Wednesday, 29 June 2011

...And then it was time to call in the big dogs.

I have decided, though secretly I have known it for quite some time, that I am awful at exercise.
I cannot pretend to be one of those people who love to exercise. It’s the first thing they think of the in the morning, and when they eat they are far more concerned with how they will burn it off.

As you are all aware (from previous blogs, which weren’t about shoes!) I have been running. Or at least attempting to run frequently and to power through the pain and stitches that I suffer after about a mile sometimes even less. On one occasion I got cramp tying my shoes laces.
I do not want to be long distance runner, I just want to be fitter. I don’t care if I can run a marathon (would be nice, but ridiculously unachievable at the moment)  - I would just like to fit enough so that I that my chest doesn’t explode and so I don’t look like I’ve been swimming when I get back.
Is that too much to ask?

The problem with being a self-motivated home-exerciser is that somehow there is always a reason not to go. “Its not sunny enough”, “its too sunny”, “its raining”, “it’s just been raining so I might fall over”… or my favourite and most well-used, “I can’t be bothered”
So it was time to call in the big dogs.

I have recruited the help of happy and enthusiastic exercisers – but who turn on you in an instant if you are rubbish. The bulldogs of fitness.
Yes, I have joined exercise classes with the Mr and Mrs Motivators of this world.
… And Miss USA and Miss Hendo come too.
It seemed the next logical (and only) step. I ignore myself when I tell myself to keep running to the next lamp post, but when there’s some one yelling at me to “…grape vine to the left, squat, squat, grape vine to the right, and squat. Squat lower ladies…” then I feel like I have to.

If I don’t she might single me out as the weak and feeble one, and make me run laps round the studio. And the nightmares of gym lessons at school return – Always the aspiring athlete!

So last night it was the turn of the aerobics class. And no – it was nothing like an Eric Prydz video.
 There was a lot more sweat and less flesh on show.
The problem with the exercise studios (apart from the squeaky floorboards, lack of ventilation and the wall length mirror), is that they have clocks. So for the unfit people in the room, watching the time move slowly is torture, more torturous than squats and crunches and looking at your glowing red and soggy reflection.
I try and kid myself that I am one of those fitness goddesses … then I catch myself in the mirror. Oh dear god!

I realised how totally uncoordinated I am since finishing dance lessons. My ability to watch and copy has disappeared. My feet go one way, I go the other, I’m four steps behind every one else and just as I get the hang of a routine, it changes. How the women at the front remain perfectly in time, without breaking a sweat or going red in the face is a miracle. If someone was to look at the class, they would see all the perfect people at the front, with their perfect moves, and then it falls apart the nearer to the back you get.
By the end of the class, I was at the back with the geriatrics.  And at least they were keeping time.

Stretching after these classes is always such a great feeling. It makes all the pain and aching so much better. And it’s a great chance to breathe. Something which I am convinced that I forget to do in the class.

So we finish up the class looking like we’ve been swimming and a grab a yoga mat. As soon as I lay on it I could feel the full body imprint being transferred. Mmm, yum!
And then Miss USA and I got the uncontrollable giggles in a room full of silent people and heavy breathing people, everyone concentrating on pulling the muscles out. It’s hard to pull out a stretch when every part of you is dripping. Sweaty skin is not very good for holding on to. How we were meant to lie on our backs with one leg in the air and pull it gently towards us when our hands were just sliding down our shins, I will never know. But no one else seemed to struggle. Except Miss Hendo, who rather than sweaty shins, had clammy hands. No grip there either apparently.

Anyway, I drank 2 litres of squash and had the remnants of the days make up dripping down my face. In my post exercise delirium, just as the endorphins kicked in – I agreed to go again next week. And some how managed to sign myself up for legs bums and tums on Thursday.

To my disgust, I managed to spend £380 yesterday without even being present. Brian went to the garage. Even less money for coffee and shoes this month, especially as my insurance is now the same as teenage boy’s. Very unimpressed

Yesterday, Gatwick air traffic control centre was struck by lightning, causing ridiculous train delays. Yes that’s right, the air traffic control centre was affected…And I thought “leaves on the line” was a bad excuse. Thank you Carrie for letting the world know that our train network doesn’t function in thunderstorms.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

...And then I realised I had a friend

Shall we just for one moment consider this word - friend.
It's a very lovely little word but means so much and when someone calls you a friend (provided you like them) its actually quite touching.
And I have just found myself with another one.

My beauty therapist.
Its not surprising really. One's beauty therapist is a very trusted person, and someone who you quite look forward to seeing. Even if it is just because she will restore that wonderful smoothness to your legs by ripping all the hairs out.
I like seeing my friends, they make me feel calm when I'm stressed, they know lots of things about me and they make me laugh... a lot.
She does the same. Its amazing what secrets you share to a woman you only see every four weeks.

Admittedly there is quite a lot of pain. Honestly, I always tell other people it doesn't hurt ... that's a mini white lie (bang, there goes my trusting trait, sorry friends) It does hurt a little bit - sometimes quite a lot. BUT, if your therapist (your friend) is actually a good therapist (friend) then she will never intentionally inflict pain on you. Unless of course you upset her - which I'm sure is quite like your normal, non-beautician friends.

My BT (Yes, I shall now use this ultra trendy acronym, I hope it isn't also shared with some other adverse meaning) is fantastic. I feel instantly calm when I walk through the little door that goes ping to announce my arrival. And the smell of expensive and luxurious products makes me feel happy. ( I still can't afford these yet, but never mind)  I don't even mind the hot wax. I accept that it's part of the treatment... that's how relaxed I am. Who ever thought it was a good idea?
(I'm guessing maybe it was a bloke. Or an accidental discovery by a prehistoric ape-woman)

I hear all about her life, her little boy and the trivial events of daily life. And she gets to hear me off-load about my job, and tell her all about my adventures of the past couple of weeks.
Today I found out that her Rottweiler is bathed with Tigi/bedhead shampoo. Hilarious. For the record this is a very nice shampoo brand for ... humans. Apparently they make a special dog shampoo too. This very butch (male) pooch is regularly bathed in strawberry scented shampoos. I laughed so much that I forgot I was having hot waxed dripped on my legs.

She also told me, and this I cannot quite believe, in fact I am quite shocked and impressed. This weekend her husband suggested that they go shopping.  Yes, you read this (and I heard it) correctly, HE suggested the shopping trip. She tried on a beautiful pair of cream shoes in John Lewis (who are never knowingly undersold). According to my BT, these shoes were perfect. I do not doubt this, especially when you consider the £150 price tag. She hadn't noticed this lovely tag and removed them from her feet and gave them back to the shop assistant. At which point her husband (who never spends money) said "Go on, I'll treat you".
Another very impressive trait. Lots of brownie points for the BT hubby.

But she point blank refused!!!
Crazy woman.
 Had she been on her own, my BT admitted she probably would have bought them, but she couldn't bring herself to let her husband to purchase them. He even took her to the desk to pay, and she still said no. I'm impressed. I think she's a bit of a wally, but I am impressed. She had her realistic head on that day, and if they had been any other colour but cream they would have gone home with her. But cream shoes are destined for a lifetime spent in their box at the back of the wardrobe with a polaroid to remind you what your box contains. I have a pair - minus the polaroid. (I'll agree that it's a great organisational tool but I don't have a polaroid camera.)

I told her that I thought he was employing some sort of reverse psychology. She nodded and then said "yes, but..." ......Guess what? He offered to buy a Fiorelli bag instead.
I am shocked by this complete ignorance of the male stereotype. Congratulations BT hubby. You deserve an award. Unless of course it was some sort of backward ploy in which case, well done on fooling your missus! She's been telling all her clients about you and now with your collection of brownie points, when you ask hog the remote and watch the sport - then of course she will say yes!

My stomach muscles hurt just as much as my legs did, just from laughing. The only thing that would make my lovely little salon experiences even better would be a cappuccino/ latte or espresso depending on my caffeine need.
Except that in hindsight, coffee, hot wax and laughing lots would probably not be such a great combination.
Perhaps I could drink it out of a flask through a straw.
I'll suggest it to my friend in four weeks time.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

...And then it was time to say goodbye

Waking up at 6am on a Sunday is never fantastic. It's even less exciting when you know that you have to say goodbye to a sister who will be missed.

Heathrow's Terminal 4 was packed full of people off on holiday and saying goodbye to loved ones. Unfortunately we were the latter. My little sister left for the grand old US of A this morning. A 10am flight. A miserable queue at check-in and a cup of coffee to the delay the goodbye. Even with the week of preparation I've had (she found out she was leaving last weekend), and a sobering coffee I still could not help but shed a few (aka quite a lot) of tears as she disappeared through security into the departure lounge, where only those with a boarding pass may enter. How I shall miss her mischievous grin and contagious laugh.
I had already cried twice by the point that her bouncing blonde hair disappeared without even a hesitant look back. First at a young couple, perhaps the same age as Frank and I, hugging and sobbing. He was leaving. And she, well she was beside herself. However, she managed to master the art of the beautiful cry. You know the  one where the tears fall daintily down your cheeks, and leave mascara perfectly intact? I'm not sure whether I was crying because it was sad to watch (and I'm an emotional person) or whether it was through jealousy at the perfect soggy face?
Second, was a Daddy saying goodbye to his two little and beautiful girls hugging their Daddy's knees as he bent down to say goodbye, while Mummy stood next to them smiling fondly and holding back the ever impending tears. And what with today being Father's Day, I just fell apart. What a soppy cow.

Airports are very sad places when you're not the one jetting off... Unless of course you're stood along the security barrier in Arrivals, when secretly everyone is re-enacting the closing sequence of 'Love Actually'. Subconsciously you know that you do it, unless of course you have not yet seen the film... in which case, where have you been every Christmas?
I wish my little sister a fantastic three months. (Secretly I am very jealous, though I am sure she know's this really) In hindsight it's pretty wasted on here, because she'll be so busy teaching small American children how to compete at Wimbledon (she's a tennis coach) that she won't have the chance to read this and by the time she does she'll almost definitely be at home anyway. Never mind - the sentiment is there.

On a more trivial note, I have also said goodbye to a productive shopping trip. Yesterday, I ventured into the city to spend some lovely birthday money. Its always fantastic spending this because you cannot feel guilty. It was a gift. Do with it what you will.
Miss USA and Miss Hendo accompanied me on this little trip. I was stupidly excited. The girls bought me an Office voucher to spend graciously.
For those that don't know me or have never spent a moment in my company, aside from buying a year's supply of Starbucks/ Cafe Nero/ Costa/ Pret a Manger - this gift was perfect. It had been thoughtfully chosen so that I could purchase a pair of beautiful shoes that I had been coveting for weeks. In fact... perhaps months. Yet, I had never tried them on. I knew that if I did I would want to buy them. I refrained. 

But yesterday, yesterday was the day to allow my feet to meet the shoes. To describe them makes them sound awful. But they were earthy coloured strappy high heels with a miniature peacock feathers and beading down the front. Not at all discreet. But very pretty.
And they looked awful. It transpires that my feet do not appreciate peep toe shoes. 
I tried on every other pair of shoes, and purchased none.
And this afternoon I said goodbye to the two items I did buy because somehow they looked a little less fabulous than they had in the changing room. And the image you concoct when you mentally add accessories and shoes to complete the outfit, never matches the reality. And it just looks awful.

So my shopping treatment was less than fruitful to say the least. I'm adamant that somehow the high street stores know when you don't have money to spend. They put all the beautiful things on display to tempt you into spending non-existent pennies. Yet when the pennies are bursting out of your purse, you only ever see things you would never ever want to add to the ever expanding wardrobe.
This theory is exempt from designer retailers. These beautiful stores are always cruelly tempting me, beckoning me into their depths with beautiful fabrics and patterns. Somehow ( and I haven't worked this out yet) my inner-sensible person stops me from entering and blowing inexplicable amounts of money and imprinting the credit card statement with figures that would hurt me.

So although I said goodbye to my little sister which I never wanted to do, I didn't spend a penny which I was desperate to do.
How cruel life can be. But like they say "there are plenty more fish in the sea"... I'm pretty sure this relates to men/women after a break up, but in this case it is worthy of the shoe hunt.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

...And then there was the non-milestone birthday.

And so, it was on this weekend of mixed weather fronts that I turned the insignificant twenty-two. Gone are the days of the big parties with all those friends and family (who you rarely ever see) and roll on the birthday evenings in the pub.

These are the kinds of evenings that you know will end up abanding your car in the carpark for the night, and you resolve yourselves to commence an evening of visits to the bar and an ever growing collection of empty glasses. The heavy rain had passed, finally. I apologise to anyone who had weather permitting plans that were ruined by precipitation - I should have publicly announced that June 10th never passes without a rain storm of sorts.

Frank, Miss Hendo, Miss USA and my little fashionista sister (who made the trip down from Birmingham) joined me on my birthday and saved me from the shame of lonesome drinking. We drank a lot of gin/southern comfort/beer/vodka cranberry juice. And it was quite a lot.Too much some might say, but we wouldn't agree I'm sure. Much of the evening was spent laughing ( my cheeks were very sore on saturday morning) and teaching my friends how to play 'FIVES' - a 'game' that is, oh so quintessentially Exeter. Used to determine who will be making the tea, rides shotgun, takes out the rubbish, or just a drinking game played by every sport team/department on campus. It was surprising how quick it was picked up. Well done ladies. Question is, do we still remember how to play it? Or did the rules disappear with the onset of a hangover?

Papa Dodd played the role of 'ever-obliging cabbie' and picked up a rowdy group of friends. Very much appreciated Papa!
Upon returning home I realised the full scale of my intoxication and forced myself (and Frank) to drink 3 pints of Robinsons orange squash. I also took two painkillers, which is why I was able to get up bright and early on saturday morning without any struggle. I also managed to tie up my trainers, collect the pooch from her cosy warm bed and run back to the pub to collect my car before Family Dodd (minus Mumma Dodd - who is currently sunning herself in Cyprus) packed themselves and a picnic into the car and journeyed to Sandown Races for a sunny day of gambling.
Mr Quiche, my unofficial Godfather (on account of not being religious) also joined us for a glorious day. How many people won pennies? Well I am sure that plenty of people went home with pockets bulging, however we (like the majority of other racegoers) had very light pockets. Frank backed many losers, and lost many pennies, then won it all back, was £2.50 up and then lost it on the last race. Oh well, such is the unpredictable nature of odds and horses. Sometimes you just shouldn't trust either, and pick the name instead - oh "Mr Rainbow" if only you'd run a little faster.

And so the evening began with a fantastic Irish band playing on an outdoor stage. Now, everyone knows that Irish music makes you want to dance and jig and move those little feet. Apparently the English by generalisation are not aware of this musical understanding. Not only was there a 5 metre perimeter between the stage and the audience but no one was moving. (Not even any foot tapping.) No one that is, until Frank grabbed me by the hand and pulled me out into the void. Originally, he 'wooed' me with his dancing, so I was no stranger to 'the moves'. But a year ago it was in a club full of very drunk students dancing wildly to 'Summer of  69'. This was a little different. We had an audience. Had a drunk a combination of wine and very nice Champagne, but this did not stop my overwhelming sense of self-awareness. Not actually a lover of the spotlight apparently, as it turns out.
I am so grateful for my decision to wear 'posh' sandals rather than towering heels. I was able to control my two left feet, while blushing madly and avoided my bottom meeting the concrete. Frank did have hold of me, so I don't think I would have slipped anyway.

Well, until the heavens opened and everyone was soaked. Including the unfortunate lady who had chosen to wear a slightly too large bandeau dress and experienced a fashion mishap. It goes without saying that the gentlemen in the audience were more than appreciative of the increased amount of body that was exposed. They were of course, ignoring the glares of their wives/girlfriends/female best friends who have secretly been harbouring feelings for them for years.

We left, not because we were soggy (I'll never understand how to achieve the alluring 'caught in the rain' look), but because we had to keep our dinner reservations. But as we left the now dancing crowd, enjoying both music and rain, the band struck up a rendition of 'Galway Girl'.
This song will now forever remind me of my 22nd Birthday at the races, getting soaked to the bone dancing with Frank and has created an unexplainable desire to go to Ireland, drink Guiness in a tavern, and jig until my little feet can't dance anymore.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

... And then I learnt a valuable lesson

Don't run before you can walk. I'm sure this is probably related to the phrase "Don't bite off more than you can chew" I am also sure that in both cases we aren't literally talking about running and eating. But in this case we are. Trying to run after 3 weeks of no exercise, save for walking to my car and round London a bit, is a bad idea. Not for health reasons or damaging unused muscle, but just to protect your pride. There is nothing worse than attempting to make a day less strenuous by beating it in to the road- and then being unable to beat it at all. I walked most of my route. And not even fast enough for my stressed out body to justify sweating. Even though I burnt minus calories, I piled my plate high with food. (Of the homecooked variety, morrocan chicken actaully) But it was so good I ate too much too quickley, I feel like I forgot to chew and now I am nursing a food baby rather than aching muscles. What a tuesday eh?

Monday, 6 June 2011

....And then I remembered...

...Ah yes, I have a blog!

My sincerest apololgies dear readers for abandoning you for what seems longer than two weeks - in fact it probably is. But so much has occured and in all my excitement I have been too busy living it all to sit at my trusty computer to relate it all. But here goes...

First there was a three day training course in London town. The excitement of a fully expensed hotel in Bloomsbury Square. The novelty of which quickley rubs off when you realise that you aren't really the best company for yourself. I spent an embarassingly long time flicking on all the light switches until I realised the power was turned on by a room key shaped slot in the wall. I had issues with the very confusing shower, so much so that it almost came to a bath over the sink until I decided enough was enough, swallowed my pride and called the front desk. I also learnt how not to dine alone. Breakfast etiquette in hotels requires the morning paper or some sort of reading material ( not a tabloid paper or gossip magazine) and you do not under any circumstances face the other single diners in the room. It makes the nervous, and they fidget. According to "A single-diners breakfast etiquette in hotels", you all face the same way on individual tables, and never should you greet a fellow diner. It shocks them and the spill their tea or drop their toast in the beans leaving an impressive Expressionist art pattern on their crisp white shirts. Even though I had observed these unwritten rules, I managed to forget them in my sleep and relive my embarassment on both mornings. And the unbelievably indiscreet person who does not belong in the hotel? The one who knocks cutlery off tables and clinks the cup to the saucer too loud? The one who everyone looks at and cringes? ... that was me.

Upon returning home and after the shame in realising that I was clearly not quite the well poised individual I had originally thought had subsided, I was struck down with misbehaving kidneys. Oh the pain, the tears, the painkillers and magical antibiotics.

This was followed by a delightfully surprising premature (by a week) celebratory birthday trip to London town with Frank. The city may have been the same but this little person has never been wined and dined so well. Nor has she stayed in such a beautiful hotel (it had a grand staircase with plushy carpet, and I am not ashamed to admit that I might've, on more than one occassion, pretended I was a Princess. You just have to in these situations) It didn't matter that I couldn't put my cup down quietly or butter my toast delicately, because I had Frank with me. And I didn't care if I looked like a fool. Lets face it trips are always more entertaining when its pleasure not business.
Frank is a superstar. My purse didn't leave my handbag once, except for taking out my oyster card and paying for some really cold and exciting ice cream in Leicester Square. Of course purchasing ice cream was comparitively inexpenisive for Frank, who's wallet is considerably lighter than before he met me.We had none of this, "Lets explore the backstreets" business. We were proud to be unseasoned vistors. Proud to use the concierge service to ask for directions. Frank and I were tourists by day and tourists  who explored a little off the beaten track by night. It was fantastic. For once I didnt mind gawking at my tube map on the underground or walking slowly to annoy the Suits.
And to top off my delightful bank holiday weekend? A hot air balloon flight of course. The great thing about the flight was that it prolonged that amazing view you get as you take off on a plane before you disappear into the clouds. Obviously it wasn't through a tiny square window and there was no temporary take-off face lift either. It was the calm and quiet, until we landed with a small bump on a golf course and interrupted a game. Sorry chaps!

I returned home for two days, showed my face in the office, worked through an insane amount of emails and then made my routine trip to Ipswich on friday night. The duration of this journey I would rather not discuss, however for the sake of additional comment and questions - I spent a less than desirable amount of time in  incredibly long and solid queues on the M25 (I even turned Brian off and got out for a stretch. It was a carpark in the glorious sunshine) and was stuck behind all manner of idiots with an innate inability to drive and a complete misunderstanding of motorway etiquette.
So here is a polite notice to some of those drivers in particular -
Dear M25/ Friday night/ half term drivers,
When someone is stuck up your rear end in the middle lane and clearly wants to get past, and it is illegal to undertake, would you please use your iniative and move right on over. Now.

Of course, this comment is now over and shall never be mentioned again. Provided they all learn.

Frank and I, once we'd recovered from the aftermath of a Friday night cocktail party, ventured into Ipswich on a little shopping spree. Now I say 'spree'... it wasn't.  I gave up on my quest for high heeled tan sandals after about ten minutes ( I don't know what's happened to me, maybe the kidneys have had a life changing affect). Frank bought a pair of chinos.
Of the pair of us, it is quite obvious that I am the impulse buyer. To be honest, I think it should be a recognised medical condition. There have been many times when I have returned home laden with bags and a battered bank account only to find that months later these "had-to-have" purchase hang tagged and unworn in my wardrobe. But the receipts are missing. Covenient.

However Frank made the mammoth of all impulse purchases. Well maybe not the most mammoth, because it wasn't a supercar or a yacht, but an impressive impulse nonetheless.
We visited a food retailer whose corporate branding "Every little helps" suggests that even if dying from starvation, their value ketchup might save me from the white light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe that saving 3p on a tin of beans will help those pennies in your bank account grow.

We went in for beer. Had we left with only beer then Frank's pockets might be a little heavier. But we didn't. We got sidetracked. Frank decided to fill little Brian with  a very large box containing a brand new 40" widescreen telly. And a new DVD player. Shower soap and three crates of beer.
Quite possibly  the most random of shopping baskets.

Upon returning to the homestead, I allowed Frank to begin assembling and playing with his new toy. I cooked dinner. Oh Germaine Greer would be proud.
Frank developed a man crush. His new gadget fed him sports scores. Showed him other gadgets he would definitely need. Allowed him to surf the internet. Watch week old programmes on iPlayer. But it didn't fetch ice cold beer from the fridge. I did this. And poured it.

Frank, I now know how you feel when I buy a beautiful new pair of shoes, which I haven't done for quite some time but I feel that in order to fill the temporary boyfriend shaped void in my life I will need to fill it with a small pair of shoe-shaped purchases.

N.B This man crush will be over next week, once the boys have gawped at the telly and drunk all the beer. Once Frank realises that he can't have a conversation with an intellectual programme he shall come back to me... I shall welcome him back with open arms and new shoes on my feet.