I had never actually considered the emotional attachment I have to food until recently. I have cooked all my married life, enjoying moments of serious entertaining as well as cooking for family and friends on a more casual basis. I also love eating out and have been fortunate in visiting some exceptional establishments during the last fifty years.
But during these pandemic days I have had time to assess how and why I eat and what triggers certain reactions, such as the need for a G&T or a piece of chocolate. I used to think it was just a habit and I am sure some things are just that but there are definite triggers that have me mindlessly heading towards the cupboard.
I don’t binge eat or drink but I do have an emotional need where food is concerned. I am naturally shy but have learned to control the urge to hide or disappear into the background but how, in heavens name, did I manage to teach 11 to 18 year olds for 35 years! Lockdown has forced me to look at myself which I have found uncomfortable at times. I discovered I have spent years hiding behind the cooking and the social drinking because I could.
I am a good cook and love experimenting but I would never have wanted to be a chef. I would have loved to have been a food critic sampling superb cuisine in fine establishments, in an ideal world of course. Dreaming aside the reality is that I enjoy company and also cooking for people who like eating.
The last sixteen months or so have been such a change in lifestyle that initially I just cooked, baked and ate what the LSO and myself fancied. He put hardly any weight on and I ballooned but he is generally more active that me. So unfair I cried but he just had another beer and smiled enigmatically.
But I am two stone plus lighter and a bit less buddha shaped but need to come off the plateau I have settled on for the past week and address the situation sensibly. Food has always been a refuge for me whether I am preparing it or eating it and I guess it will always be like that so I need to watch portion sizes and find something to do when the 4 pm urge to eat chocolate arrives. Today I am writing this blog as a diversionary tactic. Tomorrow? Well tomorrow is another day, walking the dogs with the LSO could be a good plan.
In fact a daily plan is what I need, I will start that tomorrow.
After a spell of really warm weather, then some torrential rain, we are back to the great greyness and it is cold. Cold enough to tweak the central heating on which comes as a bit of a shock three-quarters of the way through June.
It doesn’t help with dieting either; I was enjoying the barbecued meals with lots of salads and vegetable kebabs which are spot on for a low carb diet. Now I find my mind lingerering, be it briefly, on more wintry casseroles and soups but no, I will not succumb to these thoughts and tonight it is a warm salad which I suppose is a bit of a compromise. I have now lost 30lbs, another 6 lbs off will put me about halfway to my target which I am hoping to reach before my 76th birthday.
My cousin and his wife came down from Scotland for a few days last week and although I was a bit concerned about how I would manage, especially as with so many of our friends and relatives we have developed a culture of ‘wining and dining’ but it was fine and I even lost some weight. The G&T’s were definitely off the menu replaced with fizzy water with a slice of lime and lemon.
But the recent visits of relatives and our children with their families has all been a challenge, be it a lovely one, to not slip into old habits and so far, so good.
I really do feel that I am finally throwing away the shackles that have seriously blighted not only my life but the life of the LSO. It is two years since the AP went into the care home and it has taken all that time to get my ducks in a row. I still speak to her every week and sort her affairs out but in truth lockdown has done us a favour because at the moment we don’t have to see her, well only infrequently, which is giving me the time I need to mentally and physically heal.
Well so much for a hint of Spring. Since I wrote my last blog, which the LSO said was a like an interval, the temperatures have plummeted and snow and ice have appeared. The former more of a dusting but with temperatures hardly rising above one degree during the day, it has been really, really cold. Today there is a sudden rise in temperature although it is grey and drizzling but it’s certainly a change to have warm feet.
Some time ago I wrote about ‘watch this space’, well the ‘space’ has arrived with a vengeance, completely back-footing me. About a week or so ago I finally removed my head from the bucket of sand which I had firmly stuck it in for months. I had actually been enjoying cooking all the comfort foods that the LSO and I have enjoyed through the months despite my slow but steady weight gain. There were several signs that all was not well but I chose to find other things to blame, then I woke up one day about a week ago and realised I needed to be honest with myself. I knew in my heart that the latest drugs I had been given for Type 2 Diabetes were not working so I blew the dust off my BG Monitor and started testing. Oh dear me, glucose levels were definitely too high. They would have been reasonably ok if I wasn’t already on medication, medication that four months ago had been doubled in strength.
To cut a long story short I arranged to have blood and urine tests and I am now on a different drug, this new one involves a completely changed eating regime which has thrown me into confusion. I cannot retreat to the keto diet which did work for me a few years ago because on this drug I risk getting Ketoacidosis which is not to be recommended. I need some carbs to keep my glucose levels stable, but how many can I have or should I say, how few do I need. Can I have as many as 45 + Carbs per meal or will my body be fine on less. I also have to drink loads of water, two to three litres a day which doesn’t come naturally to me. This results in me spending half the day rushing to the loo but at least, with lockdown I have nowhere to go.
Sadly there is no-one who can give me a definitive answer to my problems, we are all different and our bodies all have different reactions. It really is a case of trial and error whilst I find a balance that works for me.
So it is back to the drawing board, while I read again about Type 2 Diabetes, portion control, checking recipes that can be used for the LSO as well and are suitable for me, with some tweaking. At the moment I am looking at Low GI versus Glycaemic Loads and which foods work to keep the BG stable as well as enabling me to lose a substantial amount of weight at the same time. In the meanwhile I am testing four times a day, when I remember, peeing for England and feeling like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.
We have woken up for several days lately surrounded by dense fog and on one particular day it never disappeared at all; it just kept becoming slightly more transparent then rolled back again. Apart from the occasional and refreshing sunny day, it has been cold, damp and grey. A bit like our lives in lockdown really only now we fight the brain fog that threatens to engulf us too. Conversations are punctuated with ‘thingymebobs and thingamajigs’ as we struggle to remember basic words.
When the AP came to live with us neither the LSO or myself expected the sudden change in her personality that caused us so much grief for so long. It was a relief when she finally went into a care home although that situation has its own set of problems and we did, for a short spell have our freedom back but the coronavirus and yet another lockdown have left us marooned in our home again.
I had, during our brief break for freedom, thought about changing the title of this blog. During those five and a half years not only did our horizons shrink but so did our energy levels. The whole situation seemed to suck the very life out of us both and in truth that is happening again now for differernt reasons and it must be the same for many people. So, I guess there is little point in changing the title. These are indeed worrying times and all we can do is take care, be kind to ourselves and others and have hope that the vaccine is eventually effective and we can all get back to some kind of normality.
I haven’t abandoned the weight loss programme; I am eating smaller meals, reducing the alcohol intake and I have stopped baking for a while although we are demolishing the Christmas cake. These little tweeks to our lifestyle seem to be having a positive affect for the time being.
I am now considering heading into the kitchen, in a most positive way of course, to bottle the Crab Apple gin I made two years ago.
The first snow of the year arrived last week. We woke up to an absolute blizzard with almost horizontal snow falling and a winter wonderland for a brief hour or two. I do love to look out on a snowy landscape; there is something quite magical about it all but for the past nine years we have had pretty mild, virtually snow free wet, grey winters. Even morning frosts were few and far between so it was all pretty monotonous; sadly it’s looking as if we will be repeating the great greyness again this year.
There is something hugely comforting about the changing seasons and I am particularly fond of Spring and Autumn. Spring, for all the new growth and wonderful fresh colours that lift the spirits and Autumn because it is the end of what have become of late, hot and humid summers. I am definitely not a fan of 100 C, 75 to 80C is fine, sleep is not affected in the cooler weather and sitting out especially if there’s a breeze, can be a pleasure.
It’s ironic how advertising and songs always emphasise a white Christmas and everything is distinctly old-fashioned and unreal, it almost makes me feel a teensy bit nostalgic and I smile when I see windows frosted from a spray can, what fun cleaning that off afterwards, and imitation icicles hanging, twinkling from eaves and porches. But the reality is often a very different story with many spending more than they can afford. Maybe this year it will be different, the advent of the coronavirus has changed much in our lives, perhaps out of the horror of it all something good however small, will emerge and Christmas can be something special.
The LSO and I had a brief nostalic moment at lunchtime today and brief it was. We both remember as children, the freezing cold winters in the North East and there is nothing at all christmassy about scraping the ice off the inside of the windows, thank goodness for triple glazing and central heating. Our wood-burning stove is a joy and does heat a great deal of the ground floor giving the radiators a well earned rest.
Like many this year we have put our Christmas lights up earlier than usual in an effort to bring some cheer to the great greyness. The snow lasted for less than 24 hours and once gone revealed wet, muddy roads and sad verges that are almost an echo of life in general these days. But negativity never gets anyone anywhere so it will be positive thinking even if we have to put the lights on in the daytime.
At least we are not having to scrape the ice of the inside of the windows!
…….. and another with each day slipping seamlessly into the next with little to distinguish one from the other. I fight some mornings to even remember what day it is because apart from having to eat, there is no structure to our time. The LSO and I have slipped into a routine that revolves around mealtimes with the inevitable question after breakfast of ‘what will we eat tonight’? I am sure this is echoed in many homes around the country.
We are both feeling rather demotivated which, I guess is inevitable. At least we don’t have the AP living with us anymore so the stress factors are minimal and I really do think it is just a case of getting on and ‘doing’. I still have the weekly telephone call to the AP which can vary from being quite pleasantly normal to demanding and difficult. I cannot believe that we put up with over five years of utter misery; life with the AP was dreadful starting from day one. We spoke to a friend from Surrey whom we hadn’t heard from for a long time, who had decided to bring his mother to live with him and his wife. They lasted twelve weeks until they were forced to put her in a home and could not believe that we had put up with the AP for so long.
I know that we shouldn’t dwell too much on the past but it’s impossible to completely forget the daily stresses and strains we endured on a daily basis and how desperate we became. I was the punch bag, focal point of all my mother’s nastiness which was unbelievably hurtful and damaging and when she couldn’t get the reaction she wanted from me she turned on the LSO. Lockdown has, in a strange way, brought a great deal of it back. We were trapped in our own home then but with an old woman who was rude, inconsiderate, unkind, controlling and utterly divisive and that’s being quite mild about the situation. She certainly bore little resemblance to the person I thought of as my mother.
They say time is a great healer and perhaps it is, but the LSO and I have more years behind us than ahead of us. I just hope that this virus runs its course and we can have some semblance of a normal life back. I do find it hard to be motivated at the moment. Before the arrival of the AP it was never a problem; life was delightfully busy and interesting.
Now I just fight feelings of negativity telling myself to just get on with it, make the best of the situation and look on the bright side, at least the AP is in a care home and no longer living with us.
Well, here we are again, back in lockdown. It was looking pretty inevitable a couple of weeks ago when the number of people testing positive was beginning to rise quite alarmingly but you just hope it won’t happen.
As usual the same old comments were bandied around and the blame game started all over again, echoing and creating a definite ‘groundhog day’ feeling. Whatever happened to kindness, consideration, caring, friendship and tolerance? Maybe they were never there in the first place and just to add to the general air of doom and gloom we have the merry-go-round that is the American Presidential Election.
The news only seems to centre on those two issues, obviously the rest of the world no longer exists. Stop the world I want to get off has become a muted cry from many as we all witness the chaos and madness that is happening beyond our walls. The muffled world indoors has once again become the centre of many people’s universe while we try to fill our time and thoughts with something worthwhile. It’s not a good plan to dwell too much on what should, could or might of been because therein lies madness.
I am firmly integrated back into my little wooden studio and planning my next project, having just completed a request from a friend for a picture of her dog. This was definitely a first for me. I used pastels which again I haven’t used for years and years but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now I have to self- motivate and that is a slow process for me having wound right down to rock bottom during the five years the AP was living with us. But there is no rush so I am doing a little each day which sometimes just amounts to thinking. That brings to mind the old saying, ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.’ I’ve no idea where it came from but it certainly sums up my feelings at the moment.
I guess the next thing on the horizon is Christmas which is shaping up to be a strange affair this year. The family are all staying within their areas and we will be spending the first ever Christmas in fifty years of marriage, on our own.
After a strangely anxious week I am now coming down to earth having spiralled up into the clouds.
I had to visit an eye hospital for tests this week because my left eye is showing signs of wet macular degeneration. It’s fortunately in the early stages and hopefully I will respond to the treatment which should start next Tuesday.
The LSO ferried me there and had to sit in the car for the duration of the visits. I donned the inevitable mask, registered and set off up to the department. By the time I reached the top of the stairs I was almost hyperventilating and felt hugely nervous about the whole situation. Heaven knows why, this was just a consultation. The next day we had to return for more tests and by this time my blood pressure was through the ceiling much to the horror of the nurse who was looking after me. She was so lovely and helpful, explaining everything in detail and trying to keep me calm. I didn’t feel particularly uptight but a second reading wasn’t much better.
After the tests were over I had the pleasure of turning a sickly yellow, from the dye injected for the photographs and produced a nuclear wee for a couple of days but thankfully no other side effects.
I am now waiting to hear from the hospital but the high BP got me thinking about our lifestyle because it was too high to be just white coat syndrome.
During the last six months we have consumed alcohol almost everyday. Discussions on having alcohol free days hardly ever happened partly because some meals just have to be accompanied by a fine glass or two of wine and there was and still is, the inevitable boredom of life in general these days. Then there are the pre-dinner aperitifs which at times were almost post luncheon drinks on really bad weather days, beer for the LSO and sherry or gin and tonic for me. Sometimes if we haven’t had wine with the meal a measure of single malt whisky will be poured as a nightcap, of course.
This all led me to looking at units of alcohol and assessing what we actually are consuming on a regular daily basis. OMG, just too much, no wonder my blood pressure is so high.
So changes are afoot, two alcohol free days a week is the aim and a reduction in the amount we drink during the other five days. Can we do it? It’s simple really, we must do it, if we want to be healthy and maintain a good quality of life.
Watch this space, I might benefit from some weight loss too!
I actually feel that I can’t breathe properly at the moment. I am in a state of confusion. Why? Well the ‘why’ is because I just have too many grey areas of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ surrounding me.
First there is the coronavirus which has created a vacuum for most people, social distancing, mask wearing and the problems of going out. On it’s own, not so much of a problem that can’t be overcome but then I come to the AP and everything changes.
The home she is in is expensive and because of her total assets she has to be self-funding and her immediate savings are dwindling at a rate of knots despite her pensions going in every month. Although she is 102 years old, frail and definitely dotty she doesn’t fit into any nice little niche for claiming extra money so I am having to contact the County Council for assistance.
The government, in March, instructed all landlords and letting agents to leave tenants in their properties until September even if the tenancy has run out which the AP’s has. The rest of the AP’s care home funding is to come from the sale of her property but even if the rule is lifted in September the tenant has to be given three months notice. Who wants to move over Christmas, heaven only knows when the house can be sold?
In the meanwhile I wait, wait for the Council to come back to me for further details, then I wait, hopefully to hear they will help whilst also waiting to see if the embargo on landlords is lifted, it’s just the uncertainty of it all and it is all so very, very frustrating. When I spoke to the AP on the phone yesterday she came out with the startling revelation that she thought her care in the home was free, that the NHS were paying.
I wish! For over five years we looked after the AP with absolutely no help, in this country there is no place to go, no help given unless you are on the poverty line. It doesn’t matter that you have worked all your life, paid all your taxes, didn’t block beds in the NHS; but is there any recognition of this? No, not a thing, you just go on paying and people like the LSO and myself have to disappear down rabbit holes trying to sort everything out. Now just to put a lid on everything I am being made, by the government, to feel even more uncomfortable because I am overweight and all this just creates an even bigger vacuum. It will take me many, many months in an ideal situation to lose weight but this is not an ideal situation I find myself in.
Did I hear the LSO getting out the wine glasses…..that’ll be a large one for me please!
I am experiencing a dreadful feeling of sadness and it has come over me quite suddenly. I think it is probably a by-product of the current situation that we find ourselves in although it is definitely not helped by the rantings of the press, the railing against the government by all and sundry, the shocking pictures of violence both here and around the world and the huge selfish attitudes of so many about so many different things, not just the effects and worries that are towed along by Covid-19.
I am, like many, quite shocked by the current news photographs around the world of packed beaches, all night raves, violence and large parties where social distancing is a thing of the past, that is if it ever existed for these people. I read articles where politicians are to blame for everything and that appears to exonerate the actions of the many who appear to have no regard for others or even for themselves and I feel sad, a deep, deep sadness because I wonder what has happened to the world.
The LSO and myself were born just after WW2 into the great greyness which was lightened occasionally by a smattering of bottle green and brown in all its various shades. Men had two suits, one for work and it was often the demob one and one for best which serviced everything from christenings to funerals. The Cooperative Society Dividend went towards winter coats and school shoes and food was still rationed so meals were basic and each day of the week was the same each week. Our diet was healthy enough because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit with the luckier ones being able to afford a greenhouse, those who didn’t have a garden could have an allotment for a few pence a week.
But it truly was a grey world, being in the North East it was wet a great deal of the time and definitely colder than the South but as children we were unaware that things could be different. Men back from the war years were glad to be alive although the physically disabled were in evidence on street corners trying to make a meagre living selling matches and other sundry items. Council houses were nothing to be ashamed of and only the really well off like doctors and lawyers could afford to own their own property. Gardens were maintained to a high standard and people took a pride in what they had, gathering at the Community Hut for regular events such as vegetable and flower competitions, cake shows and women took a huge pride in their jam making. There was even a section for children to display embroidery, simple sewing and my favourite was always the miniature garden on a tray with a mirror for the pond.
We didn’t have much and Christmas presents always featured mostly around things that were needed such as slippers and a dressing gown. An Annual was usually included along with a Cadbury’s selection box and I can remember being envious of my brother getting the Eagle Annual, I loved reading about Dan Dare and the Mekon. The stocking hanging usually over the fireguard, was always a sock of my dad’s with a few nuts and an orange but I didn’t feel deprived or wanted what others had because life was just what it was.
After leaving school I went to Art School and met the LSO, a mere fifty-six years ago and life was fun, the swinging sixties were just that for us and in 1970 we got married. We weren’t idealists but we wanted a better life for our children which in truth they got. I am sure much of what I have written will apply to the majority of people in our age group. I resent the comments made about the grey pound population being a drag on the market, we worked hard all our lives for what we have now and paid all our taxes but the difference between us and our own parents is that we had the opportunity.
So what went wrong? I can only put it down to greed in all its forms and sadly that is a hugely distructive element of human nature. It would appear that the majority of people in powerful positions in this world are the greediest, the more gently intelligent members of the human race are being squashed and shouted down.
The other day during a conversation with our daughter (K) who has just had her 45th birthday I asked if she had had a good day and some lovely presents. She said one of the best presents had come from a neighbour who had scoured the internet to find something that she would really like, it wasn’t expensive, just the right thing and K said that those are the most cherished and appreciated presents because someone had really thought about her as a person.
So true and I did feel that we hadn’t got it all wrong as parents but we just need a zillion more people with that attitude to make the world a better place.