Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Middle-Aged Ladies' Bottom-Shrinking Classes



Now that I am officially a Middle Aged Lady, I feel moved to attend a bottom-shrinking class. 


I have noticed that my cake and biscuit consumption can no longer be offset by simply pottering about the shops and dancing in nightclubs.  Largely because I hardly ever do either any more. 


Calling it a Middle-Aged Ladies' bottom-shrinking class makes it sound quite gentle. But once you're a Middle Aged Lady you have to work hard, really hard, to shrink your bottom. 


You have to do circuits. 


Circuits is presided over by Wendy. Wendy is made out of solid muscle. Wendy will make you do things with weights. Wendy will make you sweat till you leave a little damp patch on the exercise mat. 


Don't get me wrong. Wendy is no concentration-camp guard, although with her black lycra and smile there is something of the dominatrix about her. She's actually much kinder than you think when she's exhorting you to "work harder, faster". If you lack childcare and should have to bring a toddler, Wendy will patiently hold the toddler's hand while you repeatedly slam a medicine ball into a mat, or do burpees. And she'll laugh along when you fall off the gym ball, again. 


She patiently goes round telling you to keep your shoulders back, squeeze your core or lift your knees higher. 


Not fun. But the results are worth it, right? 


Well boo to you! It is fun. (I know! My sports-shy, cocktail-quaffing, shop-pottering younger self is aghast.)


Firstly, it's a bit like school. We're grown up now; we're parents; we're responsible for everything all the bloody time. For an hour a week (or two if you're keen), somebody else bosses you about. It's such a relief not to be the one making all the decisions. You will do squats with bicep curls (awful), then the bridge with overhead lift (dreadful), then Mountain Climbers (sheer hell!)  and there's nothing you can do about it. 

Secondly, it's women working together. In the Olden Days, we'd have been down by the river, bashing our laundry on the rocks and sweating and laughing. Or we'd have been harvesting, or  - I dunno - whacking rugs with those curly wicker things. Something physical and hard work, but together. Now all that housework takes place behind closed doors. And while I'd never swap my Bosch 250 for a pile of rocks and some caustic soda, doing the washing isn't something we share anymore. 

Thirdly , it's a tiny bit like clubbing.  With drugs and everything. 

I'm going back a bit now (Middle Aged Lady, remember). But you know those times when you were in a club and the DJ plays a CHOON and it appears as though everyone has come up on their E at exactly the same?  And the buzz is just amazing and you're using your body, and getting sweaty and you're in a room full of people and everyone's smiling and thinking "this is brilliant, I really am alive!" Well you get that. Fleetingly. Occasionally.  And that's what keeps me going back. 


Actually, what really keeps me going back is the pain, the terrible pain when you stop. 

Your buttocks feel like fists of pain, the front of your thighs are agony. You can't do stairs any more without leaning hard on the bannisters. Let's not even talk about sitting on the loo. 


Go once a week and the pain will last for a day, maybe two. Leave it for a fortnight, or - worse - a month, it'll fuck up your life for a week. 


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Hand-made Christmas - an apology.

I love to make things. It makes me so happy.

Planning projects, finding materials, locking myself away with knitting needles, sewing machine or craft knife is just heaven. It's as if you're doing something useful and productive, but without the useful-and-productive thing being actually that useful.

The trouble is, I'm just not that good at it. In fact, everything I've made is just a little bit rubbish. I'm not very good at finishing things. As in, there are a lot of half-made projects in my house; but also as in I'm not nearly pernickety enough.

The corners of my sewing projects are a bit, well, un-cornery. The sewing-up of my knitting is far from  invisible. My decoupage? Oh lord, my decoupage is lumpy.

And the projects I choose to make: weird, just weird. A pair of knitted breasts; a Ferrero Rocher box emblazoned with a Rod Stewart collage; a packet of chocolates that look strangely like poos: "Loulou's Lumps".

For the last few years, I have elected to use my handcrafting "skills" to make presents for my beloved friends and family.

Poor bastards.

I don't think my brother will ever recover from opening his giant stripy gloves. "There's no such thing as too much space for thumbs, Loulou." Tactful boy.

As the man in receipt of this year's Ferrero Rocher/Rod Stewart collaboration, he'll be glad we aren't seeing each other this year. He'll have plenty of time to compose his face before the Christmas Skype this afternoon.

My theory is: kids'  presents are about "how long can I keep you busy before you start fighting with your siblings?" For adult males, it's "How much can I make you laugh on Christmas morning?"

What the shops want me to buy for my grown-up brothers can do that. A stick-on-moustache? "Vintage" aftershave gift-set? Or if I want to get them something useful, there's vouchers. Vouchers? Oh I dunno... It doesn't say "thoughtful" does it? And in order to make a voucher worth having you have to blow the budget you've carefully agreed. You can make that budget go so much further if you hand-make.

So, dear family and friends, this Christmas you are opening a parcel of something that looks like crap. (Literally, if you're getting Loulou's Lumps) Sorry.

But here's the process:

- I thought about you when I planned it.
- I thought  about you when I bought the bits and bobs I needed.
- I thought about you with every cut (and occasional slip) of the craft knife, every slop of the PVA, with every wobbly seam and every time my swearing machine refused to cooperate.


In every frayed edge, dropped stitch, mis-shaped lump, in every "no seriously, what actually is it?" there is love.

Merry Christmas. I'm sorry I'm not there to see your bemused faces this year.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The one about leg hair

Why, when I am a natural blonde, have I been cursed - cursed I tell you - with the pelt of an otter on my legs?
Actually, not an otter, because I think sleek, glossy brown fur would be a) insulating and b) rather beautiful. If I could grow a thick pelt, I might look like a sort of lady faun. A sexy Mrs Tumnus, in my high heels, with my twinkly eyes. And my furry buttocks.
But no, I have nasty, dark hairs that seem to morph from relatively innocuous blonde to black as soon as I bare my legs on a sunny day. The worst are the ones on the back of my thighs. Not the downy, sparse blonde hair, gleaming in the sunlight I imagine when I feel them. Actually, thick and -in comparison to my Scottish-Blue complexion - DARK DARK and slightly curled. Like my pubes have sent out a mission with a view to colonising.
In fact, it all feels a bit like guerrilla (gorilla?? Oh Ha bloody Ha) warfare down there. There's an inexhaustible supply and appetite for sacrifice among the enemy personnel. No matter what weaponry I use, on they come. On... on... on. I shave, they come. I wax, they come. More expensive weaponry, more blood, sweat and tweezers, here they come, over the crest of the hill. Marching, marching, marching on. It's my superior technology versus their sheer force of numbers.
Okay, so if you're Mediterranean, you're looking at me as if to say "get over it, girl. I've been doing this since I was 12". BUT... BUT.. my dusky friends... now add in the corned beef legs, the broken veins, the not-being-able-to-hang-up-a-washing-without-getting-sunburnt. In May. Where's my compensation? Eh? You have your delicious skin tone that means, once those legs are smooth, you can just bare your legs. Like that. Without thinking. Not me. To get my legs smooth and lightly tanned, is hours of work. Even the palest fake tan looks like orange streaks against my stilton-y legs. By the time my legs are summer-ready, the leaves are falling off the trees.
Maybe this is my punishment for being a bit vain about my fast-growing and luxuriant head hair *swishes in slow-motion*. Probably. I'll just have to keep being a trouser girl. Or stop giving a shit. Well, I'm getting there...

A 10th anniversary message. Late but nonetheless sincere

This year, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. We didn't have a party - though we'd planned to. We sort of forgot. We had a lovely weekend camping on Exmoor though. (We quite often do this instead of grand plans and it's almost always better.)
But I've been thinking: I didn't speak at our wedding. I suppose I wanted to let him get a word in edgeways for once in his life. But maybe I'd say a few words at an imaginary anniversary party. A party that would somehow involve speeches (because we are that grand). So here is what I'd say:
"Let's raise a glass in celebration of a one-night stand that went horribly, horribly wrong.
Before I met S, I had a list of requirements for a new boyfriend. I wanted a grown-up: own car, decent job, own hair. [cue laughter: he's bald bald bald] But, across the crowded party, my eyes were drawn (not for the first time, I'm afraid) to a shiny, shaven head. What can I say? I have a type and it's a niche market. But it was the smile that kept me looking.
An evening talking nonsense at party 1 led to party 2 and more nonsense. Then - trumpets sound! - our first kiss. Let's make it clear: I was not going to kiss this man. For once, woman, you are going to have a male friend. You are not going to snog him, ruin it. Just keep it clean for once. Skip the awkward morning after, keep him forever.
Well, the moment - and his lips - loomed large. I just remember seeing the white out-of-focus disc of his face approaching (did I say we'd had tequila?) and thinking "Oh, I'm not going to be able to get out of this one!" He was so funny and friendly, I wasn't exactly going to push him away. So in he came for the clinch.
There is a picture of us, taken almost immediately after this kiss. He is looking a little bit dazed and a little bit stoned (well... it was a party). I like to think he looks a bit smug. I am looking sheepish (and so YOUNG!). I'm pointing at my mouth as if to say "oops!" but my eyes are shining.
So, let's glaze over the details but - ho hum - we went back to his place.
And to use a footballing analogy. It's not so much that it was a great match (I mean, it was fine, honey) but the post-match banter was amazing.
There was no awkward morning after.
I did get to keep him forever.
And because you guys [at the imaginary party, remember] want to get on with drinking and chatting I'll probably leave it there. I won't embarrass you by saying that my favourite thing in the world is still lying in bed chatting and giggling with him. And that I wish we did it more.
I won't tell you how pleased I am that I kept him. That he is the most amazing husband and father, because he looks after his boys and me with such love and hard work. How we all know we're at the top of his list of priorities at all times. He's my best friend - and he's a bloke!
I won't tell you all that. But just for the record. It's true."