Wednesday 26 September 2012


Today I had a revelation.  I was sat in a lovely pub in front of a roaring fire (we were too close and it was a bit hot) but I will always insist on sitting near a fire because it makes me feel happy.  The food (prawn sandwich, chunky chips and cappuccino) made me feel happy. The location (the beautiful Winster valley in the Lake District) made me feel happy.  The fact that my husband was sat opposite me (equally roasted by the fire) in a really bad shirt that he had found in the back of our van made me happy.  My sodden, muddy socks drying by the fire made me happy.  The fact that we had earned the prawn sandwich and chips by virtue of the 16 mile bike ride up some steep hills only added to the feeling of general contentment.

Are you dry-wretching at the smugness of this blog yet? I hope not, because the revelation I had whilst basking in my post exercise, fire-roasted, full-bellied glow, was that I need to embrace my happiness more, to acknowledge it and be thankful for it.  So often in our hectic, pressured lives we don’t take stock of all the lovely things we have and allow ourselves the luxury of revelling in the really good moments.

Back to the pub…The people on the next table didn’t look very happy (perhaps they should have sat closer to the fire!)  They ordered some swanky fresh orange juice and it came in a square glass.  A bit radical I know, but the man of the group looked at it like they had been offered a turd on toast (one of my Mum’s favourite sayings).  He asked his brow-beaten wife to go back and ask for a round glass.  When his steak and kidney pie arrived he eyed it with the utmost suspicion and gingerly prodded it with a fork.  This pub recently won “Best Pub in the North West” in the Good Pub Guide, so what he was frightened of I am not entirely sure.  His wife (I am saying wife but she could have been his mother because she was impossible to age) sighed as her prawn sandwich arrived.  “How am I going to be able to eat all of this?” she observed, clearly in a state of abject misery.  For Christ’s sake woman, it was two slices of granary bread (artisan bread admittedly) with some prawns in it.  What did she expect?  I was struck by their dogged determination to not enjoy themselves.  How can you not enjoy yourself in a country pub after an autumnal walk, sat next to a log fire?  (Perhaps the sight of my muddy socks was distressing them). Their bad mood was incomprehensible to me.

So because I like to analyse things, I decided to analyse my happiness today.  Apart from the obvious good fortune of having a day off without the kids to have a day of leisure in a lovely part of the world, there are plenty of things going on today that could have limited my happiness:

  • The fact that I am suffering from a particularly nasty bout of cystitis (too much information I know but I need to set a scene) 
  • The fact that I almost puked halfway up a hill because I was so out of breath and a little bit weak as a result of reason number 1.
  • The fact that my husband flew over the handlebars of his bike and landed in a ditch (actually this was quite funny).
  • The rather annoying speed at which my husband is losing weight simply by cutting out pies and chocolate.  
  • The ageing process, particularly around the eye area.  Why do men look better with eye crinkles than women (again not fair)?
  • The fact that it has rained for months.
  • Being sat next to a group of miserable walkers who don’t know a good steak and kidney pie when they see one.

Look at all this negativity.  Seen from a different perspective today could have been a bit miserable but luckily for me, I was in the right frame of mind to shrug it all off and rejoice in my happiness.

When we arrived home we discovered that our son’s school had been trying to contact us because he was ill (not really ill, just trying it on a bit).  Having failed to reach us on our mobiles (no signal in the Lake District idyll), they contacted my Dad who joked that the school probably hadn’t been able to reach us as, “they like to turn their phones off when they go out on a drinking session.”  He’s a funny guy my Dad!  Nonetheless, he picked up our not-very-poorly son and then walked our dog.  That’s two more reasons for happiness in my book.

So notwithstanding water infections, minor accidents and miserable day trippers from Lancashire, today was a good day. Happiness is about perspective. My new mantra is…To not know when I am the lucky recipient of good fortune is a total waste of that good fortune*.

* This suspiciously sounds like it came out of a fortune cookie – it didn’t, I promise.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Back on Track

The kids went back to school last week and the nation’s parents breathed a collective sigh of relief. I love my children more than life itself but seven weeks is a long time, especially when Summer decides to not actually bother turning up. There were moments of delight: a few days in the glorious East Neuk of Fife in Scotland eating award-winning fish and chips and breathing in the salty tang of seaweed, a couple of days on the shores of Coniston Water with a picnic, canoe and fleeces and meeting up with friends at the local park for a good gossip BUT if I was being really honest it wasn't the dreamy summer I had been hoping for (see previous blog about me aiming too high in School's out for Summer).

So last Tuesday night the school uniforms were ironed (the one and only time this happens during the entire school year), packed lunches were made and PE kits were re-assembled.  Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny. This happens every single year - seven weeks of rain during the holidays, first day back at school and the sun comes out to play.  As I dropped my youngest at nursery, parents were giddily chattering, catching up with each other and much to my relief everyone appeared to have same excited glint in their eye. There was a collective sense of relief that it was all over for another year.  I might be “projecting” my own emotions on to these other parents; for all I know they were all absolutely gutted to be giving the care of their children over to professionals for 6 hours a day, but I suspect not.  I am sure I saw one Mum skipping out of the gate of the Nursery.  I personally chose to reign the skipping in a bit and chose to celebrate with my husband (also off work – woo hoo) with a cappuccino and a slice of toast with Nutella in the garden with only the sounds of the birds to break the silence.
The goddess Vicky Pendleton wearing an impractical
alternative to lycra.  The chafing must be horrendous.

We then decided to take advantage of our child-free day with a bike ride round Coniston – a route we do quite often.  However I am by nature an optimist and thought it would really enhance the day if we extended the usual 14 mile route by actually setting off from our house and doing a return trip (32 miles).  I haven’t exercised at all for seven weeks so why I thought a 32 mile bike ride up some massive hills would be a good idea is anybody’s guess. We set off up the hill out of town and five minutes later we passed my Dad standing at the end of his road holding out water bottles (actually a half-drunk bottle of tonic and some tepid lemon water). He later said it was his way of making us feel like “Wiggo” and “Cav”. This made me chuckle (actually “wheeze” is a more accurate description) and slightly ominously I was feeling the strain in my legs even at this early stage of our cycling endeavour. Our optimistic, over-ambitious plans were a surely a recipe for disaster. However I am delighted to tell you that it was utterly brilliant.  The sun shone, the lake sparkled and the prawn sandwich and triple fried chunky chips at the pub half way round were sublime.

We couldn’t walk when we got back and I had to apply Germoline to areas for which Germoline was probably not designed but we were on a post-exercise, sunshine vitamin D induced high. My mother-in-law then made the most enormous roast beef dinner (on a Wednesday night!!).

So exhausted and with a tummy full of roast potatoes I decided that this was the day I would start to get back on track with my MS diet and fitness plan and decided to log the exercise on my app.  I was ecstatic about the 1500 calories I had burned on the bike, not so thrilled about the 2500 calories I apparently had consumed that day.  I weighed myself and discovered I have put on four pounds since the start of the holidays.  Hacked off doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Those of you have read my previous blogs will know that I am supposed to be following an ultra healthy low fat diet and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that triple-fried chunky chips and midweek roast beef dinners are not a part of this plan.  It is not rocket science, over the past seven weeks I have had a glass or two of red wine most nights, I have eaten chocolate, chips, cake, ice cream, lots of bread, butter -  in fact a lot of the things I ate regularly before I started the diet in January and to put it bluntly, I feel like crap.  My residual MS Symptoms which were leftover from last year’s big relapse have started to make their presence felt again, I feel lethargic and my hands and legs are tingling.  My body is giving me one big HINT – get off your lardy arse and start eating vegetables again.

Perhaps part of me was still a little sceptical about the impact that a change in lifestyle could have on my MS. But the last few weeks have been a huge wake-up call. Surely it is too much of a coincidence that as soon as I stop following the diet and exercise regime, my MS seems to suffer.

So it is time to stop the denial, shift my mind-set again and try and re-discover my enthusiasm for healthy living.   This will not be easy – I love cheese, I am yet to be convinced of the merits of Quorn, and “Homes under the Hammer” is back on BBC1, but there is nothing like some ominous tingling in your feet to focus your mind.