Wednesday Hodgepodge – 17th September


Welcome to this week’s edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer the questions on your own blog then add your link at the end of Joyce’s post.  Be sure to go say hi to all your friends and neighbours…or at least to the blogger who linked before you!

Here we go-

1. (Joyce is) celebrating a birthday this week so a question relating to aging feels appropriate. Douglas MacArthur is quoted as saying, ‘You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt;  as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.’ Would you agree? If not, why not?

We have a saying here in Lancashire: “I’m older than my teeth and younger than my hair”. I think it speaks for itself!

Personally, I prefer my saying to Douglas MacArthur’s. He has tortured his simile almost to death and he basically says the same as mine. Come on Dougie, sort your words out pal!

2. What remarkable feat, interesting piece of trivia, or historical event occurred on your birth day and month? Not necessarily your same birthyear, just the same date/same month.

I share my birthday with Princess Diana, although she was born 10 years before me. It saddens me to know that I am now older than her…

Something that I’ll always remember is on my birthday in 1997 Hong Kong was handed back to China after more than 150 years of British rule. I remember the ceremonial handing over by the governor Chris Patten, and I remember all the hoo-hah about human rights and the despair of the Hong Kong people being handed over to a communist regime after the freedoms they enjoyed under the Brits.

3. Describe a time or circumstance where you wanted to ‘have your cake and eat it too.’

This is one of those phrases that doesn’t make sense to me. How can you be expected NOT to eat a piece of cake that you have hold of? I can’t imagine why anyone could be judged for wanting to eat a piece of cake rather than hold it and simply look at it!

4. What’s something you do that makes you feel young? Something that makes you feel old?

Making popcorn makes me feel like a kid again. Old? Wow, things like having to change my glasses whenever I want to read/crochet/walk in a straight line and making noises as I get up out of the chair.

5. When did you last do something that was ‘a piece of cake’?

This week. I have been given an order to make three baby blankets, which is something I have done quite a lot of in the past but I wanted to make them a little bit different to usual this time. I wanted to do a central panel that was different to the rest of them and so I searched out a couple of options to try. The one I liked the look of had the trickiest pattern, but when I tried it, it was easier than I thought and ended up a piece of cake to do.

6. Beef, wine, and cheese all improve with age. What else would you add to that list? (not necessarily food or beverage)

Musical instruments, particularly the voice of a piano (if it is well looked after) and my cornet, which has definitely been looked after properly!

7. If I were to have a giveaway when we hit Volume 200 in the Hodgepodge, what should I give away? By my calculations we’ll hit Volume 200 on November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving, which means whoever wins would have whatever it is by Christmas.

I would like to receive a gift basket of things that typify or signify your home town or state. It ties in with the Hodgepodge theme and is representative of you. If it was the other way round and I was doing it from my home town of Manchester I would include things like a Manchester tart, something made of cotton, an Oasis CD, a Roman coin, a Manchester City scarf and a model ship. I would love to receive something that tells me about your hometown in return.

8. Random thought for the day:

As you may know already (if you are regular reader of mine) we have been struggling financially for quite some time now and things have been really tough, especially the last couple of months. I have good news though, and that is that I have been offered a job this week. Hurrah!! I am overwhelmed by the speed it has happened and I am struggling to get my head round things, but basically I heard about it yesterday, made the necessary phone calls yesterday and today, and I am going for my induction on Friday with a view to start work next week. How’s that for having your prayers answered!

The job is cover supervision in the classroom for teachers who are absent, which is right up my street because it is in school setting once again. It will not be full time and I envisage it taking a couple of days each week, but that is quite enough for me at the minute. I’m not sure how my offal will respond to regular work, and because it is “on-call” so to speak, I can fit in my studies and church activities too which is GREAT!

 

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread


daily-breadWhen we say the Lord’s prayer we kind of mouth our way through the words sometimes without giving them much thought, but there is one phrase in that prayer that strikes me every time I say it. “Give us today our daily bread”.

It sounds weird doesn’t it? I mean, who has a diet of bread every day nowadays? Especially if you are carb-conscious or are counting calories to lose weight, as a lot of people are. And why bread? Why not “give us today our daily MEAT” for example, or “daily MILK”. Both are essential for growth and nutrition so why BREAD?

There are two ways to look at it – the first is as I’ve hinted at above, that bread is an essential foodstuff to many people and we pray those words to ask God to give it to us. The second is that if we go deeper into bread being the food of LIFE, then we are asking God not only for the mechanical means to gain nutrition into our bodies, but his divine inspiration into our daily lives that we might live life to its fullest? We ask him to feed us so we can feed others.

What does that actually mean anyway? Living life to its fullest seems to be an idyllic way of living – to have enough work to do to be challenging without being exhausting, to have enough people who love you and whom you can love in return to be emotionally stable and well, to have enough food on your plate that you are not hungry and you never have to worry where your next meal is coming from, to have enough mental stimulation that you are constantly learning and growing, to have enough time to rest and relax on leisure activities that recharge your batteries, to have the emotional “stretch” to be able to support other people pastorally and to have enough strength of faith to be able to be a light shining for God throughout everything you do. Wow, who wouldn’t like a life like THAT?!

So when we ask God to provide enough for us to live our life properly and to its fullest through the words “give us today our daily bread” we are entering into a contract with him that in return for that, we will live our lives well and fully in his name.

But what if your life isn’t like that idyll I have just painted? What if you have too much work to do and you are constantly exhausted and stressed because of it? You haven’t the energy to be “nice” to people, let alone have the emotional stretch to help them when they are stuck. What if you don’t have enough food to eat and your thoughts really are taken up with where your next meal is coming from? It is difficult to appreciate the beauty of the world when you are constantly hungry and can’t enjoy the food you do have because you know it will be the last for a while. How about when you don’t have time to recharge your batteries? When the worry about day-to-day living takes its toll to the extent that you can’t switch off at weekends, you can’t sleep during the week, you can’t enjoy a holiday from work because you know it’s all piling up for you to do when you get back? How about the times when you are so bogged down with your own worries that you just can’t see how it is for other people? When your own parents are facing big decisions about their future because of infirmity or disease, and you have to manage their affairs as well as your own? There is little time for affection and love when duty and responsibility are piled on top of worry and grief. What about the times when you want to do things with your church, such as take communion to sick people in the parish, or help out at the play group in a morning but you can’t because you have to go to work? How about the times you want to be creative but the materials are too expensive and your time is taken up with work and stress and worry and duty to other people?

To live with all these things when we ask God to provide our daily bread we are asking him not just for the food in our belly, we are asking him to help us deal with our lives in such a way that we can and do make room for the things that make life worth living – the company of others, love and laughter, creativeness, joy in rest and so on. We are asking him to help us make room in our lives too for those things that bring glimpses of his kingdom to others here on Earth. Most of all, we are asking him to keep feeding us with his strength and his spirit so that we can grow and mature as spiritual beings as much as we do human beings.

Next time you say the Lord’s prayer, see how different you feel if instead of visualising a loaf of Mother’s Pride at that line, you visualise a life full of beauty and wonder with God pouring it all out to nourish your soul as well as your body. It’s all about trusting him to provide for us, even when we don’t know exactly what and why.

 

 

 

Happy Hodgepodge!


Thank you Joyce for another fantastic Hodgepodge this week. Many happy returns to your daughter today. My daughter has a birthday coming in up in a couple of weeks and it’s a big milestone this time. I can’t believe my little baby is already 21 eek!!!

1. On Thursday we pause to remember a dark day in history-9/11. Will you mark it in some special way?

Personally, no. Here in the UK we are probably about as far removed from ground zero as could be but that doesn’t mean to say that the tragic event wasn’t felt by us at the time and in the aftermath. I will say a prayer for those still affected by the tragic loss of life, and I will also pray that lessons continue to be learned about finding peace in this time of global strife.

2. Do you ever/still…listen to an actual radio? Watch a videotape (VCR)? Look up a number in a telephone book? Refer to an actual paper map while traveling? Set an alarm on an alarm clock as opposed to your phone?

Haha I can see where this question is leading! I listen to the radio every single day – we wake up to the radio alarm, Kevin puts the radio on as he prepares breakfast and his lunch to take to work and we have the radio on in the car whenever we travel. I have a digital radio by the side of my bed which we take with us when we go away in our caravan. Love the radio!

No, we don’t watch videotapes any more and I can honestly say hand-on-heart that I don’t miss them one little bit. Fuzzy pictures, having to fast forward and rewind them, having the tracking (remember that?!) shift about and half the picture being lost….nope, don’t miss that AT ALL.

Yes to the paper maps. We have an extensive collection of Ordinance Survey maps for when we walk and cycle when on holiday. We kind of collect them for the area where we are camping each time, and over the years we have amassed quite a number which get referred to all the time. We also use a map book in the car which we use in conjunction with the Sat-Nav.

No to the phone directory and no to the alarm clock. Over the years the local telephone directory has shrunk in size so much that it now resembles a slimline novella and whenever I need a telephone number I Google the company I need instead. And who in their right mind want to have their home number listed any more when it leaves you at the greedy, grasping, intrusive mercy of aggressive marketing companies? And the alarm “clock” is now a combination of mobile phone alarms and the radio set on a timer as previously said.

I think we’re a household in balance when it comes to traditional and technological tools to live by.

3. Is it ever a good idea to discuss religion and politics with people you don’t know?

Hmmm. Good question. I think it depends on the situation you’re in and the setting of the conversation. For example, I wouldn’t walk into a pub for example and start talking about religion and/or politics with random strangers, but I would obviously talk about religion when meeting new people through church.

4. What’s a dish you haven’t eaten all summer, but come September find yourself craving? Have you made it yet this month?

My September dish is my own bacon and lentil soup, which is not usually on the menu when it’s hot because it is quite brothy and thick, and as my Dad says, “it sticks to your ribs”. It is most definitely a winter warmer and is quite cheap to make too, and yes, I have made it twice in the last two weeks. It really is delicious!

5. What’s something you know nothing about?

Good grief, where to start! I know nothing about the back of my own neck, but neither to do I know anything about quantum physics so it’s a bit of a difficult question to answer. How about asking the question “what’s something you know nothing about, BUT WANT TO?”. If that was the question then I would say I would love to learn about stump work (a three dimensional, multi-material, multiple-technique form of needlework), and I would love to learn how to play the accordian but don’t know where to start with either of them.

6. September is Classical Music Month. Do you like classical music? If so, what’s your favourite piece?

I love most forms of music (not the monotonous droning and whining that counts as “pop” music these days) and to me, “classical” music is quite an all-emcompassing term that covers quite a substantial range of styles and forms. It is difficult for me to choose just one favourite piece because I listen to music according to my mood and what is my favourite one day might not match the next and so on. But, there is one piece that never fails to move me, or to change my mood and outlook, and that is the Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss II. I find my imagination firing off in all sorts of directions whenever I hear it, and I get swept away by mental images of Viennese ladies and gentlemen in their finery waltzing round gilded ballrooms of yesteryear. Glorious!

I am also quite moved by the finale to Madame Butterfly by Puccini, the Overture “William Tell” by Rossini, any Baroque trumpet music or antiphonal music by composers such as Gabrieli. Here’s an example so you can hear what I mean:

 

7. What’s the oldest thing you own?

The oldest thing I own is probably my Gran’s wedding ring. I have a couple of my Grandad’s law books, but I don’t know if he had those before or after he got married to my Gran.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I will probably come back to this topic in the coming days or so, but the Scottish Referendum debate is really beginning to gather momentum now. It is all over the newspapers and the media is alive with it just now and it is hard to sort out the real nuggets of fact from all the hype and spin on the issues that people are worried about. My own personal feeling – as an English woman – is that the world is in so much turmoil and distress at the moment and by opting to leave the Union the Scots would just be adding to it. There is the threat of wars in Russia and Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria; terrorism and extremism seem to be around every street corner; there are world shortages and violence everywhere; there is instability in Europe with countries in austerity measures and others wanting to come out of trade agreements and the Euro etc. It strikes me that an upheaval on the scale that some Scottish people want, ie dissolving the Union, is unnecessary and is borne out of something else other than the need for a separate identity and economy. It troubles me.

 

The Pizza That Broke the Camel’s Back


Well, it’s happened. When rock bottom approaches the last few stages go really quick, and we have finally hit it.

You may have gathered that things have been pretty tight financially for us for a while now, and this weekend saw the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. In actual fact it wasn’t a straw but a pizza. And no ordinary pizza either. It was a £4 “create your own” pizza from Asda and it proved a step too far because we simply did not have the money for one.

Sounds bad doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you just how bad.

We have been struggling for months – years – with finances. Ever since I became ill and lost my job we have been up against it to make ends meet. Month after month, year after year we have been skimming back, giving up things that other people take for granted and have long since waved goodbye to. A quick example is the fact that my hair is so long and curly now. Lots of people comment on it; “oh, isn’t it lovely and long?!”, “isn’t your long hair wonderful??”, “I do love your hair long like that” and so on. But the truth is that it is only this long because we can’t spare the money for me to go and have it cut. My son’s hair has been cut by me the last couple of times and my husband clips his own hair now too. Not because they are precious about it (or because I am particularly skilled at hairdressing) but because there simply is not the cash available to visit the barbers.

I lost a filling at the beginning of this year and it was massive trepidation that I booked an appointment at the dentist for 1st September. Part of the trepidation was because I’m terrified of dentists, but the other part was because I was frightened of the cost. Not long after I booked the appointment I broke a different tooth and to be honest I was really glad when the dentist sent me a letter cancelling my appointment because…well you can guess can’t you? Not because of the pain involved but because there just is not the money available to pay the bill.

The situation is this: My husband works full time and earns what on the face of it is a decent wage. I can’t work because of my condition but I try to do little bits of admin or audio typing where I can to earn a bit of cash, and I sell some crocheted items where and when I can too. We have a daughter at university and a son who is in Year 11 at secondary school. He goes to music centre and we have to pay fees for, which we don’t/can’t begrudge him because he wants a professional music career and that is the best place for him to be in order to start it.

I have tried to claim for ESA (for my non-UK readers it is a sickness benefit awarded to those who are too ill to work) but as everyone knows, the threshold for “can’t work because of illness or disability” is so high now not many people are accepted on it. Even disabled ex-servicemen with no limbs are deemed “fit to work” by the assessment people for ESA so my little condition doesn’t even register with them.

We don’t qualify for income support because my husband works (that counts against us on two counts because a) we are married and b) he works more than 16 hours per week). Incidentally, I can’t claim Jobseekers Allowance for the same reasons, but there is an extra factor why I can’t claim that and that’s because c) I can’t with all honesty say that I could work any job that I am offered because I don’t know from day to day whether or not I can get up and do any work at all. Even if I did qualify for it, it would only last for a maximum of 6 months and I wouldn’t be able to claim again for another couple of years once that has expired, which is no good for a long term plan.

We have been surfing the 0% interest credit cards for some time now, shifting balances about to try and free up some cash for us to use as living expenses but they have all come to an end now. We are paying massive amounts of interest on them because there are limited options available with credit all over the place – not just us, but for other people too. We now have a combined debt totalling more than a year of Kevin’s salary. It may as well be a million quid for all the hope we have of paying that off.

We worked out last week that after my husband’s wages come in and the necessary bills have all been paid (gas, electric, council tax, TV licence, mortgage) we have £157 per month to pay for the rest – food, bus fares, petrol and so on. That doesn’t include a clothing allowance, my medicine, music centre fees, socialising/entertainment or anything like that so to pay for any of those other things we have to take it out of the £157. What we have been doing is taking more money from the credit cards to try to cover the shortfall, which has caught up with us now. We are about £500 short each month, which obviously mounts up if we keep going up to that every time, and now, we’re at the end of the road. When there isn’t even enough for a £4 Asda pizza you know you’re up against it.

As bleak as it all feels, there is a bit of hope on the horizon.

Kevin went through all the finances on Sunday and followed up a link I’d seen on Facebook about a debt management company. The chap was very helpful and is sending us some information and an application form for an IVA, which is an agreement to pay creditors a fixed amount for a fixed term. There are pros and cons which I won’t go into here, but what it represents is a light at the end of the tunnel for us. It is a 5-year long tunnel, but at least with an IVA in place we can see that there is a light in the first place.

I always get emotional when we talk about money – I don’t know why, but it is very embarrassing – and I thought I would try and get my head round what the IVA would entail myself by looking up a few things on Martin Lewis’s website (he’s the Money Saving Expert off the TV) and I found a link to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. They are the people who measure poverty levels in the country, and they have a fairly comprehensive set of criterion as to what constitutes a basic standard of living, and what constitutes a decent standard of living etc.

I did their questionnaire and calculated where we were on the scale of “need” compared to other people in this country, and I was gobsmacked to find that according to their figures we are more than £1000 per month short of what they call a “basic standard of living”. We were feeling bad about our £500 shortfall and all the pain that that entails, but according to the JRF we are actually doing twice as well (or half as bad, whichever way you look at it) as they reckon.

When I looked further at their criteria, I was astonished to find out what they constitute a basic standard of living and the amounts of money they say are legitimate to spend on each part of life – personal goods and services (dentist, medicines, eye tests etc), clothing allowances, socialising, food, alcohol, holidays…. If we spent what they say meets basic living standards on all of these things then we would be living in luxury compared to what we are now! We have done without so much for so long their list seems like something out of this world for us.

I do recognise that it’s one thing to say “this is what a basic standard of living should be” and quite another to meet it. According to the JRF, we are in the 25% of the population who fall below the line but that doesn’t actually help does it?

Knowing that we don’t have the cash for medicines, glasses, dentists, hairdressers, food, school bus fares, school uniform (my son is going to school in trousers and shoes that are too small for him because we couldn’t replace them before the start of term) and all that is one thing, but finding a way out of it is quite another.  We have cut back and cut back to the extent now that we have forgotten what “normal” is like. It’s not so much “how the other half live” but “how the other three-quarters live”.

So here we are. We haven’t applied for an IVA as the paperwork hasn’t arrived yet, but even when we do it won’t actually solve anything in terms of day to day living. Yes, we will have a handle on our debts and yes, we can look forward to the balances being written off in 5 years’ time, but we still won’t have any extra coming in to meet that £1000 shortfall each month.  I am studying for my degree which will hopefully affect my earning capacity in a couple of years, but that is if I could actually hold down a job in the first place. My condition is getting worse and yet the doctors still don’t know what’s causing it or how to treat it, so I can’t see me getting and holding down a job even armed with my degree. I am trying to sell my crocheted work, but for the odd fiver or so that brings in doesn’t even put a dent in our overall living expenses, meagre though they may be.

Ah well, if I can sell a £5 crocheted hat this week then at least I could look forward to an Asda pizza this weekend with a bit of change to spare. Chips anyone?

Daybook Entry – 6th September


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFOR TODAY

Outside my window… the weather is drizzly, overcast, grey clouds and warm winds. Autumn is here!

I am thinking… about how complicated things are at the moment. Complicated emotionally I mean. There are lots of things that are sapping my emotional energy just now and it’s hard for me to pull myself along.

I am thankful… for the unconditional love and support of my husband, who is also going through the emotional wringer at the moment as well.

In the kitchen… Kevin’s cooking tonight and I think we’re having pasta Bolognese. With extra cheese. Yummy!

I am wearing… comfy shorts and pink polo shirt.

I am creating… I’m working on building my stock for my craft stall in a couple of weeks’ time, and I am collecting ideas for writing so you could say I am creating notes on characters and scenes.

I am going… to take Ethan’s girlfriend home shortly.

I am wondering… why Strictly isn’t back tonight?? I am so disappointed that it isn’t on until tomorrow. Major sulk.

I am reading… “Salem Falls” by Jodi Piccoult.

I am hoping… for a miracle on the financial front. Things are getting tougher and it is extremely stressful. I have been looking for paid work but there’s nothing forthcoming as yet.

I am looking forward to… things getting better.

I am learning… to bite my tongue and keep my trap shut about certain things.

I am thinking… a lot about what it means to be married. Not just from my own point of view but from the perspective of older people who have been married for 50 years or so and where there is illness and infirmity.  I have been thinking about how far the marriage vows have to be taken, and is it possible to take them too far. For example, the vow is to look after each other “in sickness and in health” but what happens when one of the couple is too ill to be looked after by the other, and where professional nursing care is more appropriate for them. What happens to those vows then? Does that promise mean that you yourself have to do the caring, or is it OK to make sure that that care is provided, even if it is by a team of professionals and not you yourself personally? At what point does the line between marital duty and realism get drawn?

I am praying for… my parents in law; my friend Jane who is now halfway through her chemo treatment; all the kids I know who have gone back to school this week and especially those who have gone for the first time and found it difficult; my husband.

Around the house… laundry is mostly done, things are pretty tidy, kitchen is clean, table is clear (for once!)

I am pondering… which new patterns to try out for hats to sell.

A favourite quote for today… “Treat each day as if it was your last day on earth because one day, you’ll be right”.

One of my favourite things… is the feel of yarn and crochet hook in my fingers.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Church tomorrow, Stay and Play on Monday, back to Music Centre routine from Tuesday evening.

A peek into my day…

laundry

 

 

 

Ah September, How I Love Thee!


september-back-to-school-1

I love this time of year. It has always been my favourite time, and even as I get older the pleasure and thrill of September hasn’t diminished one iota. 

When I was at primary school I loved September because I loved the newness of a different classroom, the stiffness of new shoes and school uniform, the fresh start with a new teacher all wrapped up with the security of being in a familiar and comforting school I had known all my life. I loved the chilly mornings with my new anorak keeping me warm that would quickly get turned into a cape on my head or wrapped round my waist, the arms tied together on the way home because it was baking hot in the Autumn sunshine.

When I moved to secondary school September brought another set of new things to savour: new timetable, new exercise books, even new subjects for us in the top set who got to learn German as well as French in the third year. There was the added buzz of new pens and notebooks – a lifelong love of new stationery was born during my time in secondary school – and every now and again there was the thrill of a new schoolbag too. The longer walk to school was lovely too and gave us kids more time to crunch through the leaves as they fell from the thousands of trees that lined our route to school and over the “backies” to the back gate. One of the best things about living in Blackley as I do is the trees – always has been.

After school came sixth form, and after those days and my very young marriage, another “new” hit me one September when I gave birth to my daughter Emma. Not only did the new identity of mother hit me with a big bang, but before too long I found myself repeating all those things I’d loved from my own childhood Septembers with her too. New uniforms being bought at the end of the summer holidays, new book bags and overcoats being bought, new shoes being polished, new stationery and new schoolbags….it was as fantastic to be on the giving end of those things as it was to be on the receiving end when I was a child.

My daughter is now about to start her third year at university and doesn’t need me to sort out her new shoes and stationery any more, and my son will be starting his final year at secondary school tomorrow. Boys are different to girls and he doesn’t want anything new, apart from bigger shirts and a blazer that fits him obviously! He didn’t want to go to W H Smith today for new pens and a notebook like Emma used to do, and as most of his schoolwork is done online now anyway, I would be just clogging up his pockets with pens and pencils when all he really needs is a pen-drive and his bus pass. 

Last September I restarted my studies for my degree with the Open University and I was able to indulge my passion for new pens and folders, something that I am looking forward to repeating before my next two courses start in a couple of weeks time. I am on a countdown if the truth be told. The courses are due to start on 5th October but I have already got my study materials through the post, and next Wednesday will see the online part of it being opened. That’s when I can really get to plan my studies – and my folders! – and perhaps even make an early start as well. 

I do love September. It’s like another chance at a fresh start and a clean slate again. It’s better than the one that we get at New Year, the one that turns up in the depths of Winter when everyone is dreary and miserable, when coughs and colds ruin most things for most people, and there are lashings of guilt from over-eating and over-spending at Christmas. The September New Year comes on the back of long hot carefree days of happiness and sunshine, and it signals the start of a lovely winding down for everyone. There are festivals and parties to come – Harvest, Halloween, Bonfire Night – and there is a sense of nature being in control. Leaves are changing into spectacular colours right before our eyes, conkers are already dropping from horse-chestnut trees in the park, the sky is a riot of sunsets and meteor showers and misty mornings are the stuff of dreams and legends. 

Ah September, how I love thee!!

autumn colours

 

Katie Hopkins Obesity Crusade


I have a fair bit of respect for the outspokenness of Katie Hopkins, and generally I tend to agree with the gist of what she says – more or less – but there is an issue that I just can’t agree with her on and that is the subject of obesity.

Those of you who know me in real life know that I am not exactly a wilting little flower and I am rather a “hefty” girl…ok, ok, I’m obese. There I’ve said it.

Now, according to Katie Hopkins the reason I am obese is because I stuff my face with the wrong type of food all day and I do no exercise. In her view, it’s all my own fault and all I have to do is simply stop stuffing my face and get off my lardy arse for the weight will disappear.

She is so certain of her opinion on obesity that she recently decided to prove her theory by demonstrating how straightforward it is to lose weight by doing precisely that herself. She has been purposely over-eating for the last few months to put on over 3 stone in weight, and she will begin an intensive programme of weight loss beginning on the 8th September to show fatties like me that losing weight is just a question of having the right attitude to food and exercise. She is on record as saying “fat people need to look in the mirror, look at themselves, and realise it’s their fault”. Thanks Katie.

These two pictures show just how far she is prepared to go to prove her point. The “before” picture on the left and the “after” on the right show just what she looks like after piling on the weight. If you want to read more on her stunt, click here.

On the one hand I applaud her commitment to her view by doing that to herself but on the other, I’m hopping mad at her for her over-simplistic take on the causes and reasons for obesity. Katie Hopkins is an entrepreneur, not a medical expert and as far as I can ascertain she has no training in the field of diet and nutrition, and she certainly is not any sort of expert in exercise regimes, so how her opinion on this can be only that, an opinion and not a viable scientific study.

As any obese person will tell you, the path to their size and their weight won’t have ever been a simple one and therefore the pathway back to a “healthy” size won’t be simple either. Katie Hopkins is labouring under the illusion that weight gain is a result of a simple mathematical equation:

too much food + too little exercise = obesity

But that is far too simplistic and doesn’t take into consideration genetics, hormones, biological imbalances etc. My own pathway to obesity began when I went on the pill at the age of 17. The introduction of artificial hormones at that age and stage of my development has had a lifelong impact on my own hormones, and as well as weight gain I also have had other associated problems with too much/too little of the correct hormones washing around my body. I don’t want to go into details here, but weight gain has been only one of those side effects.

Coupled with that, my own genetics have had an impact on my weight. If you look at any of the women in my family – cousins, aunties etc – you will see that there is a common link between us all and that is that we all have weight issues. Some are better than others at controlling it, but generally we are all on the larger side.

Those two things are pretty well accepted in medical circles as being contributors to weight issues, but the third factor in my case is not something that is quantifiable, or even explainable, sometimes. Over the years whenever I have tried to diet, I have somehow managed to PUT ON weight every single time. I went to WeightWatchers in my early 20s and followed their diet plan to the absolute letter for about three months. I had to stop it because I’d put on a stone in that time. The experience then was repeated time and time again during my 20s and 30s, and the only time I have ever lost any significant amount of weight was, surprisingly, when I was carrying my second child. I ended that pregnancy weighing less than I did at the start. Weird eh?

I enjoy cycling and as a way to a) try to lose weight (again) and b) raise some money a couple of years ago, we decided as a family that we would cycle from Morecambe to Scarborough, a distance of about 120 miles over three days. Obviously it wasn’t something we could just do straight off, so we put miles and miles of training in. Personally I have never done so much exercise as I did in the 12 months or so before we did the big ride and I was cycling upwards of about 100 miles per week to try and build my stamina and my fitness levels. I managed to do that, and I managed to ride the Coast to Coast with my husband in the three days as planned. My fitness levels were great – I was recovering quickly from training rides, my breathing etc were fine and I felt fairly flexible. The trouble was that I did not lose a single pound during all that time and in actual fact I put more weight on. I didn’t do anything special with my eating habits – I neither dieted nor went mad with calorie intake, and yet I still put on weight.

Year on year my weight has crept up, and it was only when I became ill about 4 years ago that my weight stabilised. During the course of my illness I have seen quite a few doctors and they have all mentioned that my weight is an issue – as if I didn’t know that myself. In September last year the consultant I saw at the hospital suggested that I go on his “special” diet that would help me. It was a fairly restricted diet with only a few foods permitted on it and I followed it faithfully for about three months. Right through Christmas with no chocolate or anything and guess what the result was? Yes, that’s right, I put on yet more weight. A stone in three months on a hospital prescribed diet? There’s got to be something wrong somewhere.

I now weigh more than I have ever done in my life and I am at a loss as to what to do about it. But here’s the rub. Katie Hopkins reckons that I am the size and weight that I am simply because I stuff my face but as you can see from my story, that simply is not true. We are financially constrained at the moment and our food budget is tight to say the least. My doctor’s advice is for me to lose weight I should be eating three meals a day with three sensible snacks in between, and to take some moderate exercise. Which is great but we don’t have enough money for me to eat that much food every day. My typical day’s food intake at the moment is a slice of toast and marmite for breakfast, a snack for lunch (today it was an apple and a small piece of cheese) and then my tea, which is a meal I can cook for my boys to share. My weight is variable, by up to 10lbs either way depending on the time of the month (both hormonal and financial), yet according to Ms Hopkins the weight should be dropping off me.

I wonder how it will work out for her in the next couple of months? She has the advantage of proper nutritional food to eat and will no doubt be undertaking a rigorous exercise regime to get rid of her excess weight. She also has the advantage of the unnatural weight gain in the first place. She has purposely eaten fattening food in order to put the weight on, so for her, reversing her weight gain will certainly be a simple process of reversing the pattern.

It bothers me that if she finds it easy to lose the weight again she will forever be convinced that us fatties are products of our own greed, and not the far more complex issues that have brought people like me to the size we are. I am not and have never been a big eater, and I don’t consider myself to be a greedy eater neither. Sadly though, Ms Hopkins would view me as someone who makes excuses and hides behind a hormonal shield to explain my excess weight but for me and for many other women like me, it’s not as simple as she is trying to make out.

So it will be interesting to see how things work out in the next couple of months for her. Will she struggle against her age and her own personal biology to lose the weight? Or will it drop off her as easily as it was put on? Will she ever see that being obese is not a simple equation and is quite often a result of many other factors? Will she ever be convinced that there are people like me out there who put weight on despite a starvation diet and quite hefty exercise regimes? Or will she forever be convinced that fat people are just greedy over-eaters who hold their own destinies on the end of their own forks? Time will tell.

 

 

Word Crimes


I suppose like most bloggers, I’m a bit of word enthusiast (understatement of the year), and grammar and spelling are important to me.

You might agree with me, and don’t you find that spelling and grammar seem to be way down the list of people’s priorities now, especially on social media? A quick example is yesterday I read a status that claimed that the prime minister had upped the terror alert level to server in the UK. I didn’t realise that our government servers were open to attack by terrorists – what would it mean, that our TV would go off? That our tax records would be hacked? That our bank accounts would all be drained by overseas terrorists who hack into our national servers??

It took me ages to work out that “server” was actually supposed to be “severe”…

Anyway, here’s a little video for you that my daughter shared with me this evening. I hope you like it. It kinda sums up evryfin i h8 abt online txtspk. U wiv me?

 

 

Daybook Entry – 29th August


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FOR TODAY
Outside my window… it is dark and windy. Rain is lashing the window panes and I am listening to the gutter overflowing past my bedroom window.

I am thinking… that it is a good time to be tucked up in bed!

I am thankful… that my bed is so comfy.

In the kitchen… is my airing rack with Ethan’s bedroom rug drying on it. It was handmade by his grandparents and is very thick wool, which is a nightmare to dry and takes a couple of days to do so. It has already been moved about half a dozen times in the last two days to capture the moving warm spots in the house.

I am wearing… I’m ready for bed so my sleep t-shirt and shorts.

I am creating… stock for a craft stall I am doing in about 6 weeks’ time. I am building up a supply of kiddies hats, cot blankets and small toys/key rings etc.

I am going… to conduct another performance by the Todmorden Community Brass Band tomorrow at Dobroyd Castle. I’m looking forward to it really. We have a great band at the moment and we are having a fab time in rehearsals which spills over into our performances. We’re providing background music tomorrow which is nice as I don’t have to think of any jokes to tell the audience!

I am wondering… what Terry the Terrapin is thinking most of the day. Is he happy? Is he bored? Does he dream of a life outside the aquarium? Does he recognise me because I’m the one who feeds him? Does he ever wish there was a Mrs Terry to play with?

I am reading… I am between novels at the minute but I have decided to make an effort to get through Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’m making headway and even though the language is antiquated and a bit heavy going, it’s surprisingly readable once you get into its rhythm.

I am hoping… I can earn some money from my craft stall. If this one is successful I’m hoping to repeat it before Christmas too.

I am praying for… I am giving thanks for Rita’s continuing recovery; I am praying for healing for my friend Jane who is going through chemo after a mastectomy; things are financially difficult for us at the moment so my prayers are for my little family, that we can weather this storm and God will look after us.

I am looking forward to… a time when I can earn properly again.

I am learning… my instincts about someone have been correct all this time, and whilst I have always made allowances and tried to explain/excuse their behaviour and attitude as being down to other things, all along the truth about them has been there in my face and I should have trusted my instinct about them.

Around the house… is evidence of my extensive crocheting this week. Plastic boxes of yarn which are usually stacked neatly and out of sight are out for easy access, and the big box of stuffing I have for my toy filling is also out because I have made a few owls this week. Oh yes, and the little tail ends of yarn where I’ve snipped off the ends are ALL OVER the place. They stick to socks and everything so end up in the weirdest places…

I am pondering… how to go about marketing my craft stuff so that I can make some money but don’t overwhelm myself in the process.

A favourite quote for today: “I quite liked the music we played tonight, especially that Coronation Chicken” (from my friend Gill whose auto correct on her phone is almost as bad as mine and didn’t recognise “Coronation Scot” haha!)

One of my favourite things… is the sound of brass, especially playing hymn tunes.

A few plans for the rest of the next few days: gig tomorrow, church Sunday, back to school shopping for Ethan’s uniform and school supplies Monday or Tuesday, more crocheting and more reading.

A peek into my day… we played this tonight at band (see Gill’s text message above). This is a professional orchestra playing it and we are a community brass band, but this is Coronation Scot for you:

 

 

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