Firewirks over Sydney Opera House

Firewirks over Sydney Opera House

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Lovely day

The gorgeous village of Edale nestling in the shelter of Kinder Scout.

Frozen water everywhere, footpaths, fields everywhere - it was very cold!

Has anyne any idea what type of ducks these are? They were quite big, taller than normal ducks. Gressingham??

The weather was simply stunning today, blue sky and sunshine all day, hardly a cloud in the sky. Freezing of course but that's no bad thing.

I was in the pub last night and suggested a mountain bike ride to Vicky who said that she was too busy but luckily I persevered and suggested that we go out early for a quick ride, put a bit of pressure on. She eventually agreed so we were out before 9am in the freezing cold for a short sharp shock to the system. It was marvellous. Really cold on the old lungs , pedalling over solid ice in places and into the occasional frigid headwind but utterly beautiful and uplifting.

We were out for around an hour and a half , it was a not terribly hilly route but not easy either, definitely a good start. We both felt really buzzy and positive afterwards.

A nice healthy brunch followed by a 5 mile walk around Edale with D and then a film in front of the fire with tired doggies. In other words a lovely day.

Now, though, I have to get myself ready for a big night out in town with "the girls"! Not the usual staid(ish), sensible(ish) heading for middle age pals but the nutso, drinky twenty/thirty-something pals from the village! It's a bit scary to be honest. Although I've been friends with this lot for years, it's been more a casual pub-based friendship so haven't been invited on their occasional sorties into Sheffield. Don't know what changed but now I have. Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

It's Groundhog Day (again....)

I've just realised that I haven't posted my prized pics of lionesses in Savuti.We had a great viewing of them over several hours, simply beautiful.

When this one walked right past us going down to the waterhole, she took our breath away.

An elephant walked past them and they all woke up! Talk about alert.

I feel as though I'm covering the same ground at the moment. You probably feel the same way when you read each sucessive post and think "come on woman, just get on with it already!" or something like that without the Americanism!!

I'm just treading water: doing loads of exercise, losing a few lbs, having a big weekend or a few lazier or more indulgent days, putting the few lbs back on. Repeat ad nauseam. It has got to stop! I am due to be filmed for the follow up "My Big Fat Cycle Challenge" in April and do NOT want to be the fattie who failed to keep the weight off.

That said, as I have said before, the programme was by no means a failure. I'm MUCH happier. Simple as that. I'm more relaxed and confident as I go through my everyday life. While I have gained some weight and am stuggling to lose it, it was not a lot (10 lbs over several months) and I'm still lighter than I was over a year ago. I have been much more consistent in keeping up with the exercise and have far fewer blowouts with either food or drink. The "Fog" which I have alluded to a few times has been a much less frequent visitor to my shores.

I think the above is why I'm having difficulty in losing the weight. Steve Peters said ages ago when we first started filming that, if we're happy as we are, we won't lose weight. He's right but it is a question of degree. I am happy but I also want to lose weight. Not a massive amount, around a stone and a half, but enough that it requires some actual effort and deprivation/discipline.

So, how am I going to achieve this?? Looking back at my New Year's resolutions, I notice that I have not addressed any of the weight based ones seriously. So that could be a good first step.

And one which I would love to take but D has just called and I've been summoned to the pub as some friends who we haven't seen for ages are in....I will return to this topic..... Byyee!!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Country mice visit London

The lovely London Eye/Millennium Wheel (never did find out which!) situated on the banks of the Thames near to County Hall and the Southbank Centre. We were staying in a hotel in County Hall so perfectly placed.

We didn't actually go on the Wheel though. The weather was perfect for it on Sunday afternoon when we arrived but alas it was "closed for planned maintenance". It re-opened on Tuesday morning but by then conditions were overcast and we were keen to get back home. Another time. I've already been on a couple of times anyway.

An evening walk alnog the South Bank taking in the views and discussing with Dad how much London has changed and what has stayed the same.

Views eastwards - St Pauls Cathedral, the Gherkin, and the Oxo Tower on the far right.

Walking home over Charing Cross footbridge. This was new to Dad. You can see the Festival Hall ahead of us.
National Theatre and Festival Hall
London Eye and Houses of Parliament with Big Ben

The Imperial War Museum. Well worth a visit if you've not been.

This was a manned observation pod which would have hung from beneath an airship (hidden in the clouds)to tell the crew when they were above the target and when to drop their bombs. A single man in there, dangling up to 1500 metres beneath the airship!! That's nearly a mile of cable!! Not for me....

I often have a laugh at these blue plaques as the residents named can be so bizarre and their occupancy of the house in question so short-lived. But this struck me as a pretty good one!

Me and my Dad clutching our (very expensive) programme from the recital!

We were tired out when we got home and the dogs were pleased to see us! Shelagh's eyes are just boring into me there - "don't ever leave us again...."!

I'm torn at the moment. On the one hand, I'm really happy with life but on the other, I'm annoyed with myself for not knuckling down and losing weight properly.
Happy with life is great - I've just come back from a really good weekend in London with Diarmuid and my father. It was my Dad's Christmas treat - a weekend in London and tickets to see a recital at the Festival Hall with Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the London Philharmonia.
My mum is not really with us these days, descending into Alzheimers and so Dad has lost her as a companion for much of the time. His life seems to be shrinking to care for Mum and becoming smaller and smaller as her limitations come to govern what he can do. It's desperately sad. So I was determined to make sure that he has a few things to look forward to and which will keep him interested in life, hence the weekend away. It was marvellous to be able to do something nice for Dad that I know he really enjoyed and appreciated.

My sister was very helpful and supportive in that she had mum for the 2 days we were away and made sure that Mum felt as though she was having a treat and didn't miss the trip to London.

It was really good fun. Dad used to live in London decades ago - he was a student at Queen Mary College in the East End and used to go to the Festival Hall when cheap seats could be had. He's always loved opera and has been a fan of the lovely Anna since her appearance at the Last Night of the Proms in 2005! I'm sure it's all because of her voice though, nothing to do with her being a voluptuous brunette, they never change!
As he's getting on and has a heart condition, I'd arranged to stay right next to the London Eye (or is it the Millennium Wheel these days?) on the South Bank. It was a perfect location as we could walk along the river to the FH, over the bridge to Leicester Square/Covent Garden and it was also only a short walk to the Imperial War Museum which was our other excursion on the weekend.

The Museum was fascinating. I've been before but neither Dad nor D had been and going with Dad was great as he could remember so much of the WW2 stuff first hand. A bit gruesome I suppose but he could remember hearing V1 bombs going overhead and all the stuff about ration books and ARP wardens, the uniforms and the posters. All the bombers and fighter planes - any young boy would be enthralled by them and, looking at them, Dad appeared to be just a young boy of 78!! We were there for over 4 hours before we succumbed to museum fatigue but it was great!

We had 2 gorgeous meals - one at a pretty french bistro near Covent Garden (can't remember the name but was pleasant) and the second at the Harvey Nicks restaurant in the Oxo Tower which was lovely, gorgeous food and great views/location.

But the main attraction was always going to be the recital. It was so vibrant, the orchestra and the sound quality thrilling, and the whole sell-out atmosphere really exiting for country mice like us. I know Dad loved it and I did too so it was a perfect success. Anna Netrebko was really expressive and lyrical, dancing like a little girl and flirting with the condutor so Dad was even more hooked than he had been but for me old Dmitri was HOT!
Why haven't I seen him before??! Very tall, brooding, mane of white hair (although only in 40's), long lean legs in narrow cut trousers, black tail coat with velvet collar cut in a western style with plain black tie rather than a bow-tie - he looked more like a character out of Twilight than an opera singer! And such a gorgeous voice, especially doing the russian numbers. And the duets with Anna - sizzling hot. Phwooaar!!

So, now that I'm a bona fide opera groupie I'll be watching out for him.....or that Mexican chappie Rolando Vilazon!

After all that it seems churlish to whinge about not losing weight. It's my own fault but I have now lost and regained the same 4 lbs 4 times since Christmas!! 4 times!! I need to push through once I lose those 4 lbs and keep going. I know what I need to do, just need to put it into practice! So - that's the plan. I'm not going to bring my mood down by dwelling but it will be done.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

10 things which make me happy

  1. Having my family all in one place (and by family in this context I mean the small version of me, Diarmuid, Shelagh and Minty). D got back from the rig yesterday and it has been lovely to have him home this morning - just pottering around (sleeping mostly as he's tired out), I went to the gym, he slept; having brunch together; mucking around with the dogs; him outside in the rain taking down Christmas lights (yes, those blokes are handy for some things!) me doing paperwork and blogging. Nothing special but it makes me happy!

  2. My camera. I love taking it out when I go for a walk. I love the sound of the shutter; such a satisfying schwliiirp. No doubt a team of crack japanese scientists and focus group marketeers spent months perfecting it and, let me assure you, it was worth every penny. I love uploading the pics and poring over them; picking the ones to resize, crop, photoshop and publish on facebook and my blog. I love flicking through my online albums and emailing pics to my pals. I love making calendars for the family, loading up Mum and Dad's digital photo album with pictures of their family. Yes, it's safe to say that my camera makes me happy.

  3. Facebook. Yes, I know, a bit controversial but bear with me! I don't like it for all the stupid time-eating games and mind-numbing status changes. But it does make me happy that I'm in touch with several old friends who, if we're being honest here, I might have lost touch with. People who you love but have drifted away from due to distance and time. And my nieces, cousins, sister-in-law and sister. We all live so far apart and are typically busy that the old methods of communication leave huge gaps. I know the big things in their lives but not the little day to day stuff; not the boyfriends, concerts, holidays etc. Now I know who their friends are, see their pics and feel part of their lives. It's great.

  4. Dogs. Not just my 2 but dogs in general. They're great. Funny, cute, friendly, loving and eternally loyal. My 2 of course are way more than that but I'm biased. As I type D is feeding them choccy drops before heading up to the pub - they are assiduously giving the paw, staying, rolling over, sitting and pleading with their big beautiful eyes for more....sooo sweet, sooo manipulative...

  5. I love it when things come together. Little snippets of information, factettes. I love that feeling of understanding something. Putting 2 and 2 together. When something you've read somewhere pops up again in a song or on the news. When a name suddenly makes sense. When I hear a story about why something is the way it is. Knowing the answer. I guess I'm just a big wannabe know it all!!

  6. Foootball. I'd love to say that Sheffield Wednesday makes me happy but I doubt that'll happen for some time. But football is great. The whole ritual of going to games, the pub beforehand, the friends, the feeling that people have been going to Hillsborough for over 100 years. The crowd, the sons, the band, the swearing, the shouting, the jumping up and down and hugging total strangers, the humour. Travelling to new places, visiting different cities, pubs and grounds. Having something to worry about on a Saturday afternoon, Final Score, always having something to say to people in the pub or watch on the news. The facts and figures, the televised games. I love it all and it makes me happy.

  7. Walks in the countryside. Don't really mind where we are, fresh air, views, dogs (preferably) and maybe a camera, exercise, company or alonetime, time to chat or to think. Animals, birds, trees and flowers.

  8. Got to nick another one off Peridot I'm afraid - real fires. Whether in our living room, a cosy country pub or out camping. Flickering flames are the way to go - comforting, relaxing and romantic.

  9. Cooking for people. I'm not a fancy cook but I like producing meals or even snacks for my friends and family. I really enjoyed cooking my 2 Christmas dinners this year, having loads of people sitting round a table tucking into a meal I've prepared. It's very satisfying. I get the same feeling rustling up a pile of bacon sandwiches for a group of hungover mates as I do making supper for me and D or a barbeque with family or making a pitcher of Pimms.

  10. Having a local pub. A simple pleasure but sometimes you gotta go where everybody knows your name, where they're always glad you came.....(sorry, cheesy but true, and that's where I'm going now!!)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Slow Cooker!

For ages now loads of people have been mentioning their Crock Pots or slow cookers and saying how nice they are and healthy etc. I used to have one but haven't seen it for years (must have been given away before the last move due to lack of interest).

Anyway, I purchased one online in the sales and it arrived yesterday! So this morning I loaded it up and turned it on. Didn't use a recipe or anything and it was a slightly weird combination of ingredients - mutton, leek, onion and stock. When I arrived home this evening after french the house smelt gorgeous, so inviting and tasty! It must have been driving the dogs nuts!

I see the attraction. The food was tasty, although I'm sure with a bit more effort it could be better. But what was even better was the removal of temptation. When I get home I'm usually hungry and my willpower is at a low ebb so having a healthy low calorie meal just sitting there removes the possibility of giving in to something unhealthy and calorific. The speed of preparation was great - just boil up some veggies and it's ready!

So, just a few decades after everyone else, I'm a slow cooker convert!

Right - I'm going to try the "3 things to be grateful for" thing being followed by Peridot and Beth:

1. Delicious slow cooked supper tonight
2. French was fun and I did all my homework for a change.
3. Picked up 7 ironed shirts from the pub this evening - one of the barmaids has started up an ironing service - only 90p each and no ironing D's shirts or rows about not ironing! Bliss... okay, I'm easily pleased.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Good day yesterday but exercise shy today!

A chilly walk above Edale between Christmas and New Year. The snow had melted in the valley so I headed up there in case that was the last of it - ha!

Upper Booth - really isolated but very pretty.

Belted Galloways - love them...

I was very good yesterday. Went to personal training first thing (7am - yeuch!) and worked really hard. The sweat was pumping out of me - Huw was an old meanie (the way I like it.. he he he ). Then off to work, slithered back through the drifting snow/ice and then back into town with a selection of women from the village to a step class in Hillsborough. It was pretty hard core, a load of (in my opinion, overly complex) step routines and then 15 minutes of dips, press-ups, abs etc etc So I was sweating like a good 'un by the end of that one too.

Foodwise I wasn't perfect but limited my intake reasonably well. I could have done without my mother-in-law's Christmas cake arriving somewhat belatedly yesterday evening (by courier with the late presents!). Had to have a slice didn't I so that I could ring her and say how nice it was (which it irritatingly IS)! I wish she hadn't iced it though - not really into marzipan but love the icing so even more calories. Luckily the dogs seem to like marzipan so they will be getting fat too!! We'll have to walk it off together.

I'm going to take it down to my sisters this weekend and see if I can foist a good chunk off on them and maybe another wedge to work. Diarmuid will only have a couple of slices as he's not really into cake and then it'll sit there taunting me unless I get rid of it!!

Anyway, I had my reward for (relative) restraint on the scales this morning with a lb off.

I've been working from home today and have found it surprisingly easy to resist stuff. I'm in a phase of loving tea so if I feel the urge to snack, I just have another cup of tea (perhaps it's turning 40 that's done it?!).

I did say, however, that I was going to go to Circuits at 5.30 and I note that it is now 5.34pm! I knid of knew that I wasn't going to make it. As a compromise position, I'm going to do 20 minutes on the trampette and a load of home workout exercises - abs, lunges, dips, press-ups, squats etc. I could say I don't feel like going out into the cold but I'm fully intending to go up to the quiz at 9pm so can't really use that excuse.

The real reason is that I'm nesting - want to tidy and clean the house ready for D coming back on Friday. It seems as though he's been away for a long time this trip. It's only been an extra 3 or 4 days but with Christmas and New Year and me being off work for a fortnight, it has gone by a bit slowly without him.

So - I'd better get back to it. Hope the weather is treating you reasonably kindly.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Not bad, Rodders. Not bad....

Heading out for my big walk on Saturday afternoon. The view towards Mam Tor.

Freeze dried??

The race. Shelagh in the lead as Minty right at the top.

Minty's hell for leather style showing results.

She's right there.

And Minty takes the lead - she's clearly got the will to win!

The River Derwent winds towards Bamford.

Well, I've had a good day yesterday. I managed to make myself go to the gym at lunchtime. I really didn't want to head out into the sleet and trek across the icy pavements to the pool but I did it. While agonising, I told my colleague that I was trying to decide whether to go swimming at lunch or to the gym this evening but that, if I chose the gym, there was a chance I'd gib out of that too and he told me firmly that I had to go swimming.

I don't know this guy very well, as I've recently moved to sit opposite him, but it still helped to be told to go - so I just got up and went!! And it was fine. As usual I told my chimp that I only needed to do 40 lengths and as usual I managed far more - 52 today. And I felt much better for it.

Foodwise, I succumbed to a couple of office biscuits but only 3 over the day.

The evening was the good news though. As I'm sure is the case for many, the evenings are my tricky time. Over the weekend I ended up eating too large portions and carb heavy meals which was, I think, my the one step back I mentioned in my last post. So tonight I came straight in, didn't think about it and made a chicken salad. Not a really diet-y salad but a decent one which was tasty and healthy. Then, as an avoidance technique, I went up to the pub for early doors and drank sparkling water for an hour or so. I had another tricky time when I got home but a bit of photo stuff and computer worked distracted me along with cups of tea and fruit.

So, that's one day under my belt and I feel much better for it. Now I know it's not so bad and can tell myself today and tomorrow that I don't need that big supper or evening snack. Just need to cut out those biccies at work!!

It's all a bit boring, I know, having to go over the same ground month after month, year after year. But it's not as scary as it was when I first started to lose weight on the Lighter Life diet. When I think back now to my fear of eating sensibly. Fear! What was I afraid of? Not being able to eat all the time? That makes no sense - I knew eating too much and being fat made me unhappy. Surely controlling my intake and staying reasonably slim must help?? And it has.

It is easier now too. The coping strategies (distraction, blogging, bargains, dates etc) are more natural and easier to implement. The exercise more consistent and the bad times less frequent. Long may it last.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

2 steps forward, 1 back

This is the point near the top of Win Hill where I was beginning to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew!

It looks gorgeous but there were biting cross winds and the snow was getting deeper and deeper. The one set of footprints I had been following turned round here but I thought I should be able to make the 200 yards or so to the trees....

Erm, no - I couldn't! It was too deep and too cold. Chest high drifts are not a good idea when you're on your own!

The dogs didn't seem too bothered but they must have been cold with all that ice sticking to their fur.

Shelagh fixed me with a baleful glare...

So we turned around and sent towards the sheltered side of the hill. Saw a few boarders glide past...

And asked them to take a couple of pictures which he did very well I think - I felt guilty as he had to take off gloves and strappings and all sorts!! And Minty barked at him a lot (I think she's still barking in this shot).

The apricot sunshine was heavenly, reflecting off the icy crust on top of the snow.

Shelagh (bizarrely) likes to bury the snow!

I've always loved this field for some reason. It is long and thin and sort of U-shaped and curves round like a wedge leading into the hamlet of Aston. Minty was sulking here because she ice in her paws.

The view back up towards Win Hill just as the sun came through the cloud.

The icy lane from Aston to Thornhill.

Snow squeezed through the hedge making weird and wonderful shapes on the side of the lane.

The village of Bamford tucked under Bamford Edge in the last few rays of pinky sunshine. I love the way that side of the hill catches the light.

I seem to be able to have 4 or 5 good days but only need one poor one to see a setback on the scales. The injustice of life, rail rail rail....

Anyway, that's not strictly true - there's nothing unjust about a setback on the scales when you have a day like I did yesterday! Not terrible but not great on the eating front by any means. First up, I had an offer to go to the gym early with Vicky and Simon but I had already half arranged to meet my friend and her 2 lads to go sledging. In the event though the friend let me down on a rather skimpy excuse by which time it was too late to join them at the gym. But I could still have gone by myself eh??

So, with an empty day ahead, I knew I had to be on my guard as quiet days have been serious triggers for me in the past. In one way I was. I got on with chores and cleaning, did my shopping and then was struggling with the desire to sit down and do sod all. But I didn't, I put on half a ton of warm clothes and headed up Win Hill.
What a fantastic walk. I had intended to go to the top if possible but I had to turn around 2/3rds of the way up due to icy side winds and chest high snow drifts. I was on my own with the dogs so couldn't take silly risks. The other side of the hill was more sheltered though, a few snow boarders snaking down the hillside and beautiful views of the evening sunshine. Walking back along a farm track was amazing: the snow had pushed through the hedge into fantastic sculpted shapes and there were icicles encrusting every wall.
It was a real tonic and put paid to my desire to sit around but it also encouraged me to eat too much. I didn't graze-eat or anything but just had too much for my meals. I used the fresh air and exercise as an excuse to have bigger, carb-filled meals rather than the smaller, healthier meals I had had planned.

So, I'll learn from that today. I went to the gym first thing with Vicky and will take the dogs out in a bit but I'm definitely not going to have big plates full today! I don't want to undo my good work from last week!

I wonder sometimes if all this focus on my fitness and weight means that I avoid thinking about other stuff or working towards other goals. I have found myself having a few long chats in the pub about serious topics but I feel more interested in the here and now. One of my pals was saying how, if he had the dosh, he'd move from Bamford down to Cornwall like a shot; that he was bored with his life. It seemed wrong to me. So easy to put off working towards what you want by waiting for mythical day when you "have enough dosh". It's not going to just happen is it??

So that set me thinking about what big goals I might want to work towards. I have already identified my New Years resolution type goals but think it would be helpful if I knew where I want to be in the medium to long term. I mean, what is the point of all this organisation and fitness if I'm not achieving the big goals? I don't want to be like my older pal from the pub, in his late 60's and feeling like he's missed out somehow.

So, time for some serious thinking. I have a few ideas but that's as far as it goes.

Honestly, do these chaps think what they're putting me through when they decide to unburden themselves to their pal in the local after a few pints!? They go home to the wife all happy and relaxed having talked themselves out and I spend the next few days all thoughtful and unsettled!!