Posted in Journal

As 2020 Draws to a Close…

Images by OpenClipart-Vectors, Syaibatul Hamdi, from Pixabay

Well! New Years Eve 2020. What a year it has been. Here in Derbyshire we have today joined many other areas of England in Tier 4. 2021 is going to start with no hope of pre pandemic life returning. This year my family has had a birth, a death and a range of ill health (not Covid). I have taken the time to reflect on my own life and the community around me. Despite disagreeing with the handling of this new virus, I am acceptant of Covid related restrictions and lockdown as the new norm.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This week we have seen snow. Pottering indoors does not seem so traumatic. Slipping and sliding to the supermarket yesterday my back decided to seize up; stiff and delicate is the best way to describe my new year celebrations. I have my jar of 2020 events to burn at midnight, and my crisp clean 2021 diary at the ready.

I broke tradition on Christmas Day and had lamb curry, pilau rice, homemade flatbreads and pickles. There was less pots, less work and smiling tummies all round. The diced lamb was marinaded overnight in yoghurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. It was then slow cooked with fried onion, vegetable stock, tinned tomatoes and fresh coriander. The flatbreads were a simple dough of plain all purpose flour (200g), cumin (1tsp), coriander (1tsp), cinnamon (1/2tsp) and water. The dough was cut into four and each flatbread rolled thinly, then fried in vegetable oil until both sides were brown.

I was going to break tradition again today, instead of takeaway in front of the television was going to cook roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Because of my poorly back that has been scrapped and tradition reinstated. All we need to do tonight is argue over pizza, kebab, Chinese or Indian.

Happy New Year! Stay Safe! Stay Well! Stay Hopeful!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Images by OpenClipart-Vectors, Syaibatul Hamdi, from Pixabay

Posted in Journal

Birthday Bonanza

The Birthday Girl

When my Dad retired in 2017, my parents purchased a Nissan converted camper van to enjoy their retirement in. My daughter turned nineteen two weeks later and our first trip out in their new found pleasure was to Chatsworth, Derbyshire where we set up camp in a secluded spot by the river. Pulled out the folding chairs and fired up the burners for sausage and bacon rolls, coffee and birthday cake. We watched a group of elderly swimmers disappear down stream and in glorious August sunshine, a wonderful day was had by all.

Continue reading “Birthday Bonanza”

This Heat Equals No Sleep

Image by zgmorris13 from Pixabay

Bring in the bottled lightening, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew

Charles Dickens

It’s almost 2am and I am out of bed, brew in hand. The air is thick with heat and laced with anticipated electricity that silently lights the sky. A brief shower teasingly hisses upon the concrete, only for a moment fades then stops. And still the dark sky flares white, silver, and occasionally gold. For a while I lay then sat and watched, before standing in search of the pathetic breeze incapable of rippling the drapes.

A poet is somebody who stands out in the rain hoping to be struck by lightening.

James Dickey

Posted in Journal

Filling Time in Lockdown

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Throughout history outbreaks of Bubonic Plague had only the fleas carried by rats, traveling upon merchant ships to spread the disease. Now the whole world fits in the pocket of each and every one of us, enabling a pandemic to quickly take hold since the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China back in November 2019.

The public were asked to self-isolate only if they or their family had symptoms of the virus. Panic buying quickly gripped the nation. Mothers without formula to feed their babies. And scrupulous opportunists on the internet, making a quick buck from their hoard of daily essentials. The poor begging the wealthy to leave stock on the shelves. Amid the faceless selfishness were acts of kindness: an Indian takeaway leaving free food at the doors of the quarantined.

One by one countries close their international doorways. Confirmed cases and fatalities rise daily. Unessential businesses are forced to close and almost overnight the population are temporarily made redundant. The world is going into lockdown. Leaving home is only permitted for supplies of food, medicine, exercise and work. Now what better time to write a book, when society has locked its doors. My characters are coming together nicely and a plot is developing. The hardest part is no change of scenery to stroll through and organise my thoughts. Instead I am reading plenty, knitting, cleaning, cooking, baking and researching the internet.

None of us know when life will return to normal and what normal will have become. For now we should stay calm, keep busy and productively fulfil our dreams.

Posted in Journal

Snoring: a Motive for Murder

Lack of sleep can do strange things to a person. Putting milk in the microwave, sticking dirty laundry in the dishwasher. Healthy structured meals replaced with a myriad of fatty junk food and sugar kicks. Caffeine consumption off the Richter scale. Chattering nonsense and snapping like an untrained dog. It is not a pretty sight.

The darkest hours of the night are a strange alien place, where time stretches like the Pan-America Highway. Then the person beside you begins again. Just like last night and the night before. Quiet at first, like a cat outstretched in front of the hearth. Gaining momentum like a freight train the sound quickly amplifies, tickling the nerves that are already teetering on the verge of suicide.

A gentle tap, then a nudge, a kick conjoined with “you are snoring again”. Grunting an acknowledgement they reposition themselves, with a snort and a snuffle the room goes silent. Thankyou! Thankyou! Spoke to soon. Winding up once more. Pinch their nose, force shut their mouth, shake them fiercely. Separate rooms or the single life: both attractive options.

Late night television it is then. A milky brew and a blanket. At that moment hating the one you love and share a bed with. Shaking back and forth with hands pressed tightly over ears its the only option. That or a pillow over their face. I am not a killer! I am not a killer!

Posted in Health & Wellbeing, Journal

Willpower Recharged

Image by artistlike from Pixabay

I start the day with a low calorie breakfast. Lunch consists of soup, salad, sandwiches. By mid afternoon I stave off the munchies with an apple, even a banana if getting desperate. Willpower is chomping at the bit by evening meal, but I limit fat and carbs. An hour later it all goes wrong. Out come the biscuits, chocolate and crisps. Bread popping out of the toaster, scoffed dripping in butter. Cereal and yoghurts to offset the junk food, too late damage done.

This was my dietry habit and I was sneaky with it: I would lie to my fellow weight lossers. So the lbs stayed the same or steadily increased, leading me recently to salute the weight loss success stories. They deserve a shake of the hand a slap on the back, after all I can’t do it.

So 2019 bid farewell with a chinese takeaway and an explosion of colour. 2020 awoke to the air thick with sulphur, coal and potassium nitrate. I don’t make resolutions. Don’t want to clutter the crisp blank page of a new year, new diary. But I am returning to my diet I whisper. This time with a few changes: strict calorie counting, weighing ingredients and writing everything consumed down (nothing left off).

White female, almost 41, 5″2 and moderately active, weighing in at 14st 7lbs I am clinically obesse. My recommended daily calorie intake is 1,596 – 2,053 kcals, sticking to the lower end of the scale to lose 1-2lbs a week. Yes folks I have been doing it. Strict and honest I have been averaging 1,400kcals a day. Then yesterday something went wrong. I was going strong until evening dinner. Then a bag of munchies, giant hula hoops and two mint clubs were consumed before bed. Old habits resume. No wait! I lie in bed, my stomach bloated growling like an angry grizzly, my chest is on fire burping up acid. I feel sick.

How much weight I lose is almost irrelevant, until that evening I was already feeling healthier. For the first time I experienced the benefits, consequences of falling off the wagon. Last night I tossed and turned struggling to sleep, but with a smile on my face. This morning healthy eating resumes, with low fat natural yoghurt and fruit for breakfast.

So once more congratulations to the success stories. And to those like me, embarking on the journey “keep going. We can do it”.

Posted in Journal, Tips & Tricks

Follow Submission Gudelines

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

I have been submitting short stories into creative writing competitions for more than a decade. They are a great way to keep creativity flowing, and experiment with various writing styles and techniques. I usually aim to enter one competition a month, although this year I have entered far less: I have been writing a memoir with a deadline of December 2019.

I am pleased to announce I met that deadline, despite an array of personal events that demanded my attention and time. This manuscript is now cooling off in a drawer, awaiting the wrath of red ink at the end of January.

With no projects in the pipeline I return to creative writing competitions. Choosing a 500 word piece of flash fiction, I enjoy weaving a simple plot around a solitary unnamed female protagonist. I’m having fun after the laborious slog of 60,000 words.

A few days later, happy with my entry, I prepare to submit. Eagerly ticking off the submission guidelines: word count tick, Times New Roman 12pnt double space tick, theme tick, must not include violence cross. I made a monumental rookie error. Always read the full submission guidelines thoroughly.

This shouldn’t have happened, and I had no time to correct it. So I am revealing this embarrassing error to remind all you writers, always read the full submission guidelines. I have filed my short story as an epic submission fail, but great fun to write.

Happy writing in 2020.

Posted in Journal, News & Views

Salute the Weight Lossers

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

We are well into a month hiatus for the weighing scales, Christmas is coming and the pantry is getting full: glazed hams, a growing pile of selection boxes, pastries, cakes and plenty of bubbly boozy tipples.

Sitting in a vest and joggers with strands of grey, shimmering amongst a crocodile clip on the top of my head, my blossoming waistline proves calorie counting these past few months has yielded zero results. The needle on the scale has been fluctuating upwards for some years now, and my lack of vanity has allowed it to take control. But poor health forced me to acknowledge and address my weight gain.

I have fibromyalgia, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. I suffer daily with chronic pain, particular muscular aches in my legs, and joint pain in my hands, feet, hips and knees. Always supportive of the phrase we all come in different shapes and sizes, I cannot deny my joints will benefit from carrying less weight. Knowing this, and achieving this, are two very different things.

Diets always begin with enthusiasm. The cupboards are emptied of crisps and chocolate, replaced with plenty of fruit and vegetables. I write down everything I eat, and strictly weigh ingredients to achieve portion control, remaining in my daily allowance of 1500 calories. Exercise is difficult for me, but I go for plenty of walks and attempt exercise routines at home. Swimming is supposed to be good for arthritic and chronic pain, but I wont lie I just don’t like it.

All is well for a few days, even a week. After that a few extra goodies land in the shopping basket and into my mouth (left out of the food diary of course). Dieting brings out the sneaky liar in me, if I don’t confess I mustn’t have eaten it. Finally I reach the point where I sit down in an evening, overwhelmed with the reality of what I need to do to succeed. I give a big huff and puff “blow it”. Ten minutes later bacon and sausages are sizzling in the pan, alongside mushrooms and tomatoes, beans in the microwave, egg cracked ready to fry and fat slabs of bread in the toaster. Fry-up supper consumed, the plate mopped clean with bread, I continue to raid the cupboards for chocolate and numerous packets of crisps. The next day I could give myself a strict talk, get back on the band wagon but I don’t, all willpower diminished.

So I salute all the people out there who are losing weight, be proud of your achievement.

Well my Christmas food shop is here and needs unpacking. Will consider my dieting options in January.

Have a happy Christmas everybody.