Confused.com

I read a newspaper most days and then try to complete the easy crossword puzzle every evening. This is to aid my fight against dementia! I flip through the news and there are often articles on health and exercise. I sometimes watch television programmes relating to the same as I am interested in keeping myself as healthy as possible, as you’ve probably guessed!

Donald Trump introduced the term ‘fake news’. That is one way of getting out of situations when you are guilty or, in my case, trying to make sense of all the conflicting articles!

Years ago, when i lived in South Africa, someone somewhere decided that cabbage was carcinogenic! We subsequently never ate cabbage for years. Slightly burnt toast was the next hapless victim but my mother ignored this decree. She is eighty nine and still doesn’t have cancer.

Cooking spray, vegetable oil and even olive oil have warnings attached. You can’t cook with butter because it will raise your cholesterol and you’ll have a heart attack or stroke. If you have a Sunday roast it comes with dire warnings. Make sure that your vegetables don’t get too crispy or, heaven forbid, burn even slightly because that will significantly raise your risk of getting cancer.

Then we get to alcohol. This gets even more confusing! The first government guideline I can remember advised twenty eight units for men and twenty one for women. This was lowered to twenty one units for men and fourteen for women with at least two alcohol free days every week. Women should not have more than two small glasses of wine a day, which is two units so how can we be allowed fourteen units a week, two alcohol free days and not have any ‘binge’ days?

Then we got new government guidelines suggesting only seven units a week for both men and women! One female member of parliament has told us that every glass of wine we drink we have to understand that it will significantly raise our risk of getting breast cancer!

I have read a number of articles on dementia. In most of them it advises drinking a glass of read wine every night as part of a healthy diet. This will significantly reduce our risk of getting this awful disease! In the same newspaper and on the same day I read that the new government guidelines now suggest being teetotal is the only way to increase our life expectancy!

The diet that we are told is the best in the world is the Mediterranean one! They use a lot of olive oil which we have been told is carcinogenic if it gets even slightly burnt. They also drink a lot of wine! Perhaps their stress levels are lower and their weather significantly better than ours so maybe this could also play a part in their longevity? Or am I being precocious?

When it comes to exercise more confusion reigns! We have been told that road running is hazardous to knees and people my age should totally avoid it! On Monday I watched a programme that turned this directive on its head! Did you know that road running is actually very beneficial to knees and this has been scientifically proven!

I could write reams on this topic! I’m fortunately not as gullible as I was in my youth! I do enjoy good wine and roasts. I don’t have either every day. Moderation has become my new mantra. For me, doing the exercises I enjoy, keeping my weight at an achievable level and not depriving myself of any treats is the way to go!

I could get ridden over by a bus having never experienced a delicious Shiraz or a rare ribeye steak! Life is too short! I don’t have a crystal ball! I don’t want one! I just want a good quality of life. Don’t we all? 👠

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Love yourself ❤️

We are being bombarded by diets. I know it’s that time of year but, open any newspaper or magazine and on television, we, the overweight ‘gullible public’, are given every choice to shift those unwanted Christmas pounds!

And we, the ‘gullible public’, seeing all these celebrities jumping onto the bandwagon and publishing their books filled with ‘photoshopped’ before and after photographs (okay, I’m a cynic) are brainwashed into feeling guilty and disgusted with the sizes and shapes of our bodies.

I have so been there! Even though I have never been on the ‘obese’ spectrum I have often wanted to shift a few pounds! I have tried many of these faddish diets with no long term success! It took me until my late fifties to realise this!

I have always been extremely body conscious. When I was a lot younger I was very thin and unfortunately kept that image as my ultimate goal weight for many years. As I moved through the decades and my body shape changed, keeping hold of this almost anorexic image just made me more determined to shift pounds and exercise to get back to that pre-baby, young teenage shape. Totally unrealistic but the illogical part of my brain was always the dominant one and ruled my life for decades!

But, I have moved on! I don’t know what made me finally accept the ‘me’ I see in the mirror. I didn’t have an epiphany. It was a gradual realisation that the unrealistic image of my body I had clung to for so long had to go!

I used to wear shoulder pads to improve my shape and never look like a pear! I wore leg warmers to enlarge my calves when wearing jeans or trousers! Instead of shopping for clothes to suit my body shape, I followed the fashion trends and used all these often uncomfortable ‘enhancements’ to give me the look I wanted. I’ll tell you a little secret. For many very uncomfortable years I wore tight skirts that showed no lumps or bumps by forcing my poor body into ‘two-ways’ and sitting at a desk for hours suffering often extreme pain and discomfort.

Yes, I deserved all that pain and discomfort but that just shows how bad my problem was! And then the realisation slowly, surreptitiously, began to dawn on me! I found a style that suited me and was comfortable and allowed a few (not too many!) lumps to show. I also changed my lifestyle to suit me. I started running, something I had always wanted to do, slowly building up to five kilometres with no ridiculous pressure to achieve marathon status!

I now choose the exercises I enjoy and, the big bonus, am accepting that the weight I feel the best and is the most achievable is not the waif-like seven stone of my youth. I am not the same woman my husband married. I hope that I am better! Sensible and happy in my own skin. Yes, Christmas does put on a few extra pounds but they soon fall off when life returns to normal. I don’t count calories on holiday either. What a pleasure to embrace special foods and nice wines a few times a year and then enjoy getting back to normal for the months in between.

So, I’m not qualified to give any advice and certainly would not have the audacity to tell anyone what to do! I have just shared my experience with you and want to wish you all a marvellous, happy, healthy, stress-free 2019! 👠

Happy New Year!

The festive season has come and gone! We started with a drinks invitation followed by a Christmas concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic. Singing carols accompanied by the Phil’s choir was really special. Our growls or high pitched squeaks were drowned out by their beautiful angelic tones which lifted the rafters!

We met up with family and friends at pubs or homes and presents soon began to pile up under the Christmas tree in my mother-in-law’s sitting room. Christmas Day was very relaxed. We didn’t have the customary turkey this year but a most enjoyable beef Wellington.

We saw the New Year in with good friends over a meal I had prepared earlier!

New Year’s Day was spent watching a hunt ride past the lane at the bottom of our garden. They were followed closely by protestors, hooded and masked, causing havoc and badly upsetting the hounds. No matter what people think about hunting, and we are all entitled to our own opinions, I strongly object to the manner in which these people behave.

They use Citronella spray to disguise the smell of the fox but this spray can cause extreme discomfort to the hounds. Some saboteurs were driving around on quad bikes and actively causing havoc to both horses and hounds, not to mention the poor unsuspecting walkers and their families out on a New Year’s day stroll. Standing at the bottom of our garden, in relative safety, I felt threatened and very sorry for a few children inadvertently caught up in the mayhem and obviously terrified!

My husband and I did manage to have our walk, albeit much later, in an effort to shift some of the festive season’s excess ‘flab’. The weather has been unseasonably mild and the clear blue sky much appreciated and lifted our moods significantly. I was fine but my husband had to psych himself up for his 4:00 am wake up call in the morning. He heads back down to Oxford and work after an almost two weeks break! And it’s going to be freezing cold so the car will need to be defrosted and care taken on non gritted roads which can be hazardous.

Tomorrow I’ll give the exercise class to the residents at my mother’s care home. The expert is on holiday! I’m walking with friends in the afternoon and will ‘fit in’ some dusting.

Life gets back to normal so quickly. We have the coldest months of the year to look forward to! Snow looks beautiful on postcards but not great if you have to drive in it! So roll on Spring. Were almost there …..👠

I go back to the office

On Wednesday I went back to my old place of work. When I left six months ago I had never expected to return. I had walked to my car, laden with gifts and cards and had made the emotional decision never to go back.

Because that decision had been very emotional and I have settled so well into my new life, I wanted to catch up with some of my ex colleagues. They had become good friends over the years and, life being as it is, I hadn’t been able to arrange to meet up with all of them. So, albeit it with some trepidation, I followed the familiar route and drove back to ‘the office’ .

I walked into reception which looked very different. Christmas decorations adorned the pillars and a professionally decorated Christmas tree held pride of place in the entrance. I was met with a broad grin of recognition by the receptionist and given a visitor’s pass. I gave the name of the colleague who was coming to meet me and, within a couple of minutes, found myself back in my old ‘office’. Unfortunately a number of colleagues were absent but that was bound to happen.

Not a lot had changed. I met two of my colleagues who had helped make my ‘department’ run so smoothly. I had always really appreciated their work ethic and support. Without them my years building a department ‘fit for purpose’ would never have been possible. Spending so much time with them, they had become part of my wider family and I was very pleased to see them looking so well and happy.

Moving through the corridors meeting up with friends again was great. I poked my head around the door of a lady who was also very special. Over many years we had built up a ‘different’ relationship. We would hurl verbal abuse at each other, especially in front of unsuspecting colleagues, pretending that we were the worst of enemies! This does sound strange and quite childish when put into words, but she used to make me laugh which I found very cathartic! On numerous occasions I would become stressed and, just by spending a few minutes with her, she could diffuse the situation.

I was also a work ‘mother’ to a lovely young lady who I still meet up with for coffee. She is a mother, juggling family and work life. Both of us have been through some ‘rough patches’ and I have found her positive and objective advice as helpful as I hope my ‘maturity’ has brought to our special relationship.

Driving out through the car park I was glad that I had made the effort to pay this visit. I had really enjoyed the afternoon. Comments about looking well and stress free were appreciated and not once did I have the tiniest regret that I was no longer a part of the workplace.

I didn’t have to lay any ghosts. I just wanted to wish friends a merry Christmas and all the best for the coming year. It’s been six months since I became a lady of leisure. My how the time has flown! Six marvellous months of choice without deadlines. As their year end looms and the annual visit by the auditors comes with it’s inevitable frustration and long hours ‘dotting i’s and crossing t’s’, I will be planning my next holiday. I know how I would rather be spending my time …….👠

I dance with John Travolta!

Last Friday was my husband”s annual office party. I can share this occasion with you because it was actually very enjoyable! Over the years the saving grace has been the company booking us into hotels so, when the music gets too loud and I give up trying to lip read and be sociable, I can always make a subtle exit!

So Friday was probably the 10th or 11th office party I had attended. Another unpleasant shopping experience (already shared) and another mooch around the hotel room killing time while my husband met his colleagues in one of the board rooms for their annual meeting.

But, this year, the meal was excellent and the company on either side of me very amenable. The music was kept to a sensible level while we worked our way through three delicious courses. Wine and champagne flowed.

Finally, the meal over, the music volume increased and chairs were scraped back from tables. I needed to build up my step count so dragged my husband onto the dance floor. I had forced my feet into seriously high heels and had to really concentrate on keeping my balance and not making a spectacle of myself!

When I felt the familiar vibrations on my wrist that the ten thousand steps goal had been reached that was my cue to leave the dance floor and rest my aching feet! I followed my husband around a few tables, met new colleagues and finally sat down and loosened my shoes.

It was then, out of the corner of my eye, that I caught sight of the coolest young man I have ever seen on a dance floor. Last year I had been so impressed by his expertise that I had told him how amazing he was, much to my husband’s obvious embarrassment! A few glasses of wine and my ‘out load voice’ takes over. My tongue becomes very loose and I morph into a gushing ‘luvvie’, heaping praise on poor unsuspecting victims!

I saw him walking towards me but never expected what was going to happen next! He came up to me, held out his hand and asked me for or a dance. My immediate reaction was to make some trivial excuse about my sore feet. How could I possibly dance with a real live John Travolta? But, biting the bullet, I adjusted my shoes and allowed myself to be led onto the dance floor. He proceeded to guide me, with both hands, spinning me round, first this way, then that, expertly catching me in mid-slip! He made it so easy! As I realised that I wasn’t going to fall, I began to enjoy the whole experience!

I was soon adding my own fancy steps, swinging my hips to the beat, holding tightly to both his hands and even singing loudly to some of the songs! I am seriously cringing as I write this! I imagined my husband turning various shades of green and young girls wondering why this amazing cool dude wasn’t dancing with them! I am such a ‘light weight’ when it comes to alcohol! All I need is a couple of glasses of wine, a good atmosphere, a mesmerising dance partner and I am transported into a fantasy world!

My dance with John Travolta was the first thing I remembered when the alarm woke me on Saturday morning. I had stumbled off the dance floor, my feet barely able to get me back to my table. My husband was still chatting to a colleague and I was to learn, later, as we made our way very slowly to our room, that he hadn’t even seen me dancing!

So, another year is drawing to a close. That will probably be our last office party. My chances of ever dancing with John Travolta again are highly unlikely! I must hasten to add that I won’t lose any sleep over this! It’s probably worked in my favour that my husband didn’t see my performance on the dance floor. I’d never have lived it down!👠

I’m sharing my frustration!

I need to share my frustration! For almost two years I have been working with a tax consultant in South Africa trying to resolve a serious financial issue regarding my mother’s pension. For some reason best known to the tax authorities in South Africa, my mother has, over the last two years, been charged tax, a lot of tax, on her meagre pension.

As I have explained in previous posts, my mother is in a care home. We have had to sell her house and buy an annuity to ensure she can have a good quality of life. My father had always worked really hard and my mother was very careful with their money to the point where we felt that they were missing out on some of the ‘fun’ things in life. But they were determined that they would have enough money for their old age.

So why is life so unfair? The tax my mother now pays is significantly more than she would have to pay in England. Her financial advisor gave me the name of a tax consultant they have dealt with in South Africa. In good faith I contacted the manager and was given a consultant to take on my mother’s case.

I understand that SARS (South African tax office) have been unreasonable in their requests for documentation, albeit my mother has lived in this country for seventeen years and paid tax, in this country, for fifteen of them. The only change in her circumstances is the fact that she is desperately in need of every penny and not able to save anything.

Over the last eighteen months I have supplied the tax office and SARS with everything they have requested. I have had mountains of documents certified as true copies, letters from solicitors, proof from the UK tax office that my mother pays tax in this country and from the UK government that my mother is a British citizen and her permanent place of residence is the United Kingdom!

My issue is that I live in England and cannot run backwards and forwards to a SARS office each time they issue another ludicrous request. My mother has dementia. I have a Power of Attorney over her finances and health and welfare hence the fact I have appointed a tax consultant on her behalf. But I am also totally reliant on the tax consultant for her help and advice. My mother has paid for this and, in good faith, I presumed that the issue would have been resolved within a few months (allowing for delays and the ineptitude of the tax office). Nothing happens quickly in South Africa but throw in the fact that my mother can’t present herself at a local branch, I wasn’t naive enough to expect a timely resolution.

I now find myself in total despair! Not only do I have to put up with idiotic requests from SARS, but the tax consultant obviously does not see this case as warranting any priority! On numerous occasions I have had to chase for an update! I have tried to remain civil. I am aware that I’m not her only client, but have finally flipped!

I have just sent ‘Joyce’ a scathing email. I was promised an update last Thursday. It is now almost a week later. Unacceptable after continued broken promises and delays. If nothing is received by close of business today I’ll report her to her manager. This probably won’t serve any useful purpose but I need to do something.

However, I seriously dread having to start the process all over again! I can already feel the pain, frustration, rage and sheer disbelief at some of the ridiculous requirements that have been thrown at me over the last couple of years! I doubt ‘Joyce’ would transfer the file to another tax consultant should I be lucky enough to find one!

i think I’ll sleep on it. Tomorrow is another day and could bring a result. I’m leaving shortly to go to the care home with my friend to give the residents a Christmas’ exercise class. I have downloaded Christmas songs so we should all have some fun! Isn’t that what life should be all about? 👠

Christmas shopping 🛍

I wish I could get into the Christmas spirit and ‘feel the love’ for shopping. I am determined that I am going to buy gifts this year and not hand out gift vouchers or cheques. However, the caveat is my family in the USA who will have dollars because I wouldn’t have a clue what to get them and the postage would cost an arm and a leg!

So I am trawling the internet, watching some daytime television (ugh) and desperately trying to think of what I can get family and friends who seem to come up with thoughtful novelty gifts for me each year! I am feeling even more despondent because I received a WhatsApp message from my lovely, organised and thoughtful cousin in South Africa who has significantly more family and friends to cater for, and was wrapping her last gift!

Tomorrow, after the exercise class at the care home, I am going to our local town and will trawl the shops. Chester didn’t inspire me so I am scraping the barrel by going to Northwich! There is a market and a few ‘okay’ shops I can peruse at my leisure. I’ll allow myself a couple of hours and try not to get too stressed! There is a family owned department store that sells delicious gluten free cakes so, if all else fails, I’ll pop in there for some inspiration!

12 hours later…….

I have reviewed my shopping list and written some ideas alongside names. I have also had a good night’s sleep so feel more positive! I’m going to widen my search by going to shops I don’t usually frequent and see if I can find novelty gifts instead of getting hung up on nice but practical!

Another 12 hours later ……..

We have lift off! Barring my mother-in-law and my husband (I know what I’m getting them so just have to order) I have finished my Christmas shopping! I have bought pretty bags and tissue paper so wrapping will be a doddle. I have gone for the fun instead of the practical! My daughter and son-in-law are having a ‘lucky dip’ hamper which should bring a smile to their faces as well as some semi-practical treats!

Today I’ll be getting into the Christmas spirit by helping serve a Christmas lunch on our Park. I take my mother and a carer out for tea this afternoon and meet two very good friends for a Christmas lunch tomorrow.

I wonder if ‘Fitbit’ has programmed Christmas treats for December so will cut me some slack! There again, maybe not! Maybe I’ll just put him back in his box and bring him out again in January! 👠