Christmas is Coming!!

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Teenage Son and Daughter are back home for the holidays and it is time for the traditional decorating of the Christmas Tree.  This always follows a set format from which any deviation is strictly frowned upon.  It normally happens on a Saturday a couple of weeks before Christmas, after an alcohol infused lunch.   Husband  snoozes infront of the fire while pretending to watch Rugby or football.  The rest of us drag in the Christmas Tree which has spent all year waiting in a pot in the garden for this day to come around again.  It is the fourth year it has been manhandled through the living room windows and it has grown a lot taller and is much balder than it was when we first got it, (unlike most of us who seem to shrink and become more hirsute).

There is then a heated discussion about which side of the tree should face into the room to hide the particularly bald branches and after much pushing and adjusting, it is deemed fit to be decorated.  All members of the household (who are not gently snoring), dive into the enormous cardboard box which holds the decorations and pull out glass baubles, tinsel, Christmas lights and various haphazard decorations including a very rude Father Christmas bought at a street market (guaranteed to shock Granny) and the decorating begins.  The baubles are hung first while the cats sit mesmerised, working out the quickest way to scale the tree and cause havoc.  Then the tinsel is gently wound through the branches  accompanied by the sound of falling pine needles.

At this point in the proceedings, Husband is usually woken and asked to climb to the top of the stepladder and drape the lights around the tree and wedge the Christmas Angel on the top branch.  The Angel was made years ago by Teenage Daughter in nursery school out of a loo roll and a polystyrene ball with wisps of tinsel for hair. She has the permanently shocked expression of someone who has a large Christmas tree rudely shoved up their dress every Yuletide.  This year, however, Husband was snoring so loudly that it was decided that Teenage Daughter should scale the ladder as she is the second tallest in the family and she was neither semi comatose nor full of  Rioja.  After much teetering and cries to Teenage Son to get off his phone and steady the ladder, she managed to grab the top branch of the tree and pull it towards her (the cats began to fidget, anticipating the opportunity to chase any baubles that might be dislodged) and ram the Angel unceremoniously onto the top of the tree.   The lights were draped around the tree with more needles showering down around us and switched on.  And the decoration was complete.

The cats are now attempting to put the finishing touches to the tree by playfully batting the ornaments and chasing each other up and down the trunk.  It looks even balder and more haphazard than usual but I wouldn´t have it any other way.

The Best way to Keep up with Social Media

 

I like to think that I am not doing too badly when it comes to keeping up with technology and social media.  I use my computer every day, have a Facebook page (admittedly I don´t do much with it) have joined Twitter (I haven´t tweeted yet, what would I say and frankly who would care?) and I even have Instagram, but it is dawning on me that I am way behind the game.

There is a technical and social media spectrum and I am not where I would like to be.  One end starts with my inlaws who have a computer but are terrified of all communication by email.  They also own a mobile phone but don´t turn it on incase someone rings them and it runs out of battery.  At the other end there are Teenage Son and Daughter who no longer SMS  their friends but send strange contorted selfies on Snapchat.  When I asked Son why he hadn´t been on Facebook for weeks, he replied ¨Thats so old, now everyone is on Tumblr¨.  As a friend of mine asked, ¨What the hell is Tumblr?  I thought I put my gin and tonic in one.¨  So as you can see there is certainly ground to make up.  I can at least take consolation from the fact that I am not as bad as that same friend who when buying an alarm clock, put it to her ear and asked why it wasn´t ticking.  ¨It´s digital Mum¨sighed her son with a monumental eyeroll.

It is therefore ironic that the least technical member of the household is the first to get the iphone 6.  Husband has been a staunch advocate of Blackberry and has had an array of basic plastic devices which have struggled to do more than send the odd email and act as a phone.  Enter the new iphone 6.  It took a couple of hours before he realised it wasn´t necessary to either viciously slap it or prod heavily at the screen in order to switch between icons or emails.  He is now at the stage of brandishing it to anyone who will listen and say, ¨Do you realise how easy it is to use?¨  The rest of the houshold (who have much older versions of iphone and are suffering fits of jealousy)  smile and nod with gritted teeth.  Infact Teenage Son and Daughter keep feverishly looking up their phone upgrade dates in the vain hope that they will somehow miraculously move forward.

So while I can usually help Husband with connectivity issues and setting up the printer, I think I will start taking lessons from the younger members of the family to get me up to speed on subjects such as widgets (sounds like something you get from poor personal hygiene) and how to use Flickr.  Once I point out that I am far less likely to embarrass them if I know what I am talking about, I am sure they will help.  If not,  then the words ¨Early updates¨are bound to do the trick.

 

 

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Competitive Personal Training

 

 

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It is hard enough turning up for my weekly personal training session, anticipating the pain and humiliation that will follow, but now I have identified a new concern – Competitive Personal Training.  Now you might think this would occur between the clients being trained and to be honest, I am as competitive as the next person,  but no.  I have noticed that there is a disturbing competition between trainers.   The idea being that the more advanced exercises their client can survive, the better it reflects on them.

My last session started benignly enough with the usual rolling around using foam cylinders on the buttocks to help with any stiffness (if you read my earlier post, you will understand why) and  then a gentle warmup.  Enter two more trainers with their clients. One was a lady of around my age and fitness and the other was a young, slim woman who looked about twenty five.  The older lady was asked to lie on a mat and lift her legs gently in different directions and take long rests between sets of repetitions.  The younger one was quickly set a punishing warmup.  As she began a long and complicated set of lunges, my trainer who was handing me a kettlebell, snatched it back and watching her out of the corner of his eye  devised  some very similar lunges for me as well, instead of the kettlebell lifts I had been expecting.

Bright red, and with my legs trembling, I got through those and was looking enviously at the lady on the mat (she had not changed colour and was admiring her manicure), when the young women was instructed to jump up onto a high box from a standing start.  She managed it with apparent ease and her trainer looked around the gym as if to say ¨look what my client can do¨.  My own delightful taskmaster looked at me speculatively and then dragged over a smaller box and indicated that I should attempt the same feat.  After a couple of humiliating tries where I either bottled out or tripped and landed on my knees on the box, he sighed and suggested that I step up instead.

Meanwhile, the young women had been hoisted up to a high beam to do some assisted chin ups with her own trainer helping by pushing on her heels from below.  My trainer´s eyes narrowed,  and he looked from me to the beam.  I stared at him incredulously and said ¨Seriously?¨.

¨ You can do that with your eyes closed¨ he replied and grabbed me around the waist to lift me up to the bar.  I squawked and  having grabbed the bar, hung there like a sloth.  ¨Right, now do a chin up and I will help¨ he said.  There was a long moment when I pulled up and he pushed and we got absolutely nowhere and then my fingers started to slip.

¨I can’t hold on¨ I warned.  He ignored me and continued pushing up against my heels.  Meanwhile the young woman had lightly jumped down and after a smug glance from her trainer moved on to some crunches.  At that moment, my fingers lost their grip and I hurtled down landing ignominiously on top of my trainer. As we picked ourselves up, I noticed the lady on the mat was lying on her stomach being gently stretched and discussing her plans for the weekend.  Finally my trainer glanced in her direction.

¨We will do some core work when the rehabilitation client is finished¨ he said.  ¨What happened to her?¨ I asked.  ¨She hurt herself training¨was the reply.

Frankly, feigning injury might be the way forward…

Walking the Dog

 

 

 

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It has been a couple of months since our Boxer (see above) was put on enforced rest to heal a sprained knee.  The other knee was reconstructed two years ago after he blew his ACL  (he wasn´t playing football or skiing) and so the good leg has taken a lot of the strain of being an extremely boisterous 40 kg block of muscle.   Now we are into rehabilitation.  ¨Go gently¨, said the vet, ¨and try and keep him calm”.  What a completely pointless piece of advice.  We left the house at a flat gallop with me fluttering behind like a flag on the end of a rope. and tugging uselessly on the lead.

Normally Diesel is fairly well behaved with only the occasional bark at other dogs who have the temerity to look his way, and he accepts the lead with good grace.  Today, the delight of being able to lift his leg against his favourite trees was too much for him and he rushed down the road making yipping noises of high excitement.  It was therefore unfortunate that his nemesis ¨The Golden Retriever¨ was coming up the road in the opposite direction.  I had taken the precaution of taking a heavy duty lead (his old one snapped the other day in a cafe when he was approached by an over friendly German Shepherd)  and I felt fairly confident that I could drag him past his arch enemy and on to the park.  Big mistake.

We both realised at the same moment that he was stronger than I was.  To avoid a noisy confrontation,  I attempted the age old trick of running quickly twice round the nearest lamp post so that the lead would be wrapped around a solid anchor and the offending dog could saunter past undisturbed.  Unfortunately, for the first time ever, Diesel kept up, trotting nimbly beside me, so after two revolutions of the post I was extremely dizzy and he was all set to tell the Retriever exactly what he thought of him.  As luck would have it, at that moment a squirrel shot out of the hedge in front of us and bounded past the Golden Retriever and down the road.   Both dog’s eyes bulged with excitement  (think ¨UP¨) and the mortal ememies set off in hot pursuit, with me and the Retriever’s owner (an extremely small elderly woman)  being towed along behind.  Fairly quickly my lead broke again but the elderly lady wasn’t so lucky and was dragged up the hill shrieking.

As we all careered up the road, the dogs had obviously decided to put their differences aside in pursuit of the squirrel. Luckily, after about 50 metres it evaded them by darting into the garden of an imposing house.  The two dogs ground to a halt and grinned at each other with tongues lolling and tails wagging and seemed completely indifferent to my telling off or the old ladies expletives.

In the end we all parted amicably. Diesel got his walk in the park and his knee seems completely recovered inspite of the squirrel chase.  Tomorrow I might drive him straight there.

 

Roast chicken anyone?

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There is consternation at the hen coop.  For the fifth day in a row there are only two eggs waiting for me instead of the normal three or four.  My four “ladies” aka  Mustard, Mrs Potsdam, the Gingernut Ranger and Bustle all avoid eye contact and studiously look the other way when I enquire which one of them has stopped laying.

It seemed a great idea at the time when Teenage Son declared that we “absolutely have to get some chickens”.  I had visions of majestic free range hens wafting around the garden and fresh eggs for breakfast, and to be fair, the first two years were idyllic.  There is nothing quite like going and collecting the eggs in the morning and then having them for breakfast.  Not to mention the taste, they are delicious and shop bought eggs are now met with derision and scorn in our household.

Every night the chickens are shut in their hen house and are not allowed out until there are at least three eggs in the nesting boxes.  (We discovered quite quickly that if we let them out early they would lay their eggs all over the garden and then our delightful dog would find them, eat the addled contents  and throw up while we were watching Strictly).  They are then let out to peck peacefully on the lawn and in the flowerbeds.

But recently, in addition to not producing enough eggs, our ladies have become slightly delinquent.  They have taken to hopping up onto the large terracotta pots by our front door and scratching violently looking for tasty titbits and at the same time uprooting all the petunias and leaving them shrivelled on the ground or festooned on the nearby rose bushes.  The petunias have already been replaced twice  but I can never catch the culprits in the act, although there was a fairly startling moment when I returned home and found three of the four hens actually sitting in the pots like an advertisement for kitsch garden ornaments.

So, productivity is down and delinquency is up.  Husband had a quick look on Google to look for solutions to low egg yields but all suggestions come down to the same thing eventually. ” Eat the culprit”.  This is of course impossible as our ladies are now part of the family, so I have resigned myself longterm to owning four ornamental hens, setting up a standing order with the garden centre and buying my free range eggs at Waitrose.

Eye Candy….

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I never thought it would happen to me.  One day you are reading the fine print on Calpol bottles in low light, and the next minute you can´t read a menu in a romantic restaurant without squinting ferociously or holding it up to the nearest light source.

I have always prided myself on having 20/20 vision.  I could read approaching motorway signs minutes before Husband could, and felt vaguely smug that I didn´t have any glasses to lose, or contact lenses to get stuck behind my eyeball (yuck!!)  But how the mighty fall with the passing of time.

After months of telling myself that I was just tired when I struggled to read my book in bed or check the carbs on a yoghurt pot in Waitrose,  the realisation dawned that I needed, horror of horror, READING GLASSES!  I admit that I procrastinated for a couple of weeks and tried to put it off.  After some thought,  It became clear that it was pointless for me to go to the Opticians and be sold some glasses for hundreds of pounds which I would loathe and despise, so I did the next best thing.  I went to the chemist.

The selection was fairly narrow with the usual NHS looking offerings but after trying a few on and deciding that I could actually read fine print with a prescription of 1.5,  I saw them.  They were the antithesis of attractive, and not the sort of thing I would ever normally consider, but something about them drew the eye.  They were what might kindly be called Edna Everage glasses –  leopardskin print with slight wings and diamante on the top. Fabulous!  Trying them on only confirmed my suspicions, I had to have them.

Now a few months later, I am getting used to the idea that I am someone who occasionally needs glasses.  When I whisk them out to read something in the bank I do get the odd raised eyebrow and there was the memorable flight when Husband had forgotten his own and borrowed them to read the FT,  but I can honestly say that I can read in comfort.  And that has to be good for one´s crowfeet, right?

My buttocks are not firing!!

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It started so well.  I got up incredibly early to make sure that I was ready for my first personal training session.  I had laid out my kit the night before, black capri running tights, black sports bra (industrial strength), black T shirt and shoes.  I had a light breakfast with blueberries for extra antioxidants and then walked the seven minutes to the gym.

As I waited in reception I smiled encouragingly at at least three young men whom I thought were my trainer, all of whom looked at me in confusion (and slight horror) and continued on their way.  Finally my trainer did arrive, all six foot 3 of him. Once we had introduced ourselves he sat down and we went through a series of questions about my exercise history, past injuries and what I wanted to achieve.  This last question made me want to point at a very lithe thirtyish woman who was running on one of the treadmills and say “I want a body like that” but I went with the more realistic “I just want to get fitter and lose some weight”.

He then took me into the gym, and made me lie facedown on a mat.  As I lay there thinking that the session wasn’t going to be so hard after all, he grabbed my legs and attempted to  bend them into various unnatural positions.  Seeing his face fall after failing to place me in what I can only assume is a very advanced yoga pose, I asked if I had a problem. Apparently my hip flexors are too tight and therefore my buttocks are not firing correctly.  Apparently buttocks have to fire to push you forwards.  Who knew?  The solution in my case is endless squats with a kettlebell.

The day after, I can say that my beleaguered buttocks are still not firing and are now incapable of carrying me up and down the stairs.  I am so stiff that every step is agony.  But as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”.  Next week my trainer says we will concentrate on my core.  He’ll have to find it first!