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I’m such a failure

September 6, 2010

I put something into the “me” page on this blog about being distracted by passing fancies. Yeah, a lot. Taking a good hard look at the scales this morning reminds me that I’ve been “trying” to lose some weight since April . And I’ve lost precisely four pounds. This is completely pitiful.

I tell myself that I shouldn’t really worry, since I’m not such a dreadful sort of a weight to start with and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I looked like this forever. I think of all of you who are considerably heavier than me at this point and who would probably be delighted with my scales tally.

I blame it on my third form Domestic Science syllabus in 1979, where the theme for the year was Cooking with Cream (yes, really, and it was sponsored by the Northern Ireland Milk Marketing Board). I rationalise that I’ve spent a month in America during that time, and it’s so hard to eat in a disciplined way while staying with other people.

I think that AB quite likes a curvaceous figure, and that some extra pounds are certainly good for your bust and your face. I can have some fun buying lots of clothes in a bigger size, rather than lamenting the lovely favourites hanging forlornly on the clothes-rail, since there’s not a chance they’d currently be hanging on myself.

I think that I’ll have to change the name of my blog. Maybe “Random woman with absolutely no sense of personal discipline” would encapsulate my unique personality.

But what the heck. This is ridiculous. All around me in blogland, women are well on their way to losing actual hundreds of pounds. I’d be fitter, healthier, prettier and have a way much larger wardrobe if I could just get my act together. Ten pounds would be a good start, though, to be honest, twenty would be better. Surely I can manage more than a measly four?

I need a strategic planning meeting with myself. Dear only knows when I’ll fit that in, but I’m drawing up the agenda now. Suggestions for items?

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Being Daddy’s girlfriend: when the going gets tough

September 3, 2010

AB and I recently spent a few days visiting his teenage daughters in the faraway state and town where they now live. Before the trip I was quite apprehensive about how to maintain a good relationship with the girls – how to set the right tone with them, how to react, or not react, if things weren’t always perfectly smooth with their dad. I got some good advice from you all. In the end, I thought we had a good time together – not fairytale heavenly, but a nice time, with small issues dealt with as they arose.

AB and I had been talking fondly since then about the many positive aspects of the trip. But now it appears that we were mistaken.

Both girls have decided that, for various reasons which I won’t go into into here, they are not speaking to AB and will not be visiting him and his family at Christmas as had been planned. To me, the reasons sound completely fabricated. I’m not dumb. I have a masters degree in psychology and I’ve taught teenage girls for 22 years. I think I might have noticed. We’re not talking anything abusive here, by the way. It’s all terribly, exremely low-level. But yet they hold all the cards, and they can withdraw their affection, their communication and their contact, and AB can’t do a thing about it.

Things like this have happened before. He used to consider legal action, but realised very quickly that it would be counterproductive. You don’t want someone to come to visit because the court has decreed it. And it’s too expensive.

He has to sit patiently and wait it out. Draw a fine line between respecting their wishes and allowing them to think that he might not want to communicate with them either.

I’m so angry. My heart bleeds for him, and there’s not a thing I can do, and I’m 3,000 miles away. This is very hard.

Creative September 1: blackberry icecream

September 1, 2010
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…in which I’m aiming to get the psychological year off to a positive start by doing something creative every day. 

The plus side of it being annoyingly autumnal here for a person who just got back from Florida and wants to show off her tan is that the blackberries are great. Janey and I got a fantastic haul at the weekend, so my first Creative September act has been to make a batch of blackberry icecream. 

It tastes gorgeous. I don’t recommend it for anyone wishing to keep their fat intake down, but I’d give it a big thumbs up for everyone else. The recipe is an adaptation of Delia Smith’s blackcurrant one (it’s in the big, old, fat book where she’s wearing something red on the cover). I just substituted the blackberries and put a good few berries through the icecream at the final mix as well, to give it a more interesting texture.

You:

  • Squish the berries through a sieve with the back of a spoon.
  • Dissolve 6oz sugar in 5 fl oz water, heating as you go.
  • Let the water and sugar boil for exactly three minutes.
  • Pour the water and sugar into the sieved berries.
  • Lightly whip 10 fl oz double cream.
  • Fold the cream into the berry mixture.
  • Freeze it in a box for three hours.
  • Take it out of the freezer, stir it round thoroughly (put some extra whole berries in here too if you like) and return it to the freezer.
  • It’s ready after three hours, but it benefits from sitting in the fridge for an hour before serving.

Mine’s going out for dinner with me tonight so that I don’t eat it all myself.

Inspired by blackberry-picking

August 29, 2010

I’m still missing AB badly, but I’m starting to settle back into my time zone and my climate. I don’t want to say goodbye to the Florida experience just yet, so I’m running round in white trousers and exotic print tops, looking completely inappropriate for this cold city in the north of the UK. Nobody has laughed actually out loud as yet, but it’s only a matter of time till someone sniggers in the street. It definitely feels like autumn here. The hedges are full of seedheads and everyone goes back to school tomorrow.

As a nod to the autumnal spirit, Janey and I did some blackberry picking yesterday – I got loads and did not stain my inappropriate white trousers, so it was a  big success. We had a lot of fun doing this, despite having to shelter under our umbrellas a couple of times, and I plan to have even more later in the week when I make them into blackberry icecream.

The lift this simple thing gave to my spirits provided me with an idea. I’ve written before about how much my mood is improved by being creative. My job is kind of creative, moulding young minds, blah blah blah. But’s that’s pretty abstract, and you have to wait around for seven years to see the final outcomes, and even then not all of them are pretty. Much better mood-wise is the kind of creativity that gives you an instant product for your efforts and an immediate sense of achievement. If the thing you create is beautiful, so much the better.

So my plan is this: every day for the month of September, I’m going to try to do something creative. Make food, jewellery, cards, pictures. Do some type of needlework or something in the garden. I might even let household organisation count – I’d be creating a tidy space. There will be days when that will be hard to fit in, but I’ll try my best to do even something tiny. I hope it’ll be great mental health care.

Being home again is sad

August 26, 2010

I was America for a full month – and I got back home on Tuesday. It’s been weird.

Having been with American Boyfriend for so long – this has been the longest time together ever – it feels really odd not to have him by my side now. Odd as in awful, like a part of me is missing. With just me, I feel kind of vulnerable, as though I could easily be hurt or knocked back.

It’s weird eating on my own, with just The Times on the table beside me for company instead of a real person. The Times has just as clearcut views as AB does, but when they’re not expressed over coffee they’re not as enjoyable.

Sure, we’re back in our communication routine, a mixture of phoning (I have a great deal with BT where I pay only three pence/five cents a minute), texting and emailing. But it’s a pale imitation of someone’s physical presence.

The UK seems cold and quiet. Thankfully, the sun is shining, so I don’t have to cope with the pathetic fallacy of grey drizzle echoing my own mood.

Being back at work immediately is a plus, even though my brain is working fairly stupidly so far – departmental code for the photocopier? Not a chance I can remember that. I can barely find the room with the copier in it. But there’s lots to do to distract me. Best of all has been overhauling my office – good physical work with not too many important decisions to make. I come home tired and sleep soundly.

I’ve been in a long-distance relationship on and off for five years. It doesn’t seem to get any easier. You develop strategies for coping, but it never seems any better than just coping. I refuse to count down the days till we meet next. There are just too many of them.

Shooting stuff

August 24, 2010

Guns. A sensitive issue, I know. But even the fact that they’re an issue is very striking for me.

At home, they’re basically illegal, unless you’re in the police or a farmer who needs a shotgun to get rid of pests. Until I came to the US, I’d never touched a gun of any type. I was very taken aback to find gun cabinets in people’s homes and families going to practise their shooting as an afternoon’s entertainment. AB likes shooting for sport and keeps his hand in by going to the range every so often.

So I go along too. At first it was all so strange that I could hardly bring myself to touch a gun. I couldn’t really follow AB’s explanations as to what he was doing, because even the terms for the different parts of the gun were so unfamiliar. Clip? Goes in my hair. He’s a pretty good teacher though, and I couldn’t see any reason not to have a go, so I got my initiation.

If you’ve shot at a range you’ll maybe be familiar with the sorts of paper targets we use: some of them are simple target diagrams with scores for each circle. My favourites are the ones with the outline of a hostage (minus scores for hitting her at all) and a kidnapper (big points for hitting him in the head or the heart). They’re dramatic. And they scare me a bit. When you see how easily you can damage the paper, it’s all too easy to imagine how actual flesh would react. I certainly feel that handling firearms has not diminished my respect for them.

Sports-wise, I like it a lot. I’ve never been much of a one for team games, since I always feared I’d be the one to let everyone else down. I like pursuits where you develop your skills and compete against yourself, especially if you can get quantifiably better – and I’m doing not too badly with this one.

I’m not helped by the fact that I’m short-sighted in one eye and long-sighted in the other. The longer the gun, the harder it is for me to focus properly, or know which eye to use. But if my nearest and dearest were taken hostage by someone who stood stock still twenty feet in front of me for quite some time, I could, theoretically, fix it all with my gun.

Then a couple of weeks ago, AB took me out on the skeet range and trained me up on a shotgun. It was kind of sweaty. He was fantastic at it and felt all masculine. There were orange biodegradable falling all around us in pieces. I hit, like, three and thought that was excellent, considering.

But it’s still so weird. I can’t yet say I’m quite comfortable with it. I don’t take part in political discussions about guns – I know it’s a big deal, but I only know how it is in my own country. So best to be neutral.

A long drive

August 17, 2010

On Sunday AB and I drove 525 miles, from North Georgia to Central Florida. It struck me once again how differently distance is perceived here in the US and at home in the UK.

I’m not a stranger to road trips. Last summer AB and I drove from North Georgia to Portland, Oregon over the course of two weeks. It was a fantastic, fascinating holiday. I saw an incredible range of interesting places – we had fun identifying which ones we’d happily come back to for a week’s holiday at a later date. I ate like a pig, i.e. well and fully, except for in Russell, Kansas on a Sunday night when food was not to be had for either love or money. We covered long distances, passing blithely from state to state, and hit our destination (and my flight home, so it mattered) in good time.

But that was different, because it was a holiday expedition. Sunday was just a standard drive between two family homes. AB does it maybe six or eight times a year, and it’s certainly not perceived as any big deal.

In Ireland, it’s different. As ever. A big drive at home is, ooh, forty miles. If you were facing that the next day, you’d be expected to go to bed early in preparation. Your mammy would bring you round some homemade sandwiches and a flask of tea, even if you were in your mid-forties. All your family members would admonish you to drive with caution and watch well out. When you reached your destination, you’d get a big welcome, and obviously some more tea, always necessary before, during or after an ordeal.

I found it majorly impressive that AB could even physically drive for that long. How manly. I was trying to keep the conversation going for twelve hours, feeling that it was my duty to keep him alert, and even that was pretty tiring. We took a couple of breaks, but it was fairly relentless. Much of it was in the dark. We entertained ourselves by taking bets on such eventualities as the number of Cracker Barrels we’d pass en route (a lot; I won), and I noticed a number of dull yet compelling things, such as:

  • It is completely astonishing to me how many blown-out tyres sit all over the sides of the roads.
  • A lot of trucks are 53 feet long and say so on the sides.
  • Armadillos and turtles are ill advised to attempt highway crossings.
  • Highway advertising billboards are very ugly, yet sometimes unintentionally funny. To a foreigner anyway. I was very taken by an establishment called Magnolia Plantation which advertised its large clean bathrooms, but nothing particularly else. It did not seem to be a bathroom showroom.

We got in at 4 am, and my personal time-clock is now completely confused. But wow – 525 miles in half a day. Just as well my mammy wasn’t aware of that.

PS Back in Florida, I’m laying off the body lotion, and so far no insect has bitten me. But I mustn’t speak too soon.

PPS In case anyone is wondering, I haven’t weighed myself in three-and-a-half weeks. I suspect I’m about the same as before, which would in fact be a major achievement. I’ve been trying to eat like a very delicate, discerning pig, while not passing up on any good food opportunities, including the somewhat cannibalistic Hawg Wild barbeque in Clarkesville.