Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Oscars, fame and who's up themselves.

Watching the Oscars has got me thinking about fame - and character. The ones who think of others and those who think only of themselves.

I suppose the first time I saw a famous face was when I was a very little girl and The Queen made a visit to the Midlands. I remember screaming like a whirling Catherine Wheel at a sixties pop group, 'The Rockin' Berries' at The Grand Theatre (who remembers them?) and I first saw famous Shakespearean actors on the stage at Stratford and others at Birmingham Rep. But my lasting memories date from the 1970s.

Appreciating fame was a slow burner for me. I was underwhelmed by it. No-one turned my head, it seems. When T Rex was on tour and the gloriously-sparkly Marc Bolan did a gig at our civic hall I was hard-pushed to become a giggling awe-struck chick. I must have been born with an innate sense of superiority - or on a low light - or born with deep self respect as he was merely a chap - wasn't he? He didn't turn my head, as they say. Nevertheless, after all the encores and the crowds had squashed back through the aisles, outside to their hum-drum lives, my friend Helen and I crept up some stairs and found Bolan's dressing room. I've often wondered why there were no queues of adoring fans. Without any ado he gave us his autograph and we were truly pleased with ourselves. Later, whilst we were discussing the definition of the word 'groupie' - and wondering whether the girls we'd seen hanging around Marc Bolan were examples of such an intriguing group - we were only eleven and first year grammar school girls - I realised I'd left my expensive Parker pen with Mr Bolan. We had to go back. There was still no queue of autograph hunters - why not? - and as I held out my hand for my pen - to the famous man - he gave it a kiss. 'I'm here for my pen,' I said, not glowing at all at the feel of his lips on my knuckles. (I did get my pen back. He was clearly used to adoration.)
Later David Bowie was touring with Aladdin Sane. I'd always liked Bowie's music but was unimpressed that he was almost an hour late on to the civic hall stage. This time I was with a boyfriend - still on a low light - and I didn't go backstage for an autograph. Just continued buying his records. 

When I was studying for my 'A' levels - physics, chemistry, biology and general paper and I'm not even a scientist - I started listening to radio jazz programmes and spotted the work of a female saxophonist - Barbara Thompson. It was many years later when I got to speak to her as a friend of ours knew Ronnie Scott and put on jazz sessions around Bath. That time I was more star-struck, perhaps because she was not a household name and the chances of seeing her were far more remote than the sight of Bowie. Perhaps. 

Before I left home to study for my first degree I used to go to JB's - a night club in Dudley. In true Midlands fashion the beatifically-haired Robert Plant was ignored as he leant on the bar and ordered a pint. We were there to see the Steve Miller band - Robert Plant was merely part of the audience. But he looked good and wasn't self-admiring. Just part of the gig. Of greater interest that night when chatting in the loos to former class mates - was finding out who'd lost their virginity - and who hadn't - since we'd all left upper sixth.

Since then our neighbour, Justin Adams, has become Robert Plant's lead guitarist. It's a small world.

Once at university the late, great John Peel was DJ for a night - that was fun - but I didn't shake his hand. Is my reluctance to engage with fame because I'm uncertain about what to say? Could be.

For my fortieth a group of us went to London and we were tripping over stars in Shaftesbury Avenue. Neil Pearson was big in Drop the Dead Donkey and he was there in the crowd, off for a drink or a meal or a show. Ewan McGregor sat next to me in the stalls for a revue with Eddie Izzard, Stephen Frost and friends. That was exciting but all I can remember was his conversation about his mother. Rather nice. Everyone clapped when Peter Andre took his seat in the royal box. Why him, in particular? 

We have an active theatre in Bath and I once saw Griff Rhys-Jones rushing along the streets, in full make-up, either out for a swift walk or to purchase something, he was in an awful hurry. Paul McGann stepped out from the underground car park one Saturday afternoon, he was in The Monocled Mutineer and I remember he seemed shorter than I expected. Anthony Head, before he was famous in Buffy Vampire Slayer, was waiting outside the then 'Gemini' Cinema one Saturday evening, for a friend presumably. I don't recall the film we saw. But he was just hanging around minding his own business. 

And at gigs we saw Peter Gabriel several times. One Christmas I was shopping in Waterstones, and bought about three books as gifts, Peter Gabriel was in the same queue with three bags of hardbacks. A lot of people to buy for, it seemed. One other Saturday afternoon, looking at household items in the co-op, I saw John Nettles, before he was known as Barnaby in Midsomer Murders. He was appearing in pantomime in Bath. Prosaically he was wandering around with a few hand towels. He had no shopping basket and looked lost. Had he forgotten to pack properly?

One of the most exciting incidents regarding the famous was meeting Terence Stamp. I'd absolutely loved him as Sgt Troy in the 1967 film version of Far from the Madding Crowd. The day I saw him I was tired and had had to travel back from work by train via Bristol Temple Meads. As we queued for a cab at Bath Spa railway station my fatigue must have shown on my face. I have never forgotten his kindness when he pointed to a cab which had just drawn up. He was ahead of me in the queue but beckoned to me to get in - he would wait for another. Conversely I had a quite different experience at Lucknam Park when Noel Edmonds was staying there as a long-term resident. I had finished my swim in the leisure spa and went to the poolside bar for a drink. While I was reading the paper I heard the big-time DJ ask the bar attendant to put the lights down so he could enjoy the candle light. I protested.
          'There's a woman over there asking for the lights to stay on,' laughed Noel Edmonds.
          'I'm reading a fascinating article about dyslexia, Mr Edmonds, and I need to be able to see,' I said. I was furious at being called 'a woman over there' and his assumption that no-one needed the bar lights on. He was used to getting people just to do.

When I last had a slipped disc I had six months off work as I really couldn't move well, let alone teach and I was in a stupor from taking painkillers. However to get me out walking Richard used to drive us to Dyrham Park and Marshfield. On one such early spring day I saw Jo Brand and her daughters walking along Marshfield High Street. I didn't stop to speak to her as I felt she was enjoying some down-time, but I've always admired her and would have loved to have said so. Perhaps I'm just shy. Perhaps.

After my swim at Bath Spa hotel, I'm no longer a member at Lucknam Park, just as the 2012 Olympics ended, we did pluck up the courage to speak to the great Mo Farah. He was attending an event at Bath University and staying at the hotel. He seemed a very ordinary chap, and at that particular time was merely keen to get something to eat. But I enjoyed shaking the hand of a man who had just won the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races. He was something but didn't show it. 

On another occasion John Hurt sat quietly by himself in the pub attached to Bath's Theatre Royal - when he was appearing in The Seagull. Better, I suppose, for him, than being mobbed. Perhaps.

Similarly, sitting listening to a self-obsessed acquaintance over coffee I noticed Alison Steadman walk past the cafe with her mum. Another famous person just going about her daily business. My self-obsessed friend was so self-obsessed she couldn't even be bothered to look up at the great Alison Steadman. I'm no longer friends with Ms Self-Obsessed but I love Ms Steadman. 

At the Edinburgh Fringe it's easy to be surrounded by comedians propping up the bar at The Pleasance. We saw the then emerging League of Gentlemen there (whatever happened to Mark Gatiss?) and Jenny Eclair just chatting to fans. Stephen Frost, again, was walking along a narrow passage way in old Edinburgh when I spotted him. We've since got to know his brother Anthony, the eldest son of the famous artist Sir Terry Frost, and an artist himself. And they're all so nice and unassuming.

One other time a less famous character actor - Terence Hardiman  - stepped out from the taxi rank and went into the hotel opposite Bath Spa Station. He was awfully kind to a magazine seller and politely said, 'Thank you. I don't need one now.' That's the way to speak to people. It gets the message across without sounding rude.

When I used to go to comedy clubs I saw another famous comedian - he was so brilliant - and still is. (Jeremy Hardy's shortness of height was soon forgotten.) Like Paul McGann we simply don't notice artistes' heights on screen but stature is noticeable in the flesh. And Jeremy Hardy's always on the side of teachers and points out, in the main, we aren't criminals. Great on radio 4 too.

One winter - flu was all around - we were sitting near the comedy stage with our drinks. The show was yet to start and the great Tim Vine, red-nosed, full of a cold, sat and chatted. He said, 'Can I ask one thing?' 
                                      'Not can we do your show for you!' I said. He smiled, did the show, but must have felt wretched. Teaching is bad enough when you have the lurgy but to be well-known and ill and still have to perform in front of a crowd - and make them laugh... Fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.

When it was announced that Fay Weldon was to be my manuscript tutor at Bath Spa University others thought I'd found a pot of gold. 
                                      'Hello, Fay, famous person, I'm Nina,' I said, at our first meeting. She smiled and was the kindest, most supportive tutor I could wish for and invited me down to her house. Goodness knows what she truly thought of my early scribblings but marked my submission as worthy of a distinction - sadly her co-marker didn't agree. I've since had my novel edited by Kylie Fitzpatrick who is equally kind and supportive. Not up themselves at all. There is clearly no need.

Having witnessed, fleetingly, the way that some of the rich and famous go about their lives between shows or book-signings what has struck me is that no-one needs to be rude or self-congratulatory. There is nothing wrong with being polite, however grand they may be. Noel Edmonds is one of the few who has managed to remain in my memory as someone who thought he could treat others in an off-hand manner. I'm sure he's really nice and meant no harm and perhaps the famous can't always be on their guard. Perhaps.

But it's Terence Stamp for whom I will always harbour a secret passion - and he's so nice with it. What a pity we never shared that taxi. 

Friday, 2 March 2018

How to deal with a frozen condenser pipe

Good morning guys, I have had lots of phone calls regarding boilers not working due to their condensate pipe being frozen - this is the white pipe that’s comes out at the bottom of your boiler and in some instances terminates outside your property. If you boil the kettle and carefully pour the hot water over the white pipe this should defrost any blockage caused by ice build up and get you up running. Some of the ice is stubborn, so you may need to tap the pipe with a wooden spoon or equivalent to loosen it. If your pipe is high, maybe try tapping it with a brush handle, do not climb ladders in this weather. You may need to reset your boiler after the ice have melted on some boilers. Please repost this, as it may help a lot of people.

With thanks to Steve Roderick, via Facebook

Saved Photo

How to bath in Bath

Simple - you might say - run the hot water, add some frippary like Molton & Brown gensing with frankincense suds and get in.
Ah not so fast! Not in these snow-drenched days living under enforced house arrest...

Around lunchtime today, just as I was thinking I’d better have a bath and wash my hair - in case the hot water and heating went off - it did just that. The heating and hot water went off. A small boom in the boiler, just above the sofa and desk where I do my writing, sounded as if all was not well. I fumbled with leads and memory sticks, switched off my printer, unplugged my lap top and sat in bed. The boiler didn’t sound well and it might mean we’d be getting cold.

Richard to the rescue.
Yes, we’ve been here before.

Richard came rushing upstairs with a kettle of boiling water complaining that the windows wouldn’t open. What was he talking about? Within moments the windows did open, my study was like a block of ice and Richard was tipping scalding water on the condenser pipes shouting, ‘The hot water’s off!’ I suggested we switched on the portable heaters since if the hot water was off the radiators would likely go cold too.

And not to be outdone in this Heath-Robinson approach to life-below-freezing-point I switched on a brand new kettle - our spare - filled the ensuite wash basin with hot water, turned on the cold tap and mixed some reluctant-to-come-out-of-the-tube shampoo into my hair. ( I had partially undressed but it was too cold for a strip-wash). 

All was going well. Richard was merrily hanging out of the window, I was helping (?) by rushing up and downstairs with wet hair and the spare kettle to add to the quantities of boiling water being thrown at the condenser pipe. I put my back out moving the portable radiators around. I am recovering from a slipped disc but when it’s cold you need the extra heaters. 

Whilst drying - I won’t say styling - my hair Richard shouted ‘Bugger’ and opened all the doors letting in even more frozen air. I found him outside trying to rescue the lid which had flown away from the old kettle. But he had to give up. (He’d leant so far out of the study window it had dropped off on to the kitchen roof below.)
             ‘Here. Have this stick and pull it off the roof,’ said I.
              ‘I can’t reach it. The snow on the kitchen roof is so deep the kettle lid’s sunk down and I can’t get at it.’
              ‘Would a magnet help?’
               ‘How would that work?’ Richard wasn’t taught any science at Ilminster Grammar School. ‘Anyway have  you got a magnet?’
              ‘Erm... no.’
              ‘I’m not getting a ladder out in this weather and climbing up on the kitchen roof to rescue a kettle lid.’
                ‘Well use the new kettle,then,’ said I.
                ‘Where is it?’
                ‘Plugged in where it’s been plugged in for the last year.’
Once dressed I continued working in bed and heard some gurgling coming from the boiler. ‘This new kettle’s better than the old one.’
                  ‘Yes, it’s new,’ I said, winning first prize in the stating-the-bleeding-obvious-competition.
                   ‘Are the radiators coming on?’

The radiators were coming on, the barn doors were closed, the window, which opened and shut fine, was shut and there was hot water. I plugged my lap top back into the mains ( my old lap top doesn’t charge properly - hence the use of the mains lead - but my Mac does. I use my old lap top for writing Word docs.) 

Did I dare risk it and actually have a bath? 


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Trussell Trust Adlent Calendar

I first met a rep from the indefatigable Trussell Trust when I still shopped at Sainsburys, other supermarkets are available, before my ailing back necessitated home-deliveries. Outside the front entrance a Trussell volunteer asked ‘Would you mind buying one extra tin of food in addition to your usual shop today? And donate it here?’
            ‘Of course. It’s a good idea,’ said I.
            ‘We teach the foodbank users how to budget, how not to run out of food and make the best choices for nutritious, inexpensive meals. We don’t just give them food without some guidance.’
              I didn’t care about this last, as such. If people are hungry a sense of urgency is needed. Food is what they need, and without delay.
            I do know of some, however, who have complained that food bank users have mobile phones and smoke fags. So what? If I had no food to eat and was worn down by a continual lack of funds, reduced benefits, unemployment and poor housing I’d likely find refuge in a smoke.
            The Trussell Trust has produced an excellent Adlent calendar, which starts today, Ash Wednesday.  For people such as I, unsure, sometimes, what to donate, it’s a checklist of 40 items required by food banks in the run up to Easter. It is easy to save one item, such as tinned fruit, every day for the next 40 days over Lent.
In my slipped-disc state a food-shop delivery is essential and I set about an online order on Monday evening. I would incorporate items for the food bank in my list. Easy.
           However by 3:00am that night I had already changed the delivery day and time four times. I had gone through the thirty-plus items I wanted to add to my donations box, felt happy with what I’d ordered, then reconsidered. If I were hungry would I really want all my items wrapped in the same packaging from the cheaper ranges? Did I really want my bathroom essentials to be in the same wrapping as rice, biscuits, long life milk and so on? Wouldn’t I want, when my cupboard was bare, to have something prettily-wrapped to look at?
            By 4:00am I had reordered most of the items I was going to donate and found myself feeling mean. Why should the impoverished do with the cheapest range of biscuits and tinned vegetables? Didn’t they need freshly baked bread and fresh fruit? I was, in my over-tired state, trying hard to empathise with folk who can’t afford to put food in their cupboards nor in their fridge. But I found I couldn’t. I didn’t know how I would feel to be handed a bag of ‘basic rice’ rather than something more exciting. If I were hungry how much would it matter?
           By 5:00 am I had taken pain killers for my back, switched off my lap top and had decided to stop worrying about making food donations. The Trussell Trust have made a list for a reason.They know what’s needed.I certainly don’t, it seems.

In my prep for my second novel ‘The Keys to Peace’, which opens in 1939, I have been looking at Holocaust survivor testimonies. I will also be using my father’s war-time diaries and my aunts’ memories of the black-out in the Midlands for the main beats of the novel. A Jewish escapee from Nazism is part of the plot. In addition to the above reading I have watched the film ‘The Relief of Belsen’, as dad was part of the liberating army which witnessed the horrors of the camp,and the typhus,at the end of the war.
As the film ‘Schindler’s List’ closes, the saviour of 1100 Jews breaks down and wonders whether he’d done enough. He felt he should have done more, and saved, maybe, another thousand from the gas chambers. In the ‘Relief of Belsen’consultants said that what made women feel more like human beings, after the ravages of the ghetto, the camps, humiliations, starvation, constant fear and illness had diminished them, was a simple tube of lipstick. Someone gently applying lipstick to their lips and giving them colour was the faltering beginning of recovery for someone who wasn’t already too ill or dying.

Yesterday  I returned to my online food order and stopped worrying whether I should order more chocolate bunnies for children who hadn’t enjoyed chocolate in recent weeks. I stopped worrying about what size nappies to order, whether for new-borns or five month-olds, and bought jars of baby food for a four-month old and an eight-month old. I stopped worrying whether I should order fresh daffodils for the food bank users. Flowers brighten up people’s lives, but it’s not what the Trussell Trust are asking for. I remember a film by, I think, Bill Douglas, where an impoverished woman, his gran, has displayed some grass bank-picked flowers in an old cup. She has nothing. They are her little luxury.She warms her cold hands on a hot cup.There's no tea in it, just hot water for warmth.

            Later today my supermarket delivery will arrive. When my back allows I’ll pack the essentials for donating to our nearest foodbank, and add a box of non-basic chocolates, and wonder whether to include a tube of lipstick, and then wonder what shade. And I know, whatever I donate, I will think I should have done more.

Which is another reason why the Trussell Trust do such a good job.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Segregation and Bullying

My novel, The Keys to Heaven, which covers the lives of Eliza and her family, from 1918-1939, is part one of two. I have laid down five chapters in book two, The Keys to Peace, and, as it opens in 1939, my characters live through the second world war. One character, Daniel, escapes Nazi Germany and manages to travel to a safer life in England, and is cared for by Eliza's sister.  

But his own sister, Janina, avoids the Berlin Gestapo by hiding with Aryan friends in the city. As Daniel's been moving through Switzerland and France to get the last boat to England, with Eliza's sister, she can't get word to him. Eventually, at the end of the war, he discovers, from the Red Cross, that in 1942, she had been sent by train from Güterbahnhof Moabit (freight station in Moabit) fairly close to Berlin city centre. Here, a platform was used that was separated and parallel to the S-Bahn tracks. The S-Bahn was the city's rapid transit system. But her journey from that platform ended in Thereseinstadt. 

The vile crimes against the Jews during the war are well documented. However I am still shocked by the racism against black men and women in Virginia, USA, which took place as late as the 1960s. I didn't get to see the excellently titled Hidden Figures when it was Oscar-nominated last year. I have recently seen it, however, courtesy of Sky Movies. 

Before 1933, in Germany, wealthy, professional Jews, who were teaching, running businesses and living full, mostly unhindered lives, were, in many cases, masters of all they surveyed.
By 1939 they weren't allowed to walk on a pavement nor sit on a park bench. Jews were segregated.

In Virginia the opposite process took place. People of colour had to sit at the back of public buses, the section was labelled coloreds only.  At NASA, both black and white women were employed but they were segregated. They worked in separate buildings. 

In Hidden Figures an extremely gifted black mathematician was allowed to do the number crunching in order to plan the trajectory of a manned space capsule. But she had to walk miles from her desk to get to a coloreds only lavatory for women. That was only one of the humiliations she endured.

Her friend, equally talented, had to go before a county judge to request that she be allowed to study engineering at a whites-only college. Although such segregation had been outlawed by Washington Virginia kept its racist laws. In fact the gifted, black, female engineer persuaded the court to let her study. She was the first black woman to attend a whites-only college.  But that was on the strict ruling that she went there for night school only. So she worked doubly hard: she worked at NASA all day, but had to work and study hard all night. She wasn't given leave to mix with the whites at college in the daytime. 

In other words the women I mention were as clever as their white, male counterparts but the struggle to get their abilities recognised and become promoted was almost as segregationist as the Judenfrei laws of 1930s and 1940s Berlin.

In Virginia segregation prevented progress for the race that was looked down upon. 
In Germany segregation actively removed opportunities for Jews who were used to being fully integrated and unhampered in the sciences, arts, education and commerce.

Is it worse to be denied what others have by right and stay at the bottom of the heap, or is it more awful to have everything you've achieved and enjoyed ripped away from you?  In the first case if you've never known freedom there is always hope that one day the glass ceiling will crack. In the second case annihilation was too often the outcome. 

The loss of hope, I venture, must be worse. Suicides in Berlin after Kristallnacht meant there were fewer Jews for the Nazis to murder.

The blacks in 1960s Virginia were still escaping slavery. The Jews in 1930s Germany and invaded territories were being forced into it.  Enlightenment and respect for others is a precious commodity and is as valuable as gold dust. 

In an increasingly divided West race may not always be the great divider, although the figures show poverty, generally, is worse for blacks. We are becoming more intolerant of those who have very little. So prejudice is against the poor. Gender issues are not going away either. 

At the BBC bias against women presenters and broadcasters is becoming unfortunately a business-as-usual state of affairs. I wonder who suggested John Humphrys et al took a pay cut? And, who needs to earn £600,000 to interrupt politicians daily, at 6:00 am, thereby sending listeners into a depression before their working day as a bus driver, plumber, banker, teacher or any other job not 'worth' £600,000, has even begun?

I would love to see Today run by people who enjoy life, respect others and don't have to harangue the people they are interviewing. It's just another form of bullying. And such bullying behaviour, as endured in 1930s Berlin and 1960s Virginia, should be well behind us. 

When will the human race become civilised? 

For Holocaust Memorial Day 

Pain and a slipped disc

I cannot believe, after only a month into 2018, I am already having to give up my new year resolutions. I was exercising and dieting regularly, enjoying it, even, when suddenly on Sunday evening I felt my back 'go' as I was leaving the house to go swimming. All I'd done was bend down to switch off a radiator.
The pool was quiet and I did my 'regulation' 25-30 minutes swim without a stop - avoiding breast stroke - the enemy of those with back trouble. Back home I knew I'd have to reach for the painkillers and by Monday it was certain that I'd caused no ordinary 'trapped nerve'-type pain, to which I am prone. It was much worse. By Tuesday I was eating painkillers for breakfast and decided to remain house-bound, rather than aggravate my tender back by causing a painful contracting of muscles, due to the cold weather. By Wednesday Richard bought me a pack of OTC co-codamol, with so many health warnings the back pain seemed preferable to the dizziness, constipation and drug dependency which would rain down on me.

It all felt like the beginnings of a slipped disc - which I suffered 10 years ago - and I quickly abandoned all social and self-sprucing activities. I would not be able to move outside my own front door. Inside I could not get comfortable. If I sat for too long I couldn't leave my chair without pain, if I lay down I simply couldn't move out of the prone position and if I walked about, like a zoo-trapped tiger, I became weary. At most I was getting 4 hours' sleep at a stretch and had to take my pain killers an hour before I got up. If I didn't do this I could not leave the bed, the pain was too severe.

The cat is wary of me as I have grown two extra limbs. One, an extra leg, in the form of a walking stick, the other, an extra arm in the form of a litter picker. I simply cannot walk without support and I cannot bend to pick anything up.I am a sexter-dexter. 

 Thursday was my last day on OTC co-codamol. Hellfire and damnation to those who took those meds beyond three days. In preparation for the avoidance of a new hell I practised waking up at 6:00 am to take my painkillers,  getting washed at 7:00 and dressing by 7.15am But why?

At our GP surgery the walk-in-and-wait arrangements start at 8:00am. In my state I wanted not to have to do my pacing up and down in the waiting room, see above for my inability to sit, so had to be early ie first in the queue to see a GP. That meant getting there dead (?) on 8:00 am. I knew that would take me two hours' prep. 

On Friday, with the surgery in mind, I woke at 5.50 am, ate some ready prepared bread and jam to have with my tablets, took them and dozed while I waited for the analgesic effect to work.At 7:00am, a bit like going over the top, I girded my loins. I had to endure certain pain but had to move my damaged carcass. I managed to roll out of bed on my tummy, grab my extra leg, my walking stick,  and got in to the shower. I even coped with pulling on footless tights and a loose top. I pushed my feet into my boots, avoiding the need to bend, and froze because the heating hadn't come on. 

That's when my back reacted to the cold. It started hurting like no other day this week. I made myself a hot water bottle while the central heating came on and tried to get comfortable. When Richard was ready to take me to the surgery - about 7:40 am, I could barely walk and had to give in. I had simply expected too much of myself and I knew I wouldn't be able to cope with the cold outside and having to twist myself to get in the car. My back went into a mild spasm and I had to stay put. I was not going to be able to get to the surgery. Walk-in-and-wait is for those who can walk and can wait. I can do neither. I needed a home visit. 

A jolly GP rang me while I snoozing; I've had so little proper sleep this week I was glad of it. She knew exactly what to prescribe me and within moments Richard had been to collect the meds from the chemist. She said there was no way I could get to the surgery and made an appointment for me for next week instead. By then some of the 225 tablets I have on my table should have started to relax muscles and work on my back pain.

In trying to get to the surgery I had felt more pain than at any time this week. A simple act like walking into colder temperatures and wearing heavy boots has forced the muscles in my back to tense up. That night, feeling good in warm bath water, I undid all my hard work while trying to look after my back, and foolishly moved and bent badly. This sent sciatic
pain shooting up and down both legs. 💥 My whole back felt as if it were being pulled and  strained through a spaghetti ladle. Or I was on the rack.  And I had been on much stronger meds since 10 am that day. They should have made me feel better. 

At midnight I realised I was allowed a third dose of valium, for me its a muscle relaxant, not a cure for mental anguish. Mind you...  
That and another dose of stronger co codamol left me feeling more relaxed, but not sleepy. I hoped to doze off and wake at 6:00 am to take a double dose of naproxen, it's a strong ibuprofen, with codeine and paracetamol, and my ready-to-hand breakfast of bread and jam. 
By 7:00 am Saturday morning I anticipated getting out of bed, pain free. 🙏

My new year's resolution to swim and walk at least four times a week has been obliterated. I can barely walk upstairs. 

The only way I'll lose weight now is by dieting. There's no way I can do any exercise until I'm pain free. Last time I had a slipped disc I was told it would take 6 months to get right. In fact I believe it took a year. Maybe January 2019 is the time for a new year resolution: lose weight and exercise more. I just can't see it happening in 2018. 

And I thought I was trying so hard.

Boo hoo. 😡

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Resolutions? Why it's hard...

I wonder whether, like me, you resolve, this year, to lose weight and exercise more. I have been saying I must lose weight and exercise more for the last ten Januarys at least. I did, in fact, become a thin, healthier person in the mid 90s and kept the weight off for some years. How did I do that? The answer is quite straightforward: I found the time to go swimming at least three times a week. I became the weight I should be for my height and age - around 10 stone 6.

With the glow of success I got lazy. I knew I could lose weight if I wanted to... it was no big deal. But I'd forgotten that it gets harder to stay fit as we age. I didn't factor in that if you lose overall mobility, in my case, in the form of a slipped disc, the body loses less fat. About ten years ago I was flat on my back. When walking I moved awkwardly, was full of painkillers, and found sitting in a car - or even on a plane - most painful. A slipped disc takes between six months to a year to get right. Gradually I could swim again, but, even now, I have to be careful. The disc has repaired itself but I have a permanently trapped nerve. If I go mad at it, usually doing breast stroke, the pain starts.

Long story short: I have put on weight and I need to exercise more. If it means taking paracetamol so be it. The weight has to go.

Since Christmas 2017 I have managed two walks and two swims a week. On top of that I do a brisk walk to local shops once or twice a week and I diet 2 days out of 7 ( ie the 5:2 diet.) This sounds as though I ought to be losing the pounds but it isn't that easy. Last week I was focusing so hard on going out for a swim, preparing myself by putting my chilly-feeling swimsuit on the radiator before I left the house for the pool, that in my rush to get on with my new exercise regime I left my swimming costume at home. Of course I didn't know I had erred until Richard dropped me off outside the pool and was on his merry way to the pub. What was I to do?

a) ring him, knowing full well he was driving and wouldn't answer
b) ring him, leave a message to collect me and head to the hotel bar next to the pool
c) don't ring, just go to the bar
d) ask if they have a spare swimsuit at the desk, thereby sticking to my regime without taking in extra alcoholic calories
e) walk home, thus giving me a burst of exercise, but risk catching my death as I didn't have my winter coat with me
f) wait in the hotel, next to the pool, read the Sunday papers, and have a cup of tea
g) ring the pub where Richard was drinking and leave a message for him?

It didn't take too much effort to decide swimming was still the best option, given my lack of warm winter clothing and the fact Richard would be unlikely to answer my call and his pub might not answer their phone either. At the desk I had to confess my stupidity at leaving my gear at home. Two ladies, who, it has to be said, were more portly than I, were booking facials and exotic treatments and found my predicament hilarious. I was trying hard to stick to my hard to get in my 25-30 minutes daily exercise, but I was in luck... my spa did have a swimsuit they could sell me for £15. It wasn't my size but hey swimsuits stretch don't they?

After ten minutes in the warm waters I felt immensely holy. I was being very good and exercising like a minor athlete. Then the pain started... Because I was wearing a size 14 swimsuit, the size I should be, the tight straps had irritated my trapped nerve. I kept swimming but stuck to front crawl, minimising the pull on my lower back. I staggered out of the pool like someone drunk and managed to down a painkiller or two.

Tomorrow I had planned to go for a long walk... but the rain is due to pelt it down morning, noon and night. I will swap my Monday regime with Tuesday and do my walk then. Tomorrow I will swim instead. But I will remember my swimming gear. All I have to do now is decide which days I'll diet.Last week I read 'how to keep new year resolutions' in the paper.

thermae spa is for lounging not exercising!

 Easy, the article said, exercising and diet should be as regular a habit as brushing your teeth. Oh really???