Wednesday, 19 February 2014

An open letter to Marks and Spencer

Dear Marks and Spencer,

It has come to my attention this morning that you have copied the literary art of Northampton artist Louise Verity of BookishlyUK.

I understand that Louise brought it to your attention buy the proper methods, but that you have replied that your product is not a copy. So I guess that means you are not going to do anything about the problem.

I'm sorry that your company has had the wool pulled over your eyes by either an in-house artist of your own, or an agency. But the fact remains, the product is a copy and you need to do something about it.

BookishlyUK is well within their rights to take further action against you on this, and I can assure you Louise isn't going to 'go away' perhaps like you hope that small fry will. She has the means to take this as far as it needs to go, and also the support of her peers and customers, who don't take this kind of thing lightly.

I understand how much money you have probably sunk into the product, and you will want to recoup that money, so you are not going to want to pull them from sale. But you are going to have to because this will cost you in PR and in legal fees. How much will it cost you in PR we can't say as yet. It's pretty early doors. But I will say that the kind of people that the product is pitched at would be intelligent folk. Intelligent folk have a tendency not to appreciate large corporations copying independent artists work (deliberately or otherwise). Intelligent folk also tend to use social media...intelligently. This story will gain momentum quickly, and not in a good way for your company.

Wouldn't it be simpler to just admit the mistake and fire the employee or agency who copied? If it is an agency, you can seek compensation through them via the correct means.

M&S, it is what you do next that counts. Can we really count on you?

Bookishly product on the left, M&S product on the right.

Yours sincerely,

Diana Parkhouse
badgers badgers ltd

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

If I should die - Monkey


Where to begin.

At the time of writing (February 2014) Monkey is 13 turning 14 years old some time this year. Monkey is a large black and white de-sexed female domestic short hair cat. She was born in a feral cat colony in Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Australia, sometime in 2000. Monkey was trapped along with her relatives and brought to the Waterworks Road Vet Surgery in Ashgrove, a Western suburb of Brisbane, for rehabilitation or euthanasia.

Monkey and her relatives were wild. They could not be handled without thick welders gloves and were terrified of humans. Monkey was named 'Daisy' because of her cow print markings. She was approximately 4-5 months old. I was the animal attendant for the vet surgery at the time, and it was up to me to clean and tend the feral cats. They all fell ill with cat flu, and required medication. After many weeks of care in isolation, where the only person she was seeing each day was me, Monkey became attached to her care giver, but was still vile with everyone else. All of the other cats from the colony were euthanised.

I adopted Monkey as it was clear that she had become imprinted and would not be able to be re-homed elsewhere. Her name change came a few weeks into coming home with me. It just suited her better.

Monkey has a very strong and wilful personality. She is still fearful of anyone who she does not know well. She has proven that she is able to develop attachments to people other than me, and while I remain her favourite person, she would cope with re-homing given enough time and understanding. For this reason I do not want her to be euthanised if I should die. Yes, she will present a challenge, but she is still special and frankly quite a personality. She is capable of expressing great joy and deserves to be allowed to live out her natural days.

When Monkey was between 1-2 years old, she had a (assumed ) run in with a car and her rear left leg was broken. It was repaired and sports three metal pins in a teepee shape. It has affected her life very little, but I do think it aches from time to time. I only say this because she seeks to keep that side of her body warm. She especially likes to sleep on an open lap top if she can find one unattended. Warning, this leads to her accidentally changing keyboard and lap top settings.

Monkey hates cold weather, and it makes her angrier than she normally is. In warm weather she likes to sunbathe. Monkey likes to 'find' her water outside, and prefers to drink from puddles. She will drink from a water bowl if she absolutely has to. Monkey also prefers to toilet outside, and will only go in a litter box if presented with no other option. She will hang on for a long time in the hope of being able to go outside.

Monkey is very much a inside/outside cat. She would not be happy if she had to be an indoors only cat. She knows how to use a cat door. She is kept in at night with the other cats, but does like to be let out/let in/let out/let in/let out/let in and will do this dance for a few hours with you before settling down. She doesn't go far, only to have a drink or to toilet, so I tolerate this ridiculous behaviour. Monkey sleeps on our bed, both during the day and the night. She has done this her entire life and it would not be fair at this age for her to have to stop. I'm not even sure she would allow this to happen.

Monkey can be violent and is not afraid of using her claws. She does not like to be picked up and carried or cuddled and will hiss, spit and complain loudly. When you put her down, do so with extended arms, as she will spin around and try to slice you open with her claws. However, she will choose to sit on you sometimes, and at night she will spend the entire night trying to sleep on you. It starts from the moment you go to bed. She will approach your face and start breathing on you, touching your face with hers. It is really creepy and very annoying and it has been my life for almost 14 years now. She will attempt to nestle in beside you, and will object loudly if you push her away. If you do push her away, she will just wait until you are asleep and than begin assaulting you again. You may or may not get used to it.

She has a very strong and strange personality. When she gets to know you well she will approach you when you are seated and attempt to make out with your face and your hair. If you don't have hair, she will make out with your bald head.

She hates dogs and can be violent with other cats. However, she lives successfully with 4 other cats and 1 dog. Two of the cats she can be quite mean to, one of them she ignores completely. However Boo Boo the cat is so disarmingly sweet that she has even bewitched Monkey, and Monkey quite likes to play a gentle chase game with Boo. Other animals get used to Monkey and learn to avoid her, not the other way around.

Monkey has a good appetite, and has eaten Hills Science Diet Adult Chicken dry food her entire life. She is used to it being available for her 24 hours a day. She also has a wet food breakfast daily, and prefers single serve 'posh' tins of a saucy flavour. She will eat pouch food, but only Gourmet Perle. Attempts to feed other brands result in a waste of money.

Monkey would need a long adjustment period for a new home. She would have to be kept inside for perhaps a month while she gets to know and trust you. She will spend the first few days hiding under a bed or behind a couch. She is NOT suited for family life with young children. She may learn to tolerate teenagers, especially if one of them is animal mad and spends a lot of time earning her trust. 

While I understand re-homing older cats is difficult, and that her personality is less than delightful, Monkey is a rewarding cat to have in your life. There is something quite disarming about being able to win her trust. It's like some sort of test that you feel special about having passed.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

If I should die - Indy

At the time of writing Indy will turn 15 months old this month (Feb 2014). He was adopted as a puppy on January 17th 2013 from Starfish Dog Rescue in Gloucestershire. If for any reason I am no longer able to care for Indy, he very much reverts in ownership back to Gillian of Starfish. I signed a contract stating as much. Please contact Gillian at Starfish to make arrangements for Indy's re-homing. If you are a friend or relative of mine and you want to adopt Indy, you'll need to pass a home check. Please can my friends and family give this Gilly and ensure that whoever ends up taking Indy on, that they have read it? I will update this I am sure, but for now here is what you need to know about Indy.

Indy is a Catalan Sheepdog mix. He is one of a litter of 6 puppies dumped in Spain and brought to the UK by Starfish Dog Rescue. Indy is black and white, medium haired, and about 15kg. He has a distinctive white patch on his nose.

Indy is a smart dog. He knows the following commands: sit, drop (finger down), roll over (rolling motion with hand), stand (waggle hand beside you), shake (hold out your right hand, he gives his right paw). He will do all of these behaviours beautifully when at home with no distractions. He will sometimes do them out and about, but I tend not to ask him to. When on the lead he knows 'wait' when you are at the curb, but he needs further work on this. I use 'cross cross' to walk across the road. He pulls hard on the lead no matter how long it is. He is used to a long extending lead. This is for everyone's sanity as short lead walking makes him utterly miserable. He likes to sniff and pee, and sees it as one of his jobs.

When off-lead he is a mixed bag. He knows 'Indy come', although obeys it irregularly. When he does we make a hell of a fuss, and he is getting better by increments. Some days he is an absolute dream off-lead. Most days he is variable. And sometimes he is an embarrassing asshole. When Indy misbehaves off-lead, he manages do so in a spectacular fashion. His weaknesses are other dogs, and cats. If Indy sees another dog when off-lead, he will want to go to that dog. If you are between him and the other dog, you may have a chance to stop him if you want, but you will need to be fast. If Indy is ahead of you and sees another dog, he will not come back to you. If the other dog is on-lead and grumpy, Indy will take a wide berth, although you cannot be guaranteed that he will ignore the dog entirely. If the other dog is off-lead and grumpy, Indy will take direction from that dog, and try to play with it accordingly. If the dog ignores him, he will will get bored and walk away. If the other dog is friendly, Indy will play with it.

Walking away from other dogs off-lead is a hard one for him, but he is getting better. Sometimes he will come with you almost immediately. Other times you will need nerves of steel as he will won't come away for a good 50-100 meters. I have found if you go back to try and catch him it makes things worse. Consistent calling and walking in the opposite direction has, to date, yielded the result of Indy eventually coming. When off-lead he likes to explore as far and as wide as possible. For this reason off-lead walks must be chosen with care, but are imperative to his emotional well-being (and ultimately yours). Indy is high energy, and has to be allowed to burn it off, otherwise he does not settle during the day or the evening. He has no road sense, and cannot be walked off-lead along a road under any circumstances.

When Indy sees a cat, he has to chase it. He loves cats and would never hurt one deliberately. His chase instinct with cats is not malice related, and he does not want to kill the cat he is chasing. He simply enjoys the chase and the excitement. And you know what? So do cats. 99% of them bloddy love it, they just don't want you to know that. Indy currently lives very successfully with 5 cats of varying temperaments. Last time I checked he had not killed any of them. He is incredibly respectful of angry cat, and gives her a wide berth. He adores brown cat Boo Boo, and the feeling is mutual. His chase instinct with cats is of course a problem off-lead, and if he sees a cat off-lead, you have lost him. This is the one time you will have to go after him, as he will not retreat from the chase. Sometimes he responds this way to tiny dogs as well, and he has to date seriously chased two small dogs, not realising they were dogs. Because the little dogs ran from him, the situations quickly deteriorated. It is only ever luck that these situations with cats and tiny dogs don't wind up with one or the other dead on a road. I pay a great deal of attention to everything that is happening around us and manage Indy accordingly. If I see a tiny dog even a long way off (Indy is watching and waiting too, trust me), even if that dog is on lead, I do not let Indy off the lead or I put Indy back on his lead, unless I know the little dog.

Indy knows 'this way' which is a directional command for him. He does not come to you on this command, just follows the direction you are going. 'Quick quick' is a similar command, and lets him know how far away he is. He may or may not care about this situation, but 'quick quick' does help close the distance between you if he responds. He also understands 'who's this?' when another dog is approaching. I have in the past used this sparingly to trick him into coming away from whatever it is he is doing, but I always use it every time we do see another dog, so he always errs on the side of caution and will appear to check if there is another dog. When Indy is really misbehaving on a walk, 'cross voice' may need to be used. Indy does not like 'cross voice'. In cross voice mode, shout 'INDY! NO! INDY! SIT!'. Repeat as required. Warning; it needs to be really cross and quite guttural for you to even have a chance of him listening to it. 99% of the time we use a really positive approach with him. Cross voice is reserved only for when that truly fails. Sometimes you won't use cross voice for weeks on end, then have to use it twice in as many days. Cross voice is a final measure only.

At home Indy is a wonderful companion. He is not a lap dog, but he does need to be close to you. As I write this he is on the sofa with me, his head resting on my arm as a pillow. Do not offer to adopt Indy if you are not willing to share the sofa with him. Indy sleeps on our bed. You may not want this, and I believe he could easily be trained not to. But the sofa is non-negotiable, and if you think it is, you are a fool. Also, do not think you will train him to sleep in a crate, or try to crate him while you are out. Indy responded violently to all attempts to crate train him when he was a puppy. For his own safety we stopped and found a different way. He can hold his bladder for seemingly forever and will not go in house (the vets or the pet shop, different story. He will mark in these places if you are not careful). He does not like to poo or wee in his own yard. For this reason his morning walk is very important to him as it is his first toilet of the day. He likes to pop outside and 'check the perimeters'. He lets you know when he wants to do this by standing at the back door.

Indy is used to doing everything and going almost everywhere with us. He would not be happy if you worked 6-8 hours every day and tried to leave him at home alone. He can be left for 1-5 hours occasionally, but it requires forward planning. Indy chews things. He needs lots of things that he is allowed to chew up and destroy, and anything that you do not want destroyed must be put out of his reach, or he will let you down. Don't set him up for failure, because he WILL FAIL. When we go out we let him have the full run of the house, except the front room. I believe he would just bark and worry at the front door if he was allowed access to it. We put everything out of his reach, including things that are normally hanging on the back door. It must be assumed that he will destroy it if he can reach it. The television and the cats are safe, but soft toys, pet beds, cushions, oven gloves, phone chargers, television remote controls, newspaper, cardboard boxes, etc, are simply invitations to chew, tear and destroy. If you accidentally leave something within his reach and he destroys it, it is your fault, not his. We are never cross at him over these things. Cross with him, yes. Cross at him, no. Also, disappointed. But ultimately, our fault. If you put all the things out of his reach, and leave his toys out for him, he will entertain himself between napping. We gave up leaving Kongs, bones and treats for him when we go out. He doesn't care for them much and just leaves them untouched. He would much rather chew up a stick or a feather. Sometimes I leave these things for him if I don't mind coming home to a bit of a mess to clean up.

If you go to work every day and can't take him with you, he is not the dog for you. If you go out every night for more than an hour, he is not the dog for you. I honestly believe that if I had even tried to train him to accept being left for long periods every day, it would have failed. He is a high energy dog who is very intelligent. He is curious and bores easily. He requires a minimum of two good walks a day (45 minutes minimum). He will happily walk for many hours. He gets thirsty when out, and will drink from puddles, drains, ponds, lakes, canals. When he is very hot he will swim and paddle, even in the middle of winter. He gets very hot very quick when playing with other dogs and will seek out water. I have never stopped him as I know what it is like to overheat. If his body is telling him he needs to cool down, then there must be a reason for it. I don't see it as a negative behaviour at all. Does this mean he is smelly and dirty? A bit. Do I care? A bit. Invest in a really good vacuum cleaner and give him a bath when the smell gets really bad. He's a good dog to bath in the tub at home. He doesn't love it, but certainly puts up with it well.

Indy plays very roughly with other dogs, but will take direction from them if they tell him to stop or calm down. He can get carried away with more meek dogs, and will need to be removed from a play situation if he starts to get very rough and the other dog is not enjoying itself but can't stand up to him. In these situations he will keep pushing the other dog to the point of causing it pain. He's overly dominant in these situations and the only solution is to remove him from it. He is much better suited to playing with dogs who can stand up for themselves. When playing with a dog who is more dominant than him, he will be submissive. These sorts of dogs are very good for him to play with, and he plays very well with dogs who a very rough like him. Indy will pull on other dogs tails and bite their necks and ears (sometimes quite hard). Most dogs don't mind, or tell him off when they do. If the other dog can't cope at all, Indy has to be removed from the situation. He won't stop of his own accord and gets a bit crazed.

Now this bit is REALLY IMPORTANT. Please don't question it or think you can 'see how it goes'. Indy is terrified of little children. For absolutely no reason whatsoever. He just was not exposed to them early enough, and as a result he hates them. He CANNOT be re-homed with little kids under 8 years, or where little kids will visit regularly, like your grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or friends children. He finds them incredibly stressful, and will cross the street to get away from them. I cannot stress enough that this would be an awful, awful mistake and could lead to the child being bitten by him. It would not be his fault, it would be yours, but you would still put him to sleep for it, wouldn't you? So please just don't bother putting him in this situation. No, no, no.

He is distrusting of older children, and if he sees teenagers just standing around, he will bark at them and circle them. I have found most people react to this poorly for some reason. Now whenever we see young people or kids on our walks, I put him on a short lead as soon as possible. Around small children he MUST be on a short lead as he can approach them from behind and bark at them. Do not let a child approach him, especially if he has nowhere to escape to. If he feels trapped, his reaction is unpredictable. Would he bite a little kid? Probably, if he felt he had to. He certainly makes a hell of a racket and shows his teeth when they have gotten too close to him. For this reason I do not leave him unattended outside a shop unless I can see him and get to him immediately (corner shop, okay. ASDA, bad).

With strangers in general out and about, he is shy unless they have a dog with them. If they have a dog with them, then he is immediately trusting. If they have a dog AND a kid with them, he is almost okay with that. He still does not want the child near him, but the joy of being with another dog is enough to distract him. Indy will chase little kids who dare run in his vicinity, and he will nip at their fingers given half a chance. Tougher older (8+) kids who understand what he is doing and can handle rough play with a dog could be considered as an adoptive family. He has a part-time 9 year old girl person who he adores, but he is rough with her, and she can handle it.

Other quirks? Like there aren't enough already? He does not like people standing still when he is on an off-lead walk. So fishermen, old ladies birdwatching, teenage kids smoking; he distrusts them all and he gets quite worked up about it. He doesn't like old people generally as they walk too slow, move about funny, and often have trolleys with them. He does, however, like sticking his nose into their shopping bags, and will do that as you walk past if you are not careful.

He used to get car sick when he was a pup. He seems to have outgrown it. He doesn't love car travel, but tolerates it. He feels incredibly safe in the car, though, and this is an option if you need to go out for a whole day. He will quite calmly wait in the car for hours, but will need a stretch and a break if it's going to be all day.

Indy is not a big eater. He currently eats a raw chicken wing in the morning after his walk. In the evening he has about 1 cup of Hills Science Diet Adult Chicken dry food, with about a fist size amount of raw beef mince (pet food grade) on top of his dry food. He will leave his dry food and graze on it during the night and the next morning. This does mean he is not treat orientated, and we have had to adapt to this by using Webbox 'Cats Delight' tasty sticks cat treats broken into little bits as his training treats.

In summation, Indy needs an experienced home. He is a high energy dog who requires a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. He would not make a good first dog. He requires a lot of time, patience, and consistency. He will misbehave and test all boundaries, all the time, and this is where you need to be patient with him. If you have a short temper, then he is not the dog for you and you will both just be miserable all the time. Likewise, if you are a pushover (and I confess, I am a bit) he will walk all over you. Indy could easily be homed with another dog or cats, although cats would need gradual and well-managed introductions as he will chase, even his own cats. His cats are just used to it.

Please take good care of my muppin head. He might be an idiot, but he's my idiot. He brings me much joy. I have not worked out quite how he does this yet. I suppose it is by magic.

P.S. Under absolutely no circumstances is Indy to be re-homed with my step-daughter's mother. No matter how much my step-daughter might want this, it will never be a suitable home for a dog like Indy.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Friday, 13 December 2013

I am cross.

I am quite cross.

I am often quite cross, about this or that. One thing or another. I'm getting older and more things make me grumpy than they ever have before. But at the moment I am quite cross about something quite specific. So cross, in fact, I have decided to tell you all about it.

In October 2013, my homeland legalised gay marriage in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This was in response to a bill being lodged in September 2013.

Wikipedia currently has this information:
The Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 involved an on-line survey, which received 276,437 responses, the largest response ever received by a Committee of the House of Representatives or Senate. 177,663 respondents were in favour of changing the law to recognise same-sex marriage, 98,164 were opposed to it and 610 were unsure.

Somehow I missed this. I follow Australian news closely enough, but this went under my radar. What didn't go under my radar, though, was the High Court of Australia overturning that new law.

Now we are getting to the crux of why I am quite cross.

We are led to believe that Australia is a democratic nation, and it has a democratically elected government just to prove it. No matter what you might feel about the people in power at any given time in Australia, they got there legally and democratically and that is good. Also what is good in Australia is that the state is neutral in regards to the church. Excellent.

What else is good about Australia? You are allowed religious freedom. You can be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Taoist, Buddhist, Scientologist; whatever you want. Lots of people even claim to be Jedi. Good on them. Australia is a country of religious freedom, and to be an Australian citizen you do not need to follow any one religion, or any religion at all. You are an Australian citizen regardless of your religious faith, or lack thereof.

Also in Australia, you are allowed to be homosexual. Homosexuality is not illegal, in the same way that practising a religion outside Christianity is not illegal. A man is allowed to have a sexual relationship with another man. A woman is allowed to have a sexual relationship with another woman.

If you want to immigrate to Australia from another country there are many hoops to jump through and it will probably cost you a lot of money in entry visas, but you will not be disallowed entry on the basis of your gender, your religion, your race, or your sexuality. This is one of the things that makes Australia great.
Not great, as in 'Oh, that's great'.
But great, as in mighty.
As in all that is good.
As in this is the way it should be.

The new gay marriage law was overturned because the national government challenged the decision, saying it was inconsistent with federal laws. The federal law, which was made in 2004, stated that marriage was between a man and a woman.
Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.[7]

Australia has state parliaments which make laws for each state. For example, the age of consent for sex. It can be different for each state. So can (and are) the laws regarding abortion. So it transpires that the law regarding what is and is not legal in regards to marriage needs to be changed in the Australian federal parliament. This of course is possible, because, see previous statements about Australia being great. Mighty. Good. Democratic.

What makes me cross is the 2004 federal law, stating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

I am cross, and frankly, confused.

If homosexuality is legal, and marriage doesn't have to be in a church, then what is the problem?

Australian Christian groups are claiming that marriage is the cornerstone of families and Australian society. That marriage should be between a man and a woman only, as children are best raised by their biological parents, within marriage. Apparently, because only a man and a woman can both be the biological parents of a child, marriage does not need to extend to homosexual people.They don't need marriage. Only straight Christian people having their own biological children need marriage.

Except, non-Christian men and woman are entitled to get married under Australian law. As are people who have children from a previous relationship. The man and the woman may not both be the biological parents of the children, but so long as you are a man and a woman, you can get married. And it is perfectly fine for a man and a woman to get married, and then have a child through donor IVF, where only one of them may be the biological parent of the child. And then there are people who adopt. Neither parent is the biological parent of the child, and those men and and women are allowed to get married.

All of these families are members of Australian society. But apparently they are not the best. The best are the Christian parents who are married and have their own biological children. They are the cornerstone of Australian society. They are the best. They are what is keeping Australia together.


Because those Christian families, they've done such an awesome job of being the cornerstone of Australian society so far. There is nothing I respect more than a middle class Christian family whose contribution to society is to pay as little tax as possible, and to pass personal judgement on everyone around them. There's nothing more spiritual than surrounding yourself with the warm cloak of your church full of other middle class white people, never actually going out and doing anything hands-on good in society.

Hopefully the 2004 amendment to the Australian marriage act will be changed. This is clearly what needs to be done in order that homosexual couples who want to commit to each other in marriage are no longer discriminated against in the law and are allowed to marry. Because yes, it is narrow-minded homophobic discrimination.

Love doesn't belong to Christianity. Commitment to a relationship does not belong to Christianity. The desire to want to marry does not belong to Christianity. Christians do not own marriage, and their opinions should not be considered above the majority in a democratic society. The majority of respondents to the 2012 survey voted for same sex marriage in Australia. As a democracy, this should be implemented as quickly as possible. It is what the majority want. Christians and faith groups are not above the rest of society in a democracy. Homophobia has no place in a democratic society.

Tell me I am wrong.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Feeling: Cautiously optimistic.

I've been trying to work out exactly what I hope to achieve by fighting my sugar and fat addictions. Last week I clearly thought I wanted to lose weight, but I am not sure that is even the point of it. Yes, I want to lose weight. I carry too much fat around my middle to be considered healthy, and I want that to change. That means I have to lose weight. But what if I don't?

It seems absurd to think that by giving up the eating habits I have held for such a long time that I won't lose weight, but I don't think I should assume that I will, or that it will be significant. So I am left wondering, will it be enough for me to simply knowing my own mind that I am living healthier, but to have no visible 'reward' for that effort? Right now I honestly don't know, but I hope so.

It's almost been a week since I started. Wednesday to Friday inclusive were physically awful. I was struck down by debilitating headaches each day from about 4pm onwards, and found myself in bed early each night because I simply had to.

Then came Saturday, a day I knew I was going to have sugar. We had tickets to a music event for the afternoon/evening, a BYO picnic in the park. I had already decided I was going to allow myself this one joy, and as such consumed three cans of Brothers Toffee Apple cider. Also, I had a large hot chocolate earlier in the day. Needless to say, I was not struck down by a headache. Not even the next day, where I promptly jumped back on the wagon.

Oddly, after Saturday I have not had any further headaches, despite resuming the same chocolate, burger and soft drink free existence. I have had some pretty serious cravings for all three, though, and yesterday I was very sad about it. So we had some home made burgers for tea.

I am wondering about yesterdays 'cravings'. They didn't feel physical, like the headaches, and they didn't feel psychological/emotional (I don't believe I have ever been an emotional eater). It felt like it was coming from my brain. I was craving the feelings that lots of sugar and fat give my brain. It was a very specific feeling. I've never really focussed on what my cravings feel like, except to know at any given time the type of substance my body wants e.g. fatty burger, sugar, chocolate, or caffeine. But the physical cravings were definitely what I was getting last week during early withdrawal. What I felt yesterday was something else, something more specifically coming from my brain.

It was saying it wanted a high.

If I had to describe myself to you previously, I would never have considered the word 'addict'. It's reserved for alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, isn't it? People make jokes about being addicted to chocolate, but it's not really taken seriously. But I am not sure I could describe the feeling in my brain as anything else. I'd be worried about it, but I already know that I have been able to beat caffeine addiction, something that I was hooked on for nearly 20 years. I am so glad I got that one out of the way before I attempted this. I don't think I would have made it two days otherwise.

One day at a time.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

86.4: Thoughts on weight loss

My weight has been the subject of my despair my entire life.

When I was very young and at primary school (ages 5-11) I became aware that my body was a different shape to most of the girls in my year. It wasn't a very big school, so it wasn't a very big pool of girls to compare myself to. But I managed to make some observations.

1) I had a 'tummy'. Most of them did not.

2) I had no friends. They all had friends. Mostly each other, of course, but the logic at the time was infallible.

From these two observations I concluded I had no friends because of the way I looked, and because a couple of them had short hair like me, it wasn't this that was standing in the way of us all being one big happy bunch of tree huggers. I came to the obvious conclusion that it must have been because I was 'fat'.

Looking back at photos of myself, I know I wasn't really that fat, and at that age eating the mostly home grown diet I did it was very hard to be fat. But I did have a different body shape to most of my peers, with a noticeable tummy. It appears I was born with it, and it never went away.

Of course, I didn't have any friends not because of my body shape, but because I was a very strange child and this was very confronting for other children and they didn't know how to be my friend. I didn't know that then, though. Luckily in the last year of primary school a few of the girls in my year decided that for some reason they actually liked me, and I joined their group of friends. And some of these girls are still my friends today. Which is awesome, thanks girls, it means a lot!

During those primary school years I spent a lot of time wishing my body shape was different. At night I would lay in bed praying that I would wake up skinny. It would be a miracle, but God performed miracles and while I knew in my heart that God probably wouldn't grant this wish, it did not stop me praying for it. Because you never knew. That one night I did not pray to wake up skinny only to find out later in heaven that was the one time God was going to get around to granting my wish? That would have been unbearable! So I prayed every night for a different body. I also used to spend a disproportionate amount of time planning on burning the whole school down without getting caught. It is only now that I realise that I totally could have totally gotten away with it. But I digress.

I've tried to lose weight many times over the years. Sometimes I have succeeded. Notably I reached my lowest weight when I was 19 and trying really, really hard. I was determined to be 'sexy' for my on again off again boyfriend. During one of our 'off' periods I lost a lot of weight because I knew that if I did, he'd want me back.  And you know what, it worked. And it was also the most miserable period of my life, both waiting for him, and then being with him. He was actually an awful person and I left for good a few years later, which was notably another period of my life where I maintained a low weight and slim figure. While I was having some fun with friends and somehow managed each day not to get fired from my job, in private I was a direction-less wreck looking for self-worth in a VERY long string of one night stands and 'friendships' with benefits. For many years I treated myself very badly. Skinny, yet miserable.

Not as fat.
Not at all fat.
A bit fatter than before.
Less fat than before but not as thin as then.
Fat again.
Really fat.
A bit less fat.
Not as fat.

And so on and so forth my entire life.

What I have finally (really, only after this long?) come to realise is that I have a body type which gets fat very easily. Not morbidly obese, no, I'll grant you that. But still, by its very definition, fat. And being the reasonably bright type as well as the fat type, I know that the fat that stubbornly clings to my tummy and waist also weaves its way through my vital organs. And that has always freaked me out. It might make a great steak, but I don't want to considered or compared to wagyu beef. Although all the massage might be nice.

Also. Type 2 Diabetes. My nan had it. My uncle had it. My mum has it. And we all know why. You don't?  Then please let the NHS explain it to you.
I don't want diabetes. Plain and simple. The irony of not wanting diabetes is that you have to eat like you have diabetes. And so here I am, at 86.4kg, happier than I have ever been in my life, and wanting to try again.

It's daunting, I tell you. So many past failures have left me wondering if I can do it. My last serious attempt was famously when I took up jogging, that most hateful of pastimes. I know it works amazingly well for so many people, but I honestly hated every last awful second of it. No amount of weight loss and being healthy was worth the misery it was causing me. Yes, I lost weight. But that was not enough of a pay-off. I overheat during exercise, always have. I simply have no tolerance for my core body temperature rising, and am struck down by debilitating migraines when I overheat. I'm sure there is some sort of medical reason for this, but whatever, it means that serious exercise in all of its forms (yes, even swimming. I can indeed overheat in a pool of water) just isn't an option for me.

Which leaves diet and gentle exercise.

Up until last week, my diet consisted of hundreds of grams of chocolate a day. Adding up to over a thousand grams a week. I used to team that with a can of Coca Cola every day, as well as 'regular' food. I am under no illusion as to how I have stayed fat and gotten fatter. I eat too much stuff that is really bad for you. I know that. But last year ago, I don't know when exactly, I stopped drinking Coca Cola every day. I was addicted to the caffeine, so I compensated for a little while with a caffeine tablet. I have a history of doing this, and then just ending up back on the Coca Cola, and then back on the tablet, then back to the Coke, etc. But this time around, I quit the tablet too. It was hell for a five days, with a headache that did not go away even after taking pain killers for it. But after five days, that was it. I expected to get the occasional caffeine craving, but it hasn't happened, and I have been caffeine free for months now. Hallelujah.

Given that I have finally kicked that habit, I feel emboldened to try the other ones - sugar and fat. And apparently according to some new research, they might well just be that, habits. As addictive as drugs, maybe, and as hard to kick as cocaine. Well, duh. There are a lot of us out there who know that already without a bunch of poor lab mice being punished for our sins.

The upshot of all this is that it is going to be hard and it probably wont work but I am going to try anyway. I've given myself thirteen weeks to try out a new lifestyle. I already get daily gentle exercise with the walking turd that is the dog, so all I have to crack now is my addictions to fat and sugar. Last night I went to bed with the biggest headache I have had in a long while, no doubt due to my body screaming out for its daily hit of sugar and fat. It was awful, but not unexpected.

Can I really do this? I honestly don't know. I hope so.