health

Weirdo to Wo-man

‘I’m a creep.  I’m a weirdo’ as the song goes or I was once but now I’m retired.  I’ve experimented in life.  At twenty two I moved to the Big Smoke.  I threw myself into London’s dazzling lights.  I hurled shackles of constraint across Euston Road and they were crushed into a million pieces beneath the wheels of a cement mixer.  I got carbon fumes and piss-stained streets and voddy and tonic and bullshit in my peroxided, orbital red and black hair (an entry requirement for living in Camden that garnered the attention of snap-happy Japanese tourists ont tube).

 

camden-market1

 

I travelled.  I tried things.  In Verona, I watched Aida at La Scala after a near miss with a suicidal chihuahua that flung itself from a fourth floor balcony, allegedly, and landed behind my head on the pavement; a tragedy that, to me, usurped Verdi’s opera.  In Tuscany, I fell in love with a waiter, naturally.  I defy anyone not to.  In Sicily, I watched Mount Etna erupt as fish heads in my stew expressed alarm with terror-stricken, wide eyes and gaping mouths.  In Rome I was pickpocketted by an eight year old.  In Bologna, I dined beneath the porticoes on crostini and velvet ragu before dancing the night away.

In Thailand, I fell off a motorbike, got chased by a goose and bitten by a dog.  In Ao Nang, I washed myself with a blue bucket in a barmaid’s flat before a moped ride to Tiger Temple in the middle of the jungle where I was blessed by a Buddhist Monk.  I bathed in natural forest springs in Bali.  I walked through stepped paddy fields to meet the Hmong hill tribe in North Vietnam and I sailed through limestone outcrops at Halong Bay.

At Uluru, I marvelled at redbacks beneath a caravan before clambering upon its roof to gaze at the southern constellations.  I fell in love with a Kiwi in Sydney and we watched the sunrise at Gordon’s Bay.  I chewed the fat with coal miners at Tennant’s Creek and played Monopoly with a seventy year old ex-convict in Alice Springs.  In Queensland I met an Eastern Brown snake while clearing bush and one evening at dusk I stood in a cave and felt eight hundred and seventy two little bent-wing bats flutter through my hair.

 

 

Hmong women returning to their village, which cannot reach by road. Sapa, VN

 

So you see I’m glad I did everything I wanted to do.  There was a price but how can I possibly regret a thousand glorious memories.  It is what it is Gerry.

Right now all is calmer as I shuffle around in sheepskin booties and curl up under the arm of comfort and kindness and love.  I am older.  My hair is still long, straight and brown with an auburn glow in sunlight but now there are anarchic, wiry greys springing forth from my scalp to dismantle youth.  My eyesight is blurry.  My fingers are long.  My nails are chipped and unkempt.  My left hand is bigger than my right and my right ear is higher than my left.  I am to wed this autumn.

I have a round belly.  I eat well.  I have consumed meat just twice in two months.  I eat half a grapefruit most mornings.  I haven’t had a glass of wine in ten days.  A lingering virus helped along by two weeks of holidaying constitution abuse has quelled the thirst of late.  I love Asahi beer, a nice grassy Sauvignon with a hint of apricot and a stiff gin and tonic but I’m really not missing the demon drink at all, honest.  I told a lie.  I drank half a Guinness on Sunday but purely for its iron content; booze with a halo.

I have good personal hygiene, some say excessive.  I don’t recommend extinguishing a candle with your head or licking Raspberry and Vanilla scented shower gel off your arm no matter how much it smells like milkshake.  I can recommend sitting on the cool, white enamel of a bath tub while the shower pours hot water onto your back to unknot writer’s neck…bliss.

I find the social behaviour of crows amusing but people who balance plates, cups or glass precariously on the edge of things send my anxiety levels through the roof.  Gone, or at least fewer, are my days of ill-considered risk taking.  I am easily overwhelmed by any one thing en masse; people, cars, pigeons, cat hairs, voices, anything.  That said I live in the third busiest and fifth most congested city in the world.  I like that I can walk down a street and hear Somali, Cockney, Vietnamese, French, Dutch, Arabic and Gujerati.  I like the open-mindedness and tolerance required to live amidst a cultural smorgasbord. I like that I can see alternative theatrics of an evening.  This city will never cease to surprise.    But now I am ready to live elsewhere.  I long for the colour green.

I do not follow any faith.  In religious texts I have discovered beauty, bigotry, love, hate, wisdom, truth, lies, naivety, prose, dogma, common sense, ignorance, morality, fear, creativity, humour, discrimination, serenity, history and humanity in all of them.  My conscience is inseparable from my physiology.  When my body dies, I am gone.  I will exist in images and the words I write and the memories I make, so now is quite important to me.

Occasionally when I get too much for myself, I shake my spitefully masochistic brain around by the stem and slap its frontal lobe hard till it stops screaming and takes a hold of itself.  I sit on the floor, cross my legs and breathe, deeply.  I focus on dancing light between pear tree leaves till I see shimmering electrons resting on the spheres of a million tiny atoms.  I tell my mind to stop and sometimes it listens.  Time freezes.  My heart rate slows.  My body vanishes.  And then I hear.  I see.

The firethorn outside the window is laden with orange berries.  This morning as I flung the curtains back a startled wood pigeon abandoned her breakfast and took a laboured and clumsy flight into a pale gold, shimmering autumn sun.

At 13.27 an engineer came to fix the glacially slow internet upon e-instruction of a woman called Anju in a call centre 4,470 miles away.  He was a young man with a short Afro and bright eyes.  He told me a funny story.  The cat liked him.  He had a nice way.  He said: ‘The cat knows good peoples.’  I agreed.  Another man delivered a package at 18.06.  He told me he left the depot at 10am and he had delivered packages to 146 homes before mine.  I was number 147.  He said a lot of people get stressed but he still smiles because ‘all you have to do is allocate the right amount of time’; a good lesson.  He is going home after number 160.

Tonight after I have fed and watered Whatsfortea Jones, I will watch the waning Harvest moon on the eastern horizon.  Through the fork of the ash tree where the querulous squirrels sleep and beyond silhouetted leaves, I will visit the southern lunar highlands and land my craft in Tycho.  I am grounded nowadays.  My itchy feet are sated.  But my mind travels further than it ever has before.

 

Harvest Moon Irlam

 

 

Creep by Radiohead, just because it is amazing.  Embrace your inner weirdo! Xx 🙂

 

 

Image 1 source: http://london-sightseeing.net/camden-market-london/

Image 2 source: http://insidersasia.com/tour/sapa-hill-tribe-markets

Image 3 source: http://www.itv.com/news/granada/2014-09-09/harvest-moon-2014/

 

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She’s an Easy Peeler?

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09.03, Friday 5th September 2014

My hair is damp from the shower and my appetite is unsatisfied after a not very easy to peel, yet pleasingly sweet clementine. I’m moderately irritated that I was deceived into parting with fifty pence extra to taste the difference and improve my access to fruit. Surely this marketing implies that fruit for fifty pence less is not tasty. If this is the case, why is it being sold in the first place? If you cannot afford tasty, easy peel fruit, you must battle through thick-skin that will inevitably wedge itself uncomfortably under your thumb nail to reach a meagre reward of pithy, bland, stale-tasting citrus.

Supermarkets have cashed in on the fact that consumers prefer to get to their fruit effortlessly. Consumers want convenient fruit with a thin, supple skin that comes away from the inner flesh in one, aesthetically appealing spiral. We want easy, quick pickings. A commercial genius realised that varying prices can be applied not only to the edible part of the fruit but also to the skin, nature’s very own biodegradable packaging.

Bananas, although readily willing to give up their soft, sweet, yellow flesh to any remotely dexterous creature, have an easily bruised package.  Consumer distaste for mushy, brown bits and our fondness for the finger-herb at a rate of consumption of 100 nanas per Briton per year, that’s over 5 billion bananas eaten every year in the UK alone, inspired the invention of products like the banana guard and the ridiculous use by it’s makers of the term ‘banana trauma’.

Mango, papaya, passion fruit, kiwi and melon, although delightful exotics, require preparation and are perhaps consumed more at weekends when people have time to peel, scrape and chop.

The dragon fruit’s hot pink skin belies its disappointing lack of flavour. So once one has ventured beneath the vibrant surface, you learn that dragon fruit simply does not provide bang for your buck. Nature is a liar, the dragon is a myth that haveth not fire.

The pomegranate that has reached the dizzying status of superfood is frustratingly messy and time-consuming to access with endless tapping to remove its reluctant jewelled seeds. Its juice is so tricky to extract that some health seekers will pay the exorbitant price charged by one popular brand of £5.01 per litre!

And don’t even talk to me about coconuts. I have battled with hammer and blunt knives against the woody shell of that sweet, white fruit. Anyone who buys a coconut more than once, is almost certainly an expert with a machete and is probably best avoided, if not reported to the local constabulary.

Supermarket misrepresentation of citrus fruit has highlighted the following things:

1. I am an unfocused, irritable, trivial and hungry human, just cellular gunk with a wavering conscience applied to matters of little consequence and I am in need of a leaden piece of yeast extract-smeared rye toast.
2. I abhor the cunning of a market that capitalises on fruit peel.
3. I am angered by my own suggestibility.
4. I shall not pay Lord Henry Super Money Bags Market more money to get into my fruit. To hell with it! I might even buy an orange next time.

In the words of the young Russian chap in the unmissable blockbuster film below entitled: ‘You’ve Been Peeling Clementines Wrong’,

‘Don’t get offended. Boom! Just pull it off and eat it, pull it off and eat it.’

love

Fruitloops

Cue tenuous musical exit

Skinny Bitch – Book Review

Cow

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Skinny Bitch is a sassy, sharp-talking, humorous, and at times, disturbing assassination of the crap that we put into our bodies. I have been an omnivore all my life but lately, for health reasons, I started thinking about and modifying what I eat. In researching how to be healthier, I came across Skinny Bitch. This book was a #1 New York Times Bestseller…in 2005ish and 2007 in the UK. It does seem like I was the last to know but I say ‘better late than never.’

If like me, you’re starting to think about what you eat and why and how it impacts upon you and the world around you, this is an extraordinarily light and accessible way into a veritable minefield of information. It breaks into bite-sized chunks a huge amount of topics ranging from nutritional content to health outcomes, environmental pollution and animal cruelty and government facilitated industry corruption that I am afraid are still only too relevant today.

The book is, for me, the right balance of enlightenment and humour until Chapter 6 where the authors quote too heavily from another book called Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz. In my humble opinion, supporting materials should be just that and not the body of a chapter. The authors are very honest about their use of this material being to discourage the reader from eating meat. In this vein, it is indeed effective because I haven’t even been able to look at a sausage roll since. On the other hand, using graphically distressing descriptions of extreme animal abuse and horrifying torture has prevented me from sharing an otherwise up tempo book with friends and family whom I am fairly certain will find the content too disturbing.

The writing style is punchy and interesting most of the way through. Chapter 9 delves into government and industry corruption a little too intensely and does become somewhat dry and turgid in comparison to the rest of the book. On the whole, this is a nice, quick read and the lively pace made me gobble it all up in around four evenings.

It is no small feat that Freedman and Barnouin have managed to communicate something as potentially dry as conscientious food consumerism in the voice of girlfriends having fun in a bar over vegan, non-alcoholic cocktails. In a sense they reversed the trickery of big industry marketing teams who present crap as good for us. The authors have presented something good for us in a format that makes us think we’re consuming a celebrity magazine, when in fact we’re learning how we can prevent suffering, reduce damage to our planet and feel altogether better by eating right, well and true. To me, it’s a pretty good message.

Skinny Bitch is an easy, enjoyable and worthwhile read. In the voice of the authors: ‘Just stop being a pussy and read it already!’

 

View all my reviews

 

Image source: http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/genetically-modified-cows-could-fart-less/story-fn5fsgyc-1226311605016

 

The Dentist and the Crossing Lady

Guido-Reni-Martyrdom-of-Saint-Apollonia

Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia, Guido Reni 1575-1642

 

This morning I went to the dentist. He looked barely a day over twenty one and he was just about the height of my chest and I am not tall.  He eventually averted his gaze from my unimpressive cleavage to speak to me about, you know, teeth.  I assured myself that my pelican jumpsuit and grubby, canvas pump ensemble was in no way feminine or revealing enough to be described as ‘asking for it’ or ‘flaunting my wares’ or ‘not leaving much to the imagination’ etc.

So I was caught off guard and somewhat unnerved by his overt lechery.  In all my years of dental visits, I have never experienced this type of thing before.  I would expect it in a bar, if I ever went to a bar.  But when I am putting my health in the hands of another person I am vulnerable and I like a level of professionalism and respect for the patient-doctor relationship.  Nay, I deserve it.  It is my right.  I opted to handle the situation with an aggressive formality that created an even greater discomfort between me and the twerp who had free reign of my oral cavity.

 

‘So Me Dear…what can I do for you?’ he said.

 

It was unusual to be referred to as ‘Me Dear’ by someone so young.  After the examination, he filled out my record.

 

‘Do you pay for your treatment?’ he said.
‘I think so.’
‘Are you employed?’
‘Uh well no, I gave up a long career to write a book so I guess I’m unemployed. But I support myself so I’m not on benefits or anything.’

 

Oh the shame I feel when I try to explain what I do.  I have worked since I was fourteen years old.  And after years of doing the wrong jobs in politically-paralysing environments, which required me to be someone I am not five days a week and subsequently wore away my mental strength, I am doing something I absolutely love.  I am taking a risk.  But the only real risk would be not to have ever tried. That I would regret.

 

So, like most of you, I write and I love it.  And when I successfully ignore statistical probabilities of getting published, then everything is almost peachy-rosy.  Occasionally, the worries spill into my dreams, and I am back in a dusty, old office in a meeting room full of people who cannot say what they mean.  They are afraid.  The first to speak, will be the first to go.  And I try to speak but there is an invisible gag over my mouth and it is the fear of truth that pervades bureaucracy and I can’t breathe.  I can’t go back.

 

Aside from the odd nightmare, this change, this writing thing is blooming wonderful. It’s the happiest I have ever been.  But I don’t like to describe myself as unemployed. Yet, in this society, on the reams of paper and in the dinner party conversations and over the Christmas turkey and Brussel sprouts at the in-laws, I am not a writer until my writing has monetary value.  Therefore, unless someone pays me for that damn book, in the eyes of others I am unemployed.  Employ also means to keep occupied and I am occupied.  I’m occupied in the work of writing and I do it for a lot of hours. And each page I write, to me, has more value in love and emotion and passion and humour and tenacity and integrity, than a year of turning the cogs of a bureaucratic oil tanker so that it can sail in the wrong direction.  I just don’t fit into the boxes any more.

 

‘Well if you’re not on benefits then you have to pay.’ he concluded.

 

The dentist handed my record to the receptionist and whispered indiscreetly:

 

‘Tell her to give me a call for a date when she gets a job.’ I looked at him sharply.
‘Sorry?’ The receptionist looked confused and embarrassed.
‘Uh, nothing,’ he muttered into his notes and took a keen interest in the grey-flecked carpet.

 

I was humiliated and insulted on so many levels. I am about to swear. Please look away now if it may offend you.

 

What a fucking dick! That smarmy little shit-bag, fuck-faced prick.

 

~ The crude and offensive language has reached its denouement.

 

I, a forty year old woman, was being leered at and made a mockery of by that little fucker (apologies for the lapse).  And I know he must have been at least twenty five to qualify so he is old enough to know how to conduct himself in the workplace.  I should have said something.  I should have, but as usual, I did not.  I won’t go back.

 

As a child I had an old, grey-bearded Jewish dentist.  I would sit next to my Dad in the waiting room and try not to look at the mildly grotesque photos of raw, receding gums on the surgery walls.  The dentist’s chair was pale grey and quite comfortable.  Mr Bacher was a kind man. You can tell these things.  His doughy, square fingers smelled metallic like the long-armed tuppence-shaped mirror and probe he expertly wielded with a tap here and a scrape there.  At the end of every appointment he would say: ‘Ah, you’re teeth are veeeerrrry good,’ in his long, drawn out creaking way.  I liked him veeerrry much. He never told me not to drink fizzy drinks or eat too much sugar. On the contrary, he religiously offered me a choice of orange, strawberry or lime-flavoured, boiled-sweet lollypop after each visit.  Orange was my favourite; still is.  He gave me my first filling, naturally.

 

This morning as I walked away from the dentist, I waited at the lights to cross the road and engaged in habitual, internal self-flagellation.

 

‘You’re an idiot. Some little twat made you uncomfortable and you let him get away with it. You’re a grown woman now. You’re pathetic.’

 

I became aware of a pair of wide, blue eyes peering at me in my peripheral vision. Damn, am I saying this out loud, I thought. There was a woman in her sixties with short grey hair. She stood next to me, smiling while we waited for the green man.

 

‘Everyone’s in such a hurry.’ She rolled her eyes and laughed.
‘I know…where are they all going?’

 

I laughed back while weighing up whether she was a. a nice friendly woman, b. certifiably insane, c. about to ask me for the train fare to Bromley or, the most fearful of all d. a God-Botherer.

 

‘I lived in New Zealand for twenty four years. I only came back to look after my Mum. She’s ninety and there’s no one else.’
‘That’s very kind to leave New Zealand for your Mum.’ I replied.

The fuzzy green man walked onto the black felt and we trundled across the road with one, cautious eye on the white van that was growling and edging forward menacingly.

‘Ah well, back to it. Better see she’s alright.’ She waved as she wandered off down the hill.
‘Bye. Have a good day.’ I called.

 

Crossing lady did not ask for money or offer me a badly printed flyer to a church event with a picture of an open-armed bearded bloke in a white robe and a biblical psalm on it. That’s options c and d eliminated. Perhaps all those years in New Zealand, with a population that we would cram into south London alone, has removed her big city fear-field.  And she was a nice woman, and maybe a good sort of bonkers.  I enjoyed a perfectly pleasant, brief encounter with a complete stranger in an over-populated city for the sake of nothing more than congeniality. It was a connection.

 

Too often I spend my days disconnected.  Exchanging niceties with crossing lady over roaring traffic and beeping, flashing men, after tolerating a disrespectful, juvenile dentist, injected humanity back into the sea of empty, grey masks passing by on pavements, in buggies, cars and buses. Crossing lady reached right in and pulled me out of myself. People are more than obstacles to be avoided along the journey from A to B.  There are some days, when no matter how reclusive one feels, the universe insists on pushing through your barriers until you let it in. And so, for better or worse, let it in.

 

Image: The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia (the patron saint of dentistry) by Guido Reni 1575-1642, source – http://en.wahooart.com/@@/8LJ2ZX-Guido-Reni-Martyrdom-of-Saint-Apollonia