Thursday, 17 February 2011


It's a question I often find myself silently asking: at what point in my life did I start turning into that old fogey - the type of person I always swore I would never be? Age seems to have crept up and made itself at home when I wasn't looking. How could that even happen? After all, in my head I am still only 17 years old; when I look in the mirror I don't see the same "me" as everyone else - I see the "me" of 10 - 20,30 years ago. Still, perhaps the warning signs were there....

1.      Like when I started going to the coffee shop in the bookstore because it was quieter than the one in the main shopping centre and not full of sexually-charged, screechy students saying "like" or "right" like every other word like, or like sucking the face off each other right (and like get your feet off the chairs while you're at it right). No, that never used to bother me - goodness knows... I was a student once and talked utter tosh ten to the dozen whilst trying to impress some spotty youth who'd been marinated in Brut (or was it High Karate - I can't remember), so what happened?

 2.     Like when I started thinking: if the gusset of your tights is showing screechy student, then you are not wearing a skirt - you are wearing a fabric sample swatch (and if you had bought one just 10cm longer you wouldn't have to keep pulling it down as you walked along). No, I used to wear hot-pants (and with a bib too, and white lacy tights that were totally impractical - cutting edge of fashion me), so what happened? 

3.    And the hair... when did the hairstyle of the average teenage boy start to cause me such irritation? Just how many products do you have to put in those flowing locks to attract the screechy girls wearing the fabric swatch in the coffee shop? It's not so much "get your haircut you scruffy, little irk", it's more "you need to pin that fringe back out of your eyes or you will do damage to your sight" (plus you won't have to keep flicking it back or smoothing it down with your hand). Of course, I won't mention the home perm I used to have at this point - I know what happened in that instance.

4.    Like when I started to ask "where's the melody?" when listening to music or: "what are they saying? I can't understand a word". And let's not forget the: "for heaven's sake turn that down - I can't hear myself think" and of course, that old favourite: "that's too loud! You don't need those earphones in, 'cos even I can hear that from here. You'll damage your eardrums". I mean, I used to listen to the Monkees, David Cassidy, Adam & the Ants and Abba and that was proper music (wasn't it?), so what happened? 

5.    Like when I stopped reading Marie Claire, Vogue & Cosmopolitan and started to read the creative kitchenware catalogue from cover to cover and thought that a "poach pod" or a "bobble buster" (essential for removing bobbles from your knitwear) was really handy and of much more use than the "5 signs he's about to propose" or "how to dress for promotion" (whilst deciding if a Brazilian was really for me), so what happened?

6.    Like when I started thinking: "ooh, those shoes look comfortable......" 

I could go on. I blame the menopause, but then I blame that for most things: spots, weight gain, the need to redo my roots every 2 weeks, you name it, the menopause is usually lurking around looking guilty somewhere. I don't like the menopause - it reminds me of my mortality and shouts SO, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH YOUR LIFE SO FAR, EH?    
And I try to ignore it because I'm still only 17 years old in my head, even though the age spots on my hand say different.

Monday, 14 February 2011


Ahh, St Valentine's Day.  A day dedicated to luurrve and romance.  A day when couples are expected to openly display their feelings for one another by the time-honoured medium of Clinton Cards and   A random peek at an on-line dictionary gives the following definition for LOVE:  " A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness."   A random peek at the shop window displays in town (OK, I will name and shame: Debenhams and Marks & Spencers) gives the following vision of LOVE:  women being dressed, or should I say trussed, up in stockings and suspenders with a bottle of pink Cava and some chocolates in a heart-shaped box thrown in for good measure.  "FEEL THE LOVE" they yell at me.  Well, I have to admit, when faced with this kind of pressure.... I do struggle a bit.

The commercial notion that Love = sex/power never ceases to amaze me.  It seems to be based around the idea that to be attractive to a mate on February 14th, women must wear 2" strips of nylon and a square of synthetic satin that causes static and should go nowhere near a naked flame (that's the candlelit atmosphere kaput then).  Now this is fine, if you are the same shape as those shop mannequins and can keep very still once you have placed the eyewatering thong/suspender combination in a straight line.  But, put a menopausal, slightly chubby (ok flabby) woman with thread veins and prizewinning muffin-tops in the same outfit and you get, well not quite the same effect.  Sure, husbands all over the land will say: "but I love you just the way you are and you will always look sexy to me in stocking tops" and women all over the land will really, really want to believe them...we really do.... still it's convincing ourselves is a whole different kettle of kippers.

And the pressure is not just on the women. Dig deep in your wallets gents, because according to the stereotypical marketing mind, the only way to prove your love is through jewellery, big old expensive jewellery and preferably diamonds.  Oh yes, none of your cheap tat will do here mate, the only way to get your lady into that pair of stockings is by showing her how rich and powerful you are and jewellery is soooo romantic, isn't it?  The message is: MEN: Darling, I would really like you to wear this (thinking: hmm.. red and black basque).  WOMEN: Darling, I would really like to wear this (thinking: hmm..that ring from Tiffanys.  The reality of course is that this idea of Valentine's Day only really applies if you are a) young ; b) not single;  c) are of a certain body shape and attractive, and d) heterosexual.

I realise this is probably making me sound like a crusty old maid and misery guts, but it's not the jewellery or the lingerie that is the issue for me - it's the pressure and the stereotypical, basic nay, caveman level on which the commercial industry form their idea of Love and Romance.  Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I know that prancing around the bedroom to a Barry White CD whilst wearing nothing but a pair of red sequin heart-shaped tassels from Poundland and a spray of Chanel No5 is going to produce neither attractive qualities, nor a sense of underlying oneness any more than my husband whipping out a pair of QVC Diamonique pearl-drop earrings from his edible posing pouch.

No, I just want a "normal" way of expressing that "I'm the one" and that "we are still here" despite being surrounded by kids, pets, family, mortgages, bills, sickness and anything else that the world feels it would like to chuck at us.  In our house we still give each other Valentine's cards (lets face it, St Valentine's Day isn't going to go away any time soon, no matter how much we all moan about it) and yes, even though it has "TO MY HUSBAND" or "TO MY WIFE" on the front, we still don't sign it (don't ask me's nuts, I know).  We don't buy each other material gifts, but we do like to cook and eat a special meal together once the kids have gone to bed.  No TV, no computers, no outside interruptions - well maybe a mutually chosen DVD - it's just the two of us - like a date - just to show that "we are still here".  I don't know why we feel we can only do this on a "Special Day", to be perfectly honest, it can be achieved on any other day of the year and so we promise ourselves we are going to try harder to make the effort from now on.    Forget the silk and the diamonds, the cuddly toys, balloons and even those velvety, blood red roses that you hardly ever see the rest of the year -  the most precious thing we can give each other is our time.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


I tried using a relaxation CD for the first time today.  The Physios have really been promoting stress reduction as an essential tool in the fight against pain (what, you mean the cape & spandex tights are no good then?) and they like to hold  a quick "relaxation session" during each Back Class. Unfortunately, this involves me lying flat on a yoga mat, in a large, drafty gymnasium surrounded by fitness equipment, whilst a physio reads a pleasant little Utopian tale from a card to the sound of panpipes playing in the background.  Although we are given a couple of pillows to soften the blow, this is probably the most uncomfortable position ever for me (even before I hurt my back) and therefore my chances of achieving any kind of chill are slim at best.

Anyway, back to the CD - I thought: "I know what, I'll try this in the comfort of my own home, lying on a comfortable bed in a warm bedroom (panpipes optional). Now, I have to admit this CD has invoked: a) scepticism; b) concern that I am going to fall asleep and miss the school run and c) the worry that I will become unknowingly hypnotised and begin to act like a demented ballet dancer every time I hear an icecream van jingle.  However, in the end, I set 2 alarms just to be on the safe side to make sure I am awake in time for the school run and decide to take my chances with the icecream van.  Firstly, there were panpipes (is there a Relaxation CD on this whole wide planet that doesn't include them?) but there was also the sound of waves (a bonus) and the narrator's voice was very soothing and easy on the ears. Initially I didn't feel like anything was physically happening (to be fair I wasn't wearing the recommended stereo earphones mainly because I wanted to be sure to hear the alarms) but the amazing thing was a) I didn't go to sleep; b) since waking I have heard 'O Sole Mio and Greensleeves and haven't automatically gone into an attitude en pointe and c) I have noticed a definite positive reaction with regards my flexibility.  I was so surprised by this I even tried to do one of those side-step movements the Back Class are so fond of and actually got my foot to move an extra 10cms!   A fluke?  Not sure, but will definitely give it another go.  I may even buy earphones....

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


This is a common misconception about Chronic Pain and one you know that a lot people think is true - even if they don't say it out loud.  Well, I suppose the easiest answer I can come up with when faced with this wonderfully helpful piece of diagnosis is:  Yes it is, in the sense that my nerve endings are continually telling my brain that my original injury still hurts, even though I have physically healed. And: No it isn't, in the sense that it is all in my imagination and therefore not real.

Now I have a reasonably good imagination and sometimes it's even detrimental to my mental health.  For example:  husband is 10 minutes late home from work in the fog and before you know it, I have him dead in an upturned car that has rolled down a ditch somewhere.  Of course, needless to say,  he strolls in, pinches a chocolate chip cookie from the biscuit tin and asks what's for dinner and I have to snap out of mentally arranging funeral flowers and whimper "it's your favourite - sausages". Thus life whips the "imagination elastic" back in my face (and rightly so).  Most of the time my imagination goes down the bizzaro route and ends up humorous (well for me at any rate) so no harm done.  Having said that however, I can honestly swear that I have never, ever, ever been able to conjour up physical pain by the means of pure mental thought - that gift is well beyond me.

TODAY'S LEMON RATING:   A reasonable 5.5 out of 10 (plus side = the sun is out; minus side = I can't tend my lovely garden)

Monday, 7 February 2011


Well, this has been a bit of a funny old weekend. First up, the usual fallout from Back class was dreadful and in my case on Saturday, it actually turned into a "fall-down"!  It is the first time I have actually fallen; my knees have given way in the past, but I have always grabbed onto something and never completely hit the deck.  I have to admit to being  frightened by this experience - just another little sign I am are not exactly in control here.

The upside however, was spending time with my husband and youngest daughter.  We walked around town (ok, I admit it was slow and I had to sit down every 10 minutes) and we had coffee together.  Now my coffee habit can only be described as.....well.... a firmly-established dependency really.  I seem to be addicted to the stuff and Costas latte is the worst.  It's like a Pavlov's Dog Response - I see it, I smell  it, I want it, I have it and at £2.45 a pop it doesn't come cheap.  I like to square this particular circle with my own justifications:  1) it's less expensive than a packet of cigarettes and doesn't harm my lungs (we're not worrying too much about the rest of the health issues here); 2) it provides me with a legitimate "sit down" in a nice warm environment (unlike the shoe shop, where I pretend to be trying on shoes but am actually just desperate for a rest: no madam doesn't really like these ones, perhaps in another colour on another day....) and most importantly 3) it provides "me-time" where I can sit and read, or write that world famous blockbuster novel that will be turned into an Oscar winning film with Colin Firth playing the leading man, or plan out a business venture that will  keep me in a manner to which I can become quickly accustomed to.  In other words it keeps me off the streets and sane and human and therefore, in my humble opinion, is well worth the£2.45.

Not only that, but it's different to just having a cup of coffee at home: at home you look at the carpet that hasn't been vacuumed, or the TV that is showing such utter twaddle you are almost embarrassed to admit you are watching it. No, you have made the effort to go out, to park your backside where there are few "distractions" (unless you are unlucky enough to be sitting next to the yummy mummy with 17 kids all under the age of 3) and to share this with my family has been a real bonus for me this weekend and a warming experience.  It's almost as though we were removed from the rest of the world for just 30 minutes (my 9 year old has a babychino - it makes her feel very grown up) and we sit and chat about anything and everything, but noticeably NOT about my back....for there are other things in life...

Friday, 4 February 2011


Goal setting at Back Class today and I have to admit I was not looking forward to this one.  Goals, goals, goals..... hmmm... where to start?  It seems to me that the world today is very "goal" or "target" led.  In fact,  it has almost become fashionable to set yourself an aim.  Everyone is doing it; - hospitals, schools, public services, individuals, fat clubs, sales, bad back groups - sometimes it feels as though we are obsessed with it to the exclusion of all else.   Setting goals gives you something to strive for....provides you a reason for doing what you are aim - this is the mantra of the goal-setting disciples.  And of course, they are right, setting a goal will do all these things; it will also frustrate you, upset you and set you back if you miss it or provide you with a hefty lump of guilt and title of "Failure 1st Class", if you give up.  Like a lot of other things, the art of goal-setting seems to work better for some people than others.  There are those that can really "buy into" the whole ethos of the thing, whilst others find it a hindrance and too restrictive to their style.  Normally, I find it useful just as long as I do not allow myself to become beholden to it.  The world will not fall down if I miss my goal; neither will I become a 2nd class citizen who's self worth is way beneath the life radar.

The next important thing to think about is the size of your goal, because this can certainly affect whether you land yourself in the "Top of the World Ma" camp or the "Hopeless Emptiness" camp. Best advice I can give?   Baby steps to start with - don't set yourself up for failure.  Leave shooting for the moon to something that doesn't  involve physical pain.

So, here I am, paired off with another participant of the class (numbers have dwindled down to 5 from the original 12 starters - where have all the others gone I wonder?) and the discussion goes something like this:  PHYSIO:  What personal goal would you like to set then?:  MAN: I would like to get  back to doing my  mountain cycling.  I cycled here this morning & it took about 20 minutes, so I would like to expand on that.  (Now, I would just like to say here that I am not deriding or criticising this guy by any means - in fact I take my hat off to him for even being able to do this - I'm not sure I could have done it even before I hurt my back!).  It's my turn next.  ME:  Umm.... I would like to be able to get into my car without getting stuck or yelping in agony. (I did want to say: I want to be able to put my underwear on in the morning without the excruciating and crippling shooting pains, but I felt too self-conscious to publicly discuss my knickers in front of Cycling Man, so I kept schtum).  RESULT: Cycling Man feels he is a phoney for being at Back Class and being able to do things that I obviously can't, while my self-esteem loses on goal difference.

Goal setting can be useful and often is, but I wonder how much of this particular goal-setting exercise was actually in itself a goal set by the Health Service?  Please tick here.....

TODAY'S LEMON RATING:  5.5 out of 10 (My goal needs to be taken in baby steps)

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Oh dear, yesterday was a giggle a minute wasn’t it?  No, you’re right - it wasn’t. So today there will be no mention at all of stupid CPS.  Nothing. Not a word. Zero. Zilch. Zip. My lips are sealed.

So what else has been happening?  Well, first up my eldest daughter decided to have (another) tattoo. She already has 3 small stars on one wrist and wanted a butterfly on the other; so off she goes to the tattooist.  Now, the story here is not actually of my daughter, but of a lady who was also having a tattoo done at the same time and was lying on a couch on the other side of the room.  This lady, shall we say....rather well endowed if you know
what I mean, and apparently wanted the tattoo on her boobs.  She had brought in a picture and the poor tattooist was painstakingly reproducing (in full colour as well, would you mind) a 6 ” high picture of “Where’s Wally?”  poking out from her client’s cleavage.  Now, this probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and I suppose is even quite amusing upon the first viewing.  Still, I couldn't help but wonder what it was going to look like in say 15-20 years time, especially when Wally becomes a bit old fashioned and tired – and, more importantly, what happens once her skin begins it's inevitable sag down south?  Would Wally become all leathery and stretchy and more of a horror movie zombie than the fun and cutesy cartoon character we all know and love?   Plus of course, once you’ve found him that’s it. Game over. Even if she had the whole crowd scene thing tattooed all over the top half of her body, you would know exactly where to look – it’s a bit of a one-trick pony  - personally, I don’t think she’s thought it through enough..

Secondly, my youngest daughter is a member of the junior girls’ choir at the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds and once a term they get to sing Evensong.  Actually, this is a very beautiful occasion, even if the spiritual side is not your thing; the acoustics of the Cathedral and the simplicity of the girls' voices is really quite something.  So I go along to listen and take my place near the end of the pew next to an old lady who is sitting with her head down, obviously deep in prayer.  It doesn’t take long however, to discover why my particular seat had been left empty by the rest of the congregation.  Sniff, sniff.  What is that smell?  Sniff, sniff.  Oh, gawd, it’s the little old lady.  She doesn’t smell too fresh at all!  Definitely a touch of urine if I’m not very much mistaken, and ......yep....I do believe that other distinct odour is one of Scotch....oh dear, now what?....just carry on politely like you haven’t noticed.  Oh, but it’s getting stronger and now she is leaning towards me – no, cancel that – she is leaning on me.  Oh crap! She’s fallen asleep!  So  here I am, sitting in a beautiful cathedral, surrounded by stained glass windows, candles, flowers, haunting music rising up to the painted eaves that have looked down on generations of people over hundreds of years  - and a drunken bag-lady is sleeping it off against my arm.  So here's a bit of a pickle; what should I do?  Should I push her away? Should I get up and let her fall face down in the pew?  No, I do none of this.  In a characteristically British way, I remain stock still so as not to disturb her, but then, as if by some incredible magic button, just as the children are singing AMEN at the end of the Creed – up she pops, wide awake and shuffles out into the cold night air, leaving only the smell of her sad situation on the sleeve of my coat. And there but for the grace of God.....

TODAY’S LEMON RATING     Unclassified because we are not mentioning you-know-what-today

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


"Well, you are all doing so much better!" Thus spake the physio during Back Class on Tuesday.  Now, I know they have to chivvy us along with words of encouragement, but as I look down at my feet which are slowly creeping out to about 10 cms each side, I also know, that they know there is no way that what I am doing is a "star jump. No way at all.  "Hey, let's have a smile!  Don't you feel the improvement?" they bounce Tiggerlike, full of enthusiasm towards me.  "No Lady,  I feel like Tigger's great-grandmother in a death suit", I think to myself - but I just wanly smile and shake my head.  My back feels like it's in a steel tube, I cannot bend or do the knee rolls; so I just lie there like a broken doll while all enthuse around me. Nothing responds the way it should; I cannot shift my balance from one foot to the other; ab crunches? don't make me laugh; step ups? Three or 4 at the most and the tears are welling and burning as I try to hold them in.  And you know what? I do hold them in, right until I get back to the car and then those floodgates just burst open...

The next day I am wrecked and wasted.  I have taken the painkillers, had the bath, put the heat pad on and still it's crap.  But the thing that really hits me hard is how I don't feel like this is me any more - it's as if I'm a different person to who I was before last May.  I don't interact with my family like I used to, oh sure I make all the right noises and go through all the right motions, but I still feel like I am watching from inside the wrong body; this one's faulty and I don't know where to take it back and get a refund.  There doesn't seem to be a way forward or out of this and I worry what effect it will all have on my husband and my children in the long run.  I want to enjoy being part of my 9 year old's day - but at the moment it's not happening.  I am pretending and acting so that she doesn't know or see the truth..... because I want to protect her.

This morning I hobbled into the bathroom (I refuse to crawl so I creep round the walls, holding on to various bits of furniture).  I reached up to the cabinet for my painkillers and...........and then.....and then I dropped them.........I couldn't believe it......I just dropped them right there onto the floor.  For a moment I simply stood (well, more stooping actually) and looked at them lying on the blue carpet, then I tried to kick them to the side so I could sit on the edge of the bath to pick them up.  But I couldn't pick them up - the pain wouldn't allow me.  It was a face off - with me staring at the box of pills on the floor and them just lying there, mocking me because there was no way could I get them.  My sobbing brought my husband who silently bent down, picked them up and gave them to me.  A simple movement, and one I would previously have never given a second thought to was now a big deal. Improvement?   Depends on your definitions I suppose.

LEMON RATING: A fat old 7.5 out of 10 (on account of post exercise and a dropped box of pills)