Monthly Archives: March 2012

Attitudes to obesity

As a long time dieter, I have absolute sympathy with people who become obese.  There seems to be a real lack of tolerance by thin people  of the very overweight and huge prejudice against them.  Somehow they become ‘other’ and when viewed on television or in the papers alongside people who are lucky enough to be able to eat what they like and not gain – ‘not quite human’.  Now I’m not saying that the very obese eat sensibly or that they necessarily are rigorous in taking exercise.  But once you are slightly overweight the downward spiral is so very easy to slip into.  The usual outcome is that once someone is obese they regard themselves as ‘other’ and not belonging to the same universe as thinner people.  It’s heartbreaking really.  There is clear evidence that there is some kind of genetic link to obesity.  The lucky ones can eat whatever they like, whenever they like and not put on weight.

Education plays a large part in this with many obese people not understanding the importance of calories, fat and exercise in their daily lives.  We all know by now that fast foods are packed with unhealthy fat and calories.  That doesn’t stop them being a quick fix if you are hungry.  Eating healthily isn’t the cheapest option in the world and it’s clear that lifestyles have changed so much over the last fifty years, many people don’t sit down to a table and share a meal.  This encourages ‘grazing’, grabbing a burger or a bucket of cholesterol chicken and sitting down in front of the t.v.  Again, education is needed but that’s such an easy thing to say and such a hard thing to achieve.

With the dysfunctional state of many families today, the last thing many people would want is to sit down with each other and talk!  Sitting in front of the television is a great way of switching off to their, perhaps, less than ideal worlds, being able to avoid conversation with their kinfolk and generally opting out.  I know I sound like a broken record and none of this is original but I’m not carping, I’m trying to make the case for the people who become overweight.  Often (though taking the easy way out is one reason) people’s lives are very difficult and giving themselves a ‘treat’, feeding themselves comfort food is a reward that seemingly no-one else is prepared to give them in any form.

Programmes on television like The Biggest Loser provide huge motivational energy for the ‘lost’.  They demonstrate that through a change in attitude, an extremely hard exercise regime and healthy eating, they can become what many of them think of as ‘normal’.  Sometimes it’s heartbreaking to watch.  People lose themselves so completely, hating themselves and feeling as if they don’t deserve to be part of the human race.  Yet watching these inspirational men and woman who are prepared to show themselves at their very largest, is a great leveller.  They have courage and a will to succeed that is quite astounding.  As the result for most of them is the ‘normal’ appearance they so desperately desire, it is a fantastic feelgood programme.  Why then can’t we follow the example of this series and roll out a similar educational programme in our schools?  From year one.  Let it be the norm for people to exercise and eat healthily, encourage parents to join in activities and help them learn how best to bring up their children so they are not obese and in danger of dying early through diabetes and heart disease.  Of course it would be very expensive but how much better to spend the money on encouraging health than paying for treating diseased bodies.

Food for thought?

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Mother’s Day

Well, another one gone and it was a lovely one.  There’s always a tendency to pour scorn on some of these ‘commercial’ holidays but there is something special about having a day where your kids express their thanks.  You don’t do it for the thanks of course and you’d still do it anyway without the thanks.  But somehow it’s a reminder, in our frequently impossibly busy lives, that you are appreciated for what you do.

My son and daughter both arranged for flowers to be delivered on the Sunday – no doubt paying a hefty charge for that privilege.   They didn’t come and frankly, it was certainly more upsetting that their carefully laid plans went awry due to someone’s inefficiency and they were upset by it, than not getting the flowers.  No doubt they will turn up and I will love them just as much when they do as if they had arrived at the correct time.

As someone who worked as a counsellor and psychological therapist for many years, I can’t help but notice my feelings and what causes them.  (You have to be aware of what’s going on for you so that you can separate it from your client’s stuff.)  When my daughter seemed so angry and upset that my flowers hadn’t turned up on time I became angry too.  Not because I didn’t get my flowers but because my kids had been disappointed.  It’s been a failing of mine ever since having my first child that I have tried to shield them from disappointment. Perhaps too much so.  They are both adults and have to learn to face life head on.  My running interference all the time is not helping them in that endeavour and I have to keep reminding myself of that.  So my note to self today and from now on is – butt out mum!

That said, my Mother’s Day was great with lovely cards from the kids saying all kinds of soft and cheesy things which I absolutely adored.  Then my daughter set to work on my favourite meal for lunch.  She pasted a ‘flow chart’ on the fridge for fun .  The chart, in case you can’t read it properly, gives exact timings for the cooking with, at midday – Bar Opens.  Every twenty minutes after that is the instruction ‘Top Up Mum’s Drink’.  I think she and my husband were trying to get me drunk – they say I’m more fun that way!  Anyway, they achieved their goal in record time and it was a very cheerful occasion!  The meal was fabulous – Duck a l’orange with roasted new potatoes tossed in herby butter and spring vegetables.  This was followed by an autumn pudding with a blackberry sauce – (feel I ought to say ‘coulis’ but – dammit – it was a sauce!)  and ice cream.  Yum!

Later in the day, my lovely son phoned to wish me a happy Mother’s Day and to say he was coming to see us next weekend.  Couldn’t have been better really.

So, shame about the flowers, looking forward to getting them and for me, no big deal.  But I wonder, what about the poor mums who live alone and didn’t get their flowers delivered on time?  Sunday can be a very lonely day for people living on their own at the best of times.  Mother’s Day is a double edged sword really – fantastic for mums everywhere who feel appreciated at the end of the day and warmed by the love of the children they have worked so hard to bring up.  But for the childless or those who have lost contact with their children  – Mother’s Day must be a torture that has to be endured on an annual basis.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world having kids and trying to ensure their future will be a happy and secure one but my goodness, I can’t imagine what life would be without them.

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The Art of the Displacement Activity

Time is not elastic.  I’ve discovered that over the years trying to pack too much into the day and then falling short and being angry at myself.  When you’re writing it seems to be even more elusive.  Somehow, the knowledge that you need to sit down and write something is enough to create any number of diversions throughout the day.  Everyone has jobs to do first thing.  These are, by their very nature, part of the scaffolding for the day.  You can’t possibly put off or miss out on these really important tasks.  So, with those taken care of, you sit down at your computer and switch it on…. then realise you can’t possibly start without a coffee/herbal tea/hot chocolate in your hand to keep you going through the grind of your arduous work, creating a masterpiece.

Sitting down again, with drink in hand, you mentally prepare, placing yourself in the world of your creation.  But you notice your email notifier is flagging up loads of messages and some of them could be vital.  You try to ignore them but a little nagging voice in your head keeps reminding you of all the responses you are waiting for, that might be contained in your Inbox.  It’s no use, just a quick look at them won’t harm…  But then, of course, some of them need responding to immediately.  An hour or so later when you’ve finished Googling things that you didn’t understand in the messages you realise it’s time for another coffee/tea/chocolate.

So you make yourself another drink and sit down to write…. finally!  But the phone rings and you have to answer it because it may be important.  Twenty minutes later you replace the receiver only to hear a knock at the door.  The postman has a parcel that needs signing for!  You have to open the parcel once the postman has gone and are excited to find inside the mail order tops you ordered a week ago.  Well, of course, they must be tried on because if they don’t fit, you need to repackage them and take them to the post office.  Oh my goodness, it’s eleven o’clock already and the post office mobile van, that sits outside the village shop, leaves at eleven thirty!

Hurtling upstairs to try on the tops you are disgusted with their poor quality and swear never to use THAT mail order company again.  So you rush to your computer and print out a returns label, repackage the tops with a rude note and charge out to the village shop in the hope that the post office van doesn’t leave quite on time.  It did and you’ve missed it.  But while you’re at the village shop there are some things that you need so you quickly drop in to buy them.  By the frozen food counter you meet a neighbour you haven’t seen since you appeared in the Christmas pantomime together.  He tells you the panto made a very healthy sum in support of the village hall and asks if you were going to sign up to take part in the production for the Jubliee celebrations – themed around the year 1952?  You throw around some ideas and say you’ll have a think about it but you must get back as you have to be somewhere.  You charge around the shop buying those necessities that drove you in there in the first place and power walk home, feeling the day slipping away.

Back home you put your un-posted parcel on the table by the front door and after removing your coat, determinedly walk straight to your computer and sit down at the desk.  You glance at the phone and a red light is flashing at you.  You try and ignore it but  it keeps winking and your imagination creates all sorts of awful news that is contained on the messages that have been left.  You snatch up the phone and listen – you have two messages.  The first is an automated voice telling you your library book has arrived.  The second is a friend who is complaining that she never sees you any more because you are so busy writing.  You wish!

Now you are able to concentrate fully on the task in hand…. Chapter Four.  As you start to write your stomach begins a series of rumbles musical enough to be performed at the village hall.  You glance at the clock… how did it get to be 1.00 o’clock?  Come to think of it, you are hungry.  It would be unproductive trying to write on an empty stomach.  Far better to have lunch and come back to the computer fresh.

After lunch you are feeling pretty drowsy and realise that you are not going to write anything useful today.  However, there is some more research that needs doing for the masterpiece and that would be a good use of the time.  So you sit down at your computer and respond to several more emails.  The one that says your monthly direct debit hasn’t gone through this month alarms you.  The online help desk at the bank is no help at all.  So you call their telephone banking service.  After listening to all the recorded options twice around because the recording is so poor, you finally get through to a ‘customer advisor’.  Somehow the direct debit mandate has been cancelled, you make arrangements to re-start it and in the meantime have to transfer an amount of money to the payee to cover the month missed.  When you replace the receiver you realise that it is now 3.00 pm and you still haven’t posted your parcel.  You need to get to the post office in town and don’t want to get caught up in the rush hour.  Well, at least you’re not in the middle of anything.  Now would be a good time to go to avoid the traffic.

You drive into town and can’t find a parking space and there’s roadworks in the High Street so you have to take a detour and can’t get near your usual Pay and Display.  Eventually you park, pay a fortune for it and have a long walk to the post office.  When you get there the queue is so long you can hear the deep sighs and heavy grunts from the doorway.  You wait…. and wait.  Eventually ‘Cashier No. 2’ is free and you get your parcel dispatched.  Walking back to the car park you pass your favourite fashion store and there’s a sale on… and you have some vouchers that are almost out of date.  So you quickly dive into the shop and buy two decent tops to replace the ones you have just sent back.  Much better quality.  Why do mail order anyway?  It’s always a disappointment.

By the time you emerge into the traffic it is stacked up for at least a mile.  The roadworks are causing huge problems and temporary traffic lights outside Tesco are adding to the chaos.  By the time you get home it’s almost 5.30.  There’s no time to write now – you have dinner to prepare and ironing to do.

Ah well, tomorrow is another day….

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Sunday morning and spring is on the verge…

Ah, Sunday morning.  I promised myself a day off today.  That said I have seeds to sow and research to do for my novel.  But the research is reading which is a pleasure anyway.  Today I have time to look out of my window over the Warwickshire countryside.  There are ewes in the field next to us, they are in lamb and it won’t be long before I hear the wonderful bleating of newborns demanding food  as I wake up.  I notice too that the morning chorus is beginning and for me that is the start of spring.  That and the cherry trees bursting with blossom, the daffodils putting their cautious heads over the earth’s parapet and the weeds starting to merge with the grass so the borders are disappearing under a carpet of green.  I love spring, a sudden awakening after the awful sleepwalking state that is winter.  Cold, dark and depressing winter where life contracts into a few hours of desperately dismal daylight.

Now in the days leading to the spring equinox, there is once again hope.  Hope for bright weather that will bring cheer to the mornings as we wake.  Hope for all the possibilities yet to come to fruition and hope that this year will be the year that everyone I love in my life gets their opportunity to blossom and shine.

There is no other season like spring – full of latent potential, bursting with the energy that has been reined in over winter.  The harbinger of wonders and delights.  I love spring.

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Volunteering in The Big Society

This is something I know a little about.  What I know is that volunteering is a bit of a double-edged sword.  There is a culture of fear amongst paid staff who work alongside volunteers that their jobs will ultimately be lost to those who do their work for nothing.  This often results in difficult working conditions with volunteers feeling distinctly frozen out and paid staff directing their resentments towards the volunteers.  Those who volunteer may be desperate for paid employment but are, for whatever reason, unable to even get interviews for advertised vacancies.  This in turn results in resentment directed against paid staff whom they feel, do the same work as they do but receive recognition and remuneration for it.  Volunteers are often in their later years and so the chances of their getting any kind of work is slim.  If they didn’t volunteer, they would have no reason to get up in the morning and their lives would be meaningless. It’s a sad state of affairs.  Perhaps, there are systems that could be put in place ensuring that when paid work is available, volunteers would be guaranteed an interview.  Then they would feel that if they didn’t get the job, they had at least been given a shot at it.

There is a suspicion amongst volunteers that once they adopt that role, they will never be seen as potential paid staff… after all, why would an employer pay you if he knew you would work for nothing anyway?

Answers on a postcard please…

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To blog or not to blog

… it’s a difficult one.  There are so many bloggers out there.  Do I really want to pollute the blogosphere with my opinions, prejudices and rants?  Let’s face it, I get really irritated when I read blogs that would be rejected by the letters page of any local newspaper on the grounds of bigotry, stupidity or just plain crassness.  Yet if I meekly rule myself out of the process I am denying myself a voice which after all is the positive side of blogging.  So I am going for it.

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember – from scratching away in school notebooks at primary school to present day, writing articles, novels and short stories.  My first job in London was in a PR agency and I was promoted to Press Officer after only a few months in post .  (I’d like to say this was due to my extreme maturity, hard work and talent but it really wasn’t. My boss who was press officer at the time ran away with another woman and sadly we didn’t live in such enlightened times then.  I was given the task of filling in for her until another press officer could be found and they never bothered to do that… I was 15 years old at the time!  They liked introducing me to new clients as ‘the youngest Press Officer in the country’.

So I wrote press releases all day, every day.  It was great training.  Over the years I have written articles, academic essays, novels and short stories.  I have worked as an editor for a business publishing company and compiled and updated manuals for management.  I have researched both fiction and non-fiction works for other authors and was a freelance proof reader and copy editor while my children were growing up. Recently I completed a Masters Degree with the University of Birmingham in Shakespeare, Stratford and the Cultural History of Renaissance England (MASSaCHRE for short – if you read my dissertation you can draw your own conclusions!).

I am currently writing history based articles and a full length novel based on my dissertation research.

In the last few months I have started a group for writers in Stratford-upon-Avon.  There already exist writing classes and writing circles locally but I wanted to meet up with others whose aims were for getting their work into print.  These days its such an uphill task to get anything published that I felt a little mutual support amongst people who were prepared to share market information and goodwill could only be a GOOD THING.  So far the response has been very positive.

So…onward and upwards… I have decided to blog!

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