Reflections.

Not reflections in a mirror, more about taking a step back and reflecting on the progress I have made in the last five months. This is not just about weight loss which has been slow but steady but it is also looking at the place I find myself in now.

My studio has been de-spidered by the LSO and is ready for action and after much thought I have decided to approach the whole experience as an extension of this new place I have reached. I will go with the flow.

I have lost 33lbs to date and a further 25 lbs will put me in a truly healthier zone but it is what I have realised about myself that is most surprising. I have yo-yo dieted for years, lost weight, gained weight, wallowed in self pity as the pounds plus rolled back on but never achieved how I feel now. I am actually at peace with the need to lose weight, less frantic and definitely more in control and more accepting that it will happen but not in the short term. It will take time and during that time I will enjoy life, inevitably taking the occasional step backwards but I now understand it’s all part of the journey.

I have positioned the easel, put a fresh canvas on it and am ready to paint but what? After much deliberation I decided to look through the photographs of skies that the LSO has taken. There are hundreds of them so I was definitely spoilt for choice but I found a sunset in soft purples, pinks and gold which resonated with the way I feel at the moment.

Can this new sense of emotional freedom last?

We have an outdoor visit on Friday to see the AP.

Will I remain calm cool and zen-like?

I’ll let you know.

Mindfulness.

Well, here I am almost four weeks since my last post and the 16lb loss is now 24lbs off but I have reached a bit of a plateau which I refuse to be down about. I do need to move a bit more but I am back to swimming twice a week and I have resorted to doing some stretching exercises only intermittently and have bought some resistance bands. I just need to read the book and then remove them from the wallet they are in, they are way more effective that way!

Lockdown has done me no favours and I am sure many can equate to this feeling. I have definitely become a bit of a couch potato and the very word ‘exercise’ can reduce me to a jabbering wreck, full of endless excuses as to why I should avoid it.

Also whilst battling the little devil that sits on my shoulder I am trying not to look too far ahead because then I might just cave in due to the enormity of the task facing me. I need to lose a further 42 lbs to be in a true health zone and to become non-diabetic as well as fitter and just as importantly very much happier in my skin.

So I am taking small steps and enjoying my new mindful eating and the fact that I can now bend over and pick things off the floor, bonus.

It’s the word ‘mindful’ that intrigues me. Has anyone else noticed how often it creeps into so much literature. It’s obviously a new buzzword, an all encompassing word to take the place of others, such as meditation, stress busting, good old fashioned awareness among but a few. There is even a mindful chef!

But being serious it’s interesting how I have found that mindfulness when applied to eating can actually make a difference. Also I have never, until recently been quite so aware of how the past seven years have impacted on everything to do with our lives. How overwhelmed we have been by it all and how the circumstances that brought about a great deal of unhappiness, distress and in my case, illness could have been avoided if the LSO and myself had been more mindful and more fully present in our own lives. The AP would not have come to live with us and we would both have had fond memories of her. Sometimes it is not right to do what seems to be the right thing, the attempt to offer her warmth and kindness fell on stony ground. At some point we should have put our own needs first.

Now I am struggling to even ring her nevermind go and see her which is so sad; so it’s definitely a time to meditate before making the call. Will it work?

Hopefully.

The sound of silence.

One of the things I have become acutely aware of during this latest lockdown is how noisy silence can be. It’s not a loud noise, just a background of the electrical and electronic equipment surrounding us, clicking and whirring. Then there are the creaks and groans of the house itself especially when the central heating clicks in . Later in the evening the LSO lights the stove and the sound of wood crackling and flames gently roaring fill the void. If it is windy its the silver whirligig on the chimney that sings to us.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that during the day we have neither the radio nor the television on. The LSO is mostly in his studio during these cold, dank days whilst I footle around the kitchen feeling a bit rudderless at the moment. I do find January and February difficult months to get through and the situation with the Coronavirus isn’t helping. My studio doesn’t beckon at the moment although I have some plans in my head of my next project, at least that’s a start. My knitting lies untouched and unloved and dust is gathering on my cookery books.

A great cloud of lethargy is engulfing me like a thick impenetrable fog which I know I need to shrug off and start making an effort to be more positive. Then I sit down and let my mind drift in the non-silent silence until the beep of something electronic shakes me out of my thoughts and I go to take the towels out of the washing machine.

If I am honest I will admit that in a rather obtuse way I am quite enjoying the peace. All my life has been a tearing rush and even in retirement I have always felt the need to be up and doing with everything planned and mapped out, feeling guilty if I sat down. So perhaps, in a way this whole situation with the lockdown has done me and also the LSO a favour. It’s still good to be up and on the move but also there is nothing to be ashamed of in sitting and letting silence embrace us. I am not a great believer but I was brought up with hymns and during my life as a teacher, assemblies and chapel sevices were of great importance to the school communities I worked in. One of my favourites and I’m sure also a favourite of many is ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ with the spine-tingling build up at the end of ‘Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, to an almost whispered ‘O still small voice of calm’. The biblical nature of what we are all living with is definitely echoed in this poem.

Perhaps when this whole sorry situation has improved we can still enjoy the sound of silence as well as having our lives back.

Big skies.

We woke up this morning to a truly magical sight, fog coloured by the sun to a glorious naples yellow with hints of pink and gold. Living where we are the big skies are incredible and they are an ever changing vista that bring such joy.

Most of us are all living a strange straight-jacketed existence that seems so un-natural. I was speaking to a friend the other day, and inevitably the conversation came around to the current situation. well it does sort of dominate everything and, yes, it is difficult, it’s boring, and seemingly pointless because after all the hard work and social distancing there is to be a five day party. Come the new year we will be back in lockdown, facing further restrictions as the number of infections rises again. It’s not a very happy merry-go-round to be on.

She agreed that the idea of freedom for five days over Christmas will be a recipe for disaster for some but said she takes great care and makes sure that she wakes up every morning and says ‘this is a good day and I shall enjoy every minute as much as I can, things could be much worse’. Great philosophy and certainly food for thought.

In truth the LSO and I are lucky in many ways, we have a lovely home, a lovely family and generally a pleasant life now that we have it back. There is never a good time for a virus like Covid-19 to appear and it is heartbreaking to see how many have died, not just here but around the world. Sadly it is with us, unseen and for some deadly and no-one really knows when it will be less of a problem.

But thank goodness for our big skies; they can lift the spirits and even the grey days have a beauty of their own especially when the will-o-the -wisps appear.

Another day……..

…….. 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.

Confusion.

Had a few bad days lately. I just couldn’t motivate myself to do anything, even cooking so I just lounged around playing word games and endless scrabble in an attempt to turn my thoughts off. The LSO stoically ignored me and busied himself around the garden and his studio which was really the best thing to do, leaving me to mope.

After a full day of moping I decided that I need to address all the problems crowding in on me and maybe that way I can sort myself out. I spoke to the AP the other day and she is fine although very dotty and says she keeps falling over although the carers say she is fine. Apparently there is a man in the care home who she is making coats with and she knew him from Newcastle University days. She recognised him immediately but bearing in mind that she is a hundred and two years of age and virtually blind this is just another dream that seems real to her. Then she changed tack and announced that she was holding a black thing tightly in her hand and when I asked what it was the AP said I knew what it was, they were all in her bed. After this she rambled on asking how my spots were, what spots! This was followed by her asking after the LSO and didn’t he want to come into the home. I asked what she thought he would do and she said ‘well he’s so good looking he’d have to go to the lover’s room’. There really isn’t much to say to that. According to my mother we wouldn’t believe what went on at night and this all then led to her asking for mouthwash which she is convinced someone is stealing along with some rugs she had in there. I explained that the rugs were in the bottom of her wardrobe or certainly were last time we were able to visit. The final part of the conversation was that the care home were having more musical events but people keep spoiling them by climbing onto the veranda and she is having to keep her window locked. Well for a start there are no verandas or balconies and the musical events are usually held downstairs. These conversations leave me extremely bemused and exhausted because it would appear no-one else who rings her gets them. No wonder the gin bottle looks so attractive!

Still, I have to be thankful that she no longer lives with us.

On top of all that we have decided to change our holiday from the middle of September this year to the middle of September next year which is sensible because by then we will be living in the new normal. But it does seem such a long way away but also being serious, I have no desire to be seen in a full Harwell Hasmat suit pulling a portaloo behind us. We cannot even visit our children and their families but then I guess the portaloo might cause a few raised eyebrows in the South East nevermind the full nuclear protection gear.

On a more positive and practical note the LSO has suggested that we hire a skip. We really need to do some sorting out in his shed, the AP’s bedroom and my studio because both have so much junk in them. It’s a good plan.

I am sure these tasks will sort my head out that is until the next phone call with the AP!

Such strange times.

It does seem that everything is a little out of kilter at the moment even the weather is strange, we are either swelteringly hot or being deluged by rain. It does make me feel a sense of discomfort that I cannot pin down. Perhaps this is the same for everyone and just a result of having been trapped in our homes for so long. We still cannot do much and are being told to continue socially distancing and not to go out too often, avoiding any crowded places so any ideas we may have had to head up to the coast or visit a market town are firmly knocked on the head. Not just because of crowd avoidance but what do we do if nature calls and we need to stop. There is nowhere open, we can’t just nip into a pub or cafe, even shops are loath to open their facilities for the public and if they did would I want to use them?

I’m seriously thinking that the only way to venture out is to purchase a full Harwell protection suit and a portable loo!

I still find myself planning baking days as a diversion to relieve the boredom of being trapped which isn’t helping my weight loss one tiny bit and food is just so comforting as long as it is laden with carbs and fat. Somehow a poached fish or grilled meat, a salad and new potatoes without butter doesn’t have the same impact or satisfaction and certainly not on a regular basis. I guess that’s why the HFLC diet with moderate protein is so good, added fat certainly does have the knack of creating much richer dishes with depth of flavour.

In the meanwhile our neighbour’s delicious potatoes have just come to an end and I was quietly relieved thinking now is the time to seriously look at dieting when the LSO came into the kitchen carrying a bag of newly dug Maris Peer from our other farmer friend who had planted his later. Oh dear, weak-will prevailed and plans have been partially shelved until these are finished. Hopefully by then the first of the plums will be ready and I can divert myself with jam making.

That will certainly guarantee the return of the stifling hot weather.

A chimera.

A few days ago the LSO and I were sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and the coolness of the evening air, gazing at the clouds and the shapes they formed in the sky. One particular cloud bore a resemblance to a large ethereal dragon and this made me think of a chimera, a mythical dragon-like creature with the tail ending in the head of a dragon or snake. The appearance of a chimera was considered an ill omen and a sign of natural disasters to come. Can this virus be a natural disaster? It’s certainly cutting a swathe through the world and sadly looks as if could be with us for the foreseeable future.

I cannot imagine what it will be like to socially distance all the time especially with our own family because hugs were always the order of the day and a natural part of our relationships with each other that both the LSO and I miss so much at the moment. But the more I read about this Coronavirus the more obvious it becomes that it will become part of our daily lives.

It has made me think much harder about losing weight because for the past eight weeks I have endeavoured to make our diet as interesting and as comforting as possible which has inevitably meant an increase in baking and an overload of carbs. The time spent preparing and cooking passes the time too which is another negative aspect of endless lockdown for people of our age, boredom. I have really struggled this week with the days, never quite sure when I wake up in the morning just what day it is. The only point of reference is the weekly shopping delivery on a Wednesday. I feel a bit like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey who asked ‘What is a weekend’ and as for bank holidays, what on earth are they?

But I really do need to lose weight as I am beginning to feel and look like a Toby jug. So what is the answer apart from finding some will power because at the moment there is little to look forward to, just more of the same. It is always easier to diet if there is a goal, that is other than the loss of pounds at a weigh-in and at the moment life is pretty much lacking in that area.

One of the spin-offs from losing over five years of our lives looking after the AP was that we both lost interest in the activities and hobbies that had become part of our retirement. The LSO has done well to start his lino printing up again. I used to draw and paint, not particularly well but I enjoyed it and I am trying to get back to spending time sketching to begin with because my studio has become a storeroom and needs clearing out. Once some slightly cooler weather comes, next week, I must persuade the LSO to give me a hand. I will have to send him in as the advance guard because spiders have taken up residence in there and I have a real horror of these mostly harmless creatures.

So it is a case of watch this space, by the time I write again my studio should be up and running and perhaps the weight-loss will have begun.

It’s truly biblical.

Today I found myself standing in the hallway looking intently at nothing in particular and humming that banal little ditty ‘I want to go a-wandering among the hills so green’. Now that is worrying and obviously deeply psychological. What shall I do? First things first, decide what to have for lunch since the decision has already been made for dinner tonight. At the moment I don’t feel like cooking so it’ll be pasta with tomato and chilli sauce. Well that’s another decision made but lunch isn’t for another two hours or so, how shall I fill the space before then?

How many of us around the world are feeling the same? Thousands possibly even millions of people I would imagine trapped in this strange limbo land.

For the LSO and myself this will be a long haul because of our age whilst those younger and less at risk will eventually be able to go out as long as they keep socially distancing. It’s going to be a slow process and I wonder how much will actually change hopefully for the better. I am not so much bored as feeling trapped. Having been trapped for over five years whilst looking after the AP we really had found our freedom only to have it taken away again.

The LSO would like to be sitting on a riverbank watching a small red float drifting past lily pads but I just would like to feel that I can go out at a whim. Perhaps shopping or to lunch or meet up with a group of friends, see the family. Now that really is a miss. The grandchildren are all growing up, our own children are growing older as we are and we can’t visit them or them us. Then just to rub salt into the wound when eventually we can meet up we can’t even cuddle or hug any of them. Cruel world indeed.

I had an email from a friend in Australia who has survived the drought, the terrifying fires, then the floods and now this. It is all truly biblical and I keep looking out to see if we have a plague of locusts approaching. That reminded me of an occasion when the LSO and myself were visiting friends in North Norfolk in 2011 and we heard something like hailstones hitting the car. They were in fact Ladybirds and there were thousands of them. People were rushing around trying to brush them out of their hair and there were piles of these insects lying in the gutters. When we reached our friend’s house we scurried indoors to find the lights on because the windows were black with these invaders, apparently the swarms had been blown across the Channel from Europe.

I have since discovered that these foreign insects are responsible for the demise of our own native species.

All food for thought.

This strange existence.

Nobody has experienced anything like the present situation but it has been most interesting noting peoples’s responses to this lockdown. Most are intelligent enough to understand the need and the importance of it all but there are always the selfish ones who just don’t care about others and think they are bombproof. I suppose they are always there no matter what the situation is. They are the ones who play their music at a volume that assumes everyone wants to hear it, who jump queues, who drive like idiots, park inconsiderately, consider they know it all and generally are obnoxious, self centred, arrogant and selfish. The Me-Me ones who just don’t care until something goes wrong. It’s not even a generation thing because they come in all shapes, sizes and age ranges.

But in the midst of everything there are those who are caring, kind and considerate who go out of their way to help others. They don’t do it for themselves and don’t expect thanks but are just genuinely good people; in a way they are another group of the unsung heroes. They too, come in all shapes and sizes and from different generations but all have one thing in common, they genuinely care about others and are prepared to give help when it is needed.

It would be great to think that when this pandemic is all over there could be a better world for us all to live in. Sadly the doomsayers always shout the loudest but we do have a chance to reshape our lives, even change the world and those who have the power to do this need to wake up to the fact that governments should serve the people who put them where they are. Really serve them, really care for them, ensure that there is adequate transport, proper healthcare, jobs available for all and many, many other things that make life better for everyone because that is what a government should be doing. They need to stop the back biting, the one-upmanship, the general in fighting and constant blaming and shaming and instead to the very best of their ability serve the people in this whole country well.

Well, that’s that rant over. It won’t make any difference, the fact that air quality around the world has improved dramatically will be ignored and we will return to the same old situation of the powers that be thinking only beyond their very short noses.