One year on


Our first year of civilisation is almost complete. Cold, damp, mould and rivers of water running down the insides of the windows are a distant memory. Neighbours we have discovered are in fact lovely people. They are keen to chat, help and be helped and have enriched our lives in many ways. Again this has been a revelation. Rural life as described in glossy magazines and high-end estate agents verbiage is a myth. The realities are much colder, damper, more isolating and lonely than it is possible to imagine. Rural folk are not, in general, neighbourly people keen for a chat and to while away half an hour drinking coffee and admiring your vegetable garden. They are busy farmers driving huge tractors at death-defying speeds down country lanes, they work away five days a week in the city and come home to collapse and recover at the weekends or cantankerous pensioners who take pleasure in your discomfort, while telling you that what you have is indeed luxurious compared to the draughty barn they were brought up in. I look back now from the safety of a centrally heated office and wonder how we lasted eleven years.
Our first year has had a number of ups and downs. My eldest daughter came to stay for a couple of weeks to escape relationship that was in tatters. Six months later she moved back to the tattered relationship with hopes of re-building it and a quiet peace and normality has descended. On the upside, my beautiful wife has discovered she is extremely bright and is completing an access course so she can begin nurse training next year. So far all distinctions and merits.

My round-up is almost at an end. All is now well in our lives and looks like it might stay that way for a while. We’ll see.

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Four children, and I still don’t have a clue how it happened.



I often wonder how I’ve fathered four children when my default position on children is; not particularly interested. Before I go one letter further, please hear me when I say, I love all of my children dearly and in the main they quite like me. My life has been enriched by them, I am frequently frustrated to the point of apoplexy by them, I wouldn’t for one moment change any aspect of any of them, my next heart attack will be named after one or other of them, of that i am sure.

I first became involved in the procreation business twenty four years ago and found I was enthusiastic and satisfyingly fertile. I know this sounds smug, but a man’s ego is a fragile thing and anything that gives it a boost rather than shooting it down, has to be welcomed with open arms.

As a new father I quickly discovered that every single aspect of fatherhood had an enormous learning curve attached. I was a modern man who was keen to be involved in everything; nappies, feeding, dressing bathing. Tell me when and I’ll be there, just let me look up what to do first in the manual.
Excuse me; there isn’t a manual?

Remarkably this ineptitude was replaced by something approaching confidence, at least by the time my fourth child had arrived fourteen years later. Now the two older children have flown the metaphorical nest, living with partners and living there own lives and will I’m sure have there own families.

Our two younger children left at home are dramatically different from each other. One is creative, thoughtful, enthusiastic and slightly kooky, the other is technologically advanced beyond his years, fiery, passionate and loyal. I can only assume that this diversity of personalty is as a result of mine and my wife’s differing temperaments.

As I watch them grow and experience the same problems, revelations and delights that were present with the older children, I struggle to remember how any particular situation was handled. Does it matter? Probably not as long as when they become adults they are well rounded and happy people.

If I had one wish for all of my children it would be; happiness and a large family. It seems to work; even if you didn’t think you were interested in the idea to start with.

Journal – In the beginning…


I have discovered a need to get stuff off my chest. To rant at the stupidity of the world, the fecklessness of people in general and to cherish that which strikes me as funny, noble, endearing or just fucking weird. Isn’t there a lot of that out there?

So let me encapsulate everything up to now so that i can begin afresh. We lived in an enormous old farmhouse which was cold in summer and freezing in winter. We regularly had ice on the inside of the house in the morning.
Then we came to our senses and said goodbye to the 18th Century and welcomed the 21st century with open arms. We can now walk to a shop. Have our services connected – sewage is no longer a huge tank at the bottom of the garden and marvel at the beauty of double glazing. The children sit spellbound while I regale them with the wonders of central heating and insulation.
Now we are here I wonder why we didn’t move years ago. We’ve spent eleven years enduring cold, mould and damp. We’d begun to think this was how everyone lived in Dorset.

We’ve run our own businesses since we moved to Dorset. Sold pasta and ice cream at Farmers Markets, run a veg box scheme, delivered sandwiches to offices and corporate lunches to offices, which we still do. Latterly, Beloved has been running a children’s cookery school. It was trialled in the summer and opened to a small number of rave reviews. This was built on during half term with Christmas cooking starting soon. Beloved has also had a remarkable number of people asking if she would offer adult cookery classes so these will be starting in the near future. All details at http://www.the-dorset-kitchen.co.uk

So that I can’t be accused of loafing at home all day I call myself a writer, though judging by my sales, a crap writer. I have been scribbling for many, many years but have only recently finished my first novel. Bowled over by the indifference I have immediately started a another. In an attempt to avoid penury I am training as a proofreader, which is interesting and more challenging than i’d imagined and will, I hope, keep the bills paid so I can spend the rest of my time telling stories.

If you’d like to reassure me, like this blog, leave a comment or buy a book. Please buy a book. Please. Please. Please buy a book. Link to buy a book under the Book tab next to the Journal tab. Thank you

On moving…


We moved house just over a week ago. Not far, about ten miles down the road, but far enough that we rejoined civilisation. We had lived in an old, draughty, damp, cold farmhouse for nearly eleven years and after the very wet winter we had in the South of England last year, enough was enough. The mould had mould and the area around the BT socket sported a growth that was almost and inch deep and colourfully furry.

In the summer the farmhouse was beautiful and a pleasant place to live. The surrounding countryside offered us views that were typical of the beauty of rural England; grass, sheep, cows and trees. As autumn approached and the weather cooled, our single glazed windows began to run with condensation day and night. You felt you were living in a goldfish bowl or the glass sided turtle pool at Sea Life. Once winter began to bite, we would often come downstairs in the morning to find the condensation had frozen on the inside of the glass, adding an extra layer of chilliness to our already brisk start to the day.

We tried, really tried, spending hundreds or perhaps thousands of pounds on paint, filler, brushes and in the end professional decorators in a vain attempt to keep the mould and damp at bay. In one room at the back of the house George, our decorator, who had taken up a semi-permanent place in the family, scraped and repainted one wall five times as the paint fell off as fast as it went on. When the wall paper in the porch area began to fall off the walls as water seeped through the rustic stone; we gave up and registered with every estate agent in a twenty mile radius.

Now we are here. We have double glazing, gas central heating, mould free walls and you can go for a walk without getting covered in poo of one description or another. These things , which to us are remarkable and more gratifying than you can imagine, are to you and your friends, something to which you don’t give a second thought. In time, I am sure, neither will we. For now we go down on bended knees in gratitude.

If the urge overcomes you, have a look at my recently published novel. It really is very good:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bacchus-Sanderson-Deceased-Simon-Speight-ebook/dp/B00O7UIWDQ/ref=asap_B00O7Z93KW_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413455138&sr=1-1

Beyond fitbit and Fast Diet


From Wikipedia. Photograph by George Stepanek
From Wikipedia. Photograph by George Stepanek

This post is by way of an update on my experiment with The Fast Diet and a fitbit  exercise tracker.

Fitbit first. I love it. The determination to get all of the lights lit up isn’t quite as obsessive as it was, but I still value it as a way of showing myself that I haven’t just sat and eaten. According to the fitbit I must have moved as well as eaten…

The Fast Diet isn’t such a success story. I struggled to organise myself sufficiently to do fast days. By that I mean, I would happily come down in the morning, eat breakfast and then realise that I was supposed to be fasting. So fasting would be postponed until the next day. The following day we would repeat the eating breakfast mistake, this time because it wasn’t my usual fast day and the cycle would be repeated. I actually went weeks threatening to have a fast day, but being too disorganise and dim to actually achieve it.

So we thought we would juice. We bought the juicer, the Reboot with Joe Cross Juice Diet book, three hundred pounds of assorted vegetables and went for it. When I say went for it, that isn’t entirely accurate. Actually it’s a complete fib.

The first morning we juiced for breakfast after having ginger slices and lemon in hot water instead of our usual cups of tea. Not too bad, this might be okay. Lunch was a green juice involving kale. Not so good. The sulphurous, cruciferous vegetables were a mainstay of the majority of the main meal shakes and were more than I could  deal with. If this was the only way  forward I was doomed. We have now sold the juicer.

Redemption came in the form of the gym at Sherborne Sports Centre. I have never been an enthusiastic exerciser, or even a reluctant exerciser to be honest. Then I had my epiphany and the eat less, move more, mantra became mine. This gym is excellent. The staff are knowledgable and helpful, the equipment is in superb condition and the other facilities are what one would expect from a sports centre adjoining a top public school.

I have begun to get a figure that I can be proud of. Lumps and bumps where they should be. A better posture which is pulling the sagging bits into line. The biggest pay off from this investment in me is confidence. Now I’m starting to believe I can do whatever I want to do. I just have to prove myself right.

On getting older…


SONY DSC

 

I’m not old per se, more mid life.

Life has crept up on me unexpectedly. One minute I was twenty, carefree and alive, the next it’s now and the intervening years are a blur with highlights.

I don’t regret my life, not for a moment, but… I am at an age where looking back is done less in anger, more with wistfulness.

If it were possible to meet my eighteen year old self, what would i say? Difficult question, so many things I should have done and even more I shouldn’t have done.

I wouldn’t have advised myself eighteen year old self on specifics; don’t work for him, don’t go out with her, do buy that computer and keep it boxed like new for twenty  years etc., etc.

Looking back over my life since my late teens, what I needed was a mentor. A person who could motivate me, guide me and encourage me. More than anything I would have told myself what I am telling my own children now.

We can all do whatever we want to do, as long as we are prepared to work with a single minded dogged focus. Ignore the rejection and continue regardless and believe in your own ability. You are far more amazing than you realise.

Would I have listened? Probably not, unless I could have known then what I know now. Will my children listen? Perhaps in part, if I can show them, by example, that I am now prepared to follow my own advice.

 

 

From fitbit to Fast Diet


Following my post Christmas Epiphany and my new excursion into the world of the fitbit I have been revolutionised. I am still struggling to understand how flashing lights on my wrist and a congratulatory buzz when I hit my chosen target, have managed to turn me from a slothful over-indulger to a manic wrist watcher, but it has. Now every afternoon I can be found frantically running on the spot as the latest sync to my iPhone has informed me I am still 2345 steps off my target and time is running out! By linking it with myfitnesspal you can use the myfitnesspal database to log what you eat and this in turn feeds the calories consumed to fitbit, easy.

My wife has for a long time been an advocate of the ‘eat less, move more’ school of thinking, which was diametrically opposite to my own; until now. Exercise evangelist as she is, my wife is also now getting a bizarre satisfaction out of beating the flasher on her wrist and smashing her targets. She regularly gets emails from fitbit, the company; i’m assuming; not the wristband, telling her she has exceeded her target by some absurd amount and she loves it.

Motivationally, this clever little bit of kit is a triumph.

So, fitbit was successfully providing the motivation for the ‘move more’ part of the equation and making it more palatable to this inveterate sloth, but I needed something to make the ‘eat less’ part a little more appealing. I had briefly flirted with the Fast Diet. By that I mean I had watched Michael Moseley’s Horizon documentary and downloaded the book and then promptly ignored it, but I was being sucked back in.

Since Christmas, everyone I have spoken to is on the Fast Diet and loving it. Weight was dropping off them and it was apparently very easy. Really? Easy weight loss?

In addition to the allure of losing weight and keeping it off there are a number of health benefits being attributed to Intermittent Fasting. These include reduction in blood glucose, reduction in a number of age-related risks such as cancer and switching on of countless repair genes.

I have chosen to eat my 600 calories the end of my fasting period, i.e. in the evening for dinner after having fasted from the previous evening meal. In the first two weeks I have lost 3 lbs per week. So far the fasting hasn’t been difficult, I haven’t become uncontrollably hungry and the sense of satisfaction as the weight gradually reduces is more than adequate compensation. Will I continue Intermittent Fasting? Definitely, and I will periodically report on my progress.

My stats are as follows:

Height:  5’9″

Weight: 13st 6lb

BMI: 27.7 (overweight, but not obese)

Target Weight Loss: 2st 6lb this would give me a healthy BMI of 22.7

Christmas Epiphany


During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays I have had what I can only describe as a very uncomfortable epiphany. Let me explain.

As many families do over the Christmas holidays we were visiting relations scattered around the southern half of the UK. Once we had survived the interminable drive to London, lunched with aforementioned relations, we headed down to the South coast. Arriving at our hotel, a Premier Inn we collapsed gratefully into our family room and began to relax. The rooms are compact and functional leaving little space for stretching out except on the beds opposite the TV which we all did and began watching a repeat of the Stephen Fry/Bear Grylls weekend in the Dolomites documentary.

Then it happened.

I looked away from the screen and caught a fleeting view of my reflection in the mirror. My head stopped traversing and slowly moved back to rest on the person in the mirror. What I saw was a shaven headed troll with cloth covered flesh bulging over it’s belt giving it the look of a  Buddha. The vision was at best disturbing, until I concentrated for a second and realised that the shaven headed troll was me. Oh shit…

My physique has generally been thought of as solid bordering on cuddly, just the right size of fat and a good long jump from obese. Now; I’m not sure. What I saw was more a character from a Beryl Cook painting looking distinctly curvaceous. Even now, a week later, I am struggling to articulate how I felt. Disbelief was I think the first emotion, followed quickly by disgust and then shame. How had I let myself go like this?

As with most things, it had been a gradual process of gaining the odd pound here and there. If I had been on a mad chocolate and cheese bender I could have understood it, but this insidious increase in body size and change of body shape was frightening and oddly far worse.

This required action. Real action. I have spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of pounds on not going to the gym, not running , not cycling, you get the picture. Now I was going to have to actually do the exercise, eat the salad and loose the pounds. Oh shit…

My wife is training to run a half marathon in the New Year, so as a way for her to measure he progress I had bought her a ‘fitbit‘. You wear it as a bracelet on your wrist and it measures the number of steps you take over the course of a day, the distance you walk or run, intense bouts of exercise and can even track how restful your sleep is. The aspect I found most fascinating was that it could tell you the calories you had burned and you could input what you had eaten and it could tell you your net calorific intake and with a food plan could set you targets to help you loose the weight…

Within two days my wife had ordered me a fitbit and battle had commenced. This collection of flashing lights on my wrist is strangely motivational. I find myself tracking the number of steps I’ve taken, distance covered and calories burned without realising I’m doing it. I’ll let you know if my excited motivation transforms me into a lean sculpted adonis or whether it is on the bedside cabinet around week two…

Hello world


Well here I am. Me, a blogger on WordPress! I am not a complete blog virgin as I have blogged extremely sporadically on Blogger over the last year, but that didn’t end well. I mean why? Why would you?

I have struggled to see the point of blogging. Who in god’s name is going to want to listen to me droning on about what I had for breakfast? Probably nobody. Then I read some blogs from other far more talented people and realised that people want to share their lives, loves, passions and pretty much everything else. Bloggers are a source of information, humour and pathos. They are image based, photographic, textual. They rant, ramble, require input and feedback from their readers, provoke discussion and evoke emotion.  They add value to peoples lives and give their authors an outlet. People from all walks of life, all social classes can and do have their say. All you need is access to the internet, a computer and passion.

Interesting. I have passion. I like the occasional rant, when an injustice is exposed or if somebody just pisses me off. I have interests, hobbies I could bore others to death with. Also, I suspect like many bloggers, I have stuff I want to share, that I can share through the anonymous outlet of a blog. Who’s going to know it’s me? Will anybody care?

I’m a writer. By that I mean I write. I am about to finish the first draft of a novel, my first, that has taken a while to write. Partly due to the constraints of work and family and partly, no, mostly due to self doubt. I have lost count of the times I have said a metaphorical ‘Bollocks!” and devoted my time instead to literally anything else. After a while a little voice starts asking questions in my head. “Could William (one of my main characters) do this or that? Why doesn’t Felicity (baddie) do this? Can ghosts fight or will they slide through each other without touching the sides? And bang, we’re back at the computer obsessing again.

What, I have decided, I need, is feedback. Informed input from people who know, or at least don’t know me and feel they have to be nice. Nice is great, but nice because someone thinks I’m writing something worthwhile and enjoyable, would be better. So as well as the ranting and rambling I want to put sections of my novel up for the blogosphere to read and critique. The feedback I get will influence the subsequent drafts. Please don’t just be nice, be honest, constructive and then nice.

Thank you.

Next blog posting will have the first section of the prologue. I look forward to discovering if I’m the only person who likes what I write