An obsession.

I am obsessed with anything to do with food these days. Since my last post which was some weeks ago last December, I have struggled to lose weight, going up a few pounds, going down a few pounds.

Nothing too dramatic; I put it all down to winter and the great greyness we are experiencing at the moment. I enjoy all the rib sticking, carb-laden and warming foods that make these days bearable so its not surprising that weight loss has come to a grinding stop.

I enjoy reading recipes but find myself being drawn to the glorious heavyweight casseroles, creamy, butter enhanced mashed vegetables, one pot roasts and heart warming classic puddings.

In those rare moments of clarity, usually at 7.30 in the morning whilst sipping a welcome morning cup of tea, I vow to be sensible and good that day. Drink plenty of fluids, eat carefully prepared low calorie meals and keep off the snacks unless they are part of the daily plan. By lunchtime I am doing well but after lunch the way is definitely downhill as I plan and prepare the evening meal. The weather outside is grey, damp and cold and I have just made some fresh bread. The house is filled with the glorious smell and my thoughts turn to stews with dumplings, partridge and guinea fowl casseroles, black pudding stuffed chicken breasts with crisp roast potatoes or a glorious, silky buttery mash and all the wonderful foods that are so satisfying that also brighten the day.

While I set the table I battle with the decision to have only a small plate, not a full sized dinner plate. Then carefully balancing the low alcohol G&T, feeling saintly, I fill in my daily meal planner on my phone, then the LSO calls from the utility room to ask if I would like wine with the meal. I hear a titter from the little devil sitting on my shoulder as with hardly a pause I reply ‘yes that would be lovely!’

Oh dear, well tomorrow is another day although we of a certain age, know that tomorrow never comes.

But I will not be beaten. I will stick to a small portion and a small plate, just no second helpings. Anyway, tonight is pan fried plaice with new potatoes and peas, that should work.

Another crossroad.

All through life we come to crossroads where decisions are made working with conditions we are living with at the time. Later retrospective views often look as if other choices should or could have been made to have a better outcome. Oh the joy of hindsight! How many times have we all said and have heard others say too, if only……………….. then everything would have been better.

But that thinking is always skewed because it is how we want to see things and it is a mistake to look back and have regrets. We are never going to be able to go back and have another shot at the way we live our lives.

Recognising mistakes is a different matter. I regret ever having the AP living with the LSO and myself but we made the decision, had five utterly dreadful years but they are past and gone although the AP still sails onwards. She is heading towards one hundred and four years of age and is quite oblivious to anyone or anything much in her life, she really has become the centre of her own universe.

It has taken me over two years to get rid of the angst created by her attitude and adjust to a better life and to realise the importance of pushing all regrets away and to avoid looking too far ahead. There is nothing to be gained by second guessing or wishing for the unattainable. We are luckier than many and although in our mid-seventies we are remarkably fit and well and hope to remain so for many years to come. We have finally made the monumental decision to sell my car and go down to one which was quite an emotional moment. For more than forty years I have had my own transport and been totally independent so I have had to make a shift in my perspective, as has the LSO and be prepared to plan things with thought for the other.

On the subject of nothing gained I am still on a plateau with my weight loss, not going up but neither am I going down. It’s a strange kind of limbo land of dieting but I am not despondent about it, just endeavouring to fool my body to shift its set point.

It will happen, I just must be patient.

Tempus Fugit.

To say time flies is an understatement. As I get older it is speeding up and the more I pack into my day the faster it goes. Just to throw in a useful bit of information; the expression comes from book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics, (a ‘georgic’ for those interested, is a book dealing with agriculture or rural topics) where it appears as ‘fugit inreparabile tempus’ which translated as: ‘it escapes, irretrievable time’.

How immensely true that is, we cannot have back what has gone!

It’s a while since I posted and that is partly due to the disastrous meeting with the AP at the Care Home. It was a gloriously sunny day so we were able to meet outside which we felt was a bonus but we were wrong. She had just eaten her lunch and started moaning from the moment the care assistant wheeled her out. The meal was not good, although she couldn’t remember what it was, the sun was too bright although she was in the shade and there was no proper greeting or interest in anything other than herself and what the AP felt she needed. I was referred to as ‘she’ throughout the 30 minutes and the LSO was greeted with enthusiasm and told it was lovely to see him. The conversation moved swiftly on to how she needed money and why was I handling her affairs anyway when she could do them herself. The LSO gently told her that she was incapable of handling her own affairs and had been for many years. It was all very uncomfortable because she continued to be rude and unpleasant and I felt the old angst rising as a knot inside and knew we needed to depart before something was said that could never be taken back.

So it is a return to the weekly phone call when the AP is positive, almost friendly and reasonably pleasant to talk to, in fact it would appear she herself prefers things this way which is fine by me and far less upsetting.

But back to the speed at which time is passing. I have almost completed my first sunset painting and have decided to do some much smaller images of skies as a project but have sidetracked myself with the complexities of sourdough. Some years ago I attempted to make this wondrous bread but failed miserably producing a large number of doorstops; not for me I decided and went back to normal bread making with yeast. The LSO started making it and had much more success, producing beautiful, well risen and airy boules with the required holes but that all stopped when the AP who was living with us then complained that the bread was too chewy and tough.

Recently I bought Vanessa Kimbell’s ‘Ten Minute Sourdough’ and started from scratch making my own starter and what a joy it has been; success at last. There is something hugely satisfying and zen-like about bread making in general which calms and nurtures the soul.

On the subject of success, my weight loss has continued with a few blips along the way but is much slower than I had hoped. Could that have something to do with the sourdough bread? Indeed I had thought I would have achieved my goal at least by Christmas but I am having to accept that it will be a much longer journey than originally anticipated. I am not letting this get me down but I do need to plan better. I have a tendency to wing it with food; looking in the freezer and fridge in the morning, asking the LSO what he fancies and making snap decisions using what is available. Not perhaps the best way to do things, so now I need to think ahead to get to my first target which will be three stone off and I am a tantalising 5 pounds away from that, then a mere 14 pounds to go afterwards.

Emotional eating.

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.

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.

An Update.

After a rather rickety start to my new weight loss programme I am finally losing pounds, twenty-one to date so I am feeling not only a lot better but more positive about everything.

It’s a calorie counting regime that verges slightly on low carbs but allows me to eat most of what I like within reason and doesn’t put me on a guilt trip. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? No, I’m not getting smug, therein lies disaster and the inevitable ruin of the weight loss and yes, it has it’s restrictions such as logging everything I eat and drink.

That’s another issue of course and I’m not talking about the gallons of water I am drinking, this time it’s the reduction of my alcohol intake. I have ditched the habit of decades which is the evening, pre-dinner G&T and the LSO and I only share a bottle of wine three days of the week. Astonishingly it hasn’t been such a miss and I feel almost saintly about it all but some may say that the wine will have to go eventually and the answer to that is, never. Life is too short, especially at our age to not have some pleasures in the week and a fine bottle of wine shared with a delicious meal is a joy.

I may just have to run up and down the stairs!

All hasn’t been completely fine and dandy though; I had a little blip last week when we went to visit the AP in the care home because she had reached the grand old age of 103 years. We booked the visiting pod but it was all a bit of a disaster because she was particularly vinegary and apparently couldn’t hear us or chose not to and said we had forgotten her birthday even though she was wearing the rather elegant top we had bought her. It’s difficult to really understand but she seems to save her nastiness and spleen to vent only on the LSO and myself which can be hard to take given how much we have done for her over many years and continue to do so despite her attitude. The visit also brought back some of the past and was a reminder of how thoroughly divisive she had been whilst living with us. This really saddened me because I had finally arrived at a good place regarding my mother; needless to say after about half an hour of a non-conversation that was mostly about her we departed, having had more than enough and headed home to sanity and the dogs. Fortunately the angst didn’t last too long but I did indulge in a G&T that evening. I think for the moment we’ll stick to the weekly telephone calls when she is generally nicer, although dotty.

But all in all, life looks brighter even if today is wet and cold.

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!

Turning the sound down.

During a video conversation with our family at the weekend we inevitably got around to how we were all coping with the current situation. For us it is an unwanted extension of the lifestyle we had to adopt looking after the AP and just as we had finally discovered some freedom. Our daughter was interesting about the effect the lockdown was having on her and the family. The grandchildren and the dog are fine, in fact Fizz has never been a more contented Jack Russell, loving having everyone there. Son-in-law would prefer to be at work and daughter says although she wants to get on with life again she is enjoying some aspects of it all, life is simpler despite having to home school the children but more importantly she says the white noise has gone.

Our son too has found much that is beneficial about working from home despite having a one year old child. He and his wife have found it extremely difficult at times but both say they would prefer to work more this way rather than return full time to the city.

Food for thought and interesting observations that I am sure will be affecting many others in this world. But she is right, the constant buzz that is the lot of a working mother is absolutely mind boggling from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to falling, exhausted into bed at the end of a long and busy day. White noise is an excellent description for it all.

When the children were younger and I too was a working mum, there was little time left to ponder and the pace was relentless. My only saving grace was being a teacher so I had the same holidays but for the LSO there was never that privilege. In fact holidays were a time when he would try to wind down during the first week then start to wind up again in the second, preparing to hurl himself back into the fray. I just felt I was constantly juggling a multitude of balls at any one time trying to catch the important ones and ignoring those that fell to the ground.

We have never had to live with anything like this before so maybe after all this is over or more settled there can be changes for the better to the way we all live our lives. It certainly would be good to have a choice.

For us, we have just got slower, in fact any slower and we would be in reverse and horizontal. It’s not unpleasant in truth but at our age we need a bit of white noise in our lives to keep us alive. I find myself definitely suffering from that good old manana syndrome, oh tomorrow will be fine, I’ll do whatever it is then!

It’s all about balance.

I mean this in everything. Not that dreadfully boring expression of ‘everything in moderation’ that crops up frequently and is enough to send me looking for the gin bottle and pouring a hefty measure.

But I did discover this wonderful word ‘equilibrioception’ which when I looked it up said ‘a state of being balanced or in equilibrium’. It’s something that our politicians need to get to grips with and understand in order to do their jobs properly and with dignity (an oxymoron perhaps) which is definitely not happening at the moment. I can’t watch the news, listening to those dreadful, back-stabbing, self opinionated, pontificating people who at times become just thoroughly nasty and snide makes me angry. I’ve had enough of all that in my life from the AP. They all need to grow up and get on with what they should be doing and what they are paid to do and stop citing the public as their backing when in fact it’s a tiny fraction of the people who agree with their sanctimonious out-pourings.

But back to balance, the word even looks attractive especially when at the moment it is difficult to find balance in our present situation. I think most people are feeling a little demotivated and are just trying to make the best of their situation. But even in small things achieving equilibrium is possible and in truth a necessity to ensure that our seemingly endless lockdown doesn’t send us all mad.

In order to gain a better sense of balance, I am reducing the alcohol consumption,( no, I’m not falling over), I’m going to drink more water, not bake as much but think more of less carb laden meals. The latter isn’t hugely popular with the LSO or our farmer friend who loves his bi-weekly cake deliveries. I am also planning on sorting my studio out but at the moment it is just too humid and muggy and I’m not a huge fan of hot temperatures and have no desire to rush to the beach to battle sand in the sandwiches and hoardes of noisy families. I’ve never understood the lemming-like behaviour of driving to a crowded place, where you spend more time stuck in the car than at the destination then only to face the same returning home. But I guess everyone to their own: I just need to holiday somewhere chilly!

The LSO has started barbequeing again which is really good news for my diet and I am thinking of different salads to accompany these delights. Small downside though, another farmer friend sells his homegrown new potatoes from his gateway. This is a mere one hundred yards from us and they are delicious, gently steamed and served with a large knob of salted French butter.

Oh well, it’ll be a slow weight loss which according to our Doctor is the best way to do it and who ignores their Doctor’s advice?

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.

Stagger Onwards Rejoicing.

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