This courgette* has no morals!

*zucchini

I just read this rather excellent piece by Eva Wiseman.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/21/when-did-food-get-so-scary?

I have to say, I agree with pretty much all of it. It’s nothing that hasn’t been said recently, but it absolutely bears repeating, often. Gizzi Erskine came out against the clean eating fad a while back, expressing concerns – rightly so – about the negative effect the Cult of Clean has on people’s attitudes to food and body size, not to mention the moralisation of foods. Clean foods, dirty foods et al. They’re just FOOD, not a bible class.

A marvellous rant on Twitter by Poots attracted the interest of Jay Rayner and Tim Hayward, thereby ensuring that it went viral. People said “Oh but it’s been said before.” and yes, it has but it needs to be heard again and again.

The demonisation of sugar, of gluten, of dairy – yes Lorraine Pascale I’m looking askance at you and your proclaimed avoidance which is rich for someone whose shows about baking made you famous – has people who aren’t food aware running in ever decreasing circles as they cut out one thing after another. (There’s also something very uncomfortable for me about people who have access to huge amounts of food cutting out whole swathes of it needlessly when some people have access to almost none.)

STOP IT. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THAT. (disclaimer: if you have an actual allergy, or an actual intolerance, then of course, you need to do that. This isn’t about you.)

People like Ella write as though all their readers suffer from a food allergy/food related illness. Most people don’t, so stop making people eat like they do. Her own illness getting better by changing her diet is a good thing for her. However, that doesn’t automatically mean she has authority or the knowledge to teach others how to eat. What works for her may not work for others. Hooray for her, she’s healthy again, but health and diet are so subjective that any attempt to blanket diagnose is sheer idiocy. I feel better in myself when I don’t eat white bread or white pasta, but that’s personal to me, and I’m not going to push that on anyone else, because nobody else has my genetics, body or physical make up. If my friend Pete ate my diet – fibre rich – it would, quite literally, kill him.

Gluten is only bad for those people who are allergic, intolerant to it or are Coeliac. Coeliac disease isn’t an allergy or an intolerance, it is actually an auto-immune condition but gluten can make it a life-threatening illness.

If you aren’t one of those people, then yay you! Go eat a bacon sandwich, hoist high a baguette, chew on a croissant and celebrate your freedom. Please do not say things like “I ate a whole baguette and then I was bloated! I must be allergic!” because that’s daft. You aren’t, you just ate A WHOLE BAGUETTE.

If you have a real allergy, you will absolutely know about it. Feeling full and a bit uncomfortable after eating too much bread or pasta doesn’t count. Go take a TUMS, and have a lie down.

I could bang on about this kind of thing for ages, but my opinion doesn’t count. No, really, it doesn’t.

Why?

Because I don’t look like this.

ella

I look like this:

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and an overweight person’s views on proper healthy eating are never going to be taken seriously because the underlying response, though never spoken out loud unless that person is particularly asinine, will always be “But you’re fat, so surely you can’t be healthy.”

Never mind the facts, which are that my blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall health is excellent despite having a chronic illness, let’s just look at shape.

I come from a long line of round and fluffy people. I am never going to not be round and fluffy. I am totally fine with that. The only thing you can tell from my body size, is what I look like.

As for my diet, I know what to eat – FOR ME. Same as Ella knows what to eat FOR HER. Most people know and will admit if pressed that crisps and highly processed snack foods are treats, not staples. At least, I hope they do. Pringles aren’t one of the four main food groups, Twinkies aren’t even a food.

I know how my body works, and how it reacts to foods. I am acutely aware of those things. I certainly do not need some trust fund baby pushing squidged dates and chia seeds at me in order to make me into some semblance of what society deems normal just because it made her feel better. Nor will I benefit from reading books or instagram feeds about glowing, unless they are written by people with actual, bonafide certifications (get in the sea McKeith), medical training and years of experience.

I will also add that if you are a convert to the school of GAPS diets, take yourself away from me now. Far, far away. http://angry-chef.com/blog/want-to-see-something-really-scary

I wonder if what this fervour for eliminating everything we enjoy, what it all boils down to, right at the end, tucked away and going unacknowledged in that hidden room that nobody talks about, is the totally illogical quest for eternal life. Or at least the prolonging of this one. Putting off the swish of the scythe for as long as possible, by dint of quinoa and brain dust.

Well my lovelies, it isn’t going to work.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that the Man in Black will turn up as and when he will.

If only it was the skeleton in a robe riding Binky, who loves cats and music with rocks in, coming to take us to the afterlife we think we deserve, but it isn’t.

It’s stealthy, and sneaky, and mostly grabs you when you aren’t expecting it, no matter how much kale you eat.

So eat your greens, enjoy your cakes, have that bit of sugar every so often if you want, tootle about in the fresh air when you can, glory in the seconds as they pass – and do your best not to fall off a mountain because you don’t want your last words to be remembered as “Oh bugger.”

Prosper

Wednesday’s Child

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace;
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go;
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

I’m not a person to believe in things such as the above verse, but many people do. Then again, many people think the Daily Mail tells the truth, Bella magazine depicts the real world, olive oil is bad for you and that the Tories are here to help the country, so there we go.

I was born on a Wednesday. Whether by accident of birth, accumulation of experience or sheer bloody mindedness, I am a cheerful soul. I excel at cheerful. So that full of woe thing doesn’t apply. I try to see the joy in all the things, from big to tiny. Ok, I’m having a crap day physically, but oh! Look! A robin! Or a pretty flower, or the sky on fire at sunset. I still love crossing the river on the train, and press my nose to the window to see it better.

This does not mean that I am the kind of person who will say to a depressed friend “Come on, cheer up, could be worse! Pull yourself together.” because I’m also someone who tries very hard not to be a dick. I might say that to myself, when I become aware that I am wallowing in whatever negative emotion has hit me, but not to others.

I am, for my sins, an empath. Not in the  Anne McCaffrey Talents sense, because that would be a truly unwearable burden – although there have been spooky happenings throughout my life – but in the way of being able to put myself in someone else’s place. Perhaps because my imagination is very good, so it doesn’t take much for me to ‘feel’ what someone else is feeling. On occasion that has become an almost overwhelming gift, and I have had to remove myself from some people, and situations, but mostly it helps me to be a good friend. I hope.

I have an eminently practical side, and that practicality will switch on with a second’s notice. I remember, years ago, being utterly distraught at a situation, so much so that |I was panicking, in tears and preparing to leave a venue even though I had nowhere to go and was in a place that I had never been to before, when another guest had a crisis.

My partner at the time said afterwards that it was like watching a light flick on. My emotions got buried, while I sorted her out, organised transport and directed other people in what they should do. Apparently it was quite impressive.

That’s me, that’s what I do. I suspect that’s why I am in the profession I am – PA/Administrator – because there’s always someone who needs help, be it sorting out last minute travel at work, or rushing to the aid of a bike crash victim on the way to the office.

The empath side of things can prove problematic, too. I take too much to heart, get overwhelmed by it too easily, so I tend to build up a few walls. Some people say it’s building an echo chamber on social media, but that’s the way it has to be if I am to retain my grip on my own sanity. I lost that once, and I am never, ever losing it again. When you’ve been through a stage of finding the front of an oncoming train a comforting bringer of oblivion, you learn to recognise the signs. (If you ever moan at me about a person under a train at rush hour, it will not go well for you, as someone at work found out.)

I am full of friendly enthusiasm, and curiosity. Nobody is too much trouble to talk to, there’s always something of interest about other people, something to be learnt from them and their stories, though I do have to stop myself getting too involved at times, and taking on their emotions before I can get a wall up. I freely admit there are energy vampires out there, interested only in telling you all about themselves, never actually having a give and take conversation. I have learned to avoid those kinds.

I recall my husband asking me once “How do you DO that?” when I’d had an animated conversation with the cashier at Tesco and found out all about her in under 5 minutes. I just like people! I take after my mother, I have her temperament, her kindness, and have inherited the gap in her front teeth.

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I do not like sheeple, as I agree with Terry Pratchett in that ‘The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.’ and I have an unwillingness to follow a trend. I’ll come to it in my own time,  not just because everyone else is reading/watching/listening to whatever it is. It was 5 years after the first book was published before I read Harry Potter.

Bloodyminded. See? Told you.

Over the years, I have found myself out to be mostly a forgiving sort. If you have hurt me, then I’ll deal with that as it comes, and sort out how to react to you as we go along, but if you hurt someone I love, you do not get a second chance. You will not regain my trust, you will not be a part of my life again if I can help it. It’s not quite grudge bearing, but you will never be in a position to hurt that person again, because I will be in between you and them.

A Hell’s Angel went to hit my husband once, in a club in Essex. Neither man knew what hit them, as Angel was shoved across the room, away from my Husband, and into his idiot girlfriend who’d started it all in the first place, and Husband was propelled off the dancefloor, across the pub and out of the door. I then sat outside shaking for a while until people came and apologised.

If need be, I turn emotions off. My Grandmother tore up my letters and sent them back, calling them lies and hateful works of fiction. She disowned me, told me that I was dead to her, and I just wished her well, told her I loved her, and closed that door. Nothing I could do, nothing I could change, why waste time and feelings on it. I missed her, yes, but that part of my heart was shut off. I had nice memories, so wishing for more was futile. She lost out, not me.

My Greek family dropped me like a stone when my Mum and Dad divorced, when I was 14. My Dad then didn’t speak to me from when I was 15 until I was 22. His girlfriend forbade him, so as far as I was concerned, if he didn’t have the balls to find me, he lost out, not me. The family lost out, not me. There was that shutter door again.

The family stayed gone. Dad and I made it up, when he finally contacted me, but I’d never let him hurt me again. That door only partially opened. I’m glad that he was there to give me away but I wouldn’t have been upset had it not been possible. I would gladly have asked Tex’s father to do it, and if my beloved step dad had been alive, it would without question have been him.

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One cousin and one Aunt came with him, which was odd, but nice. They had been caught in the crossfire by the other harridans.

I was there before Dad died, showing him what a good Greek woman I was. We were given time, and for that I am grateful.

My lifetime of experiences, some awful, which are not for here, some upsetting, yes, but so so many which are good and uplifting and amazing, make me who I am. I’d change nothing, because without those experiences, I’d not be me, and I really like me.

I’m not a person who hates her body size or shape. I don’t see the point in it, I will not practice it.

I refuse to look at myself in the mirror and deliberately pull my features apart. Why the hell should I, and how dare society try and make me feel that I am not already good enough?

I don’t wish to be like anyone else, I don’t envy people for their lives or their bodies, though I might covet a kitchen.

Occasionally I might like to find it easier to get clothes to fit, but that’s about it, and that isn’t my fault for having the wrong body, that’s the world not catering to everyone, because there’s no wrong way to have a body.

My body is amazing. It lives and it breathes and even when it’s not working right it keeps my lungs working, and my synapses sparking, albeit something in the wrong direction.

I can think and feel, and sing, and breathe and feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my unruly hair. I can cook whatever I feel like cooking, just for pleasure, or to feed my loved ones. I will continue to do so for as long as \i am able, and if one day I am not able, I will sit in a chair and direct.

I am me. Nothing is going to change that. Nothing ever has, and nothing ever will.

Nursery rhyme, this child is no woebegone thing.

She’s ME, and that’s awesome.

Lisa with phone

Baby steps, child.

Day one back at work.

I awoke full of a nervous energy, as tired and sleep-ridden as my brain still was, just wanting to get out of the house and on my way. The sun was shining, frost covered everything, and my feet wanted out.

7 days inside being ill was both a blessing, and a curse. A blessing because I love my house, and its comfortable clutter, the piles of books, the small but neatly packed kitchen, the occasional tumbleweeds of cat fluff dancing around in the corners until I chase them down with the hoover or the purple duster.

A curse because when I’m at home I want to cook, and I had no energy to even think about food, let alone create anything, so there was an underlying niggle that my kitchen was being somehow wasted.

I survived, the kitchen did not pine away into a pitiful shell of its former self, and I made it to work on time, trudging up from Temple station, stopping only to cast a longing look at the silver frosted ribbon that was the Thames this morning. I hate leaving the river behind.

Thames

The usual foray into Pret for some porridge was achieved, despite oddly curmudgeonly shoppers for a Friday, and then there I was, back in the office.

I felt like I’d been away for a decade. That unfamiliar familiar feeling when you come back from holiday and everything but nothing has changed, plus the slight uncertainty, started long ago at infants’ school, that you might get in trouble for playing hookey, not actually being ill.

Everyone was lovely. The result of everyone being lovely was that I felt like the tightly coiled spring of my worry had been released, and so I immediately became both exhausted, and manic.

It wore off. I managed to achieve Things. I didn’t kill annoying colleague, not even a bit. I did, however, ignore his phone calls. When you have told someone not to call you, but to email, as you have lost your voice, and they insist on calling you four times, you just have to ignore them, and get your desk mate to answer your phone.

I left on time, I came home, surviving the journey by burying myself in my Kindle, as it has dragons in it.

The kitchen awaited.

Two dinners – and lots of washing up – later, and I feel better. Still full of cold, and with a cough waiting in the wings like a malevolent understudy, but I did it.

Let’s see what the weekend brings.

 

Keep Calm and Twitter On

Friday 12th was meant to be a day off. I had to go to the dentist in the morning, and I always take the whole day off because it’s just easier that way. Thursday night, The Sniffles started, and it all went downhill from there. My previous post will detail that for you.

Fast forward to today, the 18th.

I AM STILL ILL. I am so fed up of this I can’t even tell you. It takes a lot for me to take time off work, so believe me, this thing is a lot.

You see, I am a contractor, so being ill means using up our small sick day allocation, then holiday once you run out, then going unpaid after that. This is not helpful for a person who already has a stress exacerbated chronic illness but that’s the way it is. I won’t say it’s what I signed up for, because how the sick leave is worked out is a mystery to me, but that is the way it is. C’est la vie.

Being home alone with a non verbal cat does give you time to think though. Probably too much , in my case, but that’s a habit I’m never likely to break. Something struck me today as I wallowed about at home, feeling quite pitiful and more than a bit Sad Sack about things, wailing into the void on Twitter whilst prone in bed.

One of my friends answered a LazyWeb question of mine, then another, and another, giving kind, caring advice to what is, essentially, just a name on a web page.

Far be it from me, a lowly mortal, to oppose the likes of Stephen Fry (darling, I adore you, but really…) but I have to say that Twitter is a valuable resource for many, many people.

It enables me to be, and keep, in touch with hundreds of people. I can get an answer in seconds if I ask a question. I can watch the antics of people on the other side of the world, share a joke with someone in my town, and headbang along to a livetweet session of Metallica at Glastonbury with people all across the country. (Yes, we did that. It was AMAZING)

I have been shown photos from decades past,

Moonshine

FT

seen weather fronts rolling in across the sea as people film it, watched many kittens chase many bits of string, and gazed at beautiful things that people have cooked, and shared.

Cake

I can ‘talk’ to beloved chefs, even have a story ‘read’ to me in real time by one of my favourite authors, whilst I sit in bed feeling sorry for myself. Seen the inside of buildings on the other side of the world that I’ll never visit, and wept along with thousands when Bowie died, all of us feeling the same thing, sharing that loss with one another as we filled the internet with as many images and songs and sounds as we could, trying to affirm that it wasn’t really true, but knowing it was, and holding each other close in the only way we had open to us.

TheHunger

It has opened up paths to me that I never thought I’d have, met people that I simply wouldn’t have come across in my every day life, and whom I now consider to be some of my closest friends.

The everyday things are there too. Train times, travel updates, finding out where not to go, and where to go. It was a source of huge information during the London riots, and also a great way for criminals to out themselves by Tweeting selfies with their ill gotten gains.

Twitter is what you make it. You can be as loud, and out there, and as outspoken as you want. Or you can spend a few days just reading, and watching.

Of course it has its downsides. Everything does.

As easy as it is to be a platform for greatness, it can also be a platform for the underbelly, the Below The Line commenters, the trolls and the quite frankly psychotic women haters out there. This is as it is in life. Every person you meet can be a hidden criminal, or a murderer, or an angel, or a saint, or anything in between those things. You can even be Donald Trump or Kanye West, though please, I’ll not Follow you, if that’s ok.

All you can do – the only thing open to us to do – is block and move along. Disable notifications, stop reading for a few days, breathe, breathe, breathe…and then come back and poke your head around the door again. (I am aware there are serious cases of harassment, that have had police involvement, this is not about those.)

Stephen, all you had to do was say “Oh darlings! We’re great chums, it’s an in-joke, we’re all fine. Sorry it came out wrong sweeties.” but you didn’t. You reacted in such a way as to more or less provoke the backlash, and then were surprised you got your botty spanked.

It was a botty spanking by thousands of people, admittedly, but then thousands of people hear your voice. I do hope you return, but if you don’t, then I hope you at least feel all the better for it.

I’m not giving up on Twitter just yet. (Though I admit, I pray they don’t go the Facebook route, because that has become wholly unusable.)

Holy wobbly walking conundrums Batman!

This week has been an extremely odd one.

Someone very close to me is under an almost unimaginable amount of stress, and there’s absolutely nothing that I can do about it. The first part of the week was spent being pretty much numb, having found out about said stress, and the source of it.

Once I’d started to feel again, a cold hit. You know, that infinitesimal difference in the way your nose feels, or the tiniest itch in the back of the throat that you might almost miss but which heralds that sagging of spirit as you realise exactly what is about to descend on you.

In fact, I had no idea what was about to descend on me.

Monday night I took my Vitamin C and zinc, I used First Defence spray.

Tuesday night I was a teensy bit sniffly, but that was it.

Wednesday – nothing.

Thursday – sniffles in the morning.

Thursday afternoon….BANG. The echo of sinuses clanging shut could be heard from afar. How I managed to sit through a technical meeting I do not know, but I did. I left work late as I had a lot to do, and more or less crawled home, feeling extremely grateful that I had Friday off. Thank goodness I did have Friday off.

My throat was so full of aches that I couldn’t swallow. Not the usual burning rasp that screams for ice cream and jelly, no. This was a full on, deep seated throb that prevented me from swallowing the painkillers that I knew I had to get down me. The irony of needing to swallow soluble aspirin because of tonsil pain, when you can’t swallow, so need to take soluble aspirin is not lost on me. I rejoiced when I found a nearly full packet of AsproClear in the cupboard. Added a dash of blackcurrant squash, and there we were.

Fast forward to 2am.

I am in my dressing gown – essentially a large purple velvet marquee that has persuaded itself into the shape of a dressing gown – sat in my armchair, wrapped in a furry blanket because I couldn’t sleep at all due to my sinuses still being a  closed off area. Even after liberal application of all the painkillers I have (carefully mixed, never fear) my throat still refuses to acknowledge this it is a passageway, and has put up a CLOSED sign.

And there I stayed for most of Friday, and all of Saturday apart from the bit where I went to bed because I was so cold, and passed out for 4 hours. After that, it was the armchair and the blanket again. I didn’t dare go up to my own bed, as the amount of fidgeting, and getting up and down, and nose blowing would have just woken my poor husband up, and that’s not fair.

Saturday night I experienced the joy of what seems to have been a 24 hour eye infection, and woke early on Sunday morning with my left eye glued shut.

I think it was at this point that I just gave in and cried.

The ridiculous thing is, I have a chronic illness. I was diagnosed with MS back in 1996, and so I am used to various bits of my body not working, or working in an entirely unpredictable manner, or being stabbed by random aches and pains and grumbles because my electric signals got lost around Mornington Crescent so the rest of me ended up in Nid for a few days.

I should be completely used to this malfunctioning palaver, and the fatigue. It’s what I do.

But I’m not used to it. I haven’t had a cold, if that’s what it is, this bad in a decade. Usually I get a light cold, but then the MS kicks off and starts pushing and shoving, spoiling for a particularly uncoordinated fight.

The MS tried to make an effort, with a few numb patches of skin here and there, but then I have a feeling that it ran away when it saw what was looming.

I have made an executive decision not to go to work tomorrow. I know I’ve lots to do but I have no idea if I’ll sleep tonight. I think I’ve had about 10 hours since Thursday. Plus The Cough has started. An irritating, dry, catches you when you try to breathe thing that I didn’t invite in, but which has taken up a noisy residence on my chest.

After an extremely long, very hot shower this afternoon, I did feel vaguely more human. The sinuses have relented a tad, the eye has more or less cleared up, and I think my tonsils are in retreat. At the very least they have agreed to parlay so long as I douse them with rum cough medicine every few hours.

Ooh, rum. There’s an idea. Honey and lemon with added spiced rum might be allowed. Or there’s some of that apricot brandy left over from Christmas. I could do with a few Cypriot lemons right now…

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Wordtasting

There’s been enough grief and introspection on here to last me a while, lately. It’s eased, thankfully, but it’s still there, I’m just trying extremely hard not to think about it.

During that raw period of the first few Bowieless weeks, a little book dropped into my Kindle. One I had been looking forward so much that I’d pre-ordered it some time back.

The author, bless his heart, had unwittingly composed a tribute to our Mr Jones.

Written long before the news of his death came out, and with a release date that was also a coincidence, people catcalled, but they were wrong.

It was beautiful. And something that I think the man himself would have adored. (Read the book, you’ll know what I mean. No, really, do go read.)

Once I’d pulled myself together after the first few pages, I read with unseemly haste. I tend to do that, and then when I get to the end I go right back to the beginning again so that the words can be savoured and ingested even more fully.

I sped through, until I got to the part about wedding cake. Then I stopped short, and had to backtrack and read again.

I won’t say what the cake actually was, but after reading about it, then finishing the book, I realised a few days later that I had a craving for something.

I’ve found this happened after reading Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, too, and the subsequent books with Vianne.

It’s a bit of a problem. To explain, my name on Twitter is Wordtasting for a reason. I have a peculiar to me brand of synaesthesia. Many words have an associated food, or mouthfeel, or even a taste. So yes, Wordtasting is a thing that happens to me. It can get a little distracting if I let it, especially when others join in and start playing “What does this word taste of then?” with me.

These lovely authors’ use of language, and the descriptions of their foodstuffs are so incredibly good, that they awake both the very best of my imagination, and the synaesthesia sensations. It really is a double whammy when I read their pages. This isn’t technically a problem, until I try and sate the craving that started on, say, page 75.

I can’t. I just can’t.

Nothing in this physical world can match up to what I tasted in the cerebral one.

Ever since reading Chocolat, I think I have been subconsciously searching for those chocolates, those rich, smooth flavours that have such depth, such dark velvet hints and swirls of scent to them. I haven’t found any yet. Oh don’t get me wrong, I am very lucky in that I have been able to taste some extremely fine chocolates of late, but they just aren’t what my brain is looking for. Nothing I’ve eaten has hit the right spot. One almost did…almost…and at New Year I made myself a celebration hot chocolate with nothing in it but double cream, fine dark chocolate and apricot brandy. That at least sorted out the craving for hot chocolate! Thank heaven for that though never, ever will I drink another hot chocolate from the machine at work. It’s very good, but it’s not that.

I have resigned myself to the fact that the eating chocolate part is just not going to get resolved.

Thanks to Mr Wallace, now it’s moved on to include cake.

I am a member of the Cake Club at work, and oh my goodness there have been some amazing creations but none of them came close. One chap in our IT department brought in handmade cupcakes from Claridges. Would one of these be It?

If I’m honest, no. In fact, those came even further away from the tastes and textures I had held in my brain than our Cake Club offerings. It was a bit of a disappointment.

I suspect I am going to have to make my own, but oh my, I need to up my skills with sugar and flour and eggs.

I’ll be sure to report back if I find The One. Or the Two.

In the meantime, please do me a favour, and neither of you write about in detail about steak.

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(vegan cupcake courtesy of Jane Barnett.)