The Pudgy Woman Muses: How to Find the Perfect Pet

About three years ago, the (soon to be 8 year old) minx decided that she wanted a cat. The only problem, I explained to her, was that I am highly allergic to cats, that they make me really poorly, so the chances of us having a cat were pretty slim. I asked her if she would rather have a cat or mummy living in the house.

Massive pause.

Worrying silence.

“You, mummy.” she answered. Eventually. And then she asked,

“So when you die, can I have a cat then?”

There isn’t really an answer for that, except, “Ummmm, yes?”

And now, the topic of pets has resurfaced. Luckily, the minx now has a better understanding of mortality so I no longer fear being woken up in the middle of the night by a small child looming over me with a kitten in one hand and an axe in the other. She wants a dog now, or a rabbit. Or a hamster. Or a guinea pig. Anything really, she’s not fussy. So we’ve started looking into it and because we want to be good people, we’ve started by looking at pet rescue websites. How fascinating these websites are! What an array of odd looking animals and unloved creatures, waiting for their time to be adopted by their forever families! And it got me thinking about the way that these animals are described and how similar it is to the way teachers write reports, full of euphemism and delicate turns of phrase. As a teacher, instead of writing ‘William is a little shit who cannot seem to shut up for longer than 5 seconds and wants all of the attention all of the time’, we write, ‘William is an enthusiastic student who is always willing to share his ideas and participate in class discussions on a range of different topics’. It would seem that it is the same in the world of pet adoption websites. Animals are not old, they are mature. Potential pets are not seriously sick, they have health concerns. And they are not ugly, they’re unique, or ‘have a lot of love to give’.

So what if these places were allowed to tell the truth? What would these adverts read like then?

Have a read of the adverts below. Which one would you adopt?

This is Mungo

This is Biscuit

This is Cherub

This is Colin

This is Spencer

This is Harold

This is Binky

This is Bernard

The Pudgy Woman Muses: It ain’t what you do it’s the reason you do it.

Teaching.

The job I have been doing for the past 20 years, give or take, between having the minx and moving from one hemisphere to another.

The job that has given me moments of joy, frustration, anger and gastro.

A job that has made me laugh hysterically, sob uncontrollably, shout forcefully and vomit dramatically.

It is a job that people respect enormously, apparently, but one that people are quite happy to mock or denigrate. Ask most teachers and they will tell you that, if one is at a dinner party and the topic of what one does for a living comes up, other guests will have one of three responses to your answer…

1. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oooooooooo, I couldn’t do your job!

2. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oooooooooo, all those holidays!

3. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oh.

Or you get the complete wankers who feel compelled to offer the adage, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach, eh? Eh?”, as if awaiting the reply, “Yes. You’re quite right. I am a useless shit.”

If people do ask supplementary questions (either because they are genuinely interested for a moment, or feigning interest, or because the buffet isn’t yet open), the first question you will be asked is “What do you teach?” (answering this question with the simple response of “Bastards” never fails to gauge a person’s interest. It is also a useful way to end the conversation when the buffet is finally open). I’ve been asked how I got into teaching. It is funny that in 20 years I don’t think I have ever been asked why I teach.

“So, why do you teach?” I don’t hear you ask. Because every single day is unpredictable and emotional and scary and frustrating.

I know of no other job where you can be catatonic with range one minute, and laughing like a drain the next. Students, especially the age range that I teach (teenagers – pause for dramatic intake of breath from the reader), have an uncanny ability to wind you up so tightly that you end up regressing into a state of childlike stubbornness, resulting in conversations like this:

Me: You need to stop talking, Tommy.

Tommy: But I wasn’t miss.

Me: You were! I just stood here and watched you talking!

Tommy: No, you didn’t.

Me: Yes, I did.

Tommy: Didn’t.

Me: Did.

Tommy: Didn’t.

Me: Diddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddid.

There are moments when students are just so unfathomably rude to you, that you question why you even do the job, or why you’re not allowed to carry a big, pointy stick around with you.

There are moments when students and parents just simply know better than you do, refuse to listen and then blame you when it all goes wrong.

There are moments when you have so much work to do because you are expected to be a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a parent, a philosopher, an employee (to the school and to the parents), a chauffeur, a bank, a travel guide, a concierge, an information desk and the all-seeing-fucking-eye that you just want to hide in a cave until everyone buggers off.

It is the only job where you will find yourself uttering surreal statements like:

“Kylie, please let Colin out of that locker. Yes, it’s very interesting that he is small enough to fit in there, but he’s gone purple and he’s crying.”

“I’m not sure why you are staring at your crotch, William, but I’m really hoping it is because you have your phone out and nothing else.”

“Sophie, please write in your exercise book and not on David’s head.”

Parenting is draining at times. I often find myself shouting random phrases down a darkened corridor like “Hair!” and “Socks!” whilst sobbing into a cup of cold coffee. Teaching is much the same, but instead you shout words like “Walk!” and “Pen!” whilst sobbing into a cup of cold coffee. When you are a parent, you find yourself repeating the same instruction 18 times until the simple task of, say, putting a cereal bowl into the sink is finally achieved. Teaching is much the same, except you are repeating the same instruction 18 times to 25 different kids, which is maths I can’t even attempt.

The list of banal questions you are asked daily, lesson after lesson, is enough to turn you from teaching and into the arms of mercenary work, or cleaning the toilets at an all you can eat seafood buffet.

Here are the top ten questions guaranteed to make a teacher whisper ‘for fuck’s sake’ under their breath before responding:

  1. Do I underline the date?
  2. Do I write this down / on paper / in my book?
  3. Can we watch a film today?
  4. Can I go to the toilet? (inevitably, this will be asked five minutes after returning from lunch.)
  5. What time does the bell go?
  6. Do I write in pencil or pen?
  7. Is pink pen OK?
  8. Can I borrow a pen?
  9. Is this going on my report?
  10. What do I have to do again?

This last question is the absolute bitch of all questions. This will be asked by at least two kids, one of whom will be called Josh, even if it is on a sheet in front of them, on a PowerPoint and tattooed on your forehead.

But above and beyond all of this, teaching is the one of the only professions I know where you have so many stories to tell. Every day, I come home with something funny, or sad, or surprising, or downright unbelievable to tell the long-suffering husband or indeed the minx.

Here are a few of my favourite moments so far, and every one is completely true – hand on heart.

After teaching Romeo and Juliet to a group of Year 11s somewhere in the wilds of Surrey, I asked them to write a text response in answer to the question, ‘How does Act 1, Scene 1 set the tone for the rest of the play?’ Not too stretching I thought. One boy, a delightful little shit with a shaved eyebrow and all the charm of a bowl of tepid sick, wrote his opening sentence thus:

‘In the beginning of Act 1, Scene 1, the servants of the Capulets and Montagues are fighting in a pubic place.’

How different a word and indeed a sentence can be through the simple omission of a letter.

I asked him to stay behind after class, much to his chagrin.

“Ummmm, just read that sentence again.”

“Why what’s wrong with it?”

“Well. You’ve spelt public wrong.”

“So?”

“Well, it completely changes the meaning of what you are trying to say.”

“Does it matter?”

“Ummmm, well yes, actually.”

“I can’t be arsed to change it.”

“Ok, great, thanks. Off you pop then.”

Although, this was also the boy who, when I told him that I had made him a folder of revision materials that he could take home to use in the holidays, responded with “Fuck that shit.” Nice.

On the theme of misunderstandings of Shakespeare, I once spent an hour convincing a child that Lord Capulet did not hate his wife, that their relationship was simply one that was representative of the times. When I asked them to support their argument with evidence from the play, the pupil, in confident voice, stated “Because in the first scene he shouts, “Bring me my longsword, ho!’”

There are lots of funny stories surrounding the misunderstanding of words, or bad word choices, or poor spelling. In a recent essay, a girl wrote that in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch goes home one evening and ‘exposes himself to his children’. I’m hoping that she meant emotionally. Another boy, in his creative writing, wrote that his character was making himself extremely comfortable in a ‘large-breasted armchair’. I told him that that was not quite the phrase, but if those chairs did exist, I knew quite a few men who would buy one…

My favourite spelling related tale though, is this one. I had asked a Year 7 class to design a film poster, complete with credit block, hook line, visual image (you know, proper like). The film was about an exciting event in their own lives and they had to choose a famous actor or actress to play themselves and their family. Lovely lesson. When the kids left, I began cleaning up and as I looked down I noticed a scrap of paper on the floor.

When I read it, I was a furious.

The language was disgusting and racist and I simply couldn’t believe that a Year 7 child had come up with this filth. The note read…

anal swots nigger

As I looked up the pupil’s timetable, ready to stomp to their classroom and read them the riot act, I suddenly realised what had happened. What she meant, what she was actually trying to spell was this…

lwv9nbtn5ni2ylpsgsqa.jpg

I think I laughed for about 20 minutes. I still have the scrap of paper.

I’ve had my car shot, my classroom set fire to and I’ve been called a variety of horrible names by a multitude of scrawny little tossers. It’s quite cathartic to say that. Scrawny little tossers. Because when you are a teacher you get called things, mainly because the kids know full well that nothing will be done, and you’re not going to retort because you can’t, unless you don’t want to be able to pay your mortgage. One boy was quite confident in his assessment of me as a ‘fucking slag’ and told me of his summation quite often. Turns out that that boy’s mother was quite ill and that he was looking after her and his siblings (of which there were many). Sometimes kids are going through more than we can imagine. Sometimes we can empathise with them and try to understand why they are taking it out on us. Sometimes they are just little shits. Experience means that you can, more often than not, separate the shits from the suffering.

My empathy does have limits, however. This is the same boy who caused such a disruption to one of my classes that I had to send him to another department with a note that asked if he could have a ‘long weight’. He was gone for 35 minutes. When he came back, he was carrying a 7lb weight given to him by the Science Department. I told him that he would need to go back, it simply wasn’t long enough, to which he replied, “Are you taking the piss?” A little bit, yes.

There are moments that make you despair or that make you want to put your head in your hands and leave it there forever, like the Year 10 girl who came running in to my class to tell me that she had learned something amazing in Science – that there was only one moon. Before that lesson, she had thought that each country had its own moon. I’ll say again – Year 10. She was so proud though that I had to check myself and smile rather than grimace or say “Really?”. She was also one pupil in an English class of 25 who looked at me with bewildered awe when I told them that Barack Obama often travelled with a figurine of the Madonna with him because of his beliefs. After a couple of minutes of silence, I realised that I had to explain that I meant religious beliefs, not a belief in the 1980s pop icon. The Virgin Mary, not Like a Virgin. The added punchline here was that this was at a Catholic school…

So why do I teach? The answer to this is in one last story.

I consider myself to be a bit of a whizz at Assessment for Learning, that is, little activities throughout lessons that monitor whether kids have learnt stuff and what I need to do about it if they haven’t. My feedback, I would suggest, is always clear and helpful. I spend a lot of time marking work so that pupils know what they have to work on and how, so I was a little perturbed to hear this statement from one of my Year 10s last year, who on receiving his feedback, and after hours of marking, exclaimed, “Wahayy! A shit load of ticks and no crosses!”

And I guess that is what teaching is to most of us most of the time, a shit load of ticks and no crosses. We can’t like it all the time, sometimes we don’t like it at all, but sometimes it just fills you right up with whatever you want to call that feeling – joy, for want of a less clichéd word. And that is what makes up for all the other shit; that lightbulb moment, the moment when that kid who hates your subject answers a question with something insightful or wise, when they see that what you are teaching them matters. When they say something that makes you laugh so hard that cold coffee shoots out of your nose. It is the one of the only jobs where you will meet truly remarkable kids who have so many different talents and abilities, who might struggle in your subject, but who might excel at singing or acting or fishing or running or drawing or caring.

Yes, some days it is all too much and honestly, there have been times when I have wanted to quit. But what else would I do that allows me all of this?

And, of course, all those holidays…

The Pudgy Woman Muses -Motivation, Memes and Minimising Mummy Guilt.

The internet is a wonderful invention. So much information on so many different subjects and more porn than you can shake a stick at, (in fact there are many niche sites dedicated to videos of people shaking a stick at it. Apparently). It has also spawned the devil that is social media, a devil that sucks up hours of my life as I read articles, look at videos of people icing cakes or stapling Go Pros to their dog’s head to see what they get up to in the day, writing witty posts, showing off about how very interesting my life is, trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers and, more importantly, trying to avoid the worst thing – the motivational post-er.

I hyphenate the word for three key reasons:

  1. Post-er – Noun: One who constantly posts motivational posters/memes or messages. See also: annoying arse, sycophant, person who rarely takes their own advice.
  2. Post-er – Noun: A post about how to live your life, which can also be seen hanging in a frame on the wall of a dodgy car insurance office under the heading ‘teamwork’ or ‘success’ or ‘determination’, and which are normally situated in the staff room by the noose from which people hang themselves after staff briefing.
  3. Post-errrr – Exclamation: What one says in response to the phrase ‘Have you seen Collin’s new meme? Yes, another post! Errrrrr!’

 

Let me give you some examples of the most nauseating ones I have seen so far…

 

 

OK – if by it you mean running, the answer to why is probably ‘because the sleeve of my cardigan got caught in an ice cream van window’. The answer to how is ‘reaching for an extra flake’, and any other questions would be met with a ‘why are you still asking questions? Just unhook me, my Mr Whippy is melting!’

 

I am particular nauseated by the motivational post and/or meme that covers relationship advice.

Like this…

bulb

Good advice, as long as the light bulb didn’t shag your sister.

 

Here are some others that actually make me dry retch. You can feel the arrogance oozing off the page…

motivation-meme

 

Ohhhh, right. Thanks for that outstanding piece of advice. Mind. Blown. ‘Don’t’. Brilliant.

 

motivational-fitness-workout-quotes-69_saving-my-life-meme

Bite me.

tumblr_mzy4wuymzi1tpyjvwo1_500

 

Undermines my message.

 

I do like this one though…

d2660182847b9ffe793beea2f7a0b912

Allow me to move on to my next point – the annoying banality of it all. Look at this phrase…

Always remember.

Yesterday’s today is the beginning of a new today tomorrow.

A load of bollocks, right? Makes absolutely no sense at all.

Now look at this…

meme

I made this meme.

I guarantee that you can take any old bollocks, stick a glacial landscape behind it, and you’ve got words of wisdom to live your life by.


The main problem I have with these posters, truth be told, is that they make me feel guilty, guilty for not running or swimming or dieting or spending less time snarling at motivational posters. I am fully aware of what it is I need to do, and I’m happy for those who do it, I guess I just don’t want a slogan and some clipart reminding me that I have been sitting down for five straight hours, and the Tim Tam I lost an hour ago is nestled and gently melting under my left boob.

Yes, there are lots of things I should be doing – travel, adventure, reading books, progressing my career. There are lots of things I need to do – hoover under the beds, clean the oven, talk to my husband. It’s all a bit overwhelming at times, and the guilt can be overpowering.

So, I have made a decision. I will not feel guilty anymore. I will take a proactive step in getting rid of the guilt. And in order to start that off, I have decided to compile a list. An anti-bucket list.

Now, an anti-bucket list (a fucket list perhaps?) may sound like a negative life draining exercise to some, but to me it has actually been quite life-affirming. I have realised that it is perfectly OK not to want to do things. Not thinking about all the things I really ought to be doing has freed me up to do all the things I actually want to do, and at no point will I be bombarding you with motivational posters about how many Krispy Kremes it is possible to fit into your mouth at once (discovered through extensive doughnut-based research)…

1.The first item on my anti-bucket list follows a conversation I had with the minx (now 7, can you believe), who berated me at Sea World on the Gold Coast for not wanting to take a pleasure flight (an oxymoron if ever I saw one) over the coastline. The conversation went like this…

Minx: Ooooo, Mummy! Let’s go on a helicopter, it will be fun! Shall we go? Shall we? Shall we?

Me: Absolutely not.

Minx: Arrrrrrrrrrr. Why not?

Me: Because I can’t think of anything worse.

Minx: I can think of a lot of things that are worse. Being eaten by a bear, for instance.

Me: Yes, but I would never put myself in a situation where I could get eaten by a bear, just like I would not get myself into a situation where I’m hurtling through the air in a metal ball of death, held up by two rotating, metallic lollipop sticks.

Minx: Are you scaaaaaaarrrrrreeeed? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Me: Yes, yes I am.

Minx: Oooooo look! A seagull!

Thank God for short attention spans.

So, there is number one.

I will never want to fly in a helicopter.

2. The second one is very similar. The thought of sitting in a flammable wicker picnic basket under something that can set fire to wicker picnic baskets, namely fire, weeping uncontrollably as someone points out the hill we’re about to career into is not appealing. Hence, number two. 

I will never want to fly in a hot air balloon. 

3. I never want to sit in a cage and look at Great White sharks. I’m not even going to explain that one.

4. I never want to go to a Robbie Williams concert. In fact, I would rather set fire to my armpits. In a hot air balloon.

5. This next one I have made mention of before, as it comes straight from the eye level shelf of Satan’s Pantry. I dislike a range of foods – marmalade, grapefruit, Camembert, spinach – but at least they are aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eye. But what the fuck was God thinking when he created the oyster? Picture the scene if you will…

St Peter: Morning, God. Fifth morning to be precise. Time certainly does fly. What’s on the agenda today then?

God: Well, Pete, I was thinking that today, I would create all of the birds and all of the living creatures of the ocean – ACHOO!

St Peter: Gesundheit. Well, that sounds delightful. What have you done so far?

God: Well, you see this here? This tiny, winged creature with a long tongue and frantically flapping wings? That’s a hummingbird. AAAAAASSSSCCCHHOO!

St Peter: God bless you. I mean – never mind. That is quite beautiful. What else?

God: Well, here, I have lots of shells lined up to make into crustaceans and other delights of the ocean. Ah-ah-ah- AAAACCCHHHOOOO!!!!

St Peter: God, I’m not being funny and I’m not telling you what to do, you being the creator of all things and that, but I really think you ought to have a rest today.

God: Rest? Rest? If you check my diary, Peter, I think you’ll find that rest isn’t scheduled until the day after tomorrow. Oh, here comes another sneeze. It’s a biggy. Pass me a hanky will you?

St Peter: I don’t have a hanky. Here, use this!

God: AAAAAAACCCCCHHHHOOOOOOO!!!!! Yikes – that was moist. What the hell have I just sneezed into?

St Peter: A shell. Sorry, it was the first thing that came to hand.

God: Blech. That looks gross. It’s sort of swimming in there, like a tiny floating island of phlegm.

St Peter: Ewwww! Throw it away! It’s making me feel sick.

God: Now, now, let’s not be hasty. Want not, waste not and all that. We could do something with this. We could market it as a tasty snack or amuse bouche. It could be served in fine dining establishments all over the world or in shitty seaside food vans on the east coast of England. Just put a lemon wedge on the side of it and voila! We just need a name…

St Peter: OYSTERS!!!!

God: That’s a great name! Did you just think of that?

St Peter: No, I threw up.

 

Et voila, the next one on the list of fuck its…

I will never, ever eat an oyster.

6. I never want to record my life’s activities on a GoPro. Mainly because people don’t want to watch a close up video of my forehead as I eat a Toblerone and complain about the pain of eating triangular chocolate whilst binge watching Geordie Shore.

7. I never want to have a colonoscopy. Or anything with the suffix –oscopy. As I keep telling my husband, I do not want anything shoved down the back of my throat or up my back passage thank you very much. I realise that this is not something that anyone wants to do, but I felt it needed saying.

8. I never want to watch videos of doctors lancing boils or pimples. I mean seriously. What the actual fuck?

9. I never want to trek the Himalayas. If I want to get dizzy and short of breath, I’ll reach to the top shelf for a custard cream.

10. I never want to get a Brazilian. I really can’t think of anything more humiliating. I mean childbirth strips you of any human decency and decorum. By the time the 20th person had ‘examined’ me in the labour ward, I felt like Sooty and, after 48 hours of labour, it got to the point where I was so tired that I didn’t care if they were actually doctors anymore. But at the end of all that, I had the minx, and you do forget all of the cripplingly embarrassing stuff. But with a Brazilian, you have someone buggering about with your bits, pouring hot wax on your foof and ripping it back off again, seeing what God gave you and how much fur he covered it in, and I’m sure there must be an odour. I’m guessing it must be like trying to pluck an otter. Anyway, I digress. I’m imagining that the pain is unimaginable, and at the end there is no baby, nothing to coo and blow raspberries at (I would hope anyway). Just a bald front bottom. And two weeks later, you’ll be sitting in a meeting, desperate to scratch your undercarriage when the hair starts to grow back, attempting to sit in different positions, shifting around in your seat to relieve the insane itching. No thank you very much.


 

So there we go. I must say, I thoroughly recommend this exercise. It is quite liberating. It has also appeased some of the ‘mummy guilt’ I feel on a daily basis. You know the kind, ‘if my daughter sees that I am afraid or I have any kind of negative feelings about anything, then she will turn into a psychopathic serial killer, or worse, an estate agent’. I now just explain to her why I do not want to do something, and I am not afraid of admitting my likes and dislikes – I just try to do that in equal measures. Basically, I try to remember…

 

meme-2

The Pudgy Woman Wonders About Women

 

I follow a lot of stuff on Facebook. I follow a lot of pages about strong women, as I am really hoping to raise one, and on some days, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, be one. I read a lot of stuff about what to say and what not to say to girls and women, about women in the press, about women in films, about women in the workplace, about body image, about resilience. I read a lot of stuff produced by Geena Davis and Amy Poehler. It makes me think, it makes me a bit mad sometimes, it makes me realise that I have been reading for two and a half hours when I should have been doing my marking.

There are so many strong women and girls out there for all of our youngsters to look up to and although I realise that there are still massive inequities when it comes to gender issues, I honestly think that this is an exciting time for young girls in particular. The minx has so many books about girls who save themselves or save each other, or who don’t get themselves into situations where they actually need saving in the first place. There are no handsome princes in these books (and as she said the other night when we were reading one edition of The Sleeping Beauty, they are not always that handsome anyway. But then she does have a type already. She favours the Mediterranean look). She’s not interested in books about men saving women. She finds them a bit boring. She does, however, like books about animals that pass wind. Or books about little girls that will not clean their teeth or brush their hair.

She is at the age where she is quite vocal about her opinions on all sorts of topics, which again is a blog in itself, so that started me thinking about me as a youngster. What was I like? (Chatty and not shy with others until secondary school knocked me for six, friendly, vocal, bright but not world-changing). What did I read? (Books about adventures and animals and then when I was a teenager, nuclear war, because it was the 80s and Threads had been on the telly and we were all shitting ourselves). Who did I look up to? Now that is the question, and one that I have been pondering for some time. And I think I have cracked it – my definitive list of female role models, women I have loved or looked up to or wanted to be just like.

Here we go…

 

1. Sarah Williams – Labyrinth

I have watched this film about 87 times. There was a time in the late 80s when I could recite every word. I loved everything about this girl, this film, the music. I loved the opening credits, the swooping computer-generated owl promising the fantastical that turned into a real barn owl which hovered over Sarah in her dress-up costume as she swooshed through what seemed at first like a magical kingdom, reciting lines from a play to an unseen audience. I loved the fact that she didn’t seem to give a shit that someone might be walking through, what turned out to be, a public park as she told her, what turned out to be, dog that ‘through dangers untold and hardships outnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city…’, and that that person would have had every right to call the authorities to alert them to the fact that a 16 year old girl was talking to her dog in the park in full costume and might need some kind of special care, or tranquilisers. Sarah Williams simply could not give a shit. Until it started to rain obviously.

 

lab 2

 

I loved that she was a bit spoilt.

I loved her bedroom. Absolutely full of lovely junk, and her bed was amazing and girly and gorgeous.

I even loved her shirt and waistcoat combo and I spent a long time, and still do, trying to find a shirt that looked like hers. I have, as yet, failed.

lab

 

But more than that, I loved THAT dress. Even though I was never a girly dressy girl, the thought of getting married in a dress like that was the stuff of dreams. The sleeves that come to a point at the wrist. The lace. The silvery bits. Her perfect, waxy-pale shoulders. The thought of having hair that long and glossy and poufy, not a weird, angular bowl cut…

lab 3

 

I am not, however, sure about the choice that she made at the end of the film, with the words ‘you have no power over me’. Let’s weigh this up. A life of middle class drudgery, no friends, no life, babysitting every Saturday, mourning a mother and hating a step-mother a la every matriarch-based fairy story ever written, or living it up with Jareth, a hot elf who looks fucking great in leggings, has promised he’ll be your slave if you just adore him (no probs there Jareth), and an army of goblin babysitters on tap. Hmmm, let me think…

Maybe, in hindsight, what she should have said was, ‘You have no power over me at the moment, because I’ve been running around a lot, and my calves are burning, but if you give me a half an hour and a cheese toastie, you can absolutely have all the power you want over me. How would that suit you?’

I bet she’s kicking herself.

N.B Since writing this blog, I have watched Labyrinth with the now 7 year old minx. She told me she really liked it, although I’d forgotten that there are a couple of characters that are slightly nightmare inducing. A further upside is that she now also really likes David Bowie. It also reminded me what a bloody brilliant film this is.

 

2. Princess Leia – Star Wars

leia

 

 

Where do you start with Princess Leia Organa? I mean really. Where?

She’s just badass. She is the epitome of the mighty girl. She has a witty line for everything and everyone and if anything does actually faze her, she doesn’t show it (except when her home planet is disintegrated by the Death Star in A New Hope, but you can kinda forgive her for that one). She doesn’t fall for Solo’s charms straight away although he was, and let’s face it still is, hot. She can shoot a storm trooper at 50 paces, she comes up with ideas when the men just stand around idly, and she’s a general now, and that’s pretty cool. And she has nice hair.

I didn’t realise how strong my affections for this character were until I loudly and snottily burst into tears when she walked out of the rebel transporter in The Force Awakens. That took me by surprise a bit, I can tell you. And the bloke sitting next to me in the cinema.

N.B It is Wednesday March 8th, #InternationalWomensDay, and Carrie Fisher has left us. What a dreadful couple of days that was. I never thought that, when writing this originally, we would be mourning her a few weeks later. The outpouring of grief from women and men around the world just showed what a powerful role model she was as an actress, a writer, a humanist, a daughter. You are missed Carrie.

 

3. Linda Evans – Wonder Woman

woman

 

What was not to love about this 70s superhero? As her everyday secret identity, Diana Prince, she looked marvellous in denim bellbottoms, she had perfect boobs which would sit as soft and perky as a pair of panna cottas, and her hair was thick and glossy and poufy. And then when danger reared its ugly head, she would simply spin around and transform into Wonder Woman!

She had an amazing theme tune, all rock and bass guitar and 70s funk. She had a costume to die for; it was at once patriotic and sexy, a look which is very hard to pull off let me tell you. When she fought off the bad guys and jumped tall buildings in a single leap, at no point did one of her tits pop out. She had a little crown and a whip, like a sexy princess dominatrix. What’s not to love? And she sure was pretty.

I wrote to Jimmy Saville once, asking if he could fix it for me to become my hero for a day. I’m not sure if he could have made me into Wonder Woman, but I am sure that if I had made it to the show, and given the chance, he would have tried to make me into a woman…

 

4. Mrs Whitehall – Chaddesden Park Junior School

Mrs Whitehall was my second and fourth year Junior School teacher and she was simply marvellous. In the second year, her name was Miss Hall, and then she got married and I remember that being quite exciting.

She had lovely hair. It was shoulder length and bobbed, but flicked back and bouffant and it was the most gorgeous caramel colour. In the winter, she wore a camel-coloured, knee-length coat and it had a thick fur collar, made of mink or something, and I thought she looked lovely. She would run her hands under it to fluff it up round her chin before she went outside. Funny what you remember…

She was the kind of teacher who never really raised her voice or made a scene, but you hated to disappoint her so you just got on with your work and silently hoped that she would catch you being good.

She caught me eating in class once, behind the lid of my desk. I had stuffed my mouth with sherbet pips under the guise of looking for my ruler. I thought she wouldn’t notice. She did. She called me to the front of the class and she told me off, quietly but effectively.

Worst day of my young life.

 

5. Floella Benjamin – Play School

floella

Cheerful, cheerful Floella Benjamin. The kind of person that you could never imagine having a bad day, or a tantrum, or cracking a filthy joke, you know, like “Brian! Brian! You’re a facking Cant!” and finding that hilarious. (If you are not a British child of the 70s, you may have to look that one up. It’s a really funny joke. I promise.)

I believed that the toys were dancing when she was dancing with them, and I believed that I could make a chandelier with a paper plate, a pencil and a blob of plasticine, because she told me I could.

I often thought about threading the sweets from candy bracelets or Polos into my hair so that it would clatter when I moved like hers did.

But the best thing about Floella, was that she was not repulsed by Hamble. That plastic, Chucky-looking fucking doll, with its weird squished face and tightly curled brown hair. Not quite white, not quite black, not quite Asian, just someone’s ugly, middle-aged-looking plaything from the 60s that they found in an attic and decided to terrify toddlers with.

play school

 

Which window shall we throw Hamble through today? That’s right, the round window.

Breath, Michelle, breath. Think about Floella and come back from the dark place.

 

6. Sarah Connor – Terminator and Terminator 2

We have two very different Sarah Connors here. In the first film, she is a little annoying; she’s jumpy and screamy and a bit flapping-her-hands-in-front-of-her-face-y. But she grows on you. When Kyle Reece (who has been sent from the future to impregnate her) is badly injured outside the industrial compound where he will (spoiler alert) eventually die, she picks him up and carries him in and saves his ass – that time anyway.

reece

 

In the second film, Connor is incarcerated in a mental institution as she tries to warn the doctors and the general populace that if they do not get their shit together they are all going to die in a massive nuclear explosion. They do not listen. She makes her sparse bedroom into a makeshift gymnasium and does some pull ups. I love that scene. I love the shot of her delts and biceps as she goes for another rep, and then the close up as she turns around slowly to look at the doctors who are peering at her like some sort of exhibit through the small porthole window in her cell door.

The look on her face.

Very much like the look on my face when I am teaching and someone at the back of the class is talking.

 

sarah

 

I love the fact that she is a momma who makes mistakes, and that by trying to protect her son, she fucks up, constantly. Kind of sums up parenting for me. I love the fact that she has friends who have an arsenal of guns, and bazookas and grenades just waiting for her return. And I love the fact that she knows exactly how to use every piece of artillery in that lock up. I love the fact that she had dedicated her entire adult life to one cause, no matter what.

And then in the next film, she has died of leukaemia. And that is that for Sarah Connor.

 

6. Private Vasquez – Aliens

vasquez

 

Of course it goes without saying that Ripley was, and even after a couple of crappy sequels, still is a massive hero (oh how I crave to shout the line ‘Get away from her you bitch!’ in an increasingly aggressive volume at someone one day, even if they are not doing anything).

But it was Vasquez who floated my boat when Aliens was released. Muscular, bad ass, bandana wearing Vasquez. Again, like Leia, she had a witty comeback for everything. Consider this exchange with Hudson, played by the late, great Bill Paxton:

Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?

Vasquez: No. Have you?

Great stuff.

I also like the insult ‘Pedejo jerk off’ which she uses towards one of the more useless officers– I have no idea what that is, but I shall endeavour to use it at some point in my life. The thing I liked the most was that she was respected. She was the only female marine who saw combat, (and wasn’t just killed at the controls of her transporter), a sole woman in a testosterone-fuelled world but still accepted as one of them. And she dies a badass too. Oops, spoiler alert. Am I meant to say that first? Yes, she was masculine in appearance, but then that is how directors seem to cope with strong women – it’s either big muscles or big tits.

A further N.B – When I first published this blog, I sent it via Twitter to all the women mentioned, and only one got back to me.

Capture

Vasquez answered my tweet man! I could not breath when I saw this…

 

7. Cleo Rocos – The Kenny Everett Television Show

Big boobs, poufy hair, my first real introduction to a quite blatant sex object who I understood to be, and agreed was, sexy. That is all.

rocos

 

8. Servalan – Blake’s Seven

Remember her? I bet this one has just taken you right back.

servalan

I loved the fact that she was so deliciously manipulative. She had mastered the art of the disparaging raised eyebrow, and the shorter her hair got, the more disparaging the eyebrow became. Here are some insults thrown at her or said about her…

“the sexiest officer I have ever known”

“a credit to your background – spoilt, idle, vicious… and greedy”

“a tasteless megalomaniac”

“perfidious as a snake”

“any attempt to embarrass her personally is an exercise in total futility”

“she has all the sensitive delicacy of a plasma bolt”

…and yet she still ruled with grace and lovely hair and a very clear sense of purpose which she dedicated herself to. She did not appear in the finale of Blake’s Seven, so who knows what happened to her. Perhaps she found the starship trooper of her dreams, settled down and awaited the patter of tiny eyebrows.

 

9. Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman – Dirty Dancing

I don’t care who you are, where you are from, or what kind of school you went to, if you were a girl of the 80s, you loved Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman. And if we are all honest, it is not because she wanted to go join the Peace Corps after she graduated with honours from high school, or that she stood up to her doctor daddy and made him see what a strong independent woman she was, or that she looked great in pedal pushers and a bra top.

Nope.

It is because, whether you like it or not, we all clung on to that desperate dream that one day we would go on holiday with our parents, and we would meet the man of our dreams, our Johnny Castle, and he would whisk us away and show us what it is to be a woman. Whenever a good-looking boy would walk past, you would be like, ‘this is it, this is the one. He lives on the beach, and he is going to wink at me and take my hand and enlighten me in the ways of love.’

dd

Unfortunately, when you holiday at Mablethorpe Chalet Park, your options are fairly limited, unless, of course, Keith the cross-eyed carney takes your fancy (and quite possibly your purse), or Lee, the bloke who cleans the slot machines and has one top tooth and, unfathomably, a love bite necklace.

***

So there you have it, my Top Ten. All were strong personalities and single-minded ladies committed to a cause, whether it be entertaining the masses, saving the world or shagging a dance instructor, and apparently I also liked poufy hair and boobs. Go figure.

So go on then – have a think. Who were your role models growing up? Answers on a postcard, please, to:

Hamble

Shepherds Bush Home For Retired Props

London

W12 4QT

 

 

 

The Pudgy Woman Muses: The Day Spa

The day spa. To some, a relaxing break away from the rigours of the modern world, a chance to unwind and recharge. To me, a series of interesting episodes resulting in a slightly deflated sense of self-esteem and an (one hopes) amusing blog.

 

We, that is the husband, the now 6 year old minx and I, went on holiday a few weeks ago for the first time in a long time. We decided to treat ourselves and so stayed at the RACV resort near Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Very nice, except for the 8 hour a day teeth-shattering din coming from the mechanical digger as they ‘improved the toddler pool’. But I digress…

 

On one of the last days of the hol, I thought it might be quite nice to have a couple of treatments done; I believe that this is what is referred to as a ‘mani/pedi’. I arrived and filled out the new client form, you know the kind of thing; name, age, number of facial wrinkles, square acreage, likelihood of heart attack due to vigorous massaging, problem areas (it took all my will power not to write ‘Wolverhampton’), allergies (should I put ‘cat hair’?), and so on. My beautician, a pleasant girl in her 20s, then led me into a room to wait while she prepared the tools of her trade. Three other people were waiting in there for their various treatments, all wearing white robes and towelling slippers, enveloped in enormous beige leather chairs, reading Vogue and drinking water with slices of fruit and various herbs floating around in it. Intermittently, one of them would choke as a rogue slither of mint found its way to the back of their throat, and then they would submerge into their chair once more and go back to their browsing. Everything was tranquil and scented, yet strangely uniformed. ‘Oooo, it’s like being in a cult!’ I offered. No one laughed, although the man in the corner did inhale a coriander stalk.

 

Finally, it was time to be pampered, and after 8 and a half minutes of trying to hoist myself out of the low-level, overly-cushioned arm chair, I was led to the salon.

 

I am sure that most, if not all of you reading this are aware of the procedural routines of the ‘pedi’. First, I was invited to sit in what is best described as a leather throne-ette, my feet set to soak in scented oils, looking down on the head of the young girl who was going at my heels with a board covered in, what appeared to be, industrial grade sandpaper. It is difficult, in these moments of decadence, to quash a burgeoning feeling of superiority. I imagined myself, regal, poised, looking like an Egyptian goddess, smooth of skin and neat of cuticle, like this….

egypt

It wasn’t until the sun started to set, casting a shadow over the Gold Coast cityscape, and slowly revealing my reflection in the floor to ceiling windows that I realised what I actually looked like was this…

blade-3

 

Burgeoning feeling of superiority duly quashed.

 

(I would like to take a moment here to reassure everyone that at no point did I get naked. I may not go for many pedicures, but I know you don’t strip off. Well, not at the RACV club anyway.)

 

I actually do not find the whole spa thing relaxing, in fact I find it quite painful and stress-inducing. I am not questioning the professionalism of the young lady who was pumicing my hard skin with an angle grinder (it wouldn’t have surprised me had she flipped her head forward to reveal a soldering mask, a la Flashdance), it is not her fault that I do not take care of my extremities, but after she had hacked at my cuticles with what felt like a pair of pinking shears and a hoe, I had had enough. My feet are also very sensitive, so the strain of trying not to accidently kick her in the face every time she touched my toes, and remaining composed and not giggling like the village idiot was actually quite exhausting. Paying for this kind of pleasure/pain experience is akin to paying for bondage, I suppose, except with pretty nails and (to quote Four Weddings and Funeral) far less call for condoms.

 

The questions then began. Now, I do not count myself as a particularly ‘girly girl’. I don’t wear dresses, and I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair because the result is always a bit, well, drag queen-y. My fingernails fend for themselves most of the time, and the only colour my hands normally see is green from when I use the side of them to wipe marker pen off the board after my Year 10 class. So when she began to ask me things like ‘metallic or matte?’ and ‘what colours do you normally where?’ and ‘are you more of an autumnal?’, I was slightly at a loss.

 

I pick pink. It seems the right thing to do.

 

Half an hour later, she has finished exfoliating and massaging and wiping the dead skin of her implements and she asks me one last question.

 

‘Are you still happy to go with the pink?’

 

This of course sends my mind into a spiralling vortex of doubt. Am I still happy with the pink? Is this the right shade for my colouring, my eyes, my hair? Come to think of it, how happy am I in general? How happy are any of us, really? Does the vibrant colour of this hot pink nail varnish not mock the absurdity that is the unending turmoil of life in the 21st century? And what the fuck is autumnal?

 

‘So then, pink?’ She wakes me from my reverie.

‘Yes. That’s lovely. Thanks.’

 

      ——————————-

 

Of course, as you have come to expect from these offerings, dear reader, this is not the most uncomfortable experience I have ever had at a day spa. Oh no siree Bob.

 

Now at this point, if I were you, I would stop here, go back, and read the blog entitled ‘The Fat Start Sobbing’. I promise you that this story will knock that one into a cocked hat. It’s a doozee.

 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin…

 

It all happened about 5 years ago. I had just had the minx, and my sister-in-law had come down from Derby to Surrey for the weekend. As a treat, my husband had organised a lovely London mini break for us – a night in a hotel, plus a meal at Bruno Loubet’s restaurant in St. John’s Square (quite wonderful), cocktails, shopping, you know the sort of thing. We had a lovely evening, eating delicious food, drinking an assortment of brightly coloured alcoholic beverages and then walking 3 miles back to the hotel that was actually only 400 yards away. But, again, I digress…

 

The next morning, my husband had booked us into a small day spa for a relaxing massage before hopping on the train back home. It was a pokey little place, but it was busy and lively and we sat and waited as two quite petit Asian gentlemen scurried around with towels and fragrant candles, hot rocks and CDs of pan pipe music.

 

‘If that’s the masseur, I’m not going in Jane. I am not going in. I am not being massaged by him. He’s tiny, and he’s a man. No, no, no, no, no!’

Enter tiny Asian gentleman. ‘Michelle?’

‘Yes that’s me.’ And in I go. Typical bloody Brit.

 

My diminutive masseur was called Andy (not his real name I suspect). I dutifully lay on my front and prepared myself for the treatment.

 

Now, massages are one of those times where you get lots of time to think about stuff. And we should all know by now that for me this is not necessarily a good thing. Indulge me, patient reader, as I take you on a journey through my day spa thought processes. And these are in order.

 

Michelle on a Massage Table

  1. Oh God! Did I shave the back of my legs? Or do they look like two extras from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
  2. What must it be like trying to massage my back? Is it like trying to fold Play-Doh?
  3. Lying on my front is not at all comfortable. My boobs are blocking my windpipe and when I roll over, I’m going to have to extract my nipples from my nostrils.
  4. I’m fairly sure I didn’t shave the back of my legs. Christ.
  5. If you press my back with the flat of your palm, does it leave an impression like a memory foam mattress?
  6. Ooo. New development. Heartburn.
  7. When I get up, will the hole my face is compressed into have left a permanent imprint, like my cheeks have been squished in a lift door?
  8. This pan pipe music is doing my head in.
  9. Yep, definitely didn’t shave the legs. The clasp on his watch strap just got caught.
  10. Oh God. He’s going to ask me to turn on to my back…

 

And ask he did.

 

‘Andy’ holds up a towel the size of a flannel, barely big enough to cover a wasp’s wedding tackle, and as I manoeuvre my bulk onto my back (which is like trying to juggle a trifle), he chooses this exact moment to say…

 

‘Have you always had a problem with your weight?’

I shit you not.

 

‘Pardon? I mean…pardon?’

‘Your weight. Has it always been an issue?’

‘Well, not really. I mean, I’ve just had a baby and, and, well, I…’

 

Of course what I should have said was, ‘It’s only a problem for you ‘Andy’, if that is your real name, as you’re the one who’s just been wrist deep in my ‘weight problem’, with the very real probability that you’ve lost one of your friendship bracelets in the folds of my back. Now off you fuck and fetch me the manager!’ But of course I didn’t, because I’m British and what we do is look sheepish, apologise for the flaws that we have, the flaws that we don’t have and the flaws that we may develop later in life, and then write a passive/aggressive blog about the incident 5 years later.

 

 

And he kept going. He asked me if I ‘think a lot’ as I seemed very tense. Tense? Tense? You’ve just called me fat when I was at my most vulnerable – naked and oily, with the only thing between me and an arrest for indecent exposure being a tiny towel-ette.

 

And then, as he left the treatment room, he stopped, touched my arm and whispered, ‘Don’t worry. It will be OK.’ At which point I burst into tears.

 

 

The funny thing is, is that this wasn’t the first time this has had happened to me. At my first ever massage, the woman (an ex-PE teacher with arms like Lou Ferrigno) called me overweight and then questioned whether or not my partner was keeping me that way to make him feel better about himself.

 

Honest to God. You could not make this stuff up.

 

I return to my original point. Spas are absurd. We pay money for people to cut bits off us, paint us, feel us up and call us fat, in the vain hope that we look a little bit better for a little bit longer.

 

So I’ve decided to save my money to spend on a flight to England, and then a taxi ride to a pokey little day spa in London, to find a man named ‘Andy’, to call him short, tell him I hate the pan pipe, and make him cry. Don’t worry ‘Andy’, it’ll be OK. Oh, and I found your friendship bracelet…

The Pudgy Woman Muses – Train Travel and Other Animals

Now and again, when I have had enough of tiny women in huge SUVs running me off the road because a) their tiny little feet don’t reach the brake pedals and b) because they are too small to look over the steering wheel and c) even if they could see over the steering wheel, they are visually impaired by the size of their massive sun glasses which give them the peripheral vision of Stevie Wonder, or when the thrill of dodging balding, middle-aged men in Holdens that should have been scrapped in 1988 (and by that I mean both the car and the man driving it) has become a bit of a bore, I like to take the train.

 

Compared to negotiating the terrors of the freeway, the train, to me, is a more stress-free and relaxed way to travel. When I think about train travel, it conjures images of days gone by, when tall, thin men with handlebar moustaches would read their broadsheets in respectful silence, trying to turn to the city news without hitting the man next to him in the face. It serves to remind me of a civilised time, when we were not all time poor, when the working day was 9 till 5 and when the boss could not phone you at home, mainly because you had no phone. It conjures images of first class carriages, and antimacassars, tea for two and ticket inspectors, rolling green hills speeding past your clean and graffiti-free window, of pulling into majestic city stations, of ladies with parasols and perfumed hankies. You get the idea.

 

Of course, train journeys today do not live up to those, albeit overly romanticised, images of times gone by. They do not have the same gentile and civilised nature. In the mornings, trains are packed with sleepy commuters who are simply trying to get from A to B whilst talking to as few people as possible. By night it is a tube of drunks, a tube dripping with vomit and regret. No moustached broadsheet readers, rather the pasty faced, overweight businessman reading the world news on his hand held device. No first class carriages on the commuter train, just the sweaty, stained seats that have been farted on too many times to mention. Antimacassars? How many people even know what they are? Ticket inspectors become Hobby Bobbies with a note pad and a rubber truncheon, and perfumed ladies, scent-drenched and over made up teenage girls, or even worse, the often self-titled ‘Yummy Mummy’.

 

Saying that though, they are still interesting places, and I get to indulge my two massive pleasures in life on train journeys; thinking about things as mentioned in my last piece, and the constantly amusing game ‘This Is Your Life!’ whereby I give the people around me fascinating back stories…

 

There was the lady in the seat facing me the other week, a lady with a pinched nose and a mouth like a cat’s arse, who looked at me with such indignation every time a small cough escaped my lips, that I guessed that she had just returned from a six month incubation period in a TB clinic, where she was constantly swabbed and probed by an huge Arabic doctor with large hands and was therefore terrified of recontracting the disease through my tiny, tickly cough. Such was her panic, that each of her waking moments was spent avoiding the afflicted, but to her absolute horror, she had inadvertently sat in front of the very person that could be her downfall – woman with slight cold. Either that or she was just a bit of a bitch.

 

This morning, there was short, snoring man in a track suit, head lolling on his chest, small beaded string of saliva spoiling the front of his hoodie. What is your story, oh man who snores like a bison? Why are you so tired, and why are you wearing a full, grey tracksuit on a commuter train at 6.30 in the morning? Are you currently starring in Rocky the Musical, and the all night dress rehearsals have you all tuckered out? Are you on the run from a local insane asylum, hoping desperately that your doctors do not think to look for you on the 6.15 from Frankston? Will you later catch a train to the country where you will set up home in a disused shed, eating grass and making love to cows?

 

And man in three piece suit whose eyes are too close together and who got on a nearly empty train yet stood up the whole way into the city, staring at me either directly or in the window. You are clearly a serial killer.

 

Literally hours of travel time can be spent playing this game – fun for all the family, including the minx who, when three years old, played the game by shouting at the Asian gentleman in the sunglasses “Look Mummy, Gangnam Style!”

 

Some people do not really require a back story, they are interesting enough as it is; old Chinese man with ripped carrier bag and iPod who sits at the back of the train singing Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel again and again, until I want to pull the carrier bag over his head, or mine; man who sits in front of me and announces, “This is not my real face,” later revealing as he leans forward wreaking of death and Roast Beef Monster Munch, “because my real face was burned off,” (true story); the woman who spends the whole train ride announcing loudly into her mobile, “You just need to take the joint out of the freezer tonight, Colin, and roast it at 200 degrees. No, the freezer. No, the lamb. No, Colin, the oven. Tonight Col. When you get home. The freezer, Colin.” The same woman who spends the remainder of the journey looking forlornly out of the window as the realisation dawns that she did, in fact, marry a complete fucking moron.

 

Then you have your flat characters, the characters you see all the time on every train around the world; the man who you think is waving at you, but who is actually trying to flick a particularly adhesive piece of nasal excrement off his forefinger; the woman who is carrying way too much stuff whilst simultaneously trying to push a buggy with a screaming two year old in it, who is being completely ignored by commuters on the train as they busily look at their phones to avoid the imploring eye contact of said harassed mother, secretly admonishing her for having the audacity to get on a train at this time of the day in the first place; the one young man who does help and then sits with a look of smug self-congratulation for the rest of the journey; the group of teenagers who have no volume control and also all suffer from the same unfortunate case of Tourette’s; the other people on the train who shift uncomfortably in their seats pretending not to hear until one person eventually and somewhat ironically shouts, ‘Can you please stop swearing? There are women and children on this train. Have some fucking manners!’; the man who sits next to you who just plain smells, usually of one of the following things – fags, coffee, a Ginster’s Cornish Pasty, old sweat, old hair products, last night’s booze or indeed all of the aforementioned; and finally the person who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to sit and eke out little gusts of noxious anal gas for the entire journey.

 

Other than all this, however, there is something that I love about the commuter train, and that is that it is one of the last places left that is bereft of the inequalities and discriminations of social class. I actually like the fact that there are no first class carriages and that there is in fact no divide between working, middle and upper class. All walks of life are represented in each of the carriages, and each carriage is a microcosm for the colourful and rich society in which we live. There is an equality with commuter train travel that is lacking in so many of the other areas of our life which are dependent on wealth and social standing; planes, restaurants, schools and health care to name but a few. No matter what job you have and what you earn, if your preferred method of transport is the 8.15 from Paddington, you all sit together, and you all pay the same price. It is a sort of vehicular Communism. And to further convince you, dear reader, on this point of the equitable nature of train travel, consider this.

 

I do not care who you are, what colour, creed, religion or socio-economic bracket – if the train seat in which you choose to sit is warm and, more disturbingly, moist, we all have the same thought…

Please let that be coffee…

 

 

The Pudgy Woman Muses – Driving Miss Angry

 

I began a new job in January, a new job that has pretty much consumed my life, mainly because it is 300 miles away from where I live. And this massive distance means that I sit in my Camry for, on average, 19 hours a day. I jest, of course. However, my daily trek and the delights of the freeway they call Monash have opened my eyes further to the anal dwelling motorway maniac that is the Aussie driver. To give you a basic overview, what one would usually call ‘a safe driving distance’, Australians like to call ‘a challenge’. The Australian Highway Code seems to be ‘Jus’ fackin’ go for it mate!’, and the indicator is simply that useless bit of plastic that intermittently flashes at people for no real reason, much like Katie Price, or Tara Reid. The idea, it would seem, is to manoeuvre, then look in your mirror to see if you’ve hit something, and then give yourself a hearty slap on the back if every one behind you is not writhing in agonising pain in a fiery ball of death.

There are, it appears, a myriad of Aussie rules of driving that are unwritten, but which one has to fathom quickly if one is to remain alive and not burned beyond recognition:

  1. If the aforementioned indicator is, by some happy accident, employed in the process of turning a corner or overtaking, then it is to be left on for the next 110 kilometres, confusing the shit out of everyone behind you, meaning that those drivers dare not overtake or indeed undertake you for fear of being side swiped, resulting in them writhing in a fiery ball of death.
  2. When driving on a summer’s day, it is also perfectly acceptable to reach your right hand out of the window and with the flat of your hand, buffet against the wind in, I suppose, an inane attempt to cool down, but which looks like you are signalling that you are slowing down, or turning right, or that you are just a massive wanker.
  3. If you are a tradie, and you drive a Ute, under no circumstances should you securely tie the load you are transporting. Instead, you should let wheelbarrows jostle for dominance over toilet cisterns on the open back of the van, and massive flaps of cardboard should flutter nonchalantly in the breeze before launching themselves onto the windscreen of the car behind. Huge tubes of metal should hang precariously off the tailgate, threaded to the sides of the chassis with flimsy pieces of twine. However, remember that the chances of them slipping and impaling the driver behind will be hugely diminished should one tie a luminous piece of rag onto the end of one of the poles.

 

On at least three occasions every day do these ham-fisted toll road tits offer me a variety of new and interesting ways to die; flipping my car over in an attempt to miss the back end of their vehicles; running into a wall in an attempt to miss the back end of their vehicles; having the car behind me smash into me because the car in front has braked so suddenly I have to swerve in an attempt to miss the back of their vehicle, the list is endless, and mostly bring about a ‘Final Destination’ style vision of my own end, which is just as unpleasant as it sounds.

 

And, lest we forget, should one drive an Audi, one has a completely different set of rules to drive by entitled ‘Fack all of youse. I drive an Audi’…

 

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As well as the longer drive affording me a plethora of different ways in which to die or be horribly maimed, it has also given me a lot of time to think about things, and for those who know me well, this is a terrifying prospect. I enjoy thinking about things. I enjoy thinking about things like how I would survive the impending zombie apocalypse (in painstaking and scrupulous detail), why Scooby Doo and Shaggy are, episode after episode, decade after decade, terrified of ghosts and then really surprised when it isn’t a ghost but Mr. Perkins, the Ferris Wheel owner who has been menacing the locals. Seriously, you’d have thought by now that Shaggy would have just said, ‘Scoobs, I know it’s not a ghost, you know it’s not a ghost, it’s Mr Perkins. Let’s just get baked and then have a go on that Ferris Wheel.’

What I have been thinking about a lot recently, is the complete lack of control we have over external forces that may or may not have an influence on our lives, and how scary that is. I have come to the conclusion that there are certain things about which I can do nothing, they are beyond my control and therefore I should file them under F for Fuck It. I cannot do anything about the Volkswagen driver who thinks it is OK to undertake me as I’m about to pull into a slip road at 80 KPH and I cannot do anything about the following list of things:

1. I cannot do anything about the Terence Trent D’Arby’s lack of common sense. Take the lyrics to ‘If You Let Me Stay’,

 

Sweetheart listen. I know the last few pages

Haven’t been good for the both of us

And I’ve caused you a lot of grief

But put those bags down, O.K.?

 

Before you make a decision like that

Please just listen to me

‘Cos I don’t want you to leave

I definitely don’t want you to leave

Just hear me out

 

Honey, don’t leave me now

With my head on my shoulders wrong

Have I done something wrong for you to leave?

 

Well, yes actually Terence, you have done something wrong. You’ve just said it. You’ve caused this woman ‘a lot of grief’. Now, granted, you do not say specifically what has caused said ‘grief’, but the fact that you recognise that there was ‘grief’ caused should reduce the probability that you have to ask whether you have done something wrong. Maybe if you put two and two together more often, you wouldn’t be standing in front of the door with your doe eyes imploring your girlfriend to put her suitcase down. Come on Terence, pull it together man.

2. I cannot do anything about that one ironically over weight PE teacher in every PE department in every school across the world.

3. I cannot do anything about people who say ‘at the end of the day’. At the end of the day is night, and that is it. Now stop talking. Forever.

4. Moreover, I cannot do anything about people who say ‘You know?’ at the end of each sentence. Are you seriously asking me if I know? Are you insinuating that I am somehow incapable of deciphering the complex labyrinth that is your mind? Of course I know. I’m not Terence Trent D’Arby.

5. I cannot do anything about people who cannot eat without making a grotesque series of swamp-like noises; sifting soup through a moustache; eating muesli in such a way as to amplify the mastication of each individual oat, raisin and nut but swallowing the whole globulous mass in a squelchy cacophony of nauseating gulping sounds; crunching apples to oblivion, core and all; drinking hot coffee by holding the cup two feet from the face, sucking the hot beverage from the cup into the mouth through the air in a vain attempt to cool the liquid down en route; breathing in whilst eating a mince pie, thus choking noisily on the icing sugar that festoons the top of the festive treat, spluttering uncontrollably, showering colleagues in a snow storm of crumbs and chunks of candied peel, before repeating the whole disgusting pantomime again the next time a bite is taken.

6. I cannot do anything about Robbie Williams.

7. I cannot do anything about the kind of people who need the warning ‘May contain nuts’ on a packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. You know. Stupid people.

8. I cannot do anything about Vegemite, or marzipan, or grapefruit, or spinach, or oysters, all of which can be found in Satan’s pantry.

The list is endless. Probably. The main thing is that this realisation is actually quite freeing – I cannot do anything about people who cannot drive because in order to do so they would have to have their head removed from their anal sphincter first, a complicated and painful procedure, and one in which I can play no useful part. I just have to be wary of them. It means I can concentrate on things that are a far better use of my time, like Paddington Bear’s wardrobe – duffle coat and hat by day, pyjamas by night. Does that mean he is tackle out in daylight hours? Is that why his label says ‘Please look after this bear’? Because this is Paddington’s last chance at a normal life before he is institutionalised? Or is this simply how they do things in deepest, darkest Peru? Something to think about…

The Pudgy Woman Muses – Penguins, Porn and the Passing of Time

It has been a while since my last pithy offering, and although this time could have been spent growing organic vegetables, mastering the treadmill and liaising with Dave the Personal Trainer, my time has instead been spent discovering the joys of the Lamington. The simple fact is that nothing monumentally embarrassing has happened to me since my personal training incident, henceforth known as ‘Dave-Gate’. I have not been pinged off any gym equipment, nor have I scudded across a laminate floor on moist buttocks. I have not fainted on top of an unsuspecting fitness instructor or wept bitter tears about my weight over a skip load of Anzac biscuits.  Neither have I attended the gym regularly or indeed lost any weight, but that is by the by.

Now, the festive season is upon us, and there is nothing like the impending New Year to make one ponder the happenings of the recent past.

It is astonishing to me that I have been in Oz for almost a year now – four seasons have come and almost gone, each one bringing its own observations.  After the very rainy autumn and (relatively) cold and wet winter, spring sprung as it is wont to do and with it came the most unexpected phenomena – that everything around me started shagging. Before you get all excited and think that this blog is going to be a sequel to ‘50 Shades of Grey’, relax. At my age and with my energy levels, any sequel I would compose would be called ’50 Shades of What Do You Think You’re Doing?’ It’s just that the most seemingly innocent activities culminated in something sordid and a bit, well, dirty. The aquarium, for example, one would presume to be a place dedicated to family fun and education and not a hotbed of fornication.

As I have written before, Melbourne Aquarium is definitely worth a visit – a little pricey perhaps, but worth it to see the look on your little one’s face as they chase from tank to tank, gazing wide-eyed at the aquatic marvels swimming in front of them. And of course there is the penguin porn.  I have described the penguins before. They are encased behind inches of Perspex, skidding around in pools of shit which festoon the synthetic ice sculpted to resemble Antarctica. And indeed it is very much like Antarctica, if Antarctica was blasted with harsh neon lights and ogled at by hundreds of Canon-wielding tourists, and if the penguins were fed by a man in a luminescent flak jacket and galoshes equipped with a bucket of dead sardines every four hours.

Anyhoo…

The now three year old minx and I had spent a pleasant afternoon tapping on tanks attempting to make static frogs leap and tiny turtles heel and on the way out I suggested that we visit the penguins one last time, which of course turned out to be a big mistake. It began with two penguins gracelessly waddling over to where we stood and nestling themselves down on a man-made nest.

‘How sweet.’ thought I,  ‘They are nesting for the night, cosying up together to share the life-long commitment they have made.’ That is until the female reared her black and white arse and spewed a geezer of excrement up the glass in front of me.

‘That penguin just pooed!’ chirped the ever observant minx. Surely this could not get worse? Oh how deliciously naive I continue to be…

Said female, who had relieved herself violently against the Perspex, now began nuzzling her mate. I imagined the conversation.

‘Come on then Colin, hop on, I’ve not got all night.’

‘But I thought you said you felt bloated?’

‘Bloated? Did you not see what I just did? I’ve just lost a stone! Now let’s crack on shall we?’

Fortunately, the minx had found something to distract her from the proceedings, a set of parallel bars used to separate the crowds which she was using as makeshift gym equipment, leaving me as a lone voyeur to ogle the impending shenanigans, and although my brain was screaming at me to move away and not watch, my legs had gone numb and so, apparently, had my eyeballs.  At this point I could describe the proceedings, the lifting of the behind, the mounting of the male, the slipping, the remounting, how, well, pink everything was, but I shall spare you the details. After what seemed like an eternity of penguin lovin’, they stopped, the male slipped off and then they had a cuddle and a bit of a kiss. Now, weirdly, watching this made me feel even queasier than the actual act itself.  By now my brain was howling ‘For the love of God woman, have you not seen enough?’ I suppose the cuddle made me feel like I was really encroaching on something quite personal. I’m fairly sure though that the penguins didn’t care.

When we arrived home the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, ‘What a Disney-esque landscape I live in!’ I thought to myself, until I looked up and realised that the birds were chirping because they too were having sex. And then the next morning, I came out to find the white Camry turned black with f*cking bugs – literally.

So spring turns to summer and summer brings with it its own happenings. Zeus’s minions of course rear their perfectly coiffured heads (please refer to my first blog for a description of Melbourne’s Beautiful People), and clothing is shed in an attempt to keep and look cool. Now unfortunately it is not only the beautiful elite who find it necessary to relieve themselves of clothing. On one day trip to Queen Victoria market, and with the sun forcing its way through the clouds for the first time in months, I witnessed two T-Shirt related offences, each one making me want poke myself in the eyes, temporarily blinding myself lest I witness them again. The first, a man in his forties, sporting a bulging, gravity-defying stomach with a globule of … something glistening in his greying beard, wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with the Facebook logo and ‘You Like This’ stated confidently underneath. Err, not really. The second was a similarly built man, his pallid, blue-veined flesh creeping out from beneath a bright yellow T-Shirt which proclaimed ‘Sun’s out, Guns out’. For Christ’s sake.

And now it is Christmas, and how strange to be celebrating in 35 degree heat! Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ does not have quite the same heart-warming appeal here as it did in Blighty, and Christmas lights twinkling on the tree do not have the same effect when the backdrop is bright blue skies and the occasional lorikeet. Whether here or in England though, Christmas always highlights the difference between mine and my husband’s upbringings and our subsequent views of how Christmas should be done. His Christmas was the more sophisticated of the two – smoked salmon and champagne for breakfast, preparing the festive luncheon together over the Aga, and opening presents at 3pm with a glass of tawny port and then finishing the day with an amusing round of charades. My Christmas was slightly less sophisticated (although I would like to stress, no less pleasant or satisfying) – being woken up by an over-excited Mother at 6am and woofing down a slice of toast before watching said Mum rip into her pile of presents like a Velociraptor, then it’s round to the neighbours for sherry and a mince pie before tucking into dinner at 12.30, play a game, burp, watch the film, fall asleep. The decorating of the Christmas tree also highlights these differences. Christmas for me means a collection of kitsch decorations, dating back decades, collected through the years, thrown at the tree in a random fashion and then accentuated with tinsel. For my husband, he of the anal sandcastles, the Christmas tree is something to be sweated over, each ornament placed carefully before taking a step back to ensure symmetry, no tinsel of course, tinsel being the most working-class of all the decorations. I jest. Sort of.

As I finish, it is Christmas Eve, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the minx’s face tomorrow as she opens her gifts. She did look a little confused this evening as I put her to bed and put the mince pie and milk out for Santa. Her expression was one of confusion as she struggled to understand why a strange man would come into her room, eat a festive pie, drink and then leave her a present. I suppose when you put it like that, it does sound a bit odd.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year and may Santa sneak into your bedroom and fill your stockings…

…The Fat Starts Sobbing

Enough time has passed, my friends, not only since my last literary attempt but also since the incident which I shall now recount – and when I have finished, you will realise why I have waited six weeks to report back.  Firstly, let us recap.

When I last left you, dear reader, I had embarked on a health and fitness regime which included ‘The Visit’, whereby a yapping wee slip of a thing shows you around a gym’s facilities and sells the benefits of exercise to you, followed by squeezing my ample frame into ill-fitting Lycra, and finally meeting Dave, the personal trainer, and discussing my current health.  All good so far.

Oh, the exuberance and new-found confidence with which I bounded to the gym the following Thursday evening, an evening which promised a renewed energy for running and leaping, squatting and thrusting, steaming and sauna-ing. As always though, patient reader, this enthusiasm would soon be extinguished, like the proverbial pissed-upon firework.

The evening began with the afore-mentioned ‘Lycra Olympics’ which includes the hurdles (trying to get my legs into stretchy jogging bottoms), trampolining (half an hour of bouncing around the room as I attempt to hitch them over my hips), gymnastics,(throwing myself around the floor, waving my arms in the air as I try to trap two rolls of back fat into a top befitting the gym) and finally the marathon (the 10 metre walk to the car, which leaves me puffing and panting – never a good sign).

A ten minute drive later and cut to me sitting in the Camry trying to get all unfortunate noises out of my body before the onslaught. This includes; burping, farting, sneezing (which, at my age, may also involve both burping and farting as well as, let’s face it, weeing), swearing, grunting and hiccupping. God knows what I must have looked like.   Imagine the scene; a pudgy, middle-aged woman, apparently suffering from a most unfortunate case of Tourette’s, sitting in an ill-lit car park on a wet and windy Thursday evening, rocking gently and exuding intermittent noises; ‘Burp, fart, bollocks, achooooo, fart, hic, hurrrrrrrrrr, burp, bugger it, faarrrrrrt, arse.’ (I would like to state at this point, that other than the swearing I am in no way capable of producing that much noise in terms of oral and/or anal flatulence – although I can make myself sneeze, a skill which will never get me on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’, but which has been an ice-breaker at parties. Really bloody boring parties).

I digress…

David is fifteen minutes late, in which time there has been a build-up of unfortunate noises, but no time to worry about those, I have a cross trainer to tackle!

‘On ya get mate!’ chirrups Dave. He calls me ‘mate’ a lot which I actually find quite emasculating. Surely the very nature of my skin-tight jogging bottoms quite clearly demonstrates that I am in fact female?

‘On ya get mate! Let’s do a quick warm up and then we’ll crack on!’

I leap on to the cross trainer with all the grace and dexterity of a dead gazelle, the pedals shift under me and the machine spits me off the other side disgustedly. Dave catches me under the armpits expertly.

‘Don’t worry mate! I’ve got ya!’ What a tremendous start.

He manipulates the buttons as I set off with misplaced enthusiasm, my legs becoming a blur as I swish them backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. The energy produced by the chaffing of my thighs could have powered a small Australian township, and I’m quite surprised that the friction of the Lycra didn’t cause a bushfire. Dave had cleverly covered the controls so that I could not see the time completed, but after what seemed like an eternity, the side effects of not exercising for two years became horrifically apparent; my lungs began to burn, bile started to rise to the back of my throat, the rest of the gym’s patrons became a set of shadowy figures and my legs began to feel like two alien tentacles. Finally, he allowed me to step off the contraption. I heaved and spluttered, desperately trying to catch my breath and regain some of my previous composure.

‘How, pant, long, cough, was I, wheeze, on for?’ I manage to gasp.

‘Three minutes.’

Oh.

‘Ok mate, let’s try some lunges!’  Now, there are three phrases in the English Language which fill me with dread more than any others; ‘Mummy, look what I’ve done’, ‘Sorry, we’ve sold out of Crunchies’, and ‘Let’s try some lunges’.  It is not easy for a lady of my ample frame to manoeuvre herself up and down using the strength of just her thighs – it’s not easy to manoeuvre my frame out of a chair using my legs and an industrial winch, so the thought of lunges made me sick in my mouth a little bit.  Dave approaches me brandishing a ski pole.

‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a rectal exam!’ he quips. Oh good, because that’s what put me off the gym in the UK, all the rectal exams…

The idea was to use the pole to push myself back up once I had managed to lower myself down. Five reps on my right leg went ok. Then I got a little cocky…

As I lunged forward on my left leg, my right leg decided that it had had enough and was off to contact its union about the amount of overtime it was being forced to do. I felt it buckle under me, but there was nothing I could do, and my arse acted as a pendulum propelling me backwards.  I fell on to the floor with an almighty thump, and then bounced across the laminate a little. It was like a scene from ‘The Dambusters’ – had there been any German fighter pilots in there, I’m fairly sure they would have shit themselves as did Dave, who again attempted to catch me.  When he realised that he was not going to save me this time, he waited until the bouncing had stopped and then endeavoured to pick me up. Unfortunately, he is lighter than me so the effect of this was beyond comedic to the, by then, dozen or so onlookers. Imagine Torvill and Dean’s ‘Bolero’, the bit where he pulls her majestically over the ice. Now imagine that Christopher Dean is dragging a sweating mass of amorphous, undulating cellulite across a laminate gym floor, with a slight, moist squeaking noise emanating from under its crotch as it fails to get its feet down to stand up. That is what we looked like. Surely this can’t get any worse, I thought.  Oh, how wonderfully naive…

I watched Dave stalk off to the corner of the gym and listened with horror at the metallic rasping sound as he dragged a bench over to where I was standing. Not step-ups, please not step-ups…

‘Right mate, let’s do some step-ups!’  Not since Adam has a man misjudged a woman so completely. What Dave had failed to realise, is that my right leg had won its tribunal and had convinced the rest of my body to go out on strike with it.  Five step-ups later saw me sitting on said bench with my head between my legs, trying not to vomit, a damp rag on the back of my neck and Dave’s constant droning,’Wellatleastyoumadeitiherematethat’smorethanalotofpeoplewouldhave blahblahblah.’

The fact that the first training session I have ever had consisted of falling off a machine, falling off my own legs and then passing out seemed not to phase our Dave.

Of course, I went home and burst into tears, out of a kind of angry self-pity; however undeterred I returned the very next day and tried again. On my own.  Very slowly. And three weeks later, I can complete a good 15 minutes on the cross trainer and I actually look forward to going – which is something I never thought I would say.

Now, if I could only give up my penchant for Tim Tam sandwiches, I’m sure the weight would just drop off…

When The Going Gets Fat….

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon as I looked back over the blogs I had hitherto written, and as I reached for another double-coated chocolate Tim Tam, I came to the startling realisation that I don’t ‘alf moan a lot – people are better looking than me, thinner than me, have better experiences at the beach than me, make better pork pies than me and so on. There also seemed to be an inherent irony running through these pieces, an irony that had maybe already dawned on the casual reader but not as yet on myself; on the one hand I moan about Melbourne’s beautiful ones, but on the other I proclaim the virtues of heart attack-inducing fatty foods. Something had to be done to straighten out this paradox.  One slightly obvious epiphany later, it was with a heavy and cholesterol-crammed heart that I decided it was time to join the gym in a vain attempt to make this pudgy woman slightly less pudgy…

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not overly insecure about the way I look – I’m couldn’t care less what people think of me in any respect (I wasted most of the eighties concerned about that), and I’m not vain but, as discussed in my first blog, 40 has made me very aware of what I am, and what I am is, shall we say, plump. It gets to the point where your body refuses to put up with any more and all the muscles in your body scream, ‘I can’t do this on my own man, I need your help.  Put the frickin’ donut down man and throw me a bone here. I’m dying I tells ya…’  (apparently my muscles talk like a detective from a 1970s cop show). There is also that moment of realisation that if you do not start to make some lifestyle changes, there is every chance that you will not be there for your child and you will not get to see those important moments in her life; her graduation, her wedding, the first grandchild, and you of course scupper the chance to embarrass her at every given opportunity throughout her life, just as my father did to me (but we’ll save that for another time).

So, after deliberating, researching, eating marshmallows, gargling with Gaviscon and deliberating some more, I decided to do something about my health and ever-expanding waistline.  Now, there are stages one must go through when deciding to join a gymnasium. Stage one, the visit, which consists of an over-zealous teenager bounding around your ankles, yapping about the virtues of their leisure facilities, like a puppy with a new chew toy.

‘And here we have a steam room and sauna. Do you think you’d use something like this?’

I nod and smile.  Me sit in a steam room, feeling like an over-sized dim sum? I don’t think so.  And I can’t think of anything worse than sitting in a very hot, wooden room, breathing in other people’s sweat and farts.  The last time I went in a sauna, the bench was so hot that when I stood up it had branded my buttocks like a flame-grilled Whopper.

‘This is the class exercise room. We have many classes; body pump, body jam, body move, body shop, body work…’ What about body bag, because that is what you’ll be dragging me out in.

So, her boundless enthusiasm, and my husband’s knowing nods compel me to join, and I am dutifully equipped with a membership card, bag and water bottle. Because that makes it all so much better…

Now, stage two.  Let us imagine the preparation the pudgy woman has to go through to get ready for the gym.  Imagine trying to pour a half set vanilla blancmange into two piping bags – a tricky task full of patience and manual dexterity, quite possibly messy, with a lot of spillage – and now imagine me putting on Lycra leggings.  The two tasks are remarkably similar.  Now, let us stand back and marvel at the results – not particularly attractive I grant you – it’s like looking at two stockings full of walnuts.

Bending over to put my trainers on is a feat in itself as, to paraphrase the great Ronnie Corbett, I have to think of other things I can do while I’m down there, mainly so it is not a wasted trip. God only knows what the view from behind must be like while I am grappling with my shoelaces whilst also trying to breathe in an out – probably like two little boys trying to escape out of a collapsed tent. I then equip myself with the items I presume I will need to join the buff and the beautiful; iPod, logo emblazoned gym bag and water bottle, and of course a portable defibrillator, you know, just in case. There is then the small matter of the necessary paperwork – is my will up to date?  Where is my Medicare card? Have I notified all family and friends of my impending exercise and possible subsequent demise?  And then off I go…

With all the gear and no idea, I trot off to my first session – and when I say trot I of course mean drive.   I have my first session with my personal trainer; let’s call him Dave, because that is his name. He is ten years older than me which is a bonus, the last thing I need is one of Zeus’ minions stretching out my thighs as I sweat like a navvy on a shipyard. He also has a bit of a paunch – ironic, but still oddly comforting. We chat. He asks me about my goals (not dying being the main one), my exercise regime (errr, walking to the car?) and my diet (all the major food groups; pasta, bread, butter, steak and Smarties. I’m one Krispy Kreme away from type two diabetes).  Then he asks me to do some stretches to assess my gait, posture and strength.  The only trouble is that he asks me to do this in the foyer, in full view of the beautiful young things that also frequent this gym. I had to squat and twist, lunge and reach, with one consistent and droning thought passing through my mind – ‘don’tfartdon’tfartdon’t fart’.  In an hour, Dave had made up his mind about me and what I needed in terms of diet and exercise and had convinced me to join him for a late supper and a movie. That last bit is a lie – he instead came up with an eating and exercise plan which I am simply desperate to get started on. My first real session is tomorrow – oh joy.

Oh well, a journey of a hundred miles beings with a single step, fail to prepare, prepare to fail, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels and all that bollocks…