Monday, 31 January 2011

Where I try to defy gravity at gym

"Come on give it some effort,"  Babs says, slapping my back and interrupting my Monday morning self flagellation session, otherwise known as 'the gym.'  She leans over to scrutinise the screen on my treadmill. "Dear me, you've can't have that set on 'walk with a 3% incline,' me Granny can do better than that and she's on a Zimmer frame." She moves it up to 12%,  turns the speed up to 'jog.'  Five seconds later my countryside ramble has become rapid ascent on South Face of Eiger. Without ropes or oxygen.
"That'll give you a bum of steel," she says patting hers to prove it.
"If I live to see it," I mutter under breath.
"What's that?" she asks.
"Errm, I'd love to see it."  I lie, fighting to stay upright.
"Good," she grins, sets timer for ten minutes and says cheerfully, "You need to feel your fat jiggling to know it's working, I'll be back shortly to see how you're doing, so no wimping out on me now."
She is not personal trainer but used to be. However she is still fitness fanatic, who has decided I need help.
She runs, does Pilate's classes and gym sessions everyday and swims a mile, three times a week 'for fun.' I decide she needs help, of a different kind.
"Anyway, where's your partner in crime today," she asks referring to Bee's absence, "busy painting?"
I nod in reply because I can't speak as am now puffing away like steam engine, knees pumping like pistons.  Bee is at home creating artwork for a show next month and missing out on all this joy.  I really wanted to stay home and write but am afraid of becoming petrified by arthritis and ending up like those fossilised people they  found at  Pompeii.

To top it all, across gym I see woman Bee and myself call 'Madge,' after 'you know who.' Today she is wearing top that is cropped to show off a tanned and toned torso which is  neatly exposed above cargo pants, that are cinched into her 15" waist. She puts on leather gloves like a racing car driver's to lift weights the equivalent of  a Fiat 500 and doesn't even break a sweat.  I can only gasp in awe and try not to stare.

Finished on Treadmill (in more ways than one) with wobbly knees I step on the dread scales before I go.  Despite yesterday's walk on Hadrian's Wall, not eating last bit of Christmas cake, plucking eyebrows  and shaving legs, I am still same weight as last week.  I glance back at Madge, annoyingly she's still hauling away, holding a full conversation and worse, she's not even pink yet.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Where I wonder if "The Great Outdoors" is, know, Great

Contentment is being tucked up in bed on Sunday morning,  looking out at cold grim day with certain degree of smugness, duvet tucked under chin, electric blanket set on high, waiting for tea, toast and Sunday papers to be brought by husband.
He returns from kitchen with tray and says "You know what this would be the perfect day for...."
"Lying in front of fire, (albeit a 3 bar electric in my rented house) watching favourite movies and polishing off the remains of the Christmas chocolates?" I say, thinking of half full box of Roses somewhere in cupboard.
"No, no," he says shaking his head testily, the way he does when he thinks he's dealing with a complete imbecile, "I thought we could go for a walk up on Hadrian's Wall."
"What? Today?"
"Why not? It'll do you good to get out in the fresh air, away from writing stuff," he says, "and it's the perfect day for it, there won't be many other people there."
"Yes," I say, arms folded across chest, "that is because 'many other people' have not gone completely bonkers."
"I went shoe shopping with you yesterday, he says, "I didn't complain once."
An hour and a half later I am in  car park  of  Housestead's Roman Fort strapping on boots same as divers wear for deep sea exploration. As I look up at mist shrouded hill, Radio 2 DJ helpfully plays "Chariots of Fire" and we set off up steep incline.
"Last time I did a walk like this it was sponsored." I say huffily.
"Yes and it was probably in 1976." husband says meanly. (I blame that Julia Bradbury and her outdoor programmes, husband is big fan, she has much to answer for).
We are the only English speaking people there, everyone else has come from abroad and probably feel they may not have another opportunity to visit. All locals are probably in front of log fire in quaint pub we passed on the way. Even sheep are huddling together for warmth.
Finally, after examining piles of rubble, it begins to snow and husband allows retreat to cafe.  As we descend, I am comforted by thought that if I don't make it to base camp, at least when they find my cold stiff body in wilderness, I am wearing my new outfit from the Winter Joules catalogue.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Where we witness Devotion in Geordieland

As part of our new dedication to thrift on our Job Seekers Allowance Bee and myself make a trip to Primark in Newcastle city centre this afternoon. We are rifling through their bargain jumpers when a man approaches Bee-
“Here pet, can ye help is with this.  Is this what you lasses call a gillett?" He says, holding up a 
sleeveless suede jacket with a fluffy lining.
“Gillett?” she says, looking mystified.
Even though she moved here from Manchester a gazillion years ago, she is absolutely hopeless when faced with a broad Geordie accent. I have to do subtitles for her whenever Cheryl Cole is on X factor.
“Aye, a for lined gill- lett!”  The man repeats more slowly and loudly, much as my hubby does when we’re abroad.
“Yes I say,” jumping in as he’s starting to get exasperated, “I believe it is.”
“That’s champion pet,” he says relieved. “Wor lass has sent is doon here for a furry Gillet, size fowerteen and if a gan back with the rang thing, I’ll have me heed in me hands.” He rolls his eyes and makes a cutting action across his throat with  his fingertips.
“His wife has sent him down here for a fur gilet, size fourteen,” I say, translating rapidly. “If he goes home with the wrong thing his wife will...  ”
“...chop his head off?”  Bee finishes, jaw dropping, “seems a bit severe.”
“This is just the thing,” I say to him, “right size too.” 
“Don’t suppose you lasses knaa where the knickers are?”
I point him in the right direction.  He goes off into the crowd, a happy man.
“Wow, can’t believe he’s come in here on a Saturday shopping for women’s clothes, let alone undies, that’s what you call love.” Bee says impressed.
I nod, looking after him.  “If I offered hubby the choice of shopping for clothes for me or having his teeth drilled with out anaesthetic, it would be a tough choice.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Bee says.
“You’re right.” I nod, “he would definitely choose the teeth drilling.”

Friday, 28 January 2011

Where a cat or dog will cross its legs when it needs to go out, Monty my parrot just shrieks "I want to come out!"

Now have headache. Whereas a cat or dog will go and stand by the back door and cross its legs when it needs to go out, Monty my parrot just shrieks "I want to come out!" as if he's being slain.   Out on parole earlier, he scuttled up and down the bars screeching "what's this" as he glared at computer screen. As I write, he is stomping up and down his perch, shedding feathers and  bossing our two budgies around, telling them to be quiet and get on their perch. For their part they are trilling hysterically as they fight over one piece of apple even though two pieces in cage.  I wonder if anyone else has written a book inside an aviary.  Now there's knock on the back much for concentration.

It was delivery man, with another parcel for next door.  As I am not working and everyone else in world must be,  I am now unofficial hub for Parcel Force, Royal Mail, UPS. Kitchen resembles sorting office some days. Post man and me on such good terms I know names of all his children, step children and their children, leave him on doorstep to answer phone which turns out to be Monty doing flawless impression...

Where The Husband is called to wrestle big spider lurking under kitchen table

Day did not start well as summoned husband from shower to deal with big spider lurking under kitchen table. He arrived dripping wet to despatch monster and was not amused to find was dried up top of a tomato.  Much stamping and muttering under breath as he retreated upstairs.  Make mental note to remember to wear glasses in morning when making breakfast and husband's lunch box, as goodness only knows what he could find in his sandwich.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Where I have interview for the local newspaper & possible hypothermia

Desk is now in living room which is good, as is away from fridge. It is now next to Monty, our parrot's cage which may or may not be good. Now he has an audience, as day has gone on, he has become more vociferous bellowing "kiss me, chubby chops," which he usually reserves for husband.  I have been teaching him to wolf whistle and say "hi skinny," when he sees me but no sign of the brainwashing working yet.

Was interviewed by very patient journalist Helen, from local newspaper this morning for article about my book project to go on their arts page. She was very polite and showed no obvious signs of slipping into coma, even though I was rabbiting on for ages extolling virtues of my epic work.. Husband says I can talk under water, which is obviously not true...somewhat worried  when they said they wanted to take some photos of me in in park across the road.  I took off massive overcoat as I thought I would look smarter. Just as was about to to expire with hypothermia I asked photographer to

1 Make me look size 8
2 Make me look 35
3 Not to get close up of hair as roots need doing
4 Airbrush vigorously, especially around thighs

He gave me look that said "I'm a photographer, not a magician, Pet." and started clicking away as it began to drizzle, wind started to get up and hair stuck firmly to newly applied lipstick. Marvellous, Can't wait to see pictures.

But  must press on as much to do on plot today and need to focus.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Where I have decided Fridge is too close to my desk

Fridge is right next to my desk so  I can now open door and take out cheese and lemon tart without taking right hand off key board. Or even looking over shoulder. Reminds me of being away in a camper van with my step children,  I could lie in bed and fry bacon, eggs and sausage without leaving bunk. I didn't have quite same success with cheese on toast, as grill pan slipped and  toast did Olympic style back flip dive, before landing cheddar side down on the orange shag pile carpet and had to be removed with manicure scissors. Why do lots of camper vans have orange and brown interiors? Anyway, must get menfolk to move desk to somewhere less convenient for snacks tonight as have noticed correlation between accessibility of  fridge and snugger fit of best jeans.

Earlier got lovely message from a friend and fellow writer in America who tells me she has finished first draft of her novel. Very jealous.  Better get back to work. Today I am in village in Ireland where heroine Bernadette is baking cakes for village shop, hmmm that reminds me I can probably just reach that last piece of tart while I type another couple of lines...know it's here somewhere...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Where I go to Job Centre and meet Frankenstein dog

Number of pages of novel written so far 178  Number of pages worth reading 156  132  54 17

Hurrah! Go to sign on this morning at local job centre. No end to the excitement in my life. A man who is smoking outside the front door has a dog with him which reminds me of Frankenstein. It looks like it has been made up bits of other dogs, by someone who clearly cannot sew.  Its jowly bulldog head is too big for its body and the little legs attached to each corner only just keeps its undercarriage off the concrete. As I approach it squares up to me and I see it's wearing a leather chest harness. It has shiny brass studs on it and looks similar to the world heavy weight boxing belt.  The dog leaps snarling and snacking and the man yells "get doon yer silly bugger" yanks it back, preventing it from surgically removing my legs below the knee, as I nip past to report for my two weekly appointment.
George is on reception, never mind the weather or the time of day he is always smiling and remembers everyone's name.  He is commiserating with Jed who has been made redundant at 64, after working for a local farm supplies company since leaving school.
"Nearly fifty years," Jed says shaking his head, looking down at the black pom pom hat in his hands "me son lost his job at same time, he's goin to be alright though, he's gotten a temporary job on the neighbour's farm but me, I don't have a clue, what about you pet,"" he says turning to me," any luck?"    

"Errm," I stutter, afraid to tell him that since I signed up for Job Seekers Allowance last September I have been offered:

1. Cleaner at care home

2. Christmas Till Operator at local discount warehouse

3. Double Glazing Salesperson for company named after famous mountain

4. Delivery person of latest edition of phone directory (with yellow pages) in very rural area

5. Canvassing door to door for Census

As I had asked for anything to do with freelance writing, Ihate to be picky but nothing immediately grabbed me.

"Writing a book, our Fiona is," George says.

 "I only want something part time." I say, thinking about the hours it will take to shape the tangled mass of words into something resembling a novel.  Is it possible or have I gone completely tonto?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Where I learn more about possible body parts to pierce

"Twin daughter's phoned last night, all is well at Uni in Scotland (both at same one, doing same course) then Ella casually says "By the way Mum, I've had my Tragus pierced. Silently mouth "what's a Tragus?" to hubby who shrugs shoulders and resumes reading paper. So as not to appear uncool, fake a coughing fit, get off phone"to get drink of water" and look up 'T' word in dictionary. Relieved to find it's "prominence on the inner side of external ear," whatever that means, but anyhow better than what I thought it meant. Resume conversation and discover their father is visiting from Australia next weekend with wife number five. I couldn't possibly criticise, I was number three, lasted longer than number two, who only managed an eighteen month innings. You couldn't make it up.

Have another, "you couldn't make it up," moment when sitting in front of computer looking at plot of my novel and reflecting on a week where Sir Elton John and his partner's show off baby Zachary on cover of OK! and Nicole Kidman and husband thank their"Gestational carrier" for delivering their new baby. If this is real life how am I supposed to top it with fiction?

Friday, 21 January 2011

Where I create my website and The Husband pontificates

Need to lie down in darkened room, now could take degree in Computer programming with ease.  Creation of my Website has taken most of day and girl who is helping me at BT website design department needs to be brought to attention of Pope for sainthood. In between looking at other sites for inspiration, choosing fonts, colours, gadgets, blah, blah i have have baked a cherry cake and eaten half as reward. Anxiety attack, mid afternoon as I have not written any words of Novel at all  today, just looked at previous pages blankly.  Hubby says sagely that "you only catch a fish if your hook is in water," so if I'm to finish book I need to focus.  Try and point out that when he's fishing he doesn't have to do written test, look at everyone else's tackle and design the fly he justs casts line and waits.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Where I deny that I am lazy, just resting

Frankly, I'd lie along the sofa all day if I thought I would get away with it dear reader. But since I'm now working from home and I'm afraid of turning into a well upholstered piece of furniture, I've been to the gym this morning in a vain attempt to defy gravity. (sickeningly smug smile) The only good thing about being on Job Seeker's Allowance is that you get free stuff such as prescriptions  or  concessions,  same as Pensioners or students. So for me and my little friend Bee, the membership to the torture chamber, that masquerades as a fitness centre, is half price.
Whilst gasping my last on the cross trainer and watching the morning's TV to relieve the boredom, the review of the morning's news papers revealed 'fifities is the best age.'  According to the Daily Mail's survey, people of this age group (my age group aargh!) are supposed to be better off than ever. When I was a child forty five was ancient and you would expect death at any time around fifty.  Now we're critical if Carol Vorderman's bottom doesn't look pert enough in a jump suit.  Ah the pressure of looking good at fifty plus VAT.
Apparently lots of us nifty fifties are finding new jobs, retraining for a fresh challenge, definitely see more mature faces at job centre than expected. So no excuses this afternoon must get website started and put some of my writing on it, life will not change itself. But perhaps I'll just have five more minutes on sofa with packet of crisps to think about it..

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Where I wonder if there's any body out there?

As I am entirely useless with any kind of technology, according to husband, this will probably be first and last post.  Thought I would test the blog and then go back to India, not literally, although obviously it would be fab, am researching Shimla in Himalayas today, as that is where Policeman Hari Malik lives in my epic novel, "The Pearls and the Suitcase."  Also wanted to see what chintz background looks like, jolly nice...