Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Frozen North

Tomorrow I am off to Cumbria to visit my sister. I shall do my best to keep warm and resist her efforts to ride her horse, which is far too lively for me, and also so tall that I would need scaffolding to get on its back.

I ordered some presents for her for Christmas, some of which have arrived and some which haven't. I'm hoping one, if not both, will arrive tomorrow before I have to leave for the station, and save me the postage. Clue for you, Merrylegs: it's horse-connected...

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Virgin Active - the case deepens

Remember I said the sales manager from Virgin Active had told me that no money had been debited from my account? Wrong! I discovered today that they had taken out £45 for a month's membership which I had been unable to use because, according to them, my paperwork had been lost and I was not on their computers!

I drank a strong coffee and then, fuming, rang up and got an answering machine on which I left a polite but strong message, refraining from swearing with great difficulty. Later, the sales manager rang back, sounding extremely apologetic - "I don't know how this could have happened", etc. I demanded a refund, which she said would be in my account within the next couple of days. We'll see. If they've 'lost my details', I wonder how they're going to pay me the money? By telepathy? I knew gym machines could do wonderful things these days, but I didn't realise VA were in the Mind Gym business!

Meanwhile I had an urgent text from dear daughter, who was in an airport in NZ, asking if I'd be kind enough to whizz £50 into her account. Funny how it always whizzes out of mine faster than it whizzes in. I need to win the Lottery!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


I couldn't resist this hat for myself as I was doing some Christmas shopping from the Rosie Nieper catalogue. (Don't look, Merrylegs - one of your prezzies is coming from there!). Mr Grumpy chortles every time he sees anyone wearing one of these Tibetan yak herder headpieces and calls them Twat Hats. Now I have to suffer his derisive snorts every time I wear it. But it's silk and wool and very warm. I'm wearing it while typing this. I may even sleep in it.

I once had a boyfriend who said he'd finish with me unless I stopped wearing my tiger striped wellies which I'd bought in Amsterdam in 1985, when patterned wellies were outragous. I think they were the only patterned wellies in Britain for two decades! Did I stop wearing them? Did I hell. I finished with him instead, after telling him I was going to be buried in them. Perhaps I'll ask to be buried in my Twat Hat, too.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Virgin Active named and shamed!

My gym sessions have been nipped in the bud. The day I joined, a very pleasant young lady filled in all the paperwork and allowed me in for a swim. I came back for an aquarobics session a few days later and my swipe card worked okay. It was on my third visit that things started to go wrong. I had an appointment for an induction, meaning that someone would be showing me how all the equipment worked.

On the appointed day, I showed up but the person who was supposed to be 'inducing' me didn't. Not only that, my swipe card wouldn't work and I started getting hot under the collar as the girl on reception disappeared behind the scenes for ages to find out why. I felt like a criminal who was trying to get in under false pretences. Only the fact that I could show them the card bearing the name of the girl I was meeting allowed me access. Then I was informed that the girl was off that day and I should go into the gym and find someone else who could show me the ropes.

I ended up with Mr It's-Not-My-Job, who rushed me around from machine to machine, pushing buttons and pulling levers. Then, as I was frantically trying to scribble instructions in a notebook I'd brought, he told me not to bother as he'd put all the info on a kind of USB stick thingy and all I had to do was post it into a slot in each machine and it would tell me what to do. So far, so confusing. I was also freezing cold as I was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and the gym had the aircon set to Arctic.

After he'd disappeared for ages, leaving me shivering, he reappeared brandishing my 'key' as it was called and telling me that I had to stick it in a machine as I entered the gym, whereupon it would register the fact I was there, tot up the calories I had used, and at the end of 6 months it would tell me how much weight I'd lost. (Huh? So I'm not expected to eat for 6 months? How about Christmas?)

My head in a spin with all this technical info, I went for a swim. Three days later, all fired up up to start using my new key and show the other gymmers what a technophile I was, I returned. Not only would my swipe card not work again but I was told they didn't have me on their system at all. No sign of me. Nichevo, nilch, nyet. As far as Virgin Active were concerned, I did not exist and the girl who had filled in my forms was on holiday. Once again, I felt like a criminal as they grudgingly agreed to let me in.

Then my woes really started. I 'clocked in', went to my first machine, slotted in the key, contorted my legs around the weights and closed myself in and then, guess what? On the little screen a message appeared: SEAT POSITION? That's right. With a question mark. Releasing my legs with a sigh, I examined the seat for a button to press. Nothing. I repositioned my legs and placed the metal prong in the 20 kilos hole. Then I tried to move the weights. Ouch! Although the prong was in the 20 kilos position, the screen told me I was trying to move 40 kilos. In despair, I disentangled myself and looked around in vain for an employee in a red T-shirt, of which there was no sign.

So I went for a swim then discovered I had only brought a small hand towel to dry myself on. By that time, I was naked, my swimsuit merrily spinning round in the dryer. I blotted as much of myself as I could, but imagine what a wally I felt, walking into a changing room full of clothed people with only a small blue hand towel to hide my ten and a half stone of wobbly cellulite. I got outside, it was cold, windy and raining, my hair was damp and I had a 15 minute wait for a bus and a 20 minute walk home from the bus stop. Not a pleasant experience.

Yesterday I had a call from the gym regarding my membsership. My paperwork had gone missing on its way to be scanned. I would have to come in and fill it in all over again and bring my passport as they needed proof of my age. The girl said she had asked me the day I joined to bring my passport next time. Yes, I had forgotten, but on the other hand she had seen my Freedom Pass so surely that was enough to prove I am eligible for the Over 60's membership? Apparently not. My urge to get fit evaporated at this point. I told her I would not be returning till the New Year as I was going away for the first week of December, and then there would only be two weeks before they closed down for the Christmas holidays. In fact, I not returning again. Not ever. Any gym who touts for membership then loses your paperwork and makes you suffer embarrassment and long waits while they disappear into the office to be told 'computer says no', during which time your urge to work out evaporates and you have missed the start of the class you wanted to attend, is not worthy of my membership. I shall go back to my previous small, friendly gym, where, if you hadn't been for a while, someone would ring to ask if you were okay. It may not have a pool but Flex Lifestyles is worth its friendly weight in gold - or, in my case, flab!

OH MY GOD! just realised that the paperwork Virgin Active have lost contained all my bank details. Someone could rob me blind. Right now, as we speak someone could be helping themselves to a sizeable sum that I moved out of one savings account in order to open a new one with it. It's too late to ring the bank. Don't think I'll sleep well tonight...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Addict or goal-driven?

I never thought I had an addictive personality. I managed to give up smoking without too much difficulty, apart from my first ever attack of bronchitis plus a sensation, that went on for months, that someone was gripping my throat and squeezing. I own up to the occasional alcoholic binge at a party, which I always regret for days after as booze annoys my stomach ulcer and gives me a migraine. I buy the occasional lottery ticket, but am not driven to buy one every single week, and I have never placed a bet on the gee-gees. So why am I now wasting over an hour a day (understatement!) playing word games on the computer?

Having achieved the highest Pathwords score of my group (1550), why do I feel such a need to better it that I play at least ten games a day, trying to see if my brain is brighter at spotting words in the morning, at noon, or at night? Once I get onto Pathwords, I am a driven soul. I ignore the phone, I snarl at Mr Grumpy and if I really MUST break away mid-game to answer the door, I am a snarling, spitting, cussing fiend. As far as Babble is concerned, if it's a large grid, I content myself with scoring 1000. That's my target.

And I guess that is the crux of the matter. Not having a job any more, and being used to work deadlines, I have lost my focus and am desperately in need of a goal of some sort, a target to achieve. Where once it was getting my magazine, Loving, to the printers on time, now it is finishing Babble or scoring a higher goal in Pathwords. Tragic, isn't it?

So I have decided to set myself a new target, which is to start a new book and give myself a deadline to finish it in. I know I can do it. Only trouble is, it lacks the short-term thrill of achieving a quick finish. I guess I shan't be giving up Pathwords.

PS: 6.20pm. Got a new high score of 1750 points. Am I sad?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Sad, or SAD?

I feel down. So do a couple of my friends. In fact, we're swapping emails about how we are bursting into tears at the slightest thing, have no patience with our loved ones (in fact, aren't even sure if 'loved' is the right description any more), can't sleep, feel achy all over, and so on.

It struck me that we in Britain have seen very little sun for the last two years. Not only that, but grey, damp, dismal weather inspires one to stay in rather than go for a bracing walk, or even go off to the gym. My three swims so far have taken place on pouring wet days so that no sooner have I dried my hair, when I have to go out and get it wet again.

According to the medics, we all need at least ten minutes' exposure to sunlight a day - or at least what light manages to filter through the grey blanket of clouds - in order to manufacture sufficient Vitamin D. Lack of it can cause aching muscles and bone pain (tick), insomnia (tick), restlessness (tick), depression (tick), weak bones especially in post-menopausal women who have a harder time absorbing D ... the list goes on. Vitamin D can be found in salmon, shrimps, milk. sardines, cod and eggs. As I don't normally encounter many of these in my daily diet, I have just started taking Vitamin D tablets. I shall report any sudden lifting of symptoms.

Mind you, six months eating fresh sardines in the Med and getting lots of sunshine would be vastly more pleasant. Hmm... do I really want to buy another house in a grey London suburb where the air stinks of traffic fumes and which also may well be situated in a 'cancer corridor' where planes circle and waste fuel as they wait for their slot to land at Heathrow or Gatwick? The sea, the sea, the open sea, the blue, the fresh, the ever free.... Aaah! That's better.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Long wiggly things

One thing I didn't mention was the antics we got up to in the aquarobics class itself. (NB I'm warm again now, thanks to the down-filled house boots I bought from for £14.95. Highly recommended. I have the purple ones.)

I am dispraxic in water. I can't control my own limbs, let alone props like those long foam tubes, or floating weights. One of the exercises involved threading a pink foam tube that looked like an elephant's willy between my ankles and knees, through my thighs and up my back. I was supposed to lie back on it while drawing my knees up to my chest. Some hope. At the merest hint of a weak ankle, the thing took on a life of its own, boomeranging tween my thighs and whacking me on the back of the head, or else boinging over the other side of the pool and hitting someone else. I was not popular. I was laughed at. But I didn't give up. No, not moi. Not even when it whacked me on the lips and demanded a blow job. (Keep it clean. Ed.) I aqua-soldiered on amidst much splashing, thanking heaven that my specs fitted tightly behind my ears. (Note: must get prescription goggles.)

One of the tunes Victoria, our lovely instructor with body to die for, played, was Elvis's Jailhouse Rock. I joined in, belting it out bigtime in spluttery fashion. One of the ladies - Vera, or Doreen, or even Chlorine (yes, we were all of a 'certain age'; in fact, I may just have been the baby of the group), turned round and declared, "Oh! Listen, ladies, we have a voice amongst us." Envy? Sarcasm? Nah, it's bound to be the latter. Unless someone behind the scenes is planning an aqua X Factor show. Though personally speaking, it's time they had a Specs Factor.

Nice weather for ducks. And hippos.

"When Mr Grumpy told me you'd gone to aquarobics, I thought, 'She's gone mad," said my friend Jill. Pity I hadn't spoken to her before going, as I'd doubtless have agreed. The pool wasn't as warm as it had been last Thursday. I was half an hour early. By the time the instructor arrived, I was goose-pimply. 45 minutes on and my goose-pimples had gone crinkly. Then another lady in the class suggested going in the jacuzzi. This was warm and the jets on my chilly, aching muscles
were powerfully good.

I paddled back to the locker room, had a shower, then found I couldn't undo my new lock. It was one of those combination ones. And no, I hadn't forgotten the combination. I couldn't get the damned numbers to line up where they were supposed to. In fact, fiddle though I did, they wouldn't move at all. By the time I had discovered that you were meant to squeeze the revolving bands with the numbers on, not just shunt them back and forth, I was a delicate shade of blue.

By now, it was gone two and coffee and food were in order. I know, I thought; I'll try the snack bar in the gym where they have comfy chairs and the day's papers to read. Well, I waited, and the man in front of me waited, and nobody appeared to serve me. By now, chilly and with blood sugar taking a nosedive, my gruntle was exceedingly dis-sed.

Then I remembered the lady (Joan) who'd lured me into the jacuzzi saying that there was a coffee bar opposite the gym that did 99p cappuccinos. That sounded good to me. Half an hour and £4-worth of coffee and ham and salad ciabatta later, I was really to face the downpour. After ten minutes, the bus came. Remembering last Thursday when I'd hopped off the bus to soon, got lost and had to ring Mr G and ask him to come and find me in somewhere called Goulds Green, I stationed myself by a window. Which was steamed up, like all the others. The heating was on and as fast as I smeared away the steam, it reformed. By the time I realised where I was, it was too late.

Half an hour's puddle-hopping later, I made my weary, mud-splashed way through the front door vowing never to go to aquarobics on a wet day again unless I magically turn into a duck. Though Mr G informs me I resemble a hippo somewhat more closely.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The perfect swim

Turned up for my first gym session only to find out that I didn't know how to use any of the equipment as it was so different to the gear in the last gym. I have to wait for my 'induction' next Thursday. Luckily, I had brought a swimsuit so, rather than waste a week's membership, I tried out the pool. And what a pool. It must be full Olympic length because it seemed to go on for ever. The water was warm, there were only a few other people in and as I swam along, gazing through the two glass walls at the lovely park scenery outside, wintry blue sky, golden leaves, pleasant patio with chairs and tables, I decided it was the best pool I had ever swum in in the UK. Of course, nothing could beat the view of Fethiye Bay from the Horizon Hotel's swimming pool in Turkey. But, if this is second best, it's bloody good.

I was all set to go again today till I realised how stiff I was. I can hardly move my head forward, my shoulders are so sore. Of course, swimming breaststroke as I do, with my head up stop my glasses falling off (can't see a thing without them), I set off my old whiplash injury in my neck, where I have two fused vertebrae. I just can't win!

* Just checked: it's a 25m pool - I think Olympic is 50m - and I did six lengths. It was the first time I'd swum for two years. No wonder I'm stiff!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The continuing saga of the gym

On Monday I was all primed up to go to my new gym for the first time. I was bright and bouncy and fancied immersing myself in chlorine even if I did end up looking like a leftover Hallowe'en witch. I hadn't filled in any membership forms, though I had paid over the phone, and didn't want to get all the way there to find they wouldn't let me in, so I rang the marketing lady. She wasn't there so I left a message.

She didn't get back to me all day. She rang yesterday when I wasn't feeling so bright and bouncy. "Oh, you could have come yesterday," she said. "I had left your forms and membership card with someone." Well, how was I to know? We know have a 'date' for Thursday when, no doubt, I shall feel exceedingly unbouncy following tonight's Guy Fawkes party. On the other hand, I might zoom down there with a rocket up my a*se!

Monday, 3 November 2008

To gym or not to gym?

That is the question. Today, my new gym membership begins. I chose this one because it has a pool and at the time, the weather was still reasonably warm and autumnal and I fancied immersing myself. Now? Hmm. I already mentioned the green hair possibility. Add the walk to the bus stop - 20 minutes - and the hanging around in the cold and wet for the bus, and I am already thinking, have I made a ghastly mistake?

Will laziness win? Watch this space. If I actually get there once a week, it will be a miracle. Membership is on a monthly basis so I shall count up how many visits I make for my £45. It could be one very expensive swim.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pigging weather

... in both senses of the word. It's p***ing down and I can't stop picking at biscuits, cheese, just about anything. Reckon my body thinks it needs extra calories because it's got so cold. I've never known a year like this one, that has gone straight from what passed for summer, to winter, bypassing autumn in all but the leaf colours. I haven't even been able to wear my 'tween seasons green coat. It was a race to get my jumpers out before I developed chilblains.

My new gym membership starts on Monday. It's a 20 minute walk to the bus stop, which takes me to a Virgin Active gym with a swimming pool. I could have rejoined my old, pool-less gym for a lot less money, but at the time, I wanted to swim. Now, with water hammering at the windows, I'm not so sure. Anyway, the chlorine might turn my hair green. (A photo, I promise.)