There’s No Place Like Home(s)

On Friday it was five years since I moved to Scotland. Half a decade?! I cannae believe it, hen.

I’m elligible for proper British citizenship now. That costs £655, so I ordered a heart rate monitor instead. You people were very persuasive! Thank you for your comments. As an celebratory experiment I will wear my HRM while eating a deep-fried pizza and see if it has any immediate effect on my ticker.

Yesterday I went walking with Gareth and our mate Steve in the Lomond Hills. We did a 14km loop, featuring steep bits, flat bits, sheep poo, snow, mud, heather and gravel. My dodgy knee hurt a little, no doubt since it had been so long since I’d been in the hills. There was one steep bit where I did my freak-out-and-freeze-with-fear thing, but I took a deep breath and maintained a neutral expression as I slid down the rocks on my arse. Couldn’t have Steve thinking I was a wuss!

Yesterday I learned that it sucks being the slowest person in a walking party. Steve is freakishly fit, compared to me anyway. After four hours we’d reached the final little hill. My face was red, my legs were lead; I was drooling. I slumped over my walking stick as Steve strolled casually, shoulders relaxed and hands in pockets. At least Gareth had the decency to look a bit sweaty!

Also, if you’re slowest – you never get a chance to catch your breath. The lads would stand at the top of each hill, politely admiring the scenery while they waited for me to haul myself up. Then once I’d caught them, they’d set off again! So I’d go too, thus never really getting a rest.

Overall it was a good walk with good company. I used to hate exercising with people – even a crowded Body Pump class felt solo, coz I’d zone out beneath my barbell. But these days, aside from weights at home, all my exercise is social. At kickboxing, you gotta look people in the eye before you whack ’em. Then there’s the lunchtime walks with my work pals. I seem to push myself harder than if I was alone, as I don’t want to look like a slacker or get left behind.

Ahh, humans. They’re like heart rate monitors on legs, really. I didn’t need to buy that contraption at all.

Anyway, Scotland. It’s a great place to be! I’ve moaned about the weather over the years but it’s really a pretty mild climate, if you can get past the rain and dark bits. I remember people warned me I’d "stack it on in Scotland" with all the lager and greasy stuff but in many ways it’s easier to be healthy over here. I’ve become more outdoorsy that I ever thought possible, and I put that down to knowing I won’t roast alive if I go outside. My epidermis favours the Northern Hemisphere. That said, I still miss alfalfa sprouts and cheap mangoes. Both countries have their pros and cons and both countries feel like home. Och aye, mate.

Finally, here’s some shaky footage of Gareth and Steve staggering around at the top of West Lomond yesterday. I’d never seen/heard wind like this before. Howling!

Heart Rate Monitors?

I went to a Spinning class on Good Friday and came out with jelly legs and a serious case of gadget envy. The instructor and one of the participants were yakking about their beloved heart rate monitors. My friend Jane used to rave about hers and I know Kekster uses one. I’ve always resisted them as it seemed yet another way for me to obsess over statistics and shiny things. But I LURVE statistics and shiny things! Is that so wrong?!

Anyone out there a Heart Rate Monitor fan? Anyone think they’re baloney? I know sweat and slobber and inability to form sentences are good indicators that one is exercising hard, but… SHINY!

Like An Apple

My pal Caro posted a photo of an apple to her Flickr yesterday with this great caption:

"this was the most delicious apple i have ever eaten. could be, because i ate it after coming home from a bikram yoga class, which really reduces my needs and thoughts to the simplest things. like an apple."

Ahhhh. That has to be the very best thing about exercise, I reckon.

Did any UK folks happen to catch GMTV today? This morning I got an email from a lovely lass who said she’d just read a post on a Weight Watchers forum saying that GMTV vixen Lorraine Kelly said at about 8.45AM that I’d be on the show in a few minutes to talk about finding love.

At that time I was in my pyjamas here in sunny Scotland, pouring yogurt into a Tupperware container and thinking that getting up at 8.28 isn’t the best idea when work starts at 9. I failed to put the lid on properly so when I arrived at 9.04 the yogurt had leaked all over my bloody lunch and muddy trainers and Enell sports bra and I had to think long and hard, Am I hungry enough to lick yogurt off shoes?

Anyway, as cool as it would be to meet Lorraine Kelly, it wasnae me! I had a gander at the forum tonight and there was another post: Did anyone see diet girl and gareth on gmtv this morning – she looked fab even slimmer than after the books losses.

It’s a wee bit odd. A case of mistaken identity? Or maybe my publisher has some sort of Milli Vanilli thing going on, dispatching a spunkier, svelter Shauna for telly appearances? I bet Dr G will want to know if his stunt guy has hair.

Ye Olde Fat Shoppe

OutsizeLike many I have traumatic tales of shopping for plus size clothes. The frustration, the frumpiness, the flammable fabrics. Then recently at the Yorkshire Air Museum I spotted this advertisement from a WWII newspaper and realised we have come a long way. If a 1940s larger lass heard me moaning about my tapered jeans and shirts with beards she’d be rolling her eyes, "You think you’ve got it bad, missy? Why, back in MY day all I had was a Charmingly Colourful OUTSIZE FROCK!"

Gracefully draped style, designed to give soft slimming lines to the full figure. In brightly coloured screen print effect Rayon Crepe in various shades. 46, 48 & 50 ins. hips.

It looks like the basic idea was that one drew attention away from the hips with gigantic shoulders, upon which one could have landed a Lancaster Bomber.

The model doesn’t seem particularly outsized. I guess it’s only been in recent times that we’ve progressed to actual plus size people modelling plus size clothing, so it might have been too radical to sketch a proper plus size chick. Or maybe they had to ration their pencil strokes since there was a WAR on, don’t you know.

They also very thoughtfully catered beyond 50 inches: Others equally attractive in Prints up to 54 ins. Also Rayon Frocks, 46 to 60 ins.

Outsize2

What do you think of the plus size clothes of today? Are they getting any better? I must admit I had a few "Back In My Day" moments when I first arrived in the UK in 2003 – I nearly wept in an Evans store when I saw jeans without stupid sequins and costume jewellery that actually got around my wrists and fingers. And then I found Monsoon stocking up to size 22, so I could buy things off the same rack as my slip of a sister (except I didn’t coz it was so bloody expensive). I found three different shops with non-frumpy Going Out Tops. I was excited by the options, but part of me wanted to shout at the younguns, YOU KIDS! YOU DON’T KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE! I didn’t have no fancy wrap dress! All I had were black trousers and man shirts!

But five years on, from what I’ve read in emails and blogs, it seems that overall both the clothes and the shopping experience are still prone to extreme suckiness. It’s not all Charmingly Colourful Rayon but there is still some ways to go – as best illustrated by Katy’s horrific experience in New York.

. . .

I had eggs for breakfast on Saturday, of the Green & Blacks miniature soft-centred persuasion. Very tasty and no doubt top quality fuel for the eight-mile training walk that followed… but nothing can beat gnashing the ears off a good old Aussie Red Tulip bunny. Will somebody scoff one on my behalf and recount every filthy detail in the comments!? Happy Easter, comrades.   

Unleash Your Inner Tightarse

Just wanted to share a couple of links on the hot topic of frugality.

From the lovely Trace in the comments – Love Food, HateWaste – an official campaign that aims to "raise awareness of the need to reduce the amount of food that we throw away, and how doing this will benefit us as consumers and the environment". There’s money saving and storage tips, recipes for pesky leftovers and a guide to stocking a store cupboard. Looks like a goodun, but where’s the Honey Jar Ring? The stray peppercorns and couscous grains rolling round the bottom?

Via SJ comes an article by Alanna Kellogg at BlogHer – How To Save Money On Groceries. Personally I’ve found shacking up with a vegetarian really slashes the food bills. Animal parts can be expensive. Lentils and beans are cheap, if you can tolerate the changes in the atmosphere while your digestive system learns to cope. Bwahaha.

STOP PRESS!

Spooky Mulder. I was typing the above on Friday evening when suddenly! A wee lady appeared at the door from a market research company. "I just need one more survey then I can go home for the weekend," she pleaded with her clipboard and puppy-dog eyes.

These people always come to our door. I think the word got out last year when I was home writing. I’d let anyone in – religious callers, charities, electricity companies, the radio ratings people – anything to get away from That Stinking Book for ten minutes.

Anyway, I caved again. After asking my opinions on stamps from Northern Ireland, nanotechnology, lifeboats and Scottish football sponsors… the next topic was FOOD WASTE!

Did I waste food?
Did food waste upset me?
Had I heard of Love Food Hate Waste?
Where did you hear about Love Food Hate Waste?

Would you believe they didn’t have an option for "Heard About It In My Blog Comments".

How freaky cool was that? I was so blown away by this strange coincidence that I watched Saturday Night Fever on DVD instead of finishing this entry.

Where were we?

Ahh, links. This one illustrates the fine line between thrift/ingenuity and outright tightwaddery. It’s the remnants of Merrick and Rosso’s TightArse Tuesday Guestbook from 2000. Back then Merrick & Rosso were on Australia’s Triple J network and one of their segments was Tightarse Tuesday, in which listeners submitted hilarious tales of penny pinching. It helps if you can read the entries in your best Aussie accent.

Ben from Launceston:
I have a mate, named Brad, who went to buy his girlfriend a ring for her birthday, all well and good, then he decided he might get it engraved. He went to the ‘engravers’ and was told it was $3.00 to start and then twenty cents per letter. He thought this was a little steep, so instead of writing "I will love you forever" he thought he would save a bob and got "I’ll luv u 4eva", so he only paid for twelve letters instead of 19. Thus saving a hole $1.40.

Gillian from Gladstone:
Dad, who is now 96, bought a pair of slippers on special, as you do, but unfortunately they were 2 sizes too big. No drama, just cut the ends off them and staple them together. They now match the other pair of Specials in his shoe closet which were too small and he cut out the toes on them. Can’t beat a bargain can you!!!

Brownyn from Launceston:
Have i got a rippa tight arse story for u.
My mum is the ultimate tight arse. She collects barcodes from packets of biscuits, canned food etc, in case one day they have a competition. She wont have to go out and buy the products to collect the barcodes ‘hey presto’ she’s already got them.

Taryn from Drysdale:
The people down the road from us had their letterbox broken by some (extremely intoxicated) locals. Instead of bying a new one, they’ve just gone, "oh no, hang on, we’ve got an old microwave out here we’re not using, let’s use that instead." So they’ve got their big old box-of-a-microwave out on the roadside as the letterbox. And the posty uses it.

Briony from New Lambton Heights:
Two "elderly" people were in the ‘egg isle’ of a supermarket and these two people were taking the free-range eggs out of the free-range carton and putting them in the battery egg carton so they could have free-range eggs at the price of battery eggs.

Anyone got a tightarse tale to share?

Mean and Green

I had a Mothership Moment in Marks & Spencer. There was a dude putting yellow stickers on a trolley of goods. Lettuces, salads, over-packaged potato products. My heart skipped a beat… could this be… a CHUCK-OUT BIN?

The Chuck Out Bin is what Mum called the bit where supermarkets put all the aging yogurts and the nearly-stale bread. I’ve often written about my childhood mortification as she pawed through the goods: "To her an expiration date is not a recommendation but a challenge".

I once vowed never to follow in her footsteps, but this was M&S! I’d never seen M&S do a bargain bin before. They’ve been infamous for simply tossing their near-expired food, making them extremely popular with bin-raking freegans. Also, now I’m older and madly saving for a house deposit and/or a visit to Australia. Therefore I could justify stalking the aisles and lurking behind the posh crisps; waiting for the dude to finish sticking his stickers.

In the end I took the direct Mothership approach and marched on over.

"Hellooooo! Are these on special?"

(They tend to say "On Offer" in the UK but the whole bargain hunt experience transported me to Oz.)

"Yes!" he rolled his eyes, "Happy digging!"

I got a wee tub of three bean salad for £1. You have to be careful with these things as cheap can be dear, "because it tempts us to buy what we need not." But I told myself I really needed something for lunch the next day, and you couldn’t buy the ingredients for a pound! Well you probably could. And you’d get a few servings too, then you could recycle the bean tin instead of clogging the earth with another plastic container. But that wee surge of adrenaline and triumph made it feel like a bargain, especially with the shiny yellow sticker.

On Sunday I was thinking about the relationship between food and thrift and the planet. This week’s Food Programme on Radio 4 was about commercial food waste. Around 24 million tonnes of food is dumped into landfill every year by restaurants, food manufacturers, supermarkets and airline caterers. Crikey! Apparently the methane generated by all this food has a great impact on the environment.

And just before that I’d been listening to 86-year-old actress Liz Smith on Desert Island Discs, cheerfully talking about her 1930s childhood with bugger all money and her frocks clobbered together from random scraps of fabric.

I thought of these shows later on when doing the weekly online grocery shop. Normally I have a vague menu in my head then go madly clicking through the virtual aisles, throwing in anything and everything. Then I freak out at the subtotal and remove half the items from the basket until it looks respectable. But with money and waste on the brain, I decided to do a proper stocktake of the kitchen cupboards.

Turns out I already had plenty of tins of beans that would have made a great salad. D’oh! And then there were a dozen half-empty packets of various grains and seeds and pulses. Oodles of experimental sauces and spices. Abandoned bags of frozen veggies. I came up with a week’s meals there and then; all I needed was bread and milk and some more fresh stuff. Ka-ching!

Among the scoffings this week:

  • Vegetable lasagna – using the leftover lasagna sheets that have annoyed me for months, a stray ball of mozzarella and three tins of brown lentils which I can almost convince myself taste like beef. O, the plight of the vegetarian’s wife.
  • Lentil Dahl – as featured in the Farting Out The Window incident in the DG book! Starring dregs of yellow and red lentils and a bag of frozen spinach I’ve tried to ignore since October.
  • Smiley Bill’s Muesli Bars – a.k.a. granola bars (US) or cereal bars (UK). A healthy-ish Bill Granger recipe with oats, dates, sunflower seeds, pecans, honey and a dod of sunflower oil. Finally got rid of all them seedy scraps and they taste BLOODY BEAUTIFUL!

I think green and frugal kind of go hand in hand. Less about sticking a bloody wind turbine on your roof and more about being thoughtful with your consumption. Of course, if you truly wanted to minimise your impact on the environment, you’d need to sit very still and very naked and not touch anything… and just wait to die. This is the only way I can see that one could avoid leaving carbon footprints and exploiting children in clothing factories and scoffing ill-treated chickens/ depleted fishes/ bananas from distant lands. Although you’d still be hogging oxygen and stuff.

But here in reality, methinks you can only do your best to not be an obnoxious resource vulture. That way you get to save money and be smug all at the same time.

Where Are The Snogs Of Spring?

Daylight savings starts Sunday! I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen. People, dogs, garbage bins. Wind back them clocks!*

It said so in my diary, and it seemed like the right time as the sun has been out and about lately. There’s still light in the sky when I leave for work. There were robins hopping around on our lunchtime walk, not to mention a three-legged cocker spaniel that was moving way faster than us.

(* UPDATE – Melissa pointed out that it’s clocks FORWARD. Is it any wonder I don’t know what day it is!?)

I finally remembered today that I bought my bloody diary in America. So daylight saving only starts over there this weekend; the UK has to wait until the end of March. D’oh! I’ll have to remember to go to work on the 4th of July.

It feels close enough to Spring anyway. I’m itching to throw things away, to try something new, to reorganise and refresh. Maybe get a really ill-advised haircut.

Another sign of impending spring is the wavering between soup and salad at lunchtime. Which way to go?! I think my thermostat is totally tuned to Scotland now because it was a sultry 8’C (46’F)the other day and I thought, SALAD TIME! Growing up in Australia I used to listen to the weather report every morning, hoping for a maximum temperature of 15’C (59’C) or below because that was my personal Tracksuit Threshold – cold enough that I could wear tracky dacks (aka sweatpants, joggy bottoms) to school and hide my much-loathed legs.

In other news, the Moonwalk (marathon walk) training is finally back on track. There’s three of us meeting up for an eight miler tomorrow morning. When I joined the office walking team I thought, YES! Accountability and commitment! And now all I can think is, ARSE! Accountability and commitment! These things always sound good and noble on paper, don’t they? But then you have to actually do the bastard training instead of sleeping in til noon.

Comeback #457

Back in the saddle today! It’s been three weeks of sickness and sloth and sloppy eating, with no exercise except the blowing of the nose. I hit the wall in York yesterday as I stared down into the remains of a tasty pub lunch of steak pie with mash and veg. My belly burbled, Why are you feeding me all this pastry? And all these animals? Why haven’t you been taking me for walks?

I have long accepted that there will always be times when I lose it for awhile – circumstances conspiring to disrupt the routine… or me just eating too bloody much. But it is weird, even in the actual moment of overdoing, I don’t seem to feel the old shame and panic anymore, nor the urge to carry on scoffing into oblivion. It’s more like, Righto. I’ll enjoy this here pie now and get on with the porridge and kickboxing as soon as.

But lordy it sucks getting back into the routine. How many million times have I been here? I had a nice healthy salad sandwich for lunch and stocked the desktop pantry with oatcakes and apples and bananas and oranges and peanut butter but I just wanted to bellow, BORRRRRRRING! like Homer Simpson. Then I arrived at the gym for kickboxing after a shitty day to discover I’d left my trainers at home. Nothing like that spluttering rage that comes from doing something stupid that can be blamed on noone but you. I stomped back downstairs and said to the receptionist, "I left my shoes at home! Can’t do the class! What a shame eh?" Then my friend Vicky arrived and pointed out I still had time to trot home and get my shoes and only miss ten minutes. "OH ALRIGHT THEN," I said. Foiled!

But I’m glad I fetched them, even if I arrived back in time for a fitness test. Apparently they do this every six months. This annoyed me because we had a CHART to fill in and lack of exercise has left me weak and totally not PRIMED for the event… so my chart wouldn’t be as good as it could be! I got all competitive and pathetic and even stole glances at other peoples charts in order to become even more competitive and pathetic. It was all, how many quivering push ups can you do in a minute (bugger all), how many axe kicks (57 left leg, 60 right), how many backhanded fist punch thingoes before you swear your arm is going to fall out of it’s socket (170-something), how many lunges (barely 20! stupid knee!), how many straight punches… I can’t remember but surely it was HEAPS!?

I take the mouth-frothing desire to improve these statistics as a sign that I am on the comeback trail, despite still not being able to hear properly. Woohoo!

. . .

First law of blogging: Never blog after midnight. Second law of blogging: Never blog while upset. I did both at 1AM today in spectacular fashion. SCORE!

Then after much tossing and turning I woke at 5AM feeling like a twit. So I deleted the entry, forgetting that all the people subscribed to the site via the RSS feed had already seen it. Derr! Sorry you guys had to witness such raw panic in motion.

The gist of the entry was: I received an email from someone who was extremely angry that I hadn’t responded to their email of three weeks ago. My tiny mind made the short leap from one angry person to the possibility of whole armies of angry persons – due to the current backlog of emails – and all of them thinking I was a heartless evil sell-out. Thus I spewed out the 1AM Entry o’ Turmoil!

Important lessons have been learned here. One, You just cannae please everyone.

Two, there’s only so many hours a day. Day job, family, friends, book stuff, bathing, kicking things – these must also be dealt with and I’ve been trying like a bastard to keep up with it all. I get such really hilarious, heartfelt and/or heartbreaking emails and want to break out the Scotch Finger biscuits and blether with you all, but I need to be realistic about what can physically be done each day.

Three, my contact page needed a tweak. For a long time I’ve had a disclaimer that responses can be slow due to my o’erflowing inbox, but because of the current volume the disclaimer needed to be strengthened.

Cheers m’dears and hope your Monday is/was a goodun.