Friday, 12 February 2016

Fat or Phat?

Not to be too Bridget Jones about it, but here's what I ate yesterday, should you care:

a vegetable samosa for lunch (no breakfast, never have eaten breakfast in the week since I was a teenager)

A sunburst, provided by stationery company as thanks for buying a packet of envelopes.
then another,
then another,
repeated until I had a sugar headache,

Packet of twiglets shared with Juliano the Handsome in the car on the way to Kew Gardens to look at Orchids

Small pizza with salad when we came back late, while watching a Channel 4 Foreign Drama.

Then an orange

This was not one of my good days, folks, which is NOT why I'm fat.

I'm fat because the good days go more like this:

Weekend, when I do eat breakfast - oat meusli with nuts, fruit juice sweetened cranberries, assorted nuts, fat free Greek Yoghurt with honey or a big spoonful of either lemon or orange curd, and maybe a chopped banana or dates, berries, or whatever fruit we have in the fridge.

lunch:  current favorite either poached egg on avocado and Gail's olive bread toast with Chipolte sauce, or poached egg in chili whipped yoghurt with same olive bread toast or poilane rye.  With butter.  Or a falafal sandwich from Mr Falafal in Shepherd's bush market, or labne and zaater on arabic bread with halloumi side, or mozzarella and tomato salad with more olive bread, or if there's a match on, something picked up from Waitrose on the walk to the football ground, which will include a half-time mocca.

Dinner:  last week I had a blue cheese and roasted cauliflower souffle one night and the next a vegetable pudding with vegetarian suet crust with a salad, heavy on the dressing.  But it might be a curry, or a pasta with home made sauce, or a veggie pie, or lentils with sage oil and veggie rice...  Always vegetarian - I rarely eat meat.

Snacks throughout the day are few but currently my youngest daughter is broken hearted and baking her way through the pain so we are all gaining the break-up weight and eating the cakes (I hope she gets over the bugger soon), so last weekend I had four slices of banana bread at various stages through the weekend and a blueberry muffin.

Exercise included - sanding and scraping the paint off my kitchen surfaces - and if you don't think this counts as exertion then you obviously don't do DIY as I had sweat trickling down my back.  I also vacuumed the sitting room - and my hoover is like steering an elephant round on a skateboard, then we walked to and from the Football ground - an hour round trip, and I changed the bedlinen - counts as a workout in my book - wrestling with a duvet and 8 pillows is not nothing.

Then on Monday got up and walked to the GP - 40 mins, and came into work, another 40 minutes walk both to and from the tube station.

Admittedly I then sat on my fat bum and watched TV all night, while eating a baked potato with blue cheese and salad, followed by nightly orange and two digestive biscuits with a cup of tea.

So look, yes I eat.  I eat a lot, but I'm not hoovering up family bags of crisps, or frying chips every night, or ploughing through chocolate biscuits.  Every day.  Once a week I have a 'starburst' type incident which can involve anything from cake at Choir to chocolate at Mosaics, or left over chocolate chips from the bakery tin at the Heartbreak Kitchen.  I can see why I gain weight, but I'm not going to send myself to prison for criminal overeating.  I'm living my life.  I'm enjoying food.  I eat a bit of bad stuff, and a fair bit of good stuff.  Why UNIVERSE is this punishable by saddlebags on my thighs?  And then as if carrying them around in all their - frankly - unattractive glory (that's the thing we don't say so much about fat, is that we are not all plus size swimsuit models, and for most of us our fat isn't particularly attractive of itself) - the saddlebags are badges of shame.  We are - horror, DUMDUMDUM, FAT.  Eek.  You terrible person, you have sinned against nature, you have not stuck to 2,000 calories a day or wasted precious hours of your useful and creative life running on a treadmill, OR been gifted with a super-duper fat burning metabolism.  You have eaten crap and you are wearing it on your thighs. Shame on you.  We will shun you.  No, actually we won't, because tutting under our tongue is more fun.

So yes I don't find my fat self that attractive.  Some of this is self-loathing, beaten into me since childhood and being dragged to the doctor aged 13 because I was too thin or 'awfy skinny' accompanied by that shudder you give when you see a very very obvious anorectic person who is little more than walking bones.  That was me.  That was me with my two side front teeth missing after an accident knocked them out.  I looked like Plug, or Mrs Plug from the Beano (or was it the Dandy?) There was actually nothing medically wrong with me.  I was just naturally skinny and I smoked.  I saved my lunch money for fags, but when I ate, I ate true junk - biscuits and chips and turned my nose up at anything green.  So I grew up thinking I was an unattractive lass, more boy than girl with knobbly knees, afraid to smile.  A size 0 model before such a thing was invented (these days the missing teeth would probably give me an 'edge'.

It's a wonder, looking back, that I survived adolescence, especially as I did so by scampering off with my first 'proper' boyfriend, who happened to have a wife and a kid already -  not that I knew that when we met.  I was just so grateful that someone thought I was viable girlfriend material - even if he turned me into an aide to adultery before I knew what it was.

So now I've just kind of dug into that early bad body image and transposed it to the fat(ter) me. It's like a familiar scarf that I just reach for every morning out of habit.  When I lost 'the weight' one of the four times over the last 15 years (notice how we give it the definite article to make it sound like a single important entity - 'the weight' 'the royal family' 'the post office' 'the fifth amendment' 'the plague' - that little 'the' turning it into a thing rather than just a collection of fat cells) I honestly, honestly, just loved my body.  I didn't however love my life.  All that parsimony, the endless counting in my head, of how much I'd eaten, how many calories, how many grams of fat, the continual feeling of self restraint, self imposed limits, the good and the bad behaviour we stupid stupid women indulge in - well I say indulge, but there's no pleasure in it.  'Oh I was bad last night I ate a donut.'  'I was good all weekend and stuck to the Dukan and only had one slip on the Sunday when I had a lager.'  I mean ffs - bad is stealing another woman's husband (done that, erm twice - with help from the husband, and had it done to me so tit for tat).  Bad is refusing to let refugees in.  Or voting for Trump.  Good is raising money for charity, or even texting Socks to 14324 in the middle of an overpriced movie to give a poor African child a pair of woolly socks to get them through the cold desert nights (facetious, I know).  Good is rescuing kittens or volunteering to nurse ebola victims - not sticking to a protein only diet.  But just like dieters the world over,  I bought into the madness.  I was high on my own hunger, my own self-control, my own limited palate, and had the skinny stretch jeans in a fake size 10 (M&S they distort their sizes to make us think we're thinner than we are) to show for it.  I had thigh gap. I felt, reader, magnificent.  Wonder frigging Woman, just cause I was thin.

That I drank so much coffee I gave myself palpitations, and couldn't walk up three flights of stairs without my knees giving way weakly at the top, and - once the worst of the diet days were past - drank like a sailor on shore leave rather than eating anything with fat in it, didn't matter.  I was thin, see me strut.  And collect the accolades...

It was like winning the Oscars.  The thin Academy Award.  Everywhere I went I was feted and celebrated by people who I realise, had probably been looking at me with the sucky teeth, thinking, lardy arsed cow when I was fat, congratulating me on losing 'the' weight.  'You look fabulous, wonderful, amazing' 'wow'  'you lost the weight' and all because I had dieted off 3 stone.

Three stone is a lot to lose.  It's a toddler.  A hefty toddler.  But I didn't split the atom, or perform brain surgery with only a fork and a coffee stirrer.  I didn't save someone from a burning building or open my home to needy orphans.  I just lost weight.  I didn't even try that hard two of the times.

Once was Dukan.  Once was my husband leaving me (remember that other woman).  Once was love-motivated Adkins (remember the tit for tat - this was the tit).  Once was a nervous breakdown.  Not eating because you're a tortured, crazy, pillpopping insomniac and gag when you see food is not the way to weight loss I'd recommend to anyone.  Love isn't bad.  Dieting is still a struggle, but happiness fills you up just as well as chocolate, and then you're burning it all off having sex. 

But you can't maintain it.  Not the sex, not the euphoria of love.  Then...

Happiness makes you fat too, unfortunately.  That's what I have at the moment.  Contentment fat.  I have a live-in lover who doesn't think I'm a psychopath.   I have a house I love and kids I love.  I have enough, just enough money.  I have three cats.  I have a four-day a week job that's okay and fairly congenial even if I haven't had a payrise for 5 years and I think my boss would be happy if I left or at least isn't fearful enough of me going to consider any incentive to stay.  I spend my free time doing things that make me incandescently content - yes it's a thing, trust me.  I sew, I make mosaics, I draw, I paint, I grow plants, I tend my garden, I stroke my cats, I make cards and books, and pillowcases and paint furniture.  I write.  I cook.  I eat. I laugh.

The only thing I don't do is spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, because there is fat Marion smiling back at me with her puffy, patchwork face that looks like its been sewn together for a kid's puppet show - not looking remotely Rubenesque when she's in the buff, but more like cold custard and not at all curvy, but more, well, dolloped.  I don't have that lovely plumped up fat of the painted nude or the polished skin of the well upholstered black woman.  It's cottage cheese, celery, boiled chicken, scrambled eggs - all those meals I should be eating if I want to it into a pair of M&S tights without feeling like I've been eaten by a python who has trouble digesting its food.  Some of it is as much to do with ageing as being overweight, sorry, fat.  Fat and age don't sit prettily on the coach together.  You sag.  No matter how politically correct you are about fat, it doesn't make it a thing of beauty.

So maybe that's why we don't want people to say we're fat, because what we really think is that they're saying we're ugly.  Yeah well, so big deal.  Let it be so.  Currently, my life is beautiful and the thighs are collateral damage.

Friday, 5 February 2016

'This bed is on fire/with passionate love'

Sleeplessness, should you be interested enough to ask, continues to be not much of a problem in Suburban Mansions.

I had a brief visit from the bad fairy Insomnia several years ago when I momentarily went mad, where - it has to be noted - the inability to sleep caused most of the problems.  Chicken and egg = crazy omelette.  As my GP pointed out many, many, many years ago, the main cause of Post Partum Depression is lack of sleep.  It really can drive you bonkers.  But in this latter case we're talking seriously not sleeping, not just waking in the night, or staying up till the small hours become large ones, and the fact that the lack of sleep was being enforced rather than organic was an important added factor in the dish of despair.

When seriously insomniac, the problem was banished by hypnotic drugs which I embraced with the fervour of a new convert to Christianity at a tent revival.  Addictive?  Didn't give a stuff.  I was so desperate I would have signed up for a week in a coma just to experience that wonderful oblivion and the respite from being awake and suffering.  The pill regime lasted a month and I was lucky enough to come off them without any nasty side effects when my natural pattern of sleep re-established itself.  Well that and the Valium.  Don't run away with the idea that this is easy stuff.  It's not, and while, in a less fraught time (abandonment by partner of 25 years) watching boxed sets got me through months of bad sleep, when the panic of worse times set in, I needed the big pharmaceutical guns to get me over the hump.

But now, normal service has been resumed.  I go to bed in the Barbie plush dream palace, curled into the warm back of Saint Juliano who has mystifyingly agreed to share it with me, my head resting on charity shop silk pillowslips, and a cat or three snuggled between us, on top of us, across us.  Beside my bed there's a laptop, a phone an iphone and a kindle.  Not one of their blue lights keeps me awake.  Outside there's the orange glow of the London night and a constellation of red stars from the nearby cranes of the Imperial College building site, and none of it, not even the bright moon as it sweeps across the sky, even permeates my consciousness.  In the summer, the flocks of parrots roosting on the nearby scrubs chirp at dawn, and if I hear them at all I merely think 'how lovely'.  The sun bangs on the window but I pay it no heed.

If I wake to pee, I go back to sleep almost instantly and it would all be perfect if not for one thing...

Just as I find someone to share my slumber, it appears I gravely disrupt theirs.

Because, reader, I snore.

I snore like Concorde breaking the sound barrier, like a garbage truck toiling up the road, like a high speed train carrying nuclear waste barreling up the line, like juggernauts overtaking slow lorries on a steep hill.  I know this for two reasons.  Firstly, I have, on occasion woke myself up snoring on trains, cinemas (I know - CRINGE) and once, a plane, and can tell by the fact that, when traveling Club, I go to sleep on good terms with the person next to me in seat 1B, who refuses to meet my eye when we wake up together the next morning.  Or at least, when I wake up.  He probably hasn't had any sleep at all.  And secondly, I know I snore because Saint Juliano keeps on digging his elbow into me to try, in vain, to get me to shut up.  Occasionally I've woken and found him wresting the pillow out from underneath my head.  He claims, this is because I snore less if I lie flat - though other sufferers say they benefit from sitting more upright.  I sometimes wonder if he's really just going to put it over my face.

So he pokes, and he prods, and he shakes and he hisses, and I get cross, and groggy, and tell him I'm already awake, because it often feels that way, when in fact I'm just talking in my sleep - my snorey, snorey sleep.

He has two sets of earplugs, one that muffles everything, including Armageddon, and another set that allow him to hear the alarm go off, but still be bothered by the snoring.  If he wears the first he doesn't wake up for work.  If he wears the second it's lose, lose, lose, and I get battered.

I honestly don't know how he puts up with me.  I'm not even that good in bed.

So I'm off to the Sleep Clinic at Charing Cross in June to spend a night in hospital and see if there's anything they can do to stop St Juliano killing me before the sleep apnea that - I at least - am unaware of, kills me first.

However, if I do happen not to wake up one morning, just check the pillow doesn't have a face shaped indentation in it first before you assume I choked to death on my own snores. 

Friendless in the Fifties..

I have no friends.
Okay, a few.  Like a handful. Like a handful with a couple of fingers missing.
86 on facebook, 3 of whom cross over to real life, more or less, and some colleagues.
My eldest daughter tells me not to worry that most people have only seven significant people in their life and the rest are just padding.
But I don't have seven, I say, slightly panicked.  I mean, I'm padded, god so well padded with acquaintances and half-friends, and pseudo friends, and people I once had dinner with, or met, or knew, or still kind of know, or know someone who knows someone, or holidayed with, or spoke to at a party that I could fill a hall with people I waved at once across a room, but though I can anecdotally chat about Ed Balls and Phillip Roth and Salman Rushdie and The House of Parliament Dining Room and Gordon Ramsay, it's all just bullshit, true bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless.  The significant seven are real, or would be if I had them...
Yes you do have seven people, think of it - four kids, Dad, Juliano, Maria...  The girl says.
Oh god, my seven significants consist of four people I gave birth to, one I was married to who left me for another woman, my current partner and my dear friend Maria who lives half the time in Brazil and who I see maybe once a fortnight when she's here, and who communicates with me by What's App.
Kill Me Now.
Or rather don't, because nobody would come to the funeral.
I'm dubious about my daughter's maths as, of the four kids, even she hasn't returned my last two phone calls and we haven't spoken for maybe two weeks.  One of my sons may have emigrated to another country and forgotten to tell me as I haven't heard from him since Christmas.  I don't even bother calling him now as he never answers, and my texts and emails are ignored.  I think he loves me, but joined at the heart compadres we are not - or maybe we are, we just don't talk.  And my husband, well we met last week, but haven't heard since and he has a new partner and an 18 month old baby, so can't think I'm high on the list of priorities except when he's urging me to kick one of the kids out (two of them live with me so do get to count as significant, albeit by default) so I can sell the house and give him half.  A bit of self interest in that friendship maybe?
So am I unloveable, unlikeable, unfriendly, antisocial?
Maybe, hope not, no, a bit.
For the years of my marriage I was sure both of the first descriptions were true.  Not because my husband made me feel those things, but rather that he made me feel that he loved me DESPITE them being somewhat true.  My current partner, when asked why he hung around after the sex became routine, said 'because I like you'.  Gosh.  There's a novelty.  I realised that this was one of the first time anyone had said those three little words to me.  I've heard love many times from many men, like it's a toy currency you can wave about but not really spend, but 'liking' is a rarer commodity, and one I've never been blessed with.
Is it a parental thing.  Absolutely.  My parents, lovely people though they were, could criticize for Britain, and show disapproval like they were up for a Bafta for it.  I never felt they liked me.  Not whining about it, just saying.  They tolerated me.  The loved me despite (see the trend here?) my many perceived character flaws which they often pointed out, sometimes adding that I should see a psychiatrist.  Being a kid in our house was akin to madness.
So I've kept that feeling with me for life, internalised it, nurtured it, and projected it on to anyone who'll have me, or not as the case may be.
The nice thing about age is that it has finally allowed me, not to shelve the feeling, but not to give a fuck about who likes me or not, even though I admit I just start from the point that nobody does, or won't once they get to know me, but who cares?  I've got cats instead.  One of them doesn't like me much either, but she's a temperamental diva who shuns everyone, so I'm not special. The others sit on my knee and purr.  When I get really low I think I'll get a dog too, 24/7 total approval adoration and tail wags - what's not to like.
But do two cats and a virtual dog count as significant beings in one's life?
Judging by the number of both species on facebook, I'd say they probably do.
But that still leaves me short of friends.
I truly don't mind that much.  I think that some people have the gift of making friends and I'm just one of those who doesn't.  I can get along with people well enough in the day to day, and when I meet people, I often warm to them and  enjoy speaking to them. I can talk to most people happily and with pleasure.   But as I get older I find I have become more and more reclusive.  I think - shall I have people for dinner?  And decide, immediately, nah.  Can't be bothered.  I'd have to cook.  I'd have to think of things to say.  And - this IS an absolute truth in my life, they NEVER ask me back, so what is the point?  I don't want to be the one-sided friend that much if it involves two hours of competitive cookery and a lot of washing up.  I've done enough of that in the last thirty odd years.  It's not the making friends I find difficult (well not so difficult) - it's the keeping them.  Two of the people I liked most in the world at the time dropped me.  Dumped by a friend.   Ooooh, not one for the CV when you're shopping around for new ones.  Others drift away because of natural atrophy, and some I've dropped because things change and I just find I have nothing in common with them any more.  Another pleasure age brings is that I find myself less interested in putting up with nonsense.  Time is too precious to hang out with people who make you feel bad about yourself, or who you just don't find uplifting.  And I'm also more guarded, more cautious, less generous, less interested.
Still, doesn't it stick in the craw a wee bit when you see other people just gather friends around them, to retain the devotion of others while being total bitches/arses/tools, but you get left off their Christmas card list?  It does me, but only momentarily.  The people I do have in my life I am grateful for, and they are few, but good.  There may not be seven of them, but they will turn up for me if I need them.  Yes, some are related to me, and have to turn up out of duty, but that's what families are for.   To ensure you still have a 'person' when the rest of the world thinks you're a pain in the arse.