Sunday, 29 July 2007

we're all going....

on a summer holiday. We're off to stay with my parents in Lot, France for a week. I've been looking forward to this for weeks. They live in a beautiful spot, overlooking a valley in the depths of rural, south-west France. It is truly blissful and it's great for us to share in that, even for just a short while.

projectforty has become a little troublesome over the last few days and I have to say I have lapsed on almost all counts. I am concerned that the holiday will not help and I will have to be very strict and impose some severe exercise quotas on myself. I've packed a skipping rope. I will let you know if I use it. There is a pool at the house and if I can't get in there and do several lengths, I will be ashamed.

I've also had my aunties to stay, my absent mother's sisters. Whenever I see them, I have such a great time and I love watching them with my kids. We do things like go shopping together. I never went shopping with my mum and my preferred shopping status is alone but with them, it's entertainment with a capital 'E'. They have an ability to spend 5 hours shopping but to spend £5 between them. It's can be frustrating. It's not a spectator sport but they have such a great time, you just have to let them do it.

I left them at the junction of the M4/M5. As I headed back east, they headed north in J's tiny, speedy car, waving madly and chewing Everton mints.

It's the end of the week and I'm aware I need to regroup. I haven't put any pounds on but I certainly won't be losing any more if I carry on like this.

Friday, 27 July 2007

fantasy v reality

Another pound has disappeared! Half a stone, gone, in less than a month. I've never lost half a stone before. It's a novel experience.

The makeover element of projectforty makes me feel a little uneasy. I flip between the notions of 'beauty is on the inside' and 'I'd kill to look like her'. On the one hand, I truly believe that we are what we do and not what we look like. On the other, I wish some people would stop before they left home, pull their baggy trackies over their floppy bellies and release their greasy hair from its grubby scrunchy. Scraped back hair is rarely a good look. It's just harsh.

We're told not to try to emulate the beauties presented to us by the media. No-one looks like that without airbrushing, starvation or an addiction to smack. We all know this. It's a big beauty conspiracy. But every day we torture ourselves. We pore over those images, compare them with our badly lit holiday snaps and berate ourselves for our physical failings. I should have grown out of this by now - I'm nearly 40 you know.

I found a diary, written, I think when I was 12. It contained a list. Weight: x, target weight: y. Eat less, exercise more. I weighed 7st 6lbs and wanted to weight less than 7st. I'm still doing it now, except I can't bear to reveal the numbers. I was 12. I'd hate to think my daughter would ever think the same thing.

The more high-falluting aspect of projectforty is to look after myself so that she sees it's OK to get older and not look like everyone else. That it's OK to live and choose and enjoy all aspects of life. As media images dominate us, we need to remind ourselves that majority of us are ordinary. There's nothing to stop us being extra-ordinary but that's what we are.

I have a collection of old Vogues. I've read it avidly every month for the last 20 years. I marvel at the beauty of it all and I'm transported to a life of fabulous people and general gorgeousness. After my fix, I pop down to Asda and see if George has designed any new frocks for less than 20 quid.

Watch TV and we see programmes featuring unhappy women looking for something, anything that will make them feel better. It's an epidemic of self-consciousness. It doesn't matter where these women work, how much they earn, how much their families/husbands/friends love them - what they want is T&S to take them to the hairdressers, fiddle with their bra straps and put them in matching separates. Maybe they should be available on the NHS?

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Summer's here

The holidays have begun. My first-day lie-in has turned into a dawn waking. Tweeting birds are the culprits. Sweet.

I need to get back on track. It's 87 days to go to the big day. It's time to get busy. I'm up, it's early, it's not raining. A bit of fresh air and a walk. Can you feel the joy? I've become so inactive, activity is becoming less and less appealing. I spoke to a friend recently who's done the 3 peaks challenge, 3 mountains in 3 days. I was planning to see her during the summer holidays - I'm not sure I can cope with the feelings of inadequacy. A dance class every fortnight and the walk down to school every day does not compare with that particular physical challenge.

She runs - a lot. 5/6 miles every day. I don't even drive 5/6 miles a day. I've tried running a few times. A very few times. It just makes me bad tempered. I think it's the bosom wobbling and it's definitely the knee crunching. No fun. I prefer a forced march followed by a penguin or a kit kat.

As I'm up, I'm reloading my ipod. I lurve my ipod. She's called Ethel. She's coming to my birthday party if I can find a way of plugging her into decent enough speakers. Who needs a DJ? Not me? I'm far too musically controlling. No 'hi ho silver lining' or Grease mixes. Yuck. What I want is dance heaven through the decades and lots of inappropriately middle-aged shaking about. And a karaoke.

Monday, 23 July 2007

I went, I danced, my back aches

Well - what a mini-adventure I had at the weekend. Against advice, I drove through the storms down to Cornwall and arrived at Port Eliot for what's been described as 'Glastonbury for books'.

My neighbour had kindly equipped me with everything a novice camper could hope for plus her mother's phone number. Her family is from Cornwall. I'm not sure she was convinced I'd come back in once piece. On arrival, I enjoyed putting my tent up. Yes - I did say enjoy. I think I committed a camping faux pas by being too close to someone else but my neighbours were from London so they contented themselves with scowling at me rather than actually engaging in any conversation.

I arranged my belongings and the tent withstood the showers and stayed where it was supposed to. I just couldn't settle in there to sleep and I'd seriously underestimated how cold it gets. I enjoyed being outside, I just didn't like walking through the field to get to the loo at 5.23am. I enjoyed my REN rose oil bath when I got back.

It was interesting going alone. It was definitely a place for groups of friends and families - loads of families with loads of kids, all with floppy hair, all looking as if they'd never seen grass before. No pre-teen skins or white trackies in sight.

I spent Friday evening trying to work out where everything was happening and how not to look too conspicuous. Saturday was great, lots of talks, bands, films - full on culture and lots of semi-famous faces. Saturday night, I embraced my solitariness, drank my bottle of shiraz, ate another portion of south indian vegetarian something or other and embraced the dancing opportunities that were available.

I did something to my knee around midnight but shook my ample behind until 3am. It was positively liberating. Weird. But liberating. I've never been a solitary dancer and it was strangely exhilarating being alone in the middle of lots of little cliques and subsets of people. I felt I didn't really look like anyone else either. You haven't seen a photo - yet, but I definitely don't have that ex-public school look about me. I'm round and kind of old-fashioned looking, like a throwback to the 50s or 60s. I don't look like I work in PR, know where the Cross is or know Jerry, who knows Monty, who knows Arabella. I just don't. I felt unique.

All day, if you knew your tribes, you could have put post-its on every forehead. There were wasted aristos, tragic teen posh boys, journos, musos and west london girls dressed in daddy's credit cards. It was a fascinating mix of people and it must have been posh - I didn't see a Croydon face lift or an arse wider than a shopping trolley all weekend. It was all curls, skinny legs and seriously arched eyebrows.

Would I go again? If I could avoid the camping - yes.

PS: lost another pound, still no sign of cuticle improvement.
PPS: projectforty '10' list coming soon

Thursday, 19 July 2007

making my mind up

It’s decision time and, apart from mopping up midnight vomit when the kids are ill, decision making is one of my least favourite activities.

I am a natural compromiser. Eldest child. Libran. Child of divorced parents. Keeping the peace has become as much a part of me as my eyelids. It’s a given.

Here is the quandary – do what I’ve always wanted to do and commit some real time to writing, creating, developing some business ideas OR compromise and accept one of the vague job offers that are circulating around me from my existing employer. The money, although not sublime, is acceptable and welcome. There are parts of my work that I enjoy – the creativity, the variety and some of the people I work with.

The impact of work, however, has been fairly negative on many other aspects of my life.

I eat odd things at odd times.
I have no energy/time to exercise.
All the things I love doing are slowly being replaced by doing things I have to do to get paid.
I am tired.
My preferred position at home is on one of two sofas.
I don’t sleep sometimes.
I never get chance to garden properly.
I’ve lost the joy I usually get from cooking.
I see everything in relation to time and how little I have of it.

I have been reading ‘How to be Free’ by Tom Hodgkinson, he of ‘Idler’ fame. It’s now 1.30am because I’ve been revising chapters such as ‘stop working, start living’ and ‘say no to guilt and free your spirit’. Having read it, I understand now that, deep down, I am an anarchist. A 40-year-old, overweight, dry-skinned, tetchy anarchist but an anarchist at heart. Can you tell I’m rather pleased?

I downloaded 17 pages of activities and jollifications that are due to take place at the Port Eliot festival I’m going to on Friday. Despite my ingrained terror of being overwhelmed by the trendiness of it all, I’m looking forward to it. My neighbour has also been kind enough to provide all sorts of essential equipment and a list of other items to take. I feel like I’m being packed off to college. I think she’s a little concerned I might not come back.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

on the home stretch

A week to go and I'll be off the hook! Term finishes next Wednesday, so do I. I am really looking forward to the summer holidays and I hate to admit it because it makes me sound like a pompous yummy mummy. J & E and their stressed, exhausted mother have booked in a pyjama day for the first day of the holidays. We will be lolling and the thought of it is keeping me going.

My last stressful day will be tomorrow. I've organised a seminar at a secondary school and expected about fifteen people to turn up. We're up to about 35 now which is a little daunting to say the least. By this time tomorrow, it will be half way through and I will be on the home stretch. I've got dinner with the headteachers I work with tomorrow night and then off to my midlife crisis festival on Friday morning!

In the midst of all this, I've lost another 2lbs, which is 5lbs so far. I am very pleased indeed but it hasn't been achieved quite how I was expecting. My slightly slimmer frame has come from not having the energy to cook!

Oh - and I've had my hair cut short. What does that tell you?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Will anyone notice?

If anyone was reading this blog, I’d be worried. 3 days without a post. That’s not good. I have excuses. My stress levels are sky high. They were elevated by a full-on weekend spent with in-laws who hadn't been in the same room for over 15 years. We managed though. No-one got cross. A breakthrough.

I'm also on the big countdown to finishing work which I thought would be relaxing and just a case of tying up a few loose ends. It is not. It's now 4am and I'm sat up worrying, wittering and bothering. My stars said I shouldn’t worry too much this week but it’s too late. I am worrying and I can’t stop.

I’ve got budgets to sort out, meetings to go to of all varieties (work and voluntary), a festival to get organised for and piles of paper and things I haven’t done surrounding me at every turn. The kids trainers have fallen apart, I can’t quite work out when we’re going to be able to get some new ones and the house is a tip.

I’m trying to remain rational, telling myself that by this time next week, all will be resolved, everything will have happened as it will. I have been working part-time for the last twoyars and it has been a drain on my mental health. I can spend hours, niggling about tiny little errors or potential problems, resolving nothing and sending my adrenalin levels sky high. Since working, I’ve put on a stone and a half (driving and stress), have had trouble sleeping (never before experienced) and am consistently bad tempered. The kids’ school uniforms have holes in and the little things that I used to find so easy have been pushed way down on the list so that I can obsess about whether I’ve sent an email to the wrong person or not.

If I was running a multinational company, I could understand this attention to detail but I’m not. My stress is down to my unfailing lack of self-confidence and belief. If I change only one thing before I'm 40, it's my chronic self-sabotage. If anyone else was doing what I'm doing, I'd tell them to stop.

I'm going to catch some sleep now so that I can function tomorrow. Work, volunteering, governing, working and volunteering again - that will be my day.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

It's started!

I've lost 3lbs. I've lost 3lbs. I've LOST 3lbs. This never happens. This means I must be doing something right. Are the experts right? If you move about a little more and eat a little less - do you lose weight? If you drink a tad more water and a lot less caffeine - do you sleep better? And there was I, thinking it was tricky.

Despite my success, I am feeling awful. I have caught a mancold, obviously I'm not suffering as much as the man I caught it from but, nevertheless, my throat is crackling and my nose is running and my outfits are flitting from arctic to tropical twice an hour. Frankly, it's cramping my style. I can't go to writing group. I can't have a jolly day out with friends. I'm catching up with proper work and sorting out the various piles of A4 paper I have scattered across my desk.

I have also realised that I am referring to my husband as Sarah Kennedy refers to her on the breakfast show. 'Beloved' is going to have to go. I shall forthwith refer to him wot I adore as G.

G indicated that he may join me in projectforty but the mancold appears to have postponed this exciting development. We have mother of G arriving tomorrow. If I start cutting his food intake, I'll be accused of starving him. I shall bide my time till next week.

J & E (see what I'm doing here!) had their sports day and parents evening this week. School-life is a whole other blog but we've had a great time watching them have a great time and my excitement is growing as the summer holidays are looming. Just 8 school days left. I can't wait. This is not because I'm a pinny-wearing ubermama, it's because we can sit in our pyjamas all morning. We have pencilled in a pyjama day once a week. Planned slobbery - a delicious mix of control-freakery and slummy-mummy behaviour.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


Cuticles? No action there at all.

My excuse this time is Daniel Craig. I thought I’d treat the beloved and got ‘Casino Royale’ from Blockbuster to watch on Sunday evening. Apart from the hammy love scenes which haven’t moved on since the sixties, it was rather good. Bedazzled by Bond in his swimmers, I didn't manicure despite completing gardening duty during the day.

I neglected cuticles last night too. Having seen Craig and his beautiful co-stars romp around, I was feeling physically challenged so decided to revisit the coldest pool in England. I enjoyed it so much, I might go again. 20 lengths will not a Bong girl make but it was a start.

The film, alongside other timely events, has had an unexpected and intriguing side effect. My beloved appears to want to join me in projectforty. He also told me he’s not drinking any of that herbal muck that I’m now consuming. Fair enough. Projectforty is a flexible programme, full of choices including the choice not to actually do some of it!

We actually had the same independent thought which was a little spooky. We went to a party on Saturday night and were the portliest couple there – soul-destroying. And then we watched Bond. We both woke the next morning and admitted that we needed to re-focus on our fitness.

So far I have swum and I have walked and I haven't eaten any nonsense. It's only midday though. Things may stay pear-shaped.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

forgive me for I have not blogged

My blog has been the victim of my over-burdened timetable. No, it wasn’t a multi-million pound hedge fund deal, nor was it a fitting with Dior, nor, in fact was it anything to do with planting trees to carbon offset Live Earth. I just had windscreen washers to get fixed, birthday presents to buy, a couple of meetings to go to and a work-thing on Saturday which turned out to be woeful.

The first meeting was about the fete that has just happened and the fete NEXT year! I love the fete. The committee were provided with delicious cakes by one of our members every time we met, another member of the committee provided delicious lasagne for supper after the fete and, aside from the catering, we made tons of money.

And then I had to go to a PTA meeting at which there were 3 committed souls (4, if you count the 1 year old who came with her mum) trying to think of exciting, interesting and money-spinning activities for our school's 25th anniversary. We thought of them. Now we need to do them and we need to actually get people to help to do them without thinking we're obsessed, pta-devils, determined to bake everyone into submission.

My last post was 4th July, it's now Sunday. The sun started shining on Saturday which meant that precisely 3 families turned up for my work event. Wiltshire partied. The rain stopped. It ruined my attendance figures.

I've kicked the caffeine so won't mention it again but my cuticles are still languishing in un-groomed misery. Tonight is the night. I've also just cleared out my greenhouse which instead of being home to a wondrous array of seedlings and cuttings, smelled of dead mouse, was full of cobwebs and pots of dessicated pepper plants. I'm just going to have to admit that this has been my annus horticulturus horribilis. Once I've retired, all will change and I shall be deadheading in a floral smock whilst robins sit merrily on the handle of my border fork. Until then. I shall ignore the wilderness that is my garden.

This week's action points for projectforty are going to be a challenge: NO alcohol and NO random snacking. NO coming into the house from work and demolishing lumps of cheese, packets of biscuits or piles of jam on toast.

This week I will mostly be in denial.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

projectforty – 108 days to go

I’ve had my first project failure. My cuticles have been neglected for another 24 hours. I blame Gordon Ramsay.

Last night I adopted my vegetative position on the sofa to shout at Gillian McKeith while she trampled on the self esteem of 3 large fianc├ęs wanting a new dress and watched endless VT repetitions of their bellies and breasts. GMcK bullied, I huffed and puffed. I also ate a slice of cake in defiance. I had planned a 9pm ascent to the bathroom to indulge in a spot of self-manicuration. I didn't leave the sofa fast enough - Gordon appeared, striding along, taking his shirt off and I was hooked.

I couldn’t leave the room. I know. It’s tragic. Johnny Vegas mentioned the word ‘menopausal’ in relation to women who fancy the chef-tastic stud that is GR. I felt suitably shamed. I don’t FANCY him. I just wish he’d come round and cook me something and shout a lot.

I can’t cuticule tonight either as I have to meet the parish council and have a governor’s meeting. I will expand on the masochistic, community-focused slant to my life in a future post. It's an ever-expanding element of my existence.

Resolution 1, "a caffeine-free life" is going well and my fuzzy-headedness has gone. I haven’t quite got the dewy complexion and bright white eyes I was hoping for but I do feel I’m doing something. I read recently that to make changes you need to make small steps, keep them going for 4 days and then adopt another new step and you get this build up effect of ‘doing good things’. Sounds a bit slow for my liking. I was hoping to lose a stone in a week and get kind of shiny and bronzed and glossy. Expectations are at maximum - effort likely to remain minimum....

The cuticles will need to wait. Tonight, I propose to listen to my Paul McKenna relaxation CD (free with the Mail on Sunday) after the meetings. All I’ll need to do is put my earphones in and lie down. I can’t be doing with activity today. I’ve got enough to do.

An enhanced sleep experience coupled with total hydration MUST be a positive activity and it’s all I can fit in today between working and meeting and kidding – they need the usual stuff tonight: picking up from football, feeding, homeworking and transferring to Rainbows.

I have two – kids, not rainbows. One boy, 9 and one girl, 6. I love them dearly and like them a lot. They have the potential to be better versions of me and my beloved (so far) and they have more of our good qualities than our bad (so far). They eat my cooking and allow me to decide what we do (most of the time). What more could a mother ask for?

Does anyone know how to use one of those pointy, snippy cuticle remover contraptions?

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

The trampoline, the tape measure and the scales…..

The less said about my baseline evaluation the better. I bounced, I gasped and I wrote down numbers that were bigger than I was anticipating.

I appear to be a BOGOF woman.

If you could go to Tesco’s and buy one size 0 celebrity and get another free, you’d get me! BOGOF.

Does that mean I’m a 00? Not that I’d want to be. I just want to look well. How’s that for a mid-life statement – “well”, not fabulous, not gorgeous, oh no, couldn’t possibly aspire to beauty – no, I’ve got to the age when I want to look well! I want my hair to shine, my skin to glow, my teeth to sparkle and my clothes to fit properly. That’s all.

I haven’t the nerve to be truly honest and expose my physical statistics to anyone, least of all people (worse still women) I don’t know very well. It makes me go clammy to think of it.

So – every week, I will provide a short summary of any pounds lost, inches dislodged and fitness goals reached. Promise. When projectforty is over and if you’re that bothered, you can have a go at working out yourself. There WILL be pictures. But for now, think of me as Mrs Ordinary who wants to be Mrs Slightly Extraordinarily Fabulous.

My caffeine consumption has risen. I had one cup of tea today to stop my head pounding. My withdrawal symptoms have been awful – cotton wool ears, head pounding, nausea. Not fun but after a cup of tea and a couple of chocolate biscuits all is well again.

Have been working at home today. I have fifteen working days left until the end of July and I have long lists of activities, outings and scams for my retirement. I can’t wait. Once I get to know you better I’ll let you know what they are. Projectforty is my main priority though. As Oprah says, you need to love yourself before you can do anything for anyone else. And she knows. She says she knows. And Dr Phil says she knows. So she must.

I’ve watched the rain clouds shift across the sky all day and seen the raindrops sheet from the sky. It’s July. Totally dismal.

So - my next resolution. Caffeine's a goner. Next on the list are........cuticles! Yes, in addition to my other failings.... I never examine my cuticles and my nails resemble those of a depressed librarian, dry, dusty and not quite the thing. Tonight, I will manicure. I will find my 'Beauty Bible' and read up how to do it. If I spill polish on my new sofa. I will screeeeaeaeaeaem!

Monday, 2 July 2007

First things first...

I’ve realised my calendar maths is worse than useless. It’s 110 days to my birthday – not 101. Never mind…it doesn’t change the fact I’ve got a bit of work to do before the big day.

I’ve decided to treat myself kindly throughout this whole process. I’m going to be more Gok Wan, less Gillian McKeith. I love how the former encourages we ladies of ampler proportions to just love every inch of our dimply extremities. I loathe the latter’s shrill bullying. If I was going to be thin, I certainly wouldn’t want to be like GMcK. There’s something creepy about a woman who examines shit on TV for a living. I’m sure we’d all get the point without the nose mask and the eye-rolling.

Anyway – back to project forty. To get a ‘quick win’ in and make me feel like I’m doing something – my first resolution is to drink MORE water and relinquish the evils of caffeine.

I am a total teapot and have been known to drink up to 10 cups a day. This, I am told is bad for my skin and my sleep patterns. It’s also not very good for my biscuit consumption as a drink’s too wet without one you know.

So far so good. I’ve completed ten hours of caffeine free living so far. If I was American, I’d give myself a high-5. I was expecting headaches of biblical proportions and a dry fuzzy feeling in the mouth. I just feel a little sleepy.

I’ve been on a course today for new school governors (I’m sure I’ll moan about that during some post in the future) and I managed, just about, to keep awake without caffeine support. I’ve not touched a drop all day despite almost constant temptation in every corner of the room. I have, however, had the most enormous buffet lunch and too many boiled sweets. I truly hope I am not what I ate today. It was messy.

Am not sure of my next resolution. I know what I’m like. I don’t want to overload with self-imposed rules which I’m sure to break and sure to resent.

I think the next stage may be a little baseline evaluation. What exactly is my problem? Do I, indeed, have a problem? I can feel a SWOT analysis coming on. That will focus my resources I’m sure.

I need to find the tape measure, the trampoline and a notebook.

I’m afraid. Very afraid.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

In the beginning.....

It's exactly 101 days to my 40th birthday. I won't reveal any other vital statistics at this stage but there's nothing like a bit of number crunching to focus the mind.
I've decided that it's time to treat my latest age-related milestone as a project. I am, after all, a bona fide project manager. I should, therefore, be able to manage a number, a day, an event such as this.

I've never been great at birthdays - my eighteenth was a disaster, my twenty-first lost in the mists of time and I pushed my two week old son around the local park on my thirtieth.

40, though, seems a little different - is it because it's the new 30, the new 20, the new 12? Is it because it's fairly close to mid-life? Is it because our expectations are so high now because we see enough TV and magazines to compare ourselves with everyone from from Hollywood 'A' listers to 'Wife Swap' contestants?

I'm sure I'm more aware of my flaws, my failings and failures than my mother ever was just because I know about Madonna's daily yoga, Elle Macpherson's fabulosity and Emma Thompson's marvellous work-life balance.

The fact is I know I need to do a bit of tweaking to sort some aspects of my life out. My skills at creating and developing all the projects I've ever worked on have never truly been applied to anything that relates to my actual life.

On a purely shallow, physical level I'm not as groomed and elegant as I'd like to be nor as fit and spritely as I'd like to be. I need a bit of tidying up to make myself look and feel like I want to. I know that if I wake up on my next birthday looking like I look now, I'm going to be furious with myself.

On a deeper, more touchy-feely level, I've never really had a career that I actually wanted, I've often compromised my own choices for the sake of other elements of my life and I've ignored some of the things I've always wanted to do so that I can pay the bills, do the mum-thing and generally get on with stuff.

So - I finish paid work at the end of July. I've got a month from today to get projectforty off the ground and then a couple of summer months to really concentrate on myself and how I want things to be. Sounds like a plan to me.

I've started this blog because I think a bit of public scrutiny will get me to do the things I always put off. There's nothing like a few mates heckling from the sideline to get things going. I'm also sure that there are friends of friends out there who've been through this and have felt the same. I want to learn from them. I need all the help I can get!

So - if you've been sent this blog by a friend, get in touch and let me know what you think. Suggestions will be gratefully received but not necessarily accepted especially if they just say 'get a life, you whingy, middle-aged biddy!'

Be nice(ish) - I'll try to be.