Friday, 31 October 2014


Can you remember when Halloween became such a big deal? As a youngster a small group of us would do "trick or treat" with immediate neighbours and we would receive a sweet or two .
Now we seem to have imported the US's fascination with this occasion.

The supermarkets are full of outfits....dresses, hats , masks, brooms, face has become a complete industry in itself.  Most of these items can be used to good effect at the school disco.....which has become a big social event on the calendar.

There is part of me that is against yet another bit of commercialisation but somehow I have become reconciled to it when I see the impact on my 2 little grandchildren. They love dressing up and the glitter and the whole fun of it.

The only time it can turn into something which is a little more menacing is when much older children turn up on your doorstep - this can be intimidating and quite frightening particularly for much older people - even though there is probably no ill intent.  I remember my mother being quite distressed at the thought of being subjected to the constant knocking on the front door or the bell being pressed incessantly.

I also remember a few years ago we were tired of answering the door and decided enough was enough only to find the following morning that our car had been covered with flour and water and we never fully removed the glooky mess from around the windows.

It is forecasted to be good weather tonight.....which should bring out more revellers so we are going out for a meal............humbug!!

NHS - good health and longevity!

Following on from my last blog have a look at this article -

I suppose the results are obvious that looking after yourself does pay dividends in later life and possibly extend your life. No matter how much research is done and no matter how convincing the evidence you are still going to get those who will be in complete denial.

I know communicating to those who will not hear is a real challenge so in a very small way.......
Here is a suggestion.....Maybe the walls in GP's surgeries and waiting rooms in hospitals should be covered in posters on diet, fitness, calories, portion control, exercise etc. just providing simple messages and advice. At least while patients are waiting they have someting meaningful to stare at and who knows there may be some who start to take responsibility for their own excesses.Statistically  this is worth a shot.......and I don't mean just one poster but several each with actions to be taken.

Well that's my thought for the day - what thoughts do you have on helping ourselves and reducing burden on NHS?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Help the NHS by helping ourselves!!

Last week we had lunch with friends.  One of the couples - I'll call Janet and John to save blushes - they were noticeably different as they entered the dining room.  Each has lost lost 2 stones in the last 4 months.  They actually brought this up as a topic of discussion ....and it transpired that  they had been on the 5:2 diet most commonly known as the feast : famine diet.  This is misleading as the "5 feast days" are still supposed to be sensible. Balanced food and reasonable portions. The famine days tend to be 5-600 calories.  I am not advocating any diet in particular it depends on what works for you and you may want to look at this website from NHS which summarises the various diets which are popular.

The fascinating thing about observing people who have lost weight is to register and understand the changes.  Janet who has always been v attractive is even more so now.  Her eyes have become more dominant and focus of attention.  She has accentuated her figure and appears more vital.  John was more streamlined and fit looking - more in keeping with his martial arts interests.  However the most significant thing for him was that he no longer needed statins!  If anything isn't this a fantastic recommendation for losing weight?!

For both they seemed to have had a "light bulb " moment.  They expanded on the facts to say that they realised that things had to change and that the change in food and portions must become a new way of life. Janet also said that when they calculated the alcohol units they consumed in a week they were horrified.  She went on to outline the familiar path many of us take ...a hard day .....end of...have a glass of wine...then another.....and then you become removed from reality about the number of units you have ingested.  So they have cut out booze during the week and have a glass or two at weekends.

They have decided to lose another stone and then work at maintaing this new level.

What is clear is that in this obesity crisis the NHS is facing we need to find the "light bulb" moment -for these 2- they seemed to come to the same conclusion and then supported each other.

We need to desperately tap into what ever will spark this realisation ....another friend we say about 3 months ago had lost 3 stones in weight - we were amazed and when we enquired as to why ...he said he had had his routine medical and what he heard has disturbed him enough to do something.

I really feel that gastric bands are not the answer to obesity to sustain quality life and a meaningful change in habits.  I have mentioned here 2 different examples and there are so many more reasons as to way other alternatives are preferable.

The NHS can't cope.

We need to be responsible!!  We all need to help each other and to be honest about our excesses. It can't always be everyone else's problem but recognise it is yours!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Funny Old Week......

Just about a week ago doing mundane things we found ourselves in a country lane which I had travelled down once before.  I cautioned my husband about a particular bend I remembered and we gingerly travelled towards it much trepidation. As we approached it a vehicle immerged towards us in the opposite direction. My husband stopped but the other vehicle a large horse transporter van continued upon its path on our side of the road.

I never know I could scream so loud!! I heard the crunch of the rear of the oncoming vehicle as it cut the corner.  In seconds you feel the fear and the hopelessness of your situation. It crushed the front of our car and as we were sandwiched against a high hedge we had nowhere to go!
This wasn't helped by the driver of the other vehicle saying it was our fault even though the evidence and position of our car spoke for itself.  I started to feel sorry for him until this declaration!  Fortunately for  us we had two witnesses and then the other driver accepted full responsibility and liability.

As many of you know with these accidents it isn't just a matter of the accident but the bureaucracy which follows.  I feel as if I have spent the rest of the past week on the phone!  At one stage the numerous bodies involved in insurance, brokers, garages...etc actually "lost" our car....I was asked if I could help.......

Still not resolved far from it  ...... after another conversation was like starting over again.....was the vehicle with me ?   Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!
I managed to keep my cool and I am assured that someone will be in touch shortly with a comprehensive update.........why do I not feel hopeful.........?

You literally don't know what is around the corner.........

Monday, 13 October 2014

Christmas Presents.....Lazy Lizards....

If you are looking for something a little different for small children this Christmas take a look at these delightful handmade toys.  These were on sale at the conference I attended last week and of course I couldn't resist!!

My grandchildren really love them!!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Farmers Market.....

Great day at Farmers Market in St Albans - little more expensive but not by much... The maker runs every second Sunday in every month and is with a trip for the food, the atmosphere and also today for the jazz band!!

We bought a punnet of tomatoes, giant purple cauliflower, giant savoy cabbage, 6 courgettes, 12 carrots, bag of new potatoes, large quantity of sprouts........all for £8.20!

The size of the cauli and cabbage are huge difficult to see from photo ....but this will keep us going for well over a week probably even a fortnight and will probably end up freezing some of it.

We finished off excursion with a long Sunday lunch........bliss :)

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Lord of the Dance....

We went to see Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance at the London Palladium last Thursday.  What a treat!  I did wonder if the we would find the performance a little repetitive - but we needn't have worried. The story is essentiallyabout good over evil and was played out with tremendous dramatic effect and the dancing was incredibly hypnotic. The Little Spirit didn't appear to have a bone in her body as she rolled and twisted like a fast moving snake!  We were also treated to holograms of Michael Flatley which added another dimension to the awesome technical effects.  We left really uplifted but also exhausted - we felt as if we had been taking part in this energetic show.  So pleased we went to see this so memorable! Here is a more detailed explanation of the performance.

Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance is a multi-award-winning international phenomenon and his latest show presents a dazzling world of colour, movement and song. Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is an electrifying new production of Flatley’s original magnum opus, featuring outstanding new talent, new staging, new costumes and new music by Gerard Fahy, and directed and choreographed by the man himself. 
A company of forty performers, led by the supremely gifted James Keegan, tell the story of Little Spirit (gymnastics champion Alice Upcott) who must travel through time to help the Lord of the Dance protect his people from the evil Don Dorcha. 
The story of Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is drawn from Irish folklore and this vivacious and visually striking production showcases an incredible blend of the modern and the traditional where precision choreography is matched with extraordinary light effects and pyrotechnics. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Curtis Stigers

As a welcome relief to politics we went to see Curtis Stigers in Guildford last night.  If you love jazz, the saxophone and the throaty husky voice of Curtis Stigers you were in for a treat.

It reminded me of going to Ronnie Scotts in my youth when similar music was played with brilliant musicians which seemed quite decadent.  The difference then was that you sat in smoke filled rooms which made it feel sleazy not that it mattered then.

CS sang many of his famous hits including "I wonder why...." and some new ones from his album.

It was a memorable occasion in a venue which worked well.  Never been to G'Live but it proved to fit the bill!

We stayed at the Mandolay in Guildford which was only a stone's throw from the concert and was very comfortable and welcoming.

We had a pre concert meal at  which we thoroughly enjoyed.. Novel only having a choice of Lobster or steak (there was one veggie option) and as their blurb says cuts down time  on decision making........lobster was great...

Came back this morning along with my signed copy of CS's CD.  My husband thought this highly amusing....he said "but you don't listen to CDs  you download"  I retorted "I will this can you sign a download?".....   :-)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Autumn Comfort Food....

While we were way last week we had to eat was enjoyable but we reflected on the fact that we really didn't eat much veg. We felt quite uncomfortable and we realised that our normal eating pattern had been compromised.  Sometimes though you need to be less good than usual and let your hair down but my husband and I felt we couldn't do this long term.

When I was working and travelling a great deal it was a work of art trying to find things on the menu which would be healthy, satisfy my hunger and not have too many calories.

With my last blog I talked about obesity and I have had mails saying that people can't afford to eat healthily.  I really challenge this.  The couple in the hotel I mentioned must have had some funds to stay in the hotel.  There were healthier options and not unattractive options but the woman I mentioned chose  not to opt for them.

If we are talking about day to day meals again it is a nonsense you can eat healthy and it is probably cheaper than buying prepared meals.

Take today I prepared a large pan pan carrot and coriander soup....onion, carrots, stock, coriander (fresh or dried) salt + pepper  on hob for 20 mins liquidise serves at least 8 people, very filling and nutritional ....cost £1.50  calories v low

I also cooked batch of fish pies ....contained salmon, cod, smoked haddock home made white sauce fish stock cube, mashed potatoes salt + pepper  cost under £6 for 5 pies

All ingredients from Lidl!!

Next bleat is I don't have the time....before I retired and when the children were young I spent a couple of hours at the weekend making meals to freeze for the week - I was always determined that the children would not lose out because I had to go to work - meals were great, provided wholesome cost effective ingredients and I knew what had gone into them and that they were not eating rubbish. It really was not a big deal!  People watch cookery programmes showing how to do the everyday simple cheap meals and regard it as entertainment rather than a way of life to follow.

People look for excuses it is a matter of knowing the cooking basics which I learned at my mothers knee and applying yourself.  If you don't know how to book basics theres lots of help out there. If you think it is a big problem it probably will be........

Back to Good Habits!!

I hate to say it but these past few days I have missed my daily gym routine! Inevtiably Conference means you have to sit for hours on end and your joints start to complain.  Certainly mine felt decidedly uncomfortable.  Yes I know I probably could have fitted in some exercise but it wouldn't have been easy.

I must confess today is my first day back in the gym and I have started to change my routine.  Before we went away I had an assessment on "Body Composition".  This has been made available at our gym with the first session free so I thought I might as well. Below is the blurb on this which explains what it provides much better than I can.   you just need to stand on the base and hold the hand grips for a couple of minutes and the machine then comes up with a variety of calculations which is produced like a supermarket till receipt.

I was quite sceptical about this at first but the results were impressive - the trainer takes you through your weight, muscle etc.  just as it says below.  I was amazed how I was carrying a little more fat in one leg than the other, arms were about the same....anyway the upshot was that I needed to work on my upper half more ....the core and so more weights!!  I also have to vary the routine in the gym - I do tend to concentrate on the cross trainer but now will alternate with other pieces and combine with weights.

Whats for sure is that there is no room for complacency.

I will have a further assessment in 3 months time and see if I have made progress with the various measures.

I returned home today feeling much better, energised and very warm and my knees felt much more flexible.......I know I will ache tomorrow but it will be worth it.

The addition of hand grips to Tanita's standard platform-based electrode system allows the BC-418 body composition analyzer to calculate regional body composition, empowering healthcare professionals to better determine health risks associated with abdominal fat.
Tanita is proud to introduce a significant improvement to the calculation of Basal Metabolic Rate. Instead of simply relying on weight, age, and gender, Tanita's proprietary formula takes into account Fat Free Mass, providing a higher level of accuracy compared to current BMR. Through the use of 8 polar electrodes, the Tanita BC-418 Segmental Body Composition Analyzer can show separate body mass readings for the right arm, left arm, trunk, right leg and left leg. It also prints out a complete body composition profile in seconds: including Weight, Body Fat Percentage, Body Fat Mass, Body Mass Index (BMI), Fat Free Mass, Estimated Muscle Mass, Total Body Water and Basal Metabolic Rate. The all-in-one compact column mount design, with integrated printer, makes the BC-418 perfect for use in small, dedicated spaces.
Tanita's professional Body Composition Analyzers provide weight and a complete body composition analysis in less than 30 seconds. All professional models use a single-point load cell weighing system in the scale platform to guarantee absolute precision and unbelievable longevity (up to 300, 000 uses before calibration.)

All political parties have been discussing the NHS  and the pressures it is facing.  Of course prevention is better than cure.  Most people will do what they can but others don't seem to feel that they need to........the obesity crisis which is a major concern was touched upon in a Q&A sessions. Many have opinions on the use of gastric bands and what can be done as alternatives.

Education is seen as one solution or part of the solution.  Personally I think we are all exposed to so much information on eating healthily and  about the need to combine with exercise but people choose to ignore the advice on offer and nothing you say or do will change their ways.

At our hotel this week, a couple appeared at the buffet breakfast and sat at the next table to us.  The man was slim and the woman was quite overweight. They were probably in their early 40s. Both went to collect their cooked breakfast.  The man returned with a modest plateful of food.  The woman had a considerable amount on her plate...sausages, bacon eggs, hash browns, baked beans......  She ate all of this and then followed with toast and fruit salad.  After a few minutes we heard her say she was still a bit peckish and she returned with another cooked breakfast......

I found this quite depressing - I don't have the answers. I do feel however the person needs to change themselves and to find what will it take for them to stop bad habits. Sadly for some it is when a significant medical issue arises........

Friday, 3 October 2014

Highlights from Conservative Conference.......

Since we came back from Birmingham we have said how tired we are ......maybe it is our age but we think it was also about concentration, great conversations and the socialising ....

Then this morning we saw David Cameron in Afghanistan on Sky we both commented on how resilient he must be - what stamina!  Having had a successful conference he then visited by elections before flying off to Afghanistan still as fresh as a daisy, looking statesmanlike and being up to speed with his next brief.

We have come to the conclusion to be a top politician you need so many qualities including the ability, like Margaret Thatcher, to need little sleep!....oh and rhino hide!!!

There were many notable speeches and I am sure you aware of them already.  For us we really enjoyed William Hague, Phillip Hammond, Theresa May and David Cameron.  All spoke with such passion and authority.

The most difficult point I think for David Cameron was talking about his son and the NHS.  His voice broke at one point but he managed to recover - that takes courage with something which is so painful to you.

Samantha Cameron conducted herself with dignity throughout and looked amazing on the final day. What she had to contend with along with the PM was the constant, in your face, photographers. I know they have a job to do but why take so many of what is essentially the same shot?  Well we all know why when we see the papers the following day - they want some kind of slip or emotion which captured the moment and which will be quite lucrative.

Some photographers where about 3 feet from Samantha Cameron pointing their lenses at her
face - must have been really disturbing.

The atmosphere during the whole conference was really positive and upbeat - quite at odds with some
of the reporting which went on. After Cameron's speech the atmosphere in the Symphony Hall was electric and the standing
ovation went on for quite a while.

What is amazing about these events is how enjoyable they are and can be.  I am sure it must be the same for all parties. It is not only about politics but also about thought provoking issues and speakers who come from all walks of life.  One was Victoria Pendleton who talked about the importance of sport in a child's life and how it should be encouraged for all the benefits which ensue.

We heard from schoolchildren and from school leavers who had achieved great things against all odds.  Not taking the conventional university route but instead testing their arm in entrepreneurship with great success.

You also mingle with people you think you know but only because they grace your living rooms on the TV on a regular basis!!!

Apologies for quality of photos as very difficult to take in the least they weren't intrusive!

It is great particularly at our age to have a common interest and to indulge - keeps the grey cells working!!

So now its looking to the General Election which is going to be a tremendous challenge and gearing up for all the leaflet deliveries!!!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Back from Birmingham!!

Well it has been a fascinating few days.  We arrived in Birmingham on Saturday ready for the Conservative Conference start the following day.  It has been a few years since I have been to the centre of Birmingham and it certainly has seen some changes.  Now mainly pedestrianised and much easier to get around.

However we were amazed at the number of shoppers and preachers!  
There were many people representing at least 4 religions - using different forms of communication including loudhailers, leaflets, engaging in conversation, selling books. Running the gauntlet seemed quite incongruous and a contrast to the swell of customers thronging into the main Bull Ring shopping centre intent on buying the latest fashion item.  We walked around Selfridges and we were fascinated by the serious buying that was being conducted ....particularly in the shoe department.  I enviously saw a couple of pairs of Louboutins flying off the shelves.  We are not talking small money here and it was encouraging that there seemed to be considerable disposable income which was being ploughed back into the economy and can only help in sustaining our economic recovery.
my husband relishing the lobster!!! La Galleria

A disappointment we did find that there was a dearth of individual restaurants - plenty of franchises but they are so formulaic.  It was only by chance that we came across an Italian restaurant  last Monday night which had only just opened.

La Galleria is a family business and had an extensive menu which was not exclusively Italian (although that would not have been a problem). We indulged in their wonderful speciality fish courses as it was a very special birthday for my husband.  We had a lovely evening - the food and service were exceptional.

So we had four and a half days combining the Conference and a City Break ...more to follow.....