the stylish clothes I'd love to wear aren't available in my size. But I've learnt to live with that over the years and try to make the best of what I can get in my size. Hopefully I'll reduce the size of my body with my fitness regime and some more stylish clothes will wing their way into my wardrobe but I digress...

My bugbear about plus size fashion is the rubbish fabric that plus size clothes are often made of. Why can't we have nice cool linens instead of polyester? Crisp cottons? Drapey silks and satins? Too many clothes are made out of clingy, sweaty man made fabrics which make me feel hot and bothered and oh so self conscious.

I know that if I were able to buy high end clothes than I would probably get a decent fabric but those of us who have to buy more low end clothes deserve to wear nice fabric too. I also know if I were better at dressmaking I could choose lovely fabrics to use.

So I've decided that I'm going to improve my dressmaking skills and start to practise what I preach, using beautiful fabrics which feel good and make me look good. If any manufacturers out there make plus size clothes in nice fabrics I'd love to hear who they are so I can check them out so do share any you may know.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Prompt - Lazy

Leroy Antony Zimmerman hated his nickname. Not the fact of having a nickname, everyone had a nickname. Pamela was called Twigs because she was so skinny; Lenny was called Leo because someone's Dad had said' Hey, Lenny, like the lion'; Sid was called Rollo after he stuffed one up his nose and spent an afternoon in Casualty having it removed. But Leroy Antony Zimmerman really hated being called Lazy.

Everyone thought it was so funny to shout 'Oi, Lazy, slow down!' or 'Oi, Lazy, we can't keep up' or 'Oi, look at Lazy bombing about'. For Leroy it had stopped being funny about 10 minutes after they'd given him the nickname. He begged them to give him another nickname, anything would do but they were adamant that Lazy was the one for him. He tried to say or do something which would make them give him a new nickname; he spent a whole day walking backwards so they would call him Reverso; he painted his face so they would call him Clown; he walked on tiptoes all day so they would call him Tiny but nothing worked. They just laughed at his antics and carried on calling him Lazy.

As they grew up some nicknames changed. Sid grew to over 6 foot so he was called Tiny; Pamela filled out into a glamorous young woman and lost her nickname altogether. But still Leroy was called Lazy. He managed to lose the hated nickname when he went to university but as soon as he returned home the calls of 'Hey, Lazy!' started up again. What had seemed irritating to him and amusing to them when they were small was now a source of real annoyance to Leroy. No amount of pleading, ignoring or raging made any difference. He was Lazy to them and that was all there was to it.

One quiet afternoon when Leroy was sitting alone in his mother's kitchen when his email alert pinged. He opened an email titled 'Slackers Unite' with no idea what a slacker was or why they should unite. The email invited him to join an online community of slackers - people dedicated to laziness and doing as little as possible - slacking. It had started in America like most things but, according to the email, had spread across the globe. In every country men, and it was mostly men, embraced the slacker lifestyle and stopped trying, gave up, dropped out. They stopped going to work, socialising, doing anything much except browsing the internet and reaching out to fellow slackers and sharing slacking tips.

Leroy was intrigued. These slackers seemed to be having a fine time by not engaging with the modern world. And they seemed really happy. They weren't doing what they were expected to do and they sounded free and liberated. All the things that Leroy had longed for and never found. He read on, then Googled them, then found their home page and signed up. Leroy Antony Zimmerman became a slacker.

And the first thing he did was to embrace his nickname and sign himself up as Lazy.

Word of the Week - Hydration

Hydration is a strange word to choose I know but for the past few weeks I've been focussing on improving my hydration as part of a fitness regime I'm on.

I was horrified 3 weeks ago to discover that I was only 35% hydrated. I thought I drank plenty during the course of the day and never really felt dehydrated. I was told that to get my hydration levels up to healthy levels I'd need to drink 4 litres of water a day! That's about a bucket full...

This past week I've been monitoring my water intake for my trainer and have been making a conscious effort to drink water throughout the day and limit the amount of tea I drink as it can act as a diuretic. So far I've improved my hydration by over 1%  in 3 weeks so things are moving in the right direction.

Friday Fitness - Favourite Exercise

Today's Lose & Shape Up class was cancelled so I have no numbers to share with you today. Unfortunately I was already on my way to David Lloyd when they tried to get hold of me and naturally I didn't have my mobile with me. However I did a short session at the gym so it wasn't a totally wasted morning - I did some intervals on the bike, some weight machine exercises and a brisk walk on the treadmill. Not Boxercise I know but it was better than nothing.

I'm hoping that missing a week means I get some awesome numbers next week but as my stupid scales have been stubbornly stuck at the same weight all week I'm not so sure - admittedly my scales say I've lost 2 kg and David Lloyd's say 0.5 kg so who knows what will happen?

I'd also like to get a spin class in next week. I haven't been to one for a long time but I always enjoyed them so I must get something booked.  

I thought I'd also share my favourite exercise today. I love deadlifting. There's something very satisfying about lifting a heavy weight. It realises all sorts of pleasurable chemicals in the body like endorphins and dopamine. There is also a great feeling of accomplishment when lifting something heavy. I don't do enough dead lifting so I think it may be time to venture into the free weight area when the big boys aren't around and try some lifting!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Thought For Thursday - Friendship

In recent months I've been to a couple of reunions and met up with some old friends from college. This has got me thinking about the nature of friendship.

When I was in primary school I had several best friends. They changed on a fairly regular basis but there were about 3 who remained friends right through primary school. We went to each others birthday parties, played together in the playground, played at each others houses during school holidays. When we went to secondary school we lost touch and now they are vague memories and disembodied names. Should I be sad about this? Maybe. But the person I was at age 7, 8 or 9 bears no relation to who I am now so those friends were fine as a young child but might not do for the adult me.

At secondary school I found it hard to make friends at first. There were so many new faces and so many girls at the school that I felt overwhelmed at first. Soon I made new friends, some that stayed throughout the secondary school years and some that were more temporary/transient. We grew up together, fell in and out of love together, laughed, cried and shared secrets together. It was an intense time as only teenage years can be. Yet when we left school for university or college hardly any of those relationships survived. Does that mean they weren't real friendships? I don't think so. They were real and intense and hugely important at a formative time in all our lives.

College friendships were different. We all lived in very  close proximity to each other for 4 years and went through many experiences. We learnt to fend for ourselves, to mature, to learn tough lessons about life. Some of those friends are still friends now. We don't see each other as often as we should but when we do get together it's as if we've never been apart. Maybe the fact that these are friendships of maturity makes it easier to sustain them. In essence we are still the same people we were back then, even though we may have more lines and grey hairs these days!

If pushed to name my best friend though I'd choose my sister. She's always there for me, totally honest with me (not always appreciated!), makes me proud, shares memories of our parents that make us laugh and cry and I know I could turn to her for help, support and love whatever happened. Fro that I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Who'd your best friend?    

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Read & Write - Favourite Poem

I've always loved poetry. As a teenager I used to write pretentious, surrealistic poetry. Thankfully none of that exists anymore but it started a lifelong love with rhythm and rhyme.

As a student and later a teacher of English Literature I have read many poems over the years - and yes, I've analysed the heck out of most of them! This is sad in a way as poetry should speak to your soul, it should sing to you and touch your emotions, it shouldn't be subjected to endless analysis. But hey, that's what us literature students and teachers do!

I have many favourite poems, some long like Under Milk Wood, and some short. I enjoy the writing of many different poets such as Yeats, Keats, Wendy Cope, Roger McGough, Christina Rossetti. So choosing just one poem as my favourite was really hard. Depending on my mood I turn to different poems; if I'm feeling romantic I turn to He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven; if I'm feeling sad then Ode On Melancholy is the poem of choice. But if I had to choose one poem to read again and again then there is only one choice.

Ozymandias - Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.  

Don't ask me why I love this poem so much. Maybe it's because it's written by Shelley, my favourite Romantic and idol. Yes I know he was a deeply flawed human being and the way he treated women was appalling but I can't help but love him. He was a truly free spirit and lived according to his beliefs. This sonnet isn't typical Shelley but it's the poem of his that I turn to again and again. I love the image it conjures up of the ancient relic in an endless desert, I love the message about the transient nature of human power.

So there it is, my favourite poem. What's yours?

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Prompt - Beach

'Is there anything nicer than a picnic on the beach?' Amy asked. 'I'm so glad that the summer finally arrived so we could all meet up, at last.'

At that exact moment a gust of wind blew the picnic blanket up and scattered sand across Mary's plate. Just what she needed, sandwiches covered with a light dusting of sand. Like all her childhood memories of picnics on the beach - too much sun making everyone sleepy, sand all over the food, the wind whipping sand into her eyes - God, Mary hated the beach!

When Amy had phoned and suggested a picnic get together on the beach there were many things that made Mary want to refuse. The fact that it was on a beach was only one of them. If truth be told she had no interest in meeting up with this group of old school friends. As far as Mary was concerned there was a reason they were 'old school friends'. Once they hugged goodbye after the A level results were published she had very little interest in meeting them again. That part of her life was over and she was looking forward, not back.

'So lovely to see you all again!' trilled Beverley, 'We mustn't leave it so long next time.'

Mary fought the urge to snort with laughter. If she never saw most of them again that would be fine; actually it would be more than fine, it would be wonderful. If only she'd got to the phone before Alex she could have saved herself the bother of plastering a fixed smile on her face and brushing sand from her sandwich.

The seconds became minutes which dragged into blocks of time Mary would never get back. Her mind began wandering to all the other dull and excruciating things that were more fun than this - root canal treatment; queueing to return library books; worming the cat. All would be welcome relief from the tedium of these women with whom Mary had nothing in common other than the fact that they all attended the same school.

'So tell us what you've been up to since school, Mary?' Amy enquired. 'No-one has heard a peep out of you since we left and I must say all that mystery is very - what's the word? - '

'You're just nosey, Ames,' Clara laughed 'Can't stand being in the dark, can you?'

Mary took a long glug of her wine, felt it burn the back of her throat.  Damn cheap wine! Trust Amy to get the cheap and nasty stuff, just like her. She'd always been all style and no substance. Wouldn't know quality if it smashed her in the face (gosh! All these violent thoughts; where could they be coming from?)

'I've been busy,' Mary said enigmatically. A brief smile flashed across her lips. How delicious it was to tease them like this.

'Did you go to Uni in the end?' Frances asked. 'You were the only one who hadn't decided, if I remember right.'

' No. No university for me. I started working in an investment bank in the City, spent several years working in Europe, then came back to start my own portfolio. Made some interesting acquisitions as a matter of fact.'

The glazed looks on the assembled faces was as she had expected. They had no real interest in what she'd been up to or the fascinating world of finance and commerce that she had inhabited. The wedding and baby pictures were coming out now and her companions reminded Mary of twittering baby birds - noisy, silly and without a single thought in their stupid heads.

Mary stood up, brushed sand from her slacks and headed across the beach in search of  the public toilets. She could hardly wipe the smile from her face as she washed her hands; if only they knew!

When she returned the picnic was being packed up and plans were being made to meet up again soon. Phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged, cheeks kissed and cards for birthdays promised. Mary hung back, reluctant to be pulled into these plans; she had no intention of seeing any of these silly creatures again.

'Mary! Email address please.' Frances shouted above the general hubbub. 'We mustn't lose touch again.'

There was a pause in all the chatter which gave Mary the perfect opportunity of making her announcement.

'Actually, I think you've all got my contact details. I'm the Managing Director of  Primrose Investments and I own the companies that all your husbands work for. You should have had letters from the company recently, all the details you need are on those.'

'But..  but ...' spluttered Amy, 'Those letters were about redundancies!'

Mary grinned broadly, enjoying the day for the first time.
 'Yes, they were. Now who's the Girl Most Likely To Amount To Nothing?'     

Word of the Week - Menopause

This week has been dominated by thoughts of menopause.

I know being in my 50s means this is an inevitable part of my life now but, boy, does it hit you like a sledgehammer sometimes!

This past week has been full of hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, generally feeling ill and tired - all rubbish symptoms.

I finally got round to seeing the doctor about all this nonsense and have been prescribed norethisterone to get me back on an even keel. Hopefully this will sort out my problems and I can get back to being my usual sunny self; if not then I may need other treatments which may be more serious and invasive than taking a pill three times a day. So fingers crossed that I'm on the road to recovery/normality and boo hiss to the rotten old menopause! 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Friday Fitness - Positive Progress

Week 3 of Lose & Shape Up at David Lloyd Oxford and things have been going well.

I've lost 0.5 kg ( my scales say more but let's stick with the official ones for now)
I've gained a kilo of muscle, lost 1% body fat and improved my hydration by 1%. All this is positive and very encouraging.

I haven't found the changes to lifestyle too difficult. This week I had to write down what I was eating so Paige could check I was getting the 40:30:30 ratio right and she was happy with my progress so far, even though she recommended increasing the amount of protein a little.

I was the only one to turn up for the session so I had a 1:1 Boxercise session with Paige which was tough but enjoyable. There's something really satisfying about hitting things really hard (although I did end up with a bruise on my knuckle for my trouble!)

Next week's goals are to avoid crisps (hmmm, crisps...), write down how much water I'm drinking and get a gym programme in place.

Here's to more progress next week - bring it on!