Monday, 18 November 2013

Still Fit, Bit Less Fat

You may remember I didn't actually do my last Insanity Fit Test, just cos I ended up with a bit of a fizzle, and I felt I wouldn't be testing myself properly as I wasn't on full form. Instead, I moved right on to my own P90X/Insanity hybrid programme, which I finished last Friday. That meant that today was my delayed fit test. I was pretty sure I had maintained fine, as I was managing the Insanity Max DVDs pretty well - although I was also pretty sure this was using my improved muscle strength to make up for a slight loss of cardio. I definitely hadn't been working until I felt sick or wet myself as I had first time around. So here are the results (last time's in brackets):

Switch Kicks - (72) 64
Power Jacks  - (67) 67
Power Knees - (136) 142
Power Jumps - (45) 50
Globe Jumps  - (13) 12
Suicide Jumps - (23) 20
Push-Up Jacks - (49) 50
Low Plank Oblique - (121) 130

I have no idea what happened on the switch kicks, as I thought I was smashing them, and was going to the max whereas I know I was holding back last time. But I suspect I am kicking a lot higher now because I am more flexible and also stronger. Power jacks I got the same, but again, IIRC I held back a bit last time, whereas I was going full-out this time. Power knees I may even have got more than I have recorded as I kept losing count and also would find I was counting slower than I was power-kneeing. But LOOK AT THOSE POWER JUMPS!!!! I knew I was better at these cos I've been better in the workouts, can do the fast ones now, rather than having to go slowly. I even feel I could have done more than I did if I was being firm with myself. Globe jumps - well, it was 12 and three-quarters really, and I think I admitted last time that my 13th globe was well dodgy! Now suicide jumps, I was pure knackered in the legs by this time - so much for my 'I am stronger' theory.... Push up jacks and low plank obliques I stopped with 10 seconds to go both times, because I was out of puff. And I'd beaten my previous already so had no motivation to carry on. And I still think I must be doing low plank obliques wrong, but cannot for the life of me see how.

The upshot is that I think this backs up the theory that I am stronger and that this makes up for a slight loss of cardio ability.

What next then? Well on Wednesday I will be beginning a new self-designed hybrid of P90X, Insanity and TapoutXT, which is a new workout system with resistance bands that I have been doing some weekends and also in place of the odd P90X session cos it is faster and a bit more cardio-ish, but I haven't done all the workouts yet, so won't review it until I have.

Doing less Insanity has meant my appetite has gone back to normal, I've stopped craving unusual food (like salad), and have gone back to my usual diet of cheese, crackers, chocolate and chips. I'd not weighed for a while, and bearing in mind the amount of cake I ate last week, I approached the scales with some trepidation. But my instinct was right, I'd lost another two pounds from my starting Insanity weight. My body shape is definitely changing too - my top half is continuing to get smaller. At this weight, my boobs would normally be filling their cups to the max but I definitely have room in them right now. So my tum still looks just as big, which is annoying, cos it is much more toned. On the whole tho, this is a good thing, as having two full sizes (and sometimes 3) difference between my tops and my bottoms isn't a look I was happy with.

There is another down-side to the improved abs. I caught sight of myself in the chip-shop mirror the other day, and my posture is APPALLING. The better tone of my abdominals has tilted my pelvis slightly backwards, and although I've got looser hip flexors I'm still hanging off them, so to balance I'm flexing my upper spine. Hideous. And a motivation to up the Supermans!

I still can't do a chin-up, but the next challenge is going to be helping with that, so maybe by Easter? Most of all, I am a million miles away from the couch potato I was just over a year ago. Here's to a lifetime of fitness! :-)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Text and a Call.

I've not seen or heard of Steve since Carnival weekend, and so he hadn't been on my radar at all. Then a week last Friday night he texted at gone 2am - just 'hello u'. I am sure one of the list of exes he sent that text to will have felt compelled to reply, but that ex was not me. Since I was feverish at the time, I did waste a good few minutes composing variations of a 'fuck off' text, but then I realised that any response at all would only encourage him, and so forgot all about it.

Yesterday morning the home phone went and despite suffering from Fever II - the Virus Strikes Back, I answered it because I was expecting a call from Naughty Little Sister.

Male Voice: 'Is that Mrs Reed?'

Me: 'No, I think you've got the wrong number [Wheeze. Cough] What number did you want?'

He read out my number.

Me: 'Oh, that's my number....'

MV: 'Is that [my address]?'

Me: 'Yes....'

MV: 'Well, some time ago you spoke to someone from this company about having new fascias installed, and I'm phoning to ask a few market research questions..'

Well by this time I was properly suspicious. I haven't spoken to anyone about fascias, I close the door in their faces because I'm sick of them knocking on my door with their rip-off pretendy bargain offers for shoddy work done by scary builder-types, who block my toilet with their clay-textured poos.

Me: 'What company is this?'

MV: 'This is erm...'

SECOND MALE VOICE IN BACKGROUND: 'Ask her about [mumble mumble mumble]'.

I hung up. That second male voice was Steve, I was completely sure of it. I also realised I could hear TV in the background, not the noise of other people on phones. 1471 told me the caller withheld their number.


I spent a lot of yesterday wondering what the hell was the point of it? Why the 'Mrs Reed' palaver? Why was he even bothering with me still? What could he possibly hope to gain?

This morning I woke up with an immediate knowledge of why Mrs Reed, in that way answers come when you sleep on a problem.

Just like with cold-callers at my door, I now hang up immediately on cold-callers to my home phone. As soon as, 'Can I speak to, erm, Miss Field?' is out of their mouths (or when I hear the delay of an auto-dialler), I'm off that phone. The number of cold calls had indeed increased last week. 'Mrs Reed' was a ploy to engage me in a conversation they were never going to have when asking for 'Miss Field'.

And the reason he is doing this? Who can fathom his crazy brain? It's certainly not something I have time or energy for, though at a guess he's between girlfriends again and is bored and has nothing better to do. Fortunately he's not doing anything more annoying. 

But don't you just despise a half-hearted stalker? :-D

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Circus Boy Always Rings Twice

Those of you who have been reading for a while (or who know me in real life) will possibly remember me giving the brush-off to Circus Boy after finally getting sick to the back teeth with his antics over the charity unicycle ride. Like me, you probably assumed that this was the last I would see of Circus Boy's sorry arse, apart from a minor sighting during Carnival when I wasn't sure if he was ignoring me or hadn't seen me, and a 'from-the-car' sighting when he raised his arm to wave, then pulled it down again quickly as I stared stonily in the opposite direction.

Really, we should all have realised that he was bound to turn up sooner or later when he wanted something - and so he did, one Thursday in the school summer holidays. As usual, I was looking a bit less than lovely, this time wearing a round necked t-shirt. Round-necked T-shirts always make me look like Hattie Jacques - all low-slung boobs and excessive flabbage.

I heard a knock on the door and answered it thinking that it was someone wanting to discuss the state of my fascias and guttering. You can imagine how it felt - that awkward moment when you come face to face with the person whose texts and calls you have been avoiding since February. Except after Feb I don't think he texted or called anyway, he's not as unbalanced as Steve (though this is no great compliment).

We said hello, and I invited him in and gave him a cup of tea out of sheer confusion. Son was in and made a small deal about pretty much ignoring him. After a little small talk, I said, 'so what are you doing here; what do you want?'

'Nothing, I was just passing, so I thought I'd pop in and say hello.'

'Oh. Only I haven't seen you since that night just before the charity unicycle....'

'Oh yes, I wanted to tell you about that too - I did it, and it's on YouTube, so you can look it up and make sure I did do it....' and he went on to tell me in great detail all about it and the charities. It's true, checked it out after he left.

However - maybe I'm being picky, but by this time it was August, and the unicycle ride was February. Had he lost the use of his mouth for the whole of that time?

I did manage to get distracted by his tales of his new girlfriend, and here we had perhaps the reason why he had turned up. He was wondering did I need a haircut? Because she cuts hair, and he thinks she should build her confidence by cutting hair for people he knows. This isn't actually a bad thing, because I never go to the hairdresser's, and the answer to 'do you need a haircut?' in my case is invariably 'yes'. But I was wary of agreeing to anything, as I can just imagine Circus Boy with his girlfriend - 'oooh, yes, you should cut people's hair more... <remembers erstwhile fling he met last summer, the day after she had gonked her hair>...In fact, I know just the person - and it won't even matter if you completely mess it up, her hair looks utter shite anyway!' So I said I'd call him if I decided I did need a haircut. Instantaneously realising this was never going to happen.

But lucky me, he gave me two of his cards, because he has a business renting out sound systems, and was telling me about how he now has a van and a car, courtesy of his dad. So if anyone ever needs a sound-system.....

Finally he was telling me about how his girlfriend goes to a local pub (that he is unfortunately barred from) every Thursday. And then, at last, he asked about me - but I'd just got as far as talking about my spiritual awareness group that is a couple of doors down from him, and he lost interest, mostly because he thinks the group leader had complained about his music being too loud once. Not that this was a bad thing, but it meant he decided right then and there to go and have a chat to her about the group and general spiritual things.

And that was that, off he went. Well, I did kind of encourage him to go to see her before 9pm, because he is far too much trouble: he was giving me that searching look that is a bit sexy but kind of freaks me out, and I think he is not actually my friend, I think he is after something.

Once he'd left, I asked Son, 'well, I wonder what that was all about?'

'He wanted sex.'

I wasn't so sure. So I took to Facebook to ask what people thought he had wanted. 'Oh Karen, what do you THINK he wanted?' was the consensus.

In retrospect, I think that's right. I think it was Thursday, and his girlfriend was busy, so he thought he'd chance his arm. The Hattie Jacques t-shirt is probably all that saved me from a more obvious proposition - oh, and the ever-present and distinctly unimpressed Son of course.

Since then, no more Circus Boy. Is that the end of that? I suspect so. Until his girlfriend turns crazy. They always turn crazy on him (according to him). I wonder......

Monday, 16 September 2013

Ending The Insanity - Sort Of

So at some point last month I completed Insanity. I ended with more of a whimper than a bang though. First I went on holiday again and so I missed a few days, and then I got slightly ill - nothing serious, in fact I was able to exercise a couple of days, but I knew I wasn't at full form. So I actually didn't even do the final fit test, which part of me felt was a bit of a cop-out (especially as Eve posted her final results especially for me on Twitter!), but the larger part of me thought would be silly to do as I wasn't fully functioning, so what would I rally be testing?

The strange thing is, Insanity had become so much a part of my life that there was more a feeling of emptiness than of completion. I knew that I would no longer have that daily routine of working out to an exhaustion high. No longer would I have that daily sensation of sweating from every pore in my body - I mean, I've had sweat run down my back before when working out, and I've even had sweat run down my legs - and with Insanity during the summer, sweat dropping off my nose wasn't unusual - but sweat running in little rivulets down my FOREARMS??!! That was new in the last month of Insanity.

BUT - I knew I had to do something different to another round of Insanity. Whilst my cardio capability has gone through the roof with it, I was well aware that my legs and arms had lost strength. I also found that I was gaining weight rather than losing it - and not only because I was constantly starving hungry, because I'm actually pretty good at ignoring hunger if I have the motivation. I think it's just something about my body - it needs muscle to burn fat or something, and too much cardio sends it fatty. It sounds mad, but I think it is true!

So I've started using P90X, another Beachbody programme. I began by following a hybrid routine of P90X and Insanity that I found on the Beachbody website, but I found I preferred to mix it up my own way. What I do currently is alternate P90X and Insanity during the week, roughly following the hybrid programme, but doing one more 'normal' Insanity and missing out the cardio recovery/X-Stretch - then at the weekend I usually have more time so I do P90X Kenpo or Plyo, then cardio recovery or  X-Stretch or Yoga-X. And I usually have one or two days off exercise a week.

After Insanity, P90X actually seems really slow on the weight workouts, so I have printed out the routines and once I've run through them with the DVD once, I just do the routines myself watching Corrie or whatever, and do it way more continuously - no pausing or hanging around. Even so, the weight routines and abs take about an hour to get through. I'm already feeling the benefit, feel stronger again, can see more definition on my triceps and on my shoulders - the guy has even the women doing chin-ups etc. Not that I can do even one full chin-up or pull-up, I have to use a chair, but that is my new goal - I WILL be able to do a chin-up by the end of this!

I've also found that I'm not losing my cardio ability - I was initially shocked at how much easier the Insanity workouts were the second time through. I really did think the second month's workouts were easier than the firsts, and yet coming back to those first month workouts, I was much better able to do them this time around. And I'm still improving. So I'm thinking I'll do the final fit test at the end of this P90X/Insanity hybrid to see if I've continued to get fitter - because although I was aiming at maintaining fitness, I can see that there are places to improve strength, and maybe that will improve my cardio performance too?

As for Insanity - I cannot recommend the programme enough. Not as a first step into fitness, but as a follow-on to something like Jillian Michaels it is perfect. It is a lot of money, but if you compare it to a gym membership - well, I was a gym member, and despite being 13 years younger and spending two hours in the gym daily doing various classes and using the machines, I was not as fit as I am now. Insanity did that, and for me that makes it a BARGAIN.

So that's where I'm at right now with my fitness. Feeling really good. And only slightly obsessed :-)

Friday, 2 August 2013

As Insane As Ever, If Not More So

Today was my penultimate Insanity Fit Test. Now I seriously was worried that there was no way I could have improved on my last results, cos I had really been pushing it, and in the past 2 weeks I've been on holiday, ate like a pig and not found the workouts anywhere near as difficult as the first month's were. So I was fully expecting this to be bad. With all this in mind, I decided to get it over with first thing.

Since I can hear you holding your breath in anticipation of my results, I'll tell ya now, I SMASHED IT!.

Tanya, well, she is old news, she is left WAY behind. But I have a new target in my sights. For just before I began Insanity, so did a fellow blogger, Eve at Who's That Girl. Not that she blogs about it, cos she has a life and stuff. And she is nominated for a Cosmo Blog Award, so just you nip on over there, have a read and maybe a vote and I'll see you in a bit......

(This is a musical interlude while you read Eve's blog)

....aaaaaand BACK! 

So anyways, Eve made the mistake of twittering her fit test result. And it was better than mine. Red rag, meet bull. Now anyone who thinks that this would not result in an outbreak of complete competitive meltdown in me clearly hasn't been following how dementedly screwed up I am about being the best at anything of no value whatsoever. At Pictionary (or indeed any board game), punctuation and grammar, A Levels, and, of course, ridiculous physical challenges that pique my interest like the Insanity Fit test (and indeed the physio school circuit training in first year), I am OBLIGED to be the best. Not MY best, THE best. 

So, how did I do?

Here are my results, with last time's results for comparison, and how I did compared to Eve, cos I beat Tanya on every single one of these babies:

  • Switch Kicks 70/72 Eve wins. Tho I was saving myself cos I suspected I would struggle later.
  • Power Jacks 65/67 DAMN - one away from Eve, but I hadn't checked her scores beforehand and knew I only had one to get to beat Tanya, so again I was holding back still. Not next time......
  • Power Knees 124/136 I WIN, I WIN, I WIN!!! (It's really not pretty, is it?)
  • Power Jumps 41/45 Nowhere near Eve. I am IN AWE of her score here, dunno if I will ever get there.
  • Globe Jumps 11/13 Eve wins again, and my last globe was decidedly dodgy anyway!
  • Suicide Jumps 19/23 I WIN AGAIN, I am great, I am the best! (someone slap me)
  • Push up Jacks 32/49 I'd already beaten the world and his dog on this one. I do strongly suspect this is actually 39 and I miscounted though. My killer triceps RULE!
  • Low Plank Oblique 101/121 Again, I'm the best ever at these, and last time I thought I wasn't doing it right maybe, so I watched Shaun carefully on the set-up and went what I thought was quite slow and careful through them, so really not sure what's going on here.
But the main thing is that I am so much better than I was last time. There's no way I could have got these scores last time, I know I was pushing to the max then, as I was for all but the first two on these, I am really gonna push to get those up for the last fit test when Insanity is over.

However I am thinking Insanity will never be over for me. After the fit test, I went off to work - hydrotherapy. This is usually knackering, and I'd decided to save the other half of today's Insanity, the one hour Max Interval Training, until tomorrow. After all, the Fit Test is 25 minutes long, which is a workout in itself. Yet when I got home from hydro, I felt so full of energy that I went and did Max Interval no problem at all, probably the best I've ever done it. It IS my favourite DVD of the lot of them  (and probably my favourite workout ever), but this is the thing about Insanity that makes it so addictive - doing it makes you full of energy.

So I am definitely going to keep on working it into my routines. At 48, I am without doubt the fittest I have ever been in my life, and I fully intend to stay that way, because I don't want to die and I don't want to be a frail old lady. Insanity has improved my fitness, but it has also changed my sleep patterns and my emotions - I really do feel relentlessly happy most of the time. I have nothing but good things to say about it. 

"I'm smiling cos I LOVE IT!"

Friday, 19 July 2013

A Month of Insanity

Tanya sees the results of my 3rd Fit Test

I'm now in Month 2 of Insanity, and so far (three days in) I'm finding it even better than Month 1 - and here's why.

During Recovery Week, I had a day over the weekend where I had time to kill, so instead of the Core Cardio and Balance that I was supposed to be doing, I did Jillian Michaels 'Burn Fat, Boost Metabolism' (BFBM) and 'No More Trouble Zones' (NMTZ). That's about 80 minutes of working out, and was the best I could do before doing Insanity. BFBM was a walk in the park. This is the one I always found most challenging, and this time I did it no problem at all, and my plyo moves were noticeably LOADS better - I could actually cross my feet on the scissor jumps, which I'd never been able to do before. I didn't find anything difficult, and so was feeling really good heading into NMTZ, cos that one used to be quite easy for me.

I DIED. It involves weights, and I'd been using 3lb weights before Insanity, but had been considering moving up to 5lbs as I wasn't straining in any way. Well this time the 3lb weights were killing my shoulders so much I couldn't do the leg work at the same time, it was agony! So the results of Month One of Insanity appeared to bear out my initial thoughts - my cardio was vastly improved, but'd lost almost all of my upper body strength. 

So the rest of Recovery Week, I was doing some Jillian Michaels and Cindy Crawford too, to build back some muscle. 

My other problem was weight. When I started, the weight wasn't an issue at all, I was doing it to be fitter and for the challenge. But since Insanity caused me to PUT ON weight, it then became about the weight. I'd go up and down, but considering the effort I was putting in, and the amount I was eating (began logging it in case I was eating an insane number of calories, and I was usually under 1200), I should have been LOSING. I even began to wonder if I was doing something wrong, as all the weight was on my stomach. I look a bit pregnant. I have fibroids (that I choose to ignore), and I worried maybe they were growing into big fibroid babies?

So I was dreading the 3rd Fit Test. As it happened, I decided to start Month 2 a day early, as the suspense was killing me, and I had more free time on Wednesday than Thursday to do the Fit Test and first workout. So here are the results of that fit test. Read 'em and weep, Tanya, read 'em and weep:

Switch Kicks - 2nd Fit Test 68/3rd Fit Test 70 - I'd beat Tanya anyway by Fit Test 2, so happy with this
Power Jacks - 43/65 - Equal with Tanya!
Power Knees - 114/124 - Really annoyed with myself cos I thought I was way ahead of Tanya and slowed at the end to conserve some energy (see, I really have the wrong attitude, it's all about beating her instead of beating me!). I'm still convinced she lied when she claimed 125..... ;-)
Power Jumps - 33/41 - Equalled her again!
Globe Jumps - 9/11 - Equal again
Suicide Jumps - 18/19 - Tanya has 23, I'm still way off on this one
Push-up Jacks - 30/32 -Equal!
Low Plank Obliques - 71/101 I was already ahead of her here, but I got so many this time I'm wondering if I am doing it right, I might have to check before my next fit test, was a bit too not bothered to do it this time!

So I consider myself well-placed to beat her by the end of the programme. She was so annoyed, she didn't turn up for the Max Interval Circuit ;-)

I actually find the new workouts much more suited to me - I really enjoyed the Max Interval Circuit, even though I was doing it after the fit test, and the Max Cardio Conditioning is brilliant (even if I am doing some of the moves so slowly that it could possibly be perceived as having come to a stop). The Max Interval Plyo is vile, vile, VILE, but that is the exception so far. What is a real boost is seeing that I wouldn't look out of place in their gym (workout-wise, not body-wise; no-one wants a so-pale-they-are-practically-transparent hippo in the exercise vid). I am better than lots of them actually. I think because I have more strength, and now the moves need strength rather than cardio, I am coming into my own more. I'm looking forward to getting my triceps back.

Things I dislike: I HATE those side-to-side hops on the warm-ups. I spend each round dreading them and the way they make my legs shake! And I can't do that push-ups to stand thing, just can't get the co-ordination. I think it is because I have deformed calves.

I am also worried. Shanita hasn't appeared since Pure Cardio. I think Shaun T has actually killed her by workout.

But happiest of all, weighed today and am back to usual weight, and the belly is decreasing (this may be my imagination, and I may still be hearing the patter of little fibroid-baby feet in future, but I am an optimist by nature). So I am happy, and looking forward to the next month :-D

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Hazel, Daley, and How Big Brother Got It So Wrong.

They were always going to be a match made in hell: Hazel, the lady whose game plan was more important than her morals; and Daley, a man with a serious girlfriend on the outside. Or maybe she wasn't his girlfriend. Oh, actually, no, they were pretty much broken up by the time he came in the house, in fact, by then, he considered himself single. Except his lovely girlfriend Katie didn't know any of this, apparently.

Even so, somehow viewers voted them into the Safe House, a house of luxury and privacy. The perfect place for Hazel's dastardly plan to worm her way into Daley's pants through sheer, brazen persistence to finally pay off.

And then it all went wrong. There are various places you can see what happened, maybe here in the Daily Mail, which, unlike most YouTube footage, has most of the argument detailed, not just the bum slapping. For me, the whole thing was extremely disturbing, it brought back way too many reminders, especially when he grabbed her around the throat and was threatening her. I've been there too many times.

So Daley was removed from the Big Brother house. And that evening on Big Brother's Bit On The Side (BBBOTS), I sat there slightly incredulously as Rylan kept on going on about how 'there's two sides to every story'. But hey, it's Rylan, and he isn't known for his psychological insight. And he did look like a rabbit in headlights, or like an ex-housemate presenter of fluff suddenly expected to cope with a serious  incident which raised questions about society's view of violence in relationships. Oh.....

Then yesterday along came Emma to interview Daley. It was what, in all honesty, I'd expected to see - I admit that maybe I see what I want to see, the same as anyone else. The pretended regret, the 'tearful' (he couldn't qite get those tears to fall, could he?) explanations, the appeal for understanding. I'd already seen it a million times before, every time Steve 'apologised' for abusing me. Those inverted commas are there for a reason. Just like Daley, it was extremely rare (after the first few times) for him to actually apologise. It was usually my fault for provoking him - for example by arguing, by refusing to do as I was told, or by receiving a text.Or the fault of all the alcohol he had drunk. But he would beg for another chance, promise never to do it again, insist that he wasn't the sort of man who would harm a woman. The only way Daley was any different was in his contempt for Hazel - but I've seen that in Steve so many times before anyway - how he could be a person's best friend but then immediately turn on them if they stepped out of line - and of course, he did that to me, many times.

So far, so expected. Daley wasn't sorry he'd crossed the line with Hazel, he was sorry *if* he had offended anyone by doing so. If this is how his/Big Brother's PR works, it's time they got up off their bellies and grew a backbone. But it is just as likely that this is his genuine feeling on the matter.

And then out comes Emma with the line of the night. 'It takes two..... it takes two to tango.' Well excuse me, Emma, but I only saw one person with their hands around the other person's neck.

Let me say right up that Hazel's actions were those of a bitch on heat and completely cringeworthy to watch. It isn't on to pull down someone's shorts, even if they have showered naked in front of you. But he had already slapped her arse twice, so I suppose she thought it was code green for an anti-wedgie. And you know what? Even if she'd stood there calling his mother all the names under the sun and then shouting 'hit me, you coward' repeatedly, whilst spitting on a photo of his children - IT IS NO EXCUSE OR MITIGATION FOR HIS BEHAVIOUR.

Abuse is abuse, full stop. Provocation? No such thing. If provocation were a valid excuse, we would ALL have treated Hazel that way. But we wouldn't (even Steve might have been put off by the cameras, for a start, so who knows what Daley would do in the privacy of his own home). So it isn't.

It's understandable that all over the internet people are saying Hazel brought it on herself or was partly to blame, or even should have suffered the same punishment. I don't expect the average person to understand the nature and course of domestic violence. But Big Brother has psychologists on tap, they have the means to contact experts in the subject. We could have had a psychologist discussing the nature of violence and other domestic abuse with someone from Women's Aid, or even someone who has suffered an abusive relationship (I'm available for the price of a Travelodge and a couple of Mars bars). The subject of victim-blaming and its dangers could be covered too. But instead, BBBOTS condoned this victim-blaming mentality.

The reason this is so dangerous is because, like we've seen with Hazel, it reinforces what the victim themself is feeling. One of the things about domestic abuse that people don't understand without experiencing it is how insidious it is. It ALWAYS starts with incidents like this - 'playfights' or 'arguments gone wrong'. Low level intimidation that escalates. Situations where you question your own actions - where you convince yourself that it wasn't black and white, that yes, you were to blame too, and you won't act that way again, so it won't happen again. You don't want to believe that this wonderful man you have met can really be an abusive monster. You love him, he seemed so perfect for you. It was surely a one-off, a toxic mix of circumstances, something that you can avoid so it won't happen again. But it will. And worse. And worse and worse and worse, until you are treading on eggshells, afraid that a wrong word will mean he's throttling you and you're gasping for air. Like a frog who is slowly being boiled alive, by the time you realise what's happening, you are too cooked to jump out of the pot.

Victim-blaming is dangerous because women and girls* don't understand this, they don't understand this is how a violent relationship starts. They don't recognise low-level intimidation as abuse. And here is BBBOTS telling them that they've brought it on themselves, by not behaving as a lady should. Which is basically what their abuser tells them too. It's what Daley was telling Hazel.

If I can go all Martin Luther King for a moment - I have a dream that one day schools will educate children and teenagers on the nature of domestic violence and abusive relationships. It will teach them the early warning signs, the tactics abusers use, and give clear signals of what is and isn't acceptable interpersonal behaviour. Until that time, programmes such as Big Brother and BBBOTS have a responsibility to its young (and not-so-young) audience - to educate them in the same way, and to pursue a zero tolerance policy on abuse and its perpetrators; an approach that encourages women to realise that they are not to blame and that they need to walk immediately, not leave it until it is too late. With the Daley and Hazel incident and fallout it failed dismally.

*I do realise that men suffer abuse too, but estimates are that 85 per cent plus of victims are women, so for ease I've referred to women/girls throughout. Not meaning to be sexist - this would have been just as unacceptable if Hazel and Daley's roles were reversed.

Monday, 8 July 2013

More Insanity Thoughts

Last week I blogged about the Insanity Workout, and another week in I am still completely addicted, but thought of a couple of other things I wanted to say.

Things I Hate About Insanity

  1. It makes me so hungry. For some reason, my body seems to convert large amounts of salad into fat way more efficiently than it converts small amounts of chocolate, chips and cheese into fat. So I am eating more normally and healthily than ever before, and I am gaining weight, which is a pain. But I need food to workout, so it is a catch-22, and I am too focussed on fitness to pack it in and go back to teensy food again.
  2. Those couple of minutes about 4 minutes in, in between 'this is easy-peasy and I am better than Tanya' and the adrenalin rush caused by extreme exertion. Usually on about the second run through the warm-up. I feel breathless and fed up. However, I think I have found the way to beat it (apart from Shaun T's excellent breathing suggestion where you take a deep breath and then blow it out hard), and that is to work harder so the adrenalin kicks in sooner. The same when I start the first exercises after the stretch - when the tiredness comes, it really does work to 'power on through'
  3. Nearly the end, especially if I am doing those ski-abs or in and out abs. It makes my legs shake for some reason, and it bugs the hell out of me that I am limited by my legs, cos I feel otherwise ok. But I can push on through cos it is near the end.
  4. I actually worked so hard on Saturday that I wet myself. This was not one of my proudest moments, but was luckily near the end, because to my shame, I didn't even stop, just pulled my leggings off and carried on!
  5. The Sweat. Especially in this heat. I sweat so much that I could probably have got away with wetting myself even in a class situation. :-O
Things I Love About Insanity
  1. Despite how hard it is, I have never had any aching muscles. This may be because I was very physically strong before starting (I shall find out how much strength I've lost next week, cos I intend to do some Jillian Michaels on the 'rest week' as I can't see me doing the same Insanity DVD every day, I will get bored). But I suspect it is more to do with how well and when Shaun T stretches. He doesn't do the usual rubbish thing of doing a half-hearted cardio warm-up where you don't even have to open your mouth to breathe, before jumping into the boring stretching that goes on forever and does bugger all. Or even worse, do stretching with no other warming up. You have a bloody good sweaty hot workout, and then you spend a god 5 minutes stretching nice, warm, elastic muscles. Then you stretch again at the end. Re-doing my 1980s Jane Fonda Workouts recently, I noticed that this is how we used to stretch in those days. The stretching was much more an integral part of the workout, rather than something you do right at the beginning because there's this idea that you are somehow meant to do it, so better get it over with. Insanity is like that - you do the stretch really well and are glad to be doing it because it is a nice breather. I can see how much my flexibility has improved.
  2. That's another thing - you see improvement each time you re-do a DVD. It's really motivating
  3. Shaun T is a brilliant motivator and he also makes me laugh.
  4. When that adrenalin rush hits, it's like I am FLYING. I go to a different place - it's like a meditation state, I don't feel like I exist, I just am 'in it' and doing it and it's bloody brilliant. Yes, a point then comes when I'm about to collapse again, but that's nearly the end, and by the end I am euphoric, however bad my day has been. I love the feeling. I look forward to my workouts, even though they are hard.
  5. I feel like I know the people in the DVDs. It's like going to a class with my (pretend) mates. Yes, I enjoy looking down on them (or envying them), but I am also becoming quite fond of them all, in a funny way. 
  6. Just like when I was doing Jillian Michaels, it now seems like everyone I know is doing Insanity. But you know what? I secretly suspect I am the one who is improving the best ;-) This won't matter to anyone as I will be 20 stone by the time I finish at this rate.
So there we go. If I sound obsessed, it's because I am. Actually cannot wait for the new challenge of the second month - only a week and a bit to go.....

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Carnival Encounter

Saturday just gone was Carnival Day in Shifnal, and it was a brilliant day, warm and sometimes sunny, lots of floats and people dressed up, lots of live music and people happy and smiling. Even the cat weeing on the top I was intending to wear didn't dampen my enthusiasm (though it soaked the top). I didn't wear it, btw...

Off I went for a day of drinking in beer gardens, with Sue and her boyfriend and kids, and Heather, and various people we met on the way.

About 5pm, Heather and me were both hungry, and being as we are veggie and the main food on offer in the pub where we were was a hog roast, we decided to nip to the Kebab Ye for a veggieburger. But as we got in, Heather muttered, 'nothing here for us,' and pushed me out.

So we walked two frontages down to the chippie. 'They've got veggieburgers here,' I said.

'But I like the ones from the Kebab Ye,' moaned Heather.

<puzzled face> 'But you said they didn't have any!'

'That's because STEVE'S IN THERE!'

Oooooooh..... Well that explains it then. Nothing is guaranteed to put a downer on my mood like meeting the abusive stalker ex.....

We decided to go into the Co-Op opposite and wait for him to go. Five minutes of lurking and peeking later, and Heather declared the coast clear. Then as we walked across the road.....

'Yikes!' I whisper-shrieked, followed by, 'walk-on, walk-on, walk-on, he's outside, he's outside'

So we tried to unobtrusively walk away and behind the row of shops, then sneak in from behind, up an alley. Once installed, Heather sat me on a seat facing away from the window, hidden from outside by the advertising banner.

We were waiting for our burgers when a Horrifically Drunk man came in. Slurring his words, stumbling about all sweaty and offensive, and smelling like somebody had sicked in a urinal.

'Hey, love, him outside says he used to go out with you.'

Well, of course, 'him outside' was Steve.

'Nope, never seen him before in my life.'

And off stumbled Horrific Drunk.

Then back he stumbled again, this time sitting down next to a distinctly unimpressed Heather.

'He says he went out with you for five and a half years.'

'Well he's lying then.'

'Why's he lying?'

I have no idea, you'll have to take it up with him.'

At this point Steve appeared in the doorway going, 'why are you saying that Karen? Why are you saying that.'

'My name's not even Karen. I don't know you, you are a stranger.'

'Yes you do'

'No I don't. Do you know him Heather?'

She shook her head and said, 'we're trying to eat, please go away.' By this time the men behind the counter were getting involved too. 'Come on lads, move it on now.' So off they went.

As we sat eating, Heather was giving me a running commentary.

'They're still there. They're looking in, don't look!' (Not that I was likely to look AT ALL) Then, 'oh my god,  Horrific Drunk is kissing Steve - ON THE LIPS... Oh my god, he's SO gay.... Steve's really getting more than he bargained for there.... UGH!'

So of course, we then had the discussion about how I'd heard that Steve has done blow jobs for money in Telford, and how now he's back on heroin properly, without even any methadone to fall back on (unless he's sought help since I last spoke to him, which it didn't look like), there's every possibility he now sells more than blow jobs, and possibly always did.

Eventually they went away, 'in the direction of yours and my houses...' said Heather.

But no damage was done. I did feel a bit wobbly just from having that bit of interaction, but hey, that's what stalkers do and that's what dry white wine is perfect medicine for. We went on to have a brilliant night, watched Fruit Machine at the Railway, danced until I had blisters even UNDER my feet, staggered home and wasn't even too hungover the next day.

Looking back, the only thing that bothered me was WHY he still appeared in my life in the first place? I firmly believe that we get the same things happening to us until we learn, and I for sure have learned I don't want him and he is poison, and yet here he was again. It also bothered me that even KNOWING he would most likely be about, in fact having spoken about this with various people beforehand (and wanting to go to the Railway because of this - he wouldn't pay the £5 to get in), I'd then been taken completely by surprise when he did pop up.

On the good side, this time and last time we've seen him out, I've not been the one who noticed him first. I'm obviously not on the lookout for him or worrying about him, even subconsciously. But on the bad side, did him reappearing mean there's still something I haven't learned that I'm missing out on? Or, even more worryingly, could it be true that we are destined to be together? (Yes, I know, I do sometimes overthink to a ludicrous extent: 'I can't stand the bloke and he gives me the willies, but I'll always love him in a way and maybe we are meant to be together'!!!!!)

Then today, I read this on (which is a really good website if it is the sort of thing you are into, which I am):

When this much love and light manifest all at once, it can really rock us to the core. It can feel very confusing because a lot of past emotions and challenging situations we thought we had taken care of come right back up in front of our beautiful faces seeming more present than ever. This confusion also comes up because the mind is being nudged to expand out of the limitations it had once created for itself. 

This actually happens to give us the opportunity to ‘react’ in a different way than we may have in the past. If we find ourselves still reacting in the same or a similar way as we did before, then it means there’s still quite a bit of healing for us to do especially around strengthening our letting-go muscles. 

On the other side of this downpour of energies, many of us are becoming more mindful by catching ourselves in the act as we realize that past emotions and situations coming back up are just here to show us how far we’ve already come. With this state of non-reactive mind it becomes much easier not to overreact as we once used to, because we are no longer identifying ourselves with whatever it was that caused us so much anger in the first place. 

Now I feel so much better - because I would never have reacted in that way to him before, I would have felt an obligation to treat him with the courtesy I treat everyone else. And then I would have felt bad, because he would have used anything nice I did against me, and at the very least would have tried to use it as an invitation to initiate some further interaction. As it was, he wasn't able to do that. Anything he could have said or done was deflected by the constant, 'I don't know you.'

It's not even a lie. I DO know him, as well as anyone can. But I don't know the real him, because everything about him, even the evil, is a lie. He doesn't have a genuine bone in his body. It's impossible to know him and he will now always be a stranger to me.

He remains a threat to my well-being when I see him. But he's not in my head, he's not in my thoughts, he's not in my heart. He's just in my blog.

THAT'S how far I've come.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Insanity. And the Workout Too.

Ok, so remember when I wasn't going to get obsessive about exercise but was going to fit it in around my life? Well, things have gone a little pear-shaped on that front.

It was the whole Jillian Michaels thing. I found I was surprisingly good at getting fit, and was actually finding her DVDs too easy. [Gratuitous bragging alert!!!] I could do her 40 minute Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism DVD and her 40 min 'No More Trouble Zones' DVD back to back without any problem. I wanted a new challenge.

So I bit the bullet and started Insanity.

I only almost died doing the Fit Test. I know I should have been expecting it, but after Jillian, I was genuinely the fittest I have ever been, so I thought I'd not do too bad. I suppose I didn't do too bad, but I am way too competitive, and that Tanya woman became my nemesis in those 25 minutes. I became DETERMINED to beat her. So much for my plan to just intersperse Insanity into my other DVD workouts. I was going for the full experience - and I WAS going to beat Tanya!

The food thing was never really part of it - but the strange thing is, I suddenly found I was eating healthily. Salads were once more in my menu - and even more bizarrely I began to crave fruit. I don't do fruit. Some fruits (grapes, the horrid little green bastards!) disagree with me violently and faecally. Others bloat me and give me wind (plums, apples, kiwis, figs) but nevertheless I have found myself eating and enjoying them. Not grapes tho. I forgot the effect they had on me with severe and unpleasant consequences last Friday. Never again. Fruits of Satan.

So, Friday was my second Fit Test, cos me being me, I don't follow it religiously - I have my day off on a Tuesday, and often have to have an additional day off too, depending on work (see, I'm TRYING not to be obsessive). And I beat Tanya!!! Ok, only on the first and the last exercise, but hey, that's only two weeks in (ish), and I am 48 and I bet she isn't.

I am, however, increasing in heifferdom by the day. Can't work it out really, but I think my body prefers a diet of small amounts of cheese, chips and chocolate to large amounts of salad and fruit - I am eating more than I have in ages. So after an initial drop of a couple of pounds, I have put back on four - hence 2 pounds up overall, and no loss of inches either.

I also suspect my upper body strength is less, and last week I added in some daily ab work, because I could tell my abs are suffering. But my cardio fitness has improved massively, I see a change every time I workout. I am now the best in 'the class' at the warm-ups (in my opinion, which isn't very humble, it has to be said), and I can hold my own on the rest of it too. Put it this way, I now look down on Shanita's efforts. I can't help myself. It's a very unattractive trait, but I like feeling superior, especially when it comes to fitness cos I was always the fat kid no-one picked for teams at school. Well, BET YOU'D PICK ME NOW, SLOBS!!! Ooops, like I said, REALLY unattractive.....

I'm expecting the muscles to return in month two, which is apparently when most people drop out because it kicks up a notch again. But I am not a quitter, I am determined and I am gonna beat Tanya!

So here are my fit test results for my Insanity compatriots perusal:

Week One/Week Two
Switch Kicks - 112/136 (take THAT, Tanya!)
Power Jacks  -   38/43
Power Knees - 90/114
Power Jumps - 21/33
Globe Jumps -  9/9
Suicide Jumps - 16/18
Push Up Jacks - 26/30
Low Plank Oblique - 50/72 (HA! Beat Tanya again!)

I find myself yelling along with the class, and pushing on through, and for sure it has me digging deeper than any workout EVER. And I LOVE IT!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Mystery Vice

Yes folks, I really am talking about THAT sort of vice, rather than one of my many others.

Today I had to go into Dad's garage to do a meter reading. As I've mentioned before, the garage is a place that is immediately redolent of Dad, so it was the first time I've been in there for ages. As I took the meter reading, I noticed his overalls still hanging next to the meter, and I stood and looked at them. Then I thought to myself, 'I'll just take a little look at his tins' - the individual tins of nails, nuts etc that he kept on his workbench - a massive workbench that's the size of the one above, with a huge vice attached to it.

I turned around and SHOCK! The workbench was gone! Not there! I wandered over to the window (it was under the window), but STILL it didn't appear. And the vice was gone too. There was a smaller table still there, but no vice, no tins, no little cabinet with many drawers. All gone.

I went into Mum and said, 'what's happened to Dad's workbench?'


'Dad's workbench, the one with the vice. It's gone.'

'Oh. I dunno.'

And then we went off to the shops. I wasn't too worried at this point. My sister Mandy had sold Dad's car when she was over here last, and I sort of assumed she must have taken the workbench or moved it somewhere.

But no. When I told her, she was horrified, as her husband had wanted the workbench and vice, and she had wanted all the tins and the cabinet.

'Was the radio there?'

I knew which one she meant. 'No. The 1970s one was, but I'm pretty sure the 1950s one wasn't. Ionly noticed the one radio was there because THE SHELVES WERE EMPTY!' I'd only just realised - the shelves were EMPTY. They were usually crowded.

Now this may all sound like we were getting het up about nothing much, but the thing is, this is like losing part of our childhood. The rags Dad would use to clean our hands of paint were kept draped on the cabinet. His toolbox included stuff that belonged to GRANDAD even. All this stuff is stuff we've handled as kids, things that physically connect us to him and his dad.

There was only one explanation. Either Mum had given everything to the rag and bone man or some other nefarious transient (so that they would think what a nice woman she was), or it had all been stolen.

So Mandy phoned Mum's friends (a couple who take her out), and then phoned her next door neighbour. Nobody knew anything about it. But since the neighour knew nothing, the rag and bone man was an unlikely option - it's one of those roads full of curtain-twitchers (well-meaning curtain-twitchers, to be fair) where everyone sees what goes on!

The mystery remained, even though the garage contents were largely gone.


Mandy phoned me back. The friends had just phoned her. They'd gone over to Mum's to see, and THE WORKBENCH ETC WAS THERE!!!! Not only that, but the vice, the tins, the little cabinet, everything was there perfectly as normal.

The husband said he thought I'd maybe been confused, because the car wasn't in the garage so it looked empty. But excuse me, the only way you can get into the garage properly is when the car is out of the garage! I've spent my life in the garage without the car in it!

Plus, you know how it is when something isn't where you think it should be. You sort of stand there looking and staring, as if it will by magic reappear. Plus, if it HAD been there, I'd have just messed with the tins and then gone out again.

So what on EARTH is going on!!!!!

ANY possible explanations gratefully received.....

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Menopausal and Premenstrual

This week has been the first week of night sweats, as opposed to night heats, which were actually pretty enjoyable in the cold weather. I'm also back to not sleeping, and so the fact that I have been feeling like killing people on a daily basis was something I put down to that - oh, and to doing some extra work - even though neither of these things usually disturb my sunny outlook.

I had a period three weekends ago, which was a bit of a shocker, came out of nowhere, and really wasn't an inconvenience at all - definitely a far cry from the flooding and cramps I'd been having up until before Christmas. What has come as more of a shock is that today I started another period. WHAAAAAAT! That's a 20 day cycle! A far cry from 50 days, 90 days etc - and NOT welcome!

I should have realised really, cos I had some breast tenderness - my foul mood, miraculously gone again today, was due to PMT.

On the downside I've been back to bloated, moody and am now cramping. With the added extra of having to roll around trying to find a cold spot to sweat on. On the upside - I may be imagining it, but I'm sure my skin has been better these last few weeks - I've had spots (how could I forget to mention the SPOTS!), but the texture of my skin hasn't been as dry. This is obviously because Ramona off Real Housewives is right, and it is having her period that keeps her young looking, rather than any other procedures.

All in all though - sod the skin, I'll take the whole 'no periods' thing any time....

Monday, 27 May 2013

Ghosts and Monsters

I feel weird today.

Over the last year, I've felt so much myself, so much back to normal, and here I am back in the doldrums of not knowing what to do with myself and having no motivation. Back in that place where I have to watch TV and read books and do everything I can to try not to think about him. I'd thought it was over, but it wasn't, and now it is, and I feel weird.

Not like when you break up with someone - no tears and heartbreak. More like a scabby heart that you've had a little pick at.

If I do think about it, I feel really sorry for Steve, but at the same time I know that this is exactly what he would want, it would be his hook back in. I don't know what it is about him that one incident of him being pathetic and useless and self-destructive, and I can almost forget all the trauma and the horror. At the same time, I can't recognise him as the person I spent the good times with - I can't imagine a time when I would have been in love with him. The strange, trauma-bonded, Stockholm-syndrome-type love - oh yes, I remember that all too well; but before that, the normal sort of romantic love - I know I had that once, but it was so long ago.

That photo at the top of the page - it's one of the first I have of us together because I didn't have a digital camera at the time. But it's from about two years in - I can tell from the ring he's wearing. Rings we got after he cheated the first time. And THE POSE! I probably don't need to point that out.

Writing this has helped - a lot. I've realised that when you have been owned, you don't need motivation yourself, because your motivation has been the other person and what they want for so long. You forget your own self, so it is no wonder that having that interaction with him has thrown me back there.

I remember when he had beaten me, I would want to hide because I felt like I was somehow to blame (I eknew I wasn't, rationally I know I wasn't, but emotionally that was the overpowering feeling). Oh, I'd force myself out (usually. There was one day where my son didn't go to school because I couldn't face taking him), but inside I was cringeing.

Even from only having spoken to him, I feel like that again - and this time it is true, it IS my fault, because I chose to speak to him, knowing what might happen.

The monster was only in my head. But the monster will always be in my head, ALWAYS. Seeing Steve for what he is doesn't change that monster. It's one I need to keep in its box. But first I have to put it back in.

So when I've written this, I'm drinking that last cup of tea, putting on some clothes and doing a workout. I'm getting back into a routine, I'm forgetting about a person who is beyond help of any kind, I'm forgetting about the things behind the sun, the monsters under the bed and the ghosts inhabiting my heart.

This mood is just a shadow of where I have been before. The sun is coming out.

But not today.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Playing With Fire and Not Getting Burned

I met Steve.

Yes, you read that right. I decided against all better judgment that I would see what he wanted or needed. I can't say I am any closer to knowing that now than I was beforehand. But whereas before, in my mind, he was a horrific monster of a person, someone who potentially could hurt me or damage me in some way, I now see he isn't. Hence the photo - it's from a Star Trek episode, where this is what speaks to the crew of the Enterprise - when in fact it is a puppet representing a little child-like alien who couldn't scare a mouse. Except this monster was of my own creating.

I know that there was a time when Steve was a threat to me, but not now. Now he is a sad, empty, full-blown heroin-addicted waste of a life. He ended the night throwing up in my garden because it had been so long since his last fix - and he has a stomach ulcer that is only being made worse by not eating and drinking too much, so there was blood in there again. I felt nothing but sympathy for him. And a feeling of responsibility - but that is just a feeling, and I can ignore it. I'm not responsible for him any more.

I know I was playing with fire. I know there was the potential there for him to use me, or fish me in again. But I went knowing that, and being prepared. I wasn't prepared for a life unlived, a person so messed up that they could barely string a sentence together, let alone explain why they had wanted to see me. And there was the ghost of my love there too - I could remember how it felt to love him, feel the tiny bit inside that always will love the person he pretended to be - and the bit inside that still loves this pathetic thing he has become, because it triggers all the protective impulses, all the destructive coping strategies I've developed in my life to keep the self-hatred at bay. But it is fine to feel those things, and recognise them, and not act on them. It is fine to turn my back and walk away.

He is who he is, and he will never change. At one point he was trying to tell me how I was, 'The One' and how he wasn't in touch with any other women, and he handed me his phone to prove it. He thought I'd look at the messages or call-list I presume, but I didn't, just looked at the contacts list. He has every ex he ever cheated with listed on there still, right back to 'Lauren Inthelakes'. I'm only one of many; another old-flame he can't quite bear to extinguish. I deleted my number.

I really do forgive him now. Oh, I'll never forget what he did and what I became, but I now see that he truly has hurt himself far more than he could ever hurt me. I wish him well, but he knows that is as far as it goes, there is nothing to see here any more. Time to move along.

I genuinely hope that he can.

So now I just have to explain to my sister that this was 'sending to the dog-pound' rather than 'casting a morsel of meat'!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bloody Horrible Day

Proceed no further if bad language and obscenity offend you. I mean it. It's not pretty down there.

So this bad day really started on Saturday - but we'll come on to that later.

But first, I want to slam Kaspersky - the people who make the antivirus programmes. I've had Kaspersky for a while - since 2009 apparently. It has happily auto-renewed every year since then. But not this year, oh no. For this year, I have a new credit card. So, the old one naturally was declined, and the auto-renew didn't go through. So far, so normal. One would assume, would one not, that it would be a simple matter to be directed to the website, where one could fill in the updated details? One would be horribly, horribly wrong.

NO, says Mr Kaspersky! Nothing So Simple! After a good 30 minutes of searching the hideously designed (if 'designed' can be used to refer to any old shambolic arrangement of coding) website, I finally found that if the auto-renewal didn't work, you had to cancel the auto-renewal, then order it again.

Ho-hum, seemed a bloody palaver, but hey, I'm just as capable of jumping through hoops as the next person. I cancelled the auto-renew. Which resulted in the 'renew' button and page disappearing. Great. So now I was instructed to buy Kaspersky 2013. Undeterred, I did. Removed my previous version, downloaded and installed the new one, entered the activation code, all done.

It still said my subscription was STILL expired and no updates would be available in 5 days time. Click this link to auto-renew or visit the website. CUNTING HELL! FUCKING GROUNDHOG DAY OR WHAT!

At this point I tried to contact Kaspersky support, but, as every high-profile multinational company should do, they had shut up shop until the next day. I did what every pissed off consumer does in this situation and swore loudly and violently at the cunting bastard on the answering machine, before going off to bed.

This morning I decided that since I was up WAAAAY earlier than Kaspersky employees, who apparently slumber until just short of midday, I would try to solve the problem once again.

This time couldn't get anywhere because now my antivirus activation code wasn't recognised. So back to the mess of a website to try to solve this. It was at this point that I found a section called, 'known problems with Kaspersky 2013'. Now forgive me if I'm being a bit thick here, but if a company can't debug their own program, how the hell can I trust them to deal with a virus?????

Anyway, their advice was to remove the activation key (following the steps given) and then re-key it. Done deal. But OH! Now the key wasn't recognised in any way whatsoever - leaving me £30 out of pocket, with NO antivirus protection at all!

At this point I gave up and phoned customer services (never has a phone line been so mal-named - 'rip-off a mug phoneline' or 'give me your money gullible assholes premium-call' would be more appropriate). Tried to speak to a techie. No good, massive wait at the end of multiple phone menu choices, and I was constantly second in the queue, twice, for 10 minutes each.

Next I tried to cancel and get a refund. Again, same scenario. Got through finally, and quite literally had to shut the girl up, she wanted to know had I done this, had I done that, I ended up saying, 'I'm answering no questions. I just want a refund!'

It's going to take ten days to get my money back. I have to donate a kidney to Mr Kaspersky to get it, and sell my soul to a rag and bone man from Old London Town. Or does it just feel like that?

Then had to telephone the HMRC helpline. Yes, I know. EVERYONE knows that the HMRC Helpline is overloaded and crappily staffed. Everyone, it would seem, apart from HMRC staff themselves, for their stupid bastard tax-credits renewal form doesn't allow you to notify them of changes on it. Oh no, nothing so sensible. You have to put a cross in a box to say your circumstances have changed, and then phone up the helpline to notify them of the change in circumstances.

So you do. And you sit through announcements of how you can get help on the website (like if it was any use anyone would be on the bloody useless helpline). And you sit and wait, listening to crap cunting music like the lazy doley scumbag with tonnes of money that they obviously think you are.

No thanks. After ten minutes I gave up and notified them via their form of my change in circumstance. I then signed this new declaration, and also declared that I thought they were a bunch of thickies, and told them in future to phone me, rather than the other way around, as I actually have sometimes been known to answer my phone.

By this time (and don't forget that I have also taken my mother shopping today, and that's an ordeal in anyone's book) I was in severe danger of going out and massacre-ing a bunch of strangers, that's how bad the pent-up anger was. Luckily, this was highly inconvenient to me, due to UK gun laws, so instead I did Jillian Michaels 'Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism' and 'No More Trouble Zones' DVDs back to back, with added aggression.

Felt a bit better.

I do wonder if I am a victim of my hormones. I've had a period over the weekend , out of nowhere, and now it is ended my boobs feel pre-menstrual, and I am full of rage.

But then maybe it is also because I have spoken to Steve, the ex who beat crap out of me, also known as my sociopathic stalker.

Just having spoken to him on Saturday night has put me on edge. I felt sorry for him (though I nipped that in the bud quite quickly), and have been left feeling I owe him something. Worst of all, he said he would phone me to go for a drink this weekend.

Now I know in my head that he won't. I know that for him, the very fact that he thinks I might answer my phone is ego-stroke enough, and that he won't follow through. I also know that I have no intention of answering the phone to him, let alone seeing him: I mean, dear Goddess, my life has been one hundred per cent happy since he went, there's no danger of me going back.

But just that bit of contact has me unsettled. The little twisty knot in my stomach is back.

I used to think that was love.

Friday, 17 May 2013

No, I DON'T Want a Smear

I don't have smears, or any other screening test, for many reasons, including those outlined by Margaret McCartney in her excellent article here and further explained in her blog here. I have a very different view about health to that of most people, I don't lecture others about them, and because I work in health I am careful to toe the party line if I am asked about things like this by patients.

But when the NHS is in the mess it is in, does it REALLY need to keep sending me invitations to have a smear? Especially when I have sent a well-reasoned and considered letter to my GP explaining why I will never have a smear unless I have worrying symptoms, and absolving them of any responsibility for a bad outcome of that decision? In the 8 years since that letter, I have continued to receive four invitations a year.

Every year I also have to go for a health check because I have asthma. I am a physotherapist. I am quite capable of doing my own peak flow measurement if I thought it was of any use. I know how to diaphragmatically breathe, how to take my inhalers, and I can even do Buteyko techniques if I ever had the motivation to. As it happens, I was (shamefully) using my inhaler incorrectly. Was it found on my health check? AS IF! It was the pharmacist who found out on an impromptu check when the pharmacy was quiet. THAT didn't cost the NHS anything, or waste anyone's time.

I have to have my thyroxine level tested yearly. WHY? I asked the GP, 'is my thyroid going to regrow and start working?' Of course, the answer was 'no'. So why do I have to have the tests? Because it is 'best practice' when you are taking thyroxine. Erm, no, it's a pointless waste of my time, the time of whoever has to take the blood, whoever has to process it, and the money involved.

All small amounts. But add them up, across an entire population, and that's a hell of a lot of money wasted. All because GPs get incentives for screening and health checks. What a pile of bollocks.

All it would take is an easy way for people to opt out of tests. Not for them to forget to go, but for them to actively opt out. Then GPs wouldn't lose their bonus, and money wouldn't be wasted.

Actually, I think there is an argument to be made for taking all of the 'cheaper' screening out of the NHS, but that is another blog post. But I am an adult (age-wise at least!), I know my own mind, and I am perfectly capable of deciding I don't want these checks. Whatever happened to 'listening to the patient' and 'the professional/patient partnership'? It doesn't exist when it comes to screening tests and checks. WHY?

On the same day that I was having my stupid yearly health check (which I attend because otherwise the GP practice manager says they will refuse to give me prescriptions), someone put on Facebook how they couldn't get an appointment for their sick child AT THAT PRACTICE.

If the NHS had spare capacity, fair enough. It doesn't. If no-one has the guts to take the decisions necessary to ration healthcare, at least let people opt out of 'preventative healthcare' if we want to!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

More Than A Job Part Four - You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Work Here....

I left the Accident Hospital to go to work in Mental Health. Now at the time, physiotherapy in mental health was a backwater; a nothing speciality - the domain of the unambitious, and a place where old and/or tired physiotherapists went to die.

Except at Highcroft Hospital.

Nick Rosen is the most innovative, inspirational, motivational physiotherapist I have ever worked with. His nickname was Mr Brittas, after the character from the Brittas empire, because in the same way that Brittas had a single-minded drive to bring exercise to the masses, Nick was evangelical about exercise for mental health. We had technical instructors instead of physio assistants, years before any other department. We had a computer that did our stats in the days when you had a blinking green cursor to greet you when you switched it on, and when NHS computers were generally glorified word processors that you fed information into and never EVER got anything useful back out of. They are still that now, come to think of it - but back to the story....

Highcroft was where I learned what mental health physiotherapy should be about, and what a physiotherapy manager should be about.

It was where I had my last mental breakdown.

It was also where I began learning Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and really got cracking on the process of changing my life and my self.

Those two things are not unrelated.

Highcroft was another massive shock, because I went from being a Senior I who knew all there was to know in her field, to being a Senior I who knew bugger all about what she was doing. Oh, the physiotherapy part was fine. And the relaxation classes were fine - well, the relaxation classes weren't fine, they NEVER went to plan, they could be the highlight of the day or the nightmare scenario and you never knew which it would be, but it was the same for everyone, it wasn't just me being crap.

No, the bit that was so difficult was knowing how to deal with people so ill. Again, with the frankly psychotic people, everyone was in the same boat, and there were behaviour management programmes that everyone used, so I could deal with that. It was the anxious and depressed, the suicidal people. I felt at sea, didn't know how to deal with them, hadn't the skills the other seniors had to know what to say and when. But hey, I was more experienced now, I could deal with this, I'd been here before and I was that bit older.

Then just as I was finding my feet, just as all the reading and learning was starting to make a difference, the two other seniors both left within a short while of eachother. I found myself the most senior clinician left, and deputy to the Superintendent, and this was where things REALLY started to go tits up.

I took on anything and everything. I was determined to prove that I could do this and I tried to prove it by never saying no. I would go to work in a state of anxiety and dread. Whilst I was there, things weren't too bad - during the day I would cheer up - I was too busy to dwell on things and I was so good at putting on a smile that I could even convince myself. Then I would go home and be too exhausted to enjoy anything any more. My thoughts were focussed on my work even when I wasn't there. Nothing else in my life was of any importance compared to living up to my predecessors,  being the best I could be and helping the most people I could. I couldn't sleep, and spent the time dwelling on my own uselessness. Then it was up early again and another panic-ridden commute where I would fantasise about running away.

I remember Nick reading a book that compared problems to monkeys - about how you should only ever have your own monkeys, not other people's, and how some people will always get rid of their monkeys whilst others are monkey-collectors. He said he could see me wandering around picking up stray monkeys, even grabbing monkeys off other people who were quite happy with them, and all the time I was already staggering under the weight of a sanctuary full of the creatures.

Then one day I threw all the monkeys in the air and ran before they hit the ground.

I came into work and saw someone had booked an extra patient in my diary. I picked up my bag, left my department keys on the table, and walked out.

I bumped into Nick on the way out (I was always the first in - even though Nick was always early). 'Where are you going?'

'I resign, I'm never coming back.'

I could hear him asking me to come and talk about it, to come and have a cup of tea, but I ignored him and kept on walking. I caught the bus into Birmingham. I played the usual game of should I continue to my destination or should I hop on any old bus and run away wherever it took me. I went home.

I lay on my bed and cried. But I knew things were very wrong and I knew I needed help. I booked a GP appointment and felt so relieved to hear that 'it's not your fault, you have depression, you are ill, it's your brain chemistry.'

But that was nothing more than a comforting fiction. The pills she gave me didn't do the job. Facing the half-truths and lies in that GP's statement was how I got well.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

I'm Not Paranoid, I Just Know My Stalker!

So on and off there have been little incidents like the Gate incidents, things I can't say were definite stalking, but just had me a bit suspicious. And then last week there was the Return of Stalker's Friend - Dean turned up last Wednesday to apologise for 'being a dick' last time he saw me.

Now it seemed a little odd that he should turn up to apologise some 9 months after the fact, but I let it slide, accepted the apology, and assured him that it was nothing, not a problem. Then I got to thinking. The last time Dean turned up here was swiftly followed by Steve coming out of prison and subsequently turning up here to vomit blood on my drive - so why had Dean suddenly turned up again out of nowhere?

So I was slightly on the alert. But also not, because I had kind of convinced myself I was being paranoid, what with all the gate drama and stuff that never came to anything.

Friday night Heather was here and we had a good old girly night, with drinking and feasting and gossiping. She left, and after about half an hour I was thinking of going up to bed, went and got my dressing gown on and was back downstairs just tidying up a few things when my mobile rang.

I deleted all Steve's numbers after New Year, because I had no idea of his number but was pretty sure it wasn't his old one as his iPhone had been cut off for non-payment when he was on one of his prison stints. So I answered, not knowing who it was (and wondering who was calling at gone midnight).

It was Steve.

'I was just passing and saw your bedroom light on. I wondered how you were doing.'

'I'm fine' I was actually frozen.

'I'm not on anything, and I'm not drunk and I don't want to get back together....'

'Good, because you wreck my life when you are in it....'

'Who's that talking to you?'

I put the phone down. It wasn't anyone talking to me, it was the TV - but he thought I was in my bedroom, and there's no TV there. That's why he was phoning - to keep tabs on me.

I went straight on Facebook and put on a public status about it - cos he hates it when I do that (funny how he knows really, as he pretends he 'doesn't understand' facebook). Well, he knows how to stop me doing it - keep well away.

I switched the phone off, and thought he'd have phoned back - thought he might even phone my house phone, but no. In the morning, nothing.

Which is almost an insult, like I'm only worth a 'convenience' stalk when he happens to be passing!

So I'm putting it out of my mind - I think he was just trying it on - to see if I was up for a bit of exploitation, like so many of his other women (and yes, me too) have been time and again in the past.

Try it on all you like matey-boy, those days have gone, GONE I tell you! But just in case, he has his own ringtone on my phone now - the Twilight Zone music :-)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Menopause Update - WTF?


Ok, so one of the things that shocked me most about being pregnant, that no-one had told me about (incidentally, the absolute number one shocker is that you might poo whilst in labour - I mean seriously, EVERYONE should be told that! I thought I was the only dirty mare!) was that my beautiful rose-petalled labia suddenly - and I mean OVERNIGHT - turned into these angry red swollen unrecognisable things. :-O Was this normal? Did this happen to lots of people? Or was I about to get gangrene if I didn't consult a doctor immediately? Luckily, a quick google allayed my fears. But something similar, though less scary has happened, and even a google is unenlightening, so for the good of womankind, I am going to talk about it. And because in my world there's no such thing as too much information and oversharing.

You know how your juicy love tunnel has a certain smell? Not a horrible smell, of infection or uncleanliness or anything, but a smell that is just you? Well mine has always been a bit like salt and vinegar crisps. I like it, and have indeed been complimented on it in the past. It's kind of comforting.

Well no more. I have a cock-snuggler that no longer smells of ANYTHING. It's like it has turned to skin. It's true! Look! Smell my pants! NOTHING!

This disturbs me, as I always had this idea (which I think is scientifically based) that this smell was detected at a subliminal level, and attracted men to me. Yet now, I am a pheromone-free zone. I have nothing but my appearance and innate wit to rely on to win over the boys. I am doomed, DOOMED,  tell you!

Worrying. Especially as I suspect the next stage will be smelling of wee and mothballs. Probably. :-(

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Menopause For Thought

It is a bit of a mystery to me that I haven't yet made it to adulthood, but my body appears to think I am headed to crone status. It's a funny position to be in - on the one hand entering the menopause and on the other largely blogging about a boy I like who is all of 25 since his recent birthday. Without once referring to him as immature :-O

When you google 'menopause' you get lots of pictures like this:

Which SURELY has nothing to do with ME?? Look - THIS is me:

Granted the clothing is a little restrained there, but it WAS my Dad's funeral.....

It seems like being menopausal is more than a hot flush or two - it's a full-on onslaught that turns you into a steely-haired frump.

I've felt it coming on for a few years now - I've had a few hot flushes over the last few years - and it's not just heat. It's being drenched in sweat, heart pounding, head feeling like it's about to explode, so I've had to go and hang out of a window ASAP. At the same time, rather than diminishing, my periods became really heavy, and I don't know how I'd have coped without my mooncup, because tampons just weren't up to the job. They were like twigs being swept downstream in rapids. The only upside was that sometimes the irregularity of my periods meant that whilst occasionally my cycle would be as short as 18 days, sometimes I'd go over 50 days without a period, which was utter bliss. It now occurs to me that I can't remember when my last period was, I think it was before Christmas sometime.

Now I get lots of hot flushes, but they aren't like the ones I've described above - they are pure heat. I wake in the night burning up, but no sweat or other symptoms. So I shuffle over to the blissful cold of the other side of the bed. Then ten minutes later shuffle back, like a very hot inchworm. Repeat for about half an hour, at which point I realise I am freezing and wrap myself up in the duvet. This happens about three times a night or more, and has been doing for the last month. But no-one really talks about menopause symptoms, so I'm not sure how long to expect this to last - apparently 50 is the average age for menopause, so I am assuming I have a couple of years before this is done? And it's meant to be over two years after your last period, so that might just fit in, except you could have a period at any time, you never know.

Can I go TMI for a moment? (Like some of the above really wasnt!) I've had no problems with vaginal dryness, but there has been a noticeable thinning of my erm, *lips*. It was some time last year I was in the bath and thought, 'hmmm, that's new'. It surely must have happened gradually, but I only noticed when it was done. And I shave every time I have a bath, so you'd think it couldn't really sneak up on me. But like a thin-labiaed ninja, it did.

Talking of shaving, so far that has been the worst part of the experience - THE HAIR. If I didn't pluck daily, I'd have a Brian Blessed beard for sure. It is getting to the point where I really am considering shaving - but what stops me is that I am furry, so I'd have to shave my whole damn face. Don't look at me like that - apparently, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were furry. Downy hair makes you not shine on photos and gives you a natural soft focus effect. According to an article I once read somewhere, so it must be true. But it also means you can't wax or shave without having a weird 'patchy' effect. My sister tried it, so I know. Not a good look, trust me on this.

But aside from the hair, it's so far not been too bad. I am physically fitter than I have ever been in my life, which may be helping. The not having periods is a brilliant as you would imagine, and so far I've not noticed any dry skin. Oh, but the gums, that has been a very recent thing. I'm now brushing at least three times a day and my gums are still bleeding, it's like being pregnant. So that is a bit worrying cos I am absolutely obsessive about teeth. So, aside from the hair and the gums, so far it isn't too bad.

I'll keep you posted. I'm on high alert for incipient frumpiness.