Friday, 19 February 2010

A Blog Award!

I am – as they say in these parts – chuffed to pieces to have been nominated for a blog award by Tina at Tina’s Weight Loss Journey (Oregon USA), and with a disgusting lack of modesty I have been saying to friends “Guess what, I’ve got a blog award!”  Thank you so much Tina for this gesture of faith, and for the very nice accolade.

I’ll pass on the instructions to the next nominees first, then tell you about my choices:

• Thank the person who nominated you for this award
• Copy the award and post it in your blog
• Link to the blog of the person who nominated you
• Tell seven interesting things about yourself
• Nominate seven bloggers
• Post links to the blogs of your nominees

I’m delighted to nominate seven of my favourite blogs, and have chewed my nails to the quick in trying to decide which seven.  Not all are bandits. Among others, Tina has nominated Simone at The Bottom of the Ironing Basket, (London UK), and Bunny at Weightloss Expedition (Cambridge, UK) another two favourites of mine – so there go three people I would have nominated myself… although that gives me three spare….

All my choices are wonderful, brave, feisty women who shoot straight from the hip and make me laugh at the screen as I read their perky posts.

1.  Take Helen from Reddirt Woman (Oklahoma USA), who has had a very interesting life, and a bumpy ride in one way and another, and yet shares it with us with a quip and a self-mocking smile.  She’s the sort of person I can imagine being thrown from a horse, and despite hurting herself makes it look amusing, then picks herself up and dusts herself down and gets back on again (while cursing the horse).

2.  Cara at The Dash (Perth, Australia), a lady with a very big heart and a rueful turn of phrase – usually turned against herself – a very successful bandit with (thank goodness) a few foodie failings, and lucky to have a loving husband and family.  She’s incredibly supportive to the rest of us bandits, and probably should have the special award for making the most comments on other blogs – and they’re always warmly written and encouraging.

3.  If I told that you that Shaggs at Food Junkie to Fabulous! (Melbourne, Australia) makes me cry, just check out the most recent post she’s got on at the moment (18 Feb) and you’ll see what I mean.  She writes so well, and pulls you along with her when she’s head first into one of her witty stories, or is having a rant about something.  There’s the other side of course, when she’s in total despair because she feels every other bandit is doing better than she is, and there’s no consoling her – and yet she’s lost an enormous amount of weight in a short time.  She’s probably forgotten about her earlier despair…

4.  Nola at From Here to Anxiety (Tasmania, Australia) is another bandit for whom you need to strap your sides to the chair when you read her, so that they don’t split.  It’s not just that she knows how to tell a funny story, extraordinary things keep on happening to her which are also high drama - for goodness sake, go and find out for yourselves.  Another lady with a big heart, whose experiences with the lapband are told in glorious technicolour, and therefore are fantastically useful to newbies.
5.  Tracey, in Time to Downsize (Queensland, Australia), whose infectious joy of living is in itself inspiring, has been very successful with her lapband up until the happy appearance of her baby daughter, when it had to be (temporarily) removed.  She tells her story in a way that is not only interesting, but is very useful to other bandits, and at times also full of high drama.  Her tooth abscess while pregnant, during which she refused any medication for the sake of her baby, makes you clutch at your jaw with both hands in sympathy as you read it, not to mention the lapband problems after the baby was born.

6.  Zanna at The Tart who Travels, (Central Queensland, Australia) is a devoted world traveller (with lovely sounding husband Bloss).  She has an awesome single mindedness when it comes to controlling her weight, and is a very entertaining writer.  I love her travel photos, and much appreciate her invariable support.  When you read her you get the strong impression that she has a fun life.

7.  Sylvia at The First Day of the Rest of my Life (South Dakota, USA) sounds like a superbly loyal and gentle friend with a supportive husband who like the rest of us struggles with her lapband but has found time to be interested in a lot of things, such as quilting, and has more than one blog.  The overpowering sense you get when you read her blog is her kindness and sensitivity.

That’s the seven, but there are many more who I feel to be good friends, and many more are from the Southern hemisphere.

Tina who nominated me is a determined bandit who tells it like it is – when you read her you’re on that rollercoaster with her, clinging to the sides.  I love her honesty, and what’s not to like in a person who wears odd socks and is willing to tackle anything to get things done, including working on the roof of her house and prepared to hang from the guttering by her fingernails?  Bunny’s health problems are horrendous; I defy anyone reading it not to surreptitiously cross their legs.  She tells it bravely, and at the very least makes you stop complaining for at least five minutes about how tough weight loss is.  Simone’s blog is a happy one with stunning fashion photographs – and others too – combined with thought provoking ideas, and has a large following, partly because she is kind and thoughtful herself.

What draws me to these lovely people is not merely that their blogs are inspirational, interesting and well written, but also their generous willingness to support people like us who – to be frank – need it.  We started our blogs as part of a determination to change our lives for the better, and the partial anonymity afforded by this (very self-indulgent) means of communication has encouraged us to be as honest as possible.  Validation by bandits in the same situation as ourselves is more precious than I could ever express.


I will try to tell you seven interesting things about myself, but I think it’s more a question of telling you seven things about myself - and then try to make them interesting.

1.  I have played the guitar since I was ten
This is a picture of my cousins, and I’m the one with the guitar (aged 14 wearing a hat ‘borrowed’ from my father, which he never got back) sitting by the pool at the enchantingly wild farm (“El Chorro” – the waterfall) where I spent most of my childhood holidays in the Valle de Calamuchita, Córdoba, Argentina.  The pool had its own stream flowing in one end and out the other, so was always crystal clear, however there was no fancy blue paint round the sides, so the water looked black as pitch and I was a bit scared of its 3m dark depths.  I learned to swim here at age 4 or so because I was too spooked not to!

I first saw another child play the guitar when I was 10, was instantly besotted, and gave my parents no peace until I got it for Christmas in 1963.  At 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve (and I was still refusing to switch off the light) I heard my father say to my mother “for goodness sake let the child go downstairs to see the presents or nobody will get any sleep”.  Later I was told that they looked in on me when I had at last stopped talking, and I was fast asleep in bed with my arms around the guitar-shaped package.  I was taught solfa and Argentine folk music, teaching myself Joan Baez songs later on.  It was a great ice-breaker for a shy and self-conscious teenager with a stutter, because I didn’t stutter when I sang, and I was always asked to play, which gave me confidence. 

Playing the guitar at a party in Argentina is a skill akin to smoking a peace-pipe:  a lot of people know how to play, so the guitar is passed companionably from one to another and everybody wants to sing – there’s no hint of it being a concert as it would be in Britain, with people listening quietly and clapping politely after each song.

2.  Photography is my “belovéd hobby”

Both pix:  Kuramathi, The Maldives

Bristol Gilbert & Sullivan Society:
The Pirates of Penzance

I enjoy candid portraits and landscapes, and have tackled (a lot of) rugby and pictures taken at dress rehearsals of amateur productions here in Bristol.  I’ve recently acquired a horribly extravagant scanner for negatives and slides, so in due course I’m hoping to share with you pictures I’ve taken over the years.

3.  I – er – can write backwards.  Properly I mean.

(“Lonicera, Bandit Country, Blogland”)

I’m left-handed, and when bored in class one afternoon as a child I realised that I could write backwards with my left hand (though not with my right, funnily enough).  I also taught myself to write with my right hand, and today use them both equally.  At dinner parties some times when we’re all showing off, I write with both hands at the same time – backwards with my left and forwards with my right (it has to be the same thing, of course or my brain would scramble).  When I write backwards it’s instinctive, for example when writing the above this afternoon, I started thinking about doing the curly capital L backwards and found I couldn’t do it, and had to start again.

4.  Patagonia

Provincia de Río Negro

Estancia Huanuluán, Provincia de Río Negro

I’ve already written at length about my adventures there, born of a fascination with it after reading and then translating a book written by a young English girl who lived there in the twenties.  I fervently hope my association with that lovely part of the world will continue, as I’ve only just scratched the surface of what I want to learn about it.

5.  My cats


Banjo and Rusty are my darlings.  Honestly, I don’t mind having terrible nightmares about dragging myself through undergrowth knowing there’s someone after me, (last night actually) and waking up to realise that Rusty is nestled on my chest and I can’t breathe.  And how lazy of me to mind tidying my desk 10 minutes after the last time because Banjo has plonked himself down on it and kicked annoying papers in all directions as he hunkers down as best he can, waiting for me to finish typing for the night and vacate the chair he wants to sleep on (in the cat world this is known as “queueing”).

6.  I hate/loathe/detest....

(i)    Getting up early, going to bed early;
(ii)   Smoked haddock (kedgeree = aaargh!); tea with milk
       (can just about stand black tea); raw onion;
(iii)  Peppermint, liquorice, &
       blackcurrant flavoured anything;
(iv)  Lies, intolerance/extremism, unkindness, cruelty
      – both wanton and thoughtless - particularly to children
      and animals;
(v)   Disloyalty, dishonesty, obfuscation, injustice, bigotry;
(vi)  Show-offs, poor hygiene;
(vii) The Ariel font!

7.  I love....... 
(apart from what has been mentioned above, specific people and writing in my blog)

(i)    Typing on a PC & learning about manipulating
       photographs electronically;
(ii)   People who are straight and true;
(iii)  All the wrong foods...;
(iv)  Swimming in crystal clear water on a warm day and
       the feel of a gentle breeze on my skin and in my hair;
(v)   All shades of blue and green, particularly
       the sun seen through green leaves;
(vi)  The serenity that comes from listening to
       the right music at the right time;
(vii) The star-studded night sky of Patagonia,
       and particularly the Southern Cross.

Long winded - ME???  Who said that???


Friday, 5 February 2010

Time to Resume, and Tribute to a Friend

There are two positive things that happen to me when my spirits are very low, and it’s extremely annoying that they only occur when I reach this point. 
The first is that I feel compelled to write – not newsy letters to neglected friends and relations who haven’t heard from me for far too long, but attempts at something creative.  I seem to regain some sort of serenity when I sit at my desk, hands poised over the keyboard, staring at a blank screen.  I disappear somewhere into my mind, surfing my own internal cyberspace.  My sadnesses remain far below for a little while as I soar up into the mountains of my imagination or my memory, whichever I’m calling on at the time.  I’m a fairly decent typist who doesn’t need to look at the keyboard, and away I fly. 
Then – as inevitably happens - a loving partner or a working colleague interrupts, and it feels like being yanked back to earth.  However justified the intrusion I feel pinned down, unable to escape, forced to listen to humdrum issues that need to be dealt with.  I’m now on a lead, pulling to get away, aching to return to the beautiful place I have just abandoned so abruptly.  Once is merely annoying, but I lead the sort of life when I’m rarely alone, so this happens frequently.  In the end I just sigh and give up, promising myself that I’ll return to that world as soon as the next chore is finished.
If I’m going through a phase of not cooperating with the lapband, i.e. eating high calorie rubbish, then the second effect of low spirits is that I get back on the wagon, because – well, there’s nowhere to go but up.  I know that being slimmer will make me feel better physically and mentally, and I start to apply the rules because I have no choice.  Then slowly things begin to improve, and the modest success acquires its own momentum as wellbeing generates a renewed determination to succeed.
This is where I am at the moment.  You will note from the “Snail’s Pace” weight chart that there has been no significant loss for several months.  The unfill before I went to Argentina in November was necessary for other reasons (stated in previous posts) and I don’t regret it, but apart from slowing down the process of weight loss, more importantly it interrupted the momentum quite significantly.  ‘Head hunger’ returned with a vengeance despite a re-fill, and it’s been a losing battle to avoid comfort foods and sugary treats.   The gym subscription continues to exit my account every month, but isn’t used. 
The trigger is when I reach the point of unhappiness (not necessarily weight related) and I have to acknowledge that whereas I have little or no control over other aspects of my life, controlling my body is something I can do.  
In addition I’ve had a timely reminder that my diabetes won’t take care of itself either. 
Steve, c.1994

I was very fond of a colleague in a previous job, a big hulk of a man called Steve who was a diabetic of the same age as myself.  A warehouse supervisor, he was a gentle giant whose occasional bad temper was invariably due to his hypos – low sugar levels.  I was the cause of one such episode on one occasion when I was supposed to fill the cool drinks machine in the warehouse and by mistake put the Coke and the Diet Coke in the wrong slots.  As the liquid poured straight into the cups you couldn’t tell what you were having, and when he realised his sugar was getting too low he drank several cups of what he thought was Coke.  An hour later he was found staggering around in the warehouse, making aggressive remarks, and fortunately somebody guessed what the problem was and gave him sugar.  He always teased me about it thereafter. 
c.1992. Steve is at the back on the left
I hated being stuck at the front, of course!

Despite moving to a desk job and being carefully monitored by health professionals, his consumption of insulin was so high that he was eventually put on some concentrated version, but all the same started to lose sensation in his feet and hands.  A few years ago a small wound under one foot went unnoticed for too long and very sadly resulted in the amputation of his leg at the knee - a condition not uncommon for diabetics.  He was soon up and about and back at work, coping with the prosthesis as if he had been born with it, although with other health issues kicking in, eventually the job proved too much for him and he took early retirement.   Then a couple of years later misfortune struck again with his other foot, with the same outcome, and he became wheelchair bound.  This week I learned that he had been forced to undergo a further amputation of what was left of one of his legs, and had died during the operation.
He was once a tall, strong man and in his youth liked a drink or two.  In 1988 when I first joined the agricultural company where we both worked, I was told stories about his being arrested outside a pub many years earlier because he had got into an affray and that it took five policemen to hold him down.  Although he never found a woman he wanted to marry, he didn't lack lady friends who hung around, frequently because they were being badly treated by their boyfriends and they sought his protection.  He had calmed down by the time I knew him – it may have been the effect of undiagnosed high sugar levels in the blood - and had stopped drinking altogether (the monochrome picture above ironically shows him being awarded a bottle of spirits for something or other, but he would have given it away).
The baby son of a couple who were friends of his became the apple of his eye, and as the boy grew up Steve was his surrogate uncle.  On a Friday you would ask him “What are you doing this weekend Steve?” and his invariable reply was “Don’t know...haven’t been told yet.” 
Though a naturally cheerful person, inevitably he struggled with depression over the last few years, and clearly he had better reasons than I did for his negative feelings.  I hadn’t visited him in over a year because I felt I would be unable to cheer him up very much.  Now I know this was selfish, and that any effort would have been worth it.  I’m so sorry Steve.
This is a wake-up call if ever there was one, and time to resume treating my lapband with respect.
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