Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting my journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.

Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Postcard from Chez Nous

Dear All,
We are having a wonderful time here at Chez Nous. The scenery is fantastic and the weather sublime. Wish you were here.
Love from Caree and Mister E x

Yes, since returning from Scotland we have been indulging ourselves with a staycation. It is the first time since retiring that we are actually experiencing prolonged summer weather. Having been told that with global warming our summers locally are set to continue in damp and windy fashion, I had actually given up any expectation of high temperatures and sunshine without travelling abroad to find them. In the past, when they did arise, I was always at work and whilst an office environment may have the benefit of air conditioning, I am struggling to think of any other advantage.

Here at Chez Nous, there has been no cost for our vacation; we haven't had to limit our belongings to a suitcase each; there has been no long, arduous journey to get here; we have enjoyed total privacy and familiar surroundings with all the home comforts we are accustomed to. 

Mind it hasn't been a stretch out on the beach type of trip. Oh no this has been more akin to a working holiday in the countryside, albeit with the opportunity to choose one's own activities, meaning I've opted for weeding, sowing and watering as well as constructing a new irrigation system for the greenhouse.

Whilst the heat may be playing havoc with commercial produce (I understand lettuce is going to be in short supply next week as it won't grow when the thermometer hits 30 degrees), at Chez Nous seeds are germinating within 24 hours and my rocket and salad leaves are coming on just nicely. Can anything be better than eating outside on your own patio, with produce from a mere 20 yards away hitting your plate? Of course, I exaggerate for it is only June and it is North Yorkshire, meaning of course that as yet home-grown has been limited to radishes, herbs, rhubarb and gooseberries. They have, however, whetted the appetite for the harvest yet to come.

When we are not eating the herbs, I have been filling vases with them as well as hanging bunches of lavender to dry.

As for the housework, there has been none. It's far too hot for that kind of nonesense. The house may be a mess inside but so what; we are on holiday until further notice and nobody vacuums on vacation.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

You Know Life's Finite When...

Four of us gathered at a friend's house yesterday to gawp together at the pageantry of the Royal Wedding live on television. We celebrated the occasion in style, accompanied by a champagne lunch. I even baked and iced some British cupcakes for the gathering.

I also brought more solemnity to the event than the Archbishop of Canterbury when I queried if this would be the last chance in our lifetime to experience a televised royal marriage. That caused a little consternation for the true Royalist amongst us who thought I was referring to a Republican takeover.

Then optimism broke out as we turned to our tried and trusted fingers to calculate just how old we might be when the next generation of heirs to the throne are ready to wed. Zimmer frames aside, if they marry young enough we concluded that we could still be around to witness it, in body if not mind.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

All Aboard for Pampering

Mister E and I may be retired but we still enjoy being pampered now and again; who says you have to be working hard to deserve a treat?

Yesterday offered one of those occasions when we were spoiled with a train trip on board the Northern Belle, previously operated and restored by the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

It was a day for lounging back in a plush seat, eating and drinking everything put in front of us (and there was quite a quantity) whilst watching the scenery glide serenely past. The luxury of our surroundings and the attentive service from uniformed staff all added to the sense of occasion and enjoyment.

We were entertained by wandering musicians and a magician on our figure of eight route around County Durham and North Yorkshire, ending up eventually back where we started at Darlington Station. Just like my retirement so far really; there is no obvious destination but the journey getting there is immensely pleasurable.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Preparing for Disaster

I'm conscious that when we retired in the summer of 2014 it seemed that we were never still, dashing from place to place, event to event for many months. Winter, coupled with a touch of retirement-complacency, however, seems to have a dampening effect on activity levels and it can be all too easy to slip into a hibernation malaise or even, in light of recent weather conditions, a rain associated disorder.

The return of the youngest for a week was therefore a welcome wake-up call making up for the lack of Spring, that seasonal harbinger of action.

So as well as our Easter Sunday venture, a trip to the cinema ("The Greatest Showman") and a day splashing in the pool and hot-tubs (inside and out) at the spa attached to the gym I frequent, we decided that learning how to make cheese would be a useful diversion.

In my quest for a simpler life, I am conscious that were the backbones of society ever to crumble then my chances of survival as the last person on Earth would be slim to say the least. Once I had raided the local shop of provisions and eaten my way through my vegetable patch, to what extent would I be able to endure? Surrounded by wild flowers and plants from hybrid seed would I ever produce an edible bean again? Could I dig a well, generate electricity or even construct a wheel? How would I round up a field of cows or shear a sheep and spin its wool to knit or weave?  Winters in retirement obviously give me far too much time to ponder.

In that vein and pandering to my imagination, we ventured into the Yorkshire Dales and to the Wensleydale creamery at Hawes. After a detailed demonstration as well as a peep into the actual factory, I'm not sure that it will be worth my while practising the ancient art of cheesemaking. If disaster strikes, however, I learnt enough to experiment, assuming always that I have it in me to extract some rennet from the stomach of a calf. 

Of more immediate use and greater enjoyment was the opportunity to sample some twenty or so varieties of cheese produced on site, as well as delighting in a wander around Hawes which we hadn't visited since those non-stop days of early retirement and Le Tour de Yorkshire.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Savvy Spring Shopping or Not

Today I met a family member for a chat over a pot of tea during her office lunch break. I paid for the tea with vouchers I had received through the post, opening the envelope and placing the vouchers in my purse for use on such an occasion. That's not really difficult planning is it? How often during our working lives, however, do we even bin apparent junk envelopes without exploring their contents or, if we do open them, let any such vouchers lie around for weeks until they are lost or else out of date. Family member was impressed enough to comment on this fact.

After she left I browsed around the clothing department of a local store in search of a couple of T-shirts, now that the sun is finally shining. There were several sale rails but nothing of any appeal upon them, so instead I picked up two from the newly arrived stock but got them for the equivalent of the sale price with, you've guessed, another voucher.

Then I headed for the supermarket, shopping list in hand.  The mad days of the trolley dash around the aisles, where throwing in and counting the cost only at the check-out have receded and grocery shopping, like most things in retirement, is conducted at a more measured pace. I haven't quite reached the stage where I have so much surplus time that I go from store to store comparing food item prices before I buy. I do, however, now actually examine the in-store displays and pricing, carefully calculating where a bulk buy is a saving and where it is not.

So today I spotted that washing powder capsules  were £4 for 19 washloads or £9 for 38 washloads. One of those occasions where, contrary to instinct, the smaller pack is actually better value. Smugly I placed a pack from the shelf in my trolley. It was only later after I had left the shop that I realised that someone (I'd hate to think it was the store itself) must have misplaced larger packs in the smaller pack area of the shelf and I had, of course, picked up the wrong one.

Retirement may be bliss but it doesn't stop you winning some and losing others!


Sunday, 25 March 2018

That Ongoing but Elusive Quest

Aware of my penchant for mixing exercise with food (the only justification I can find for eating more), I realise that I have overlooked telling you about my day out with an old friend last week. With all the snow and rain we've been inundated with recently, we agreed to meet at Fountains Abbey near to Ripon believing that it would get us outdoors but provide some alternatives in the event of extreme weather.

In the end it turned out to be a dry if chilly day. However, any hope of following the footpath into Ripon itself disappeared in a quagmire beneath our feet. Instead we returned and then stuck to the purposefully constructed paths around the estate. Whilst not flat, the ascents are so insignificant that there is no risk of breathlessness intervening to impede non-stop chatter.

It was a perfect choice and on this occasion not only was there a cafe to finish our walk in but also another for a pre-stroll coffee and cake.

Yes, when I mused on walking my way to fitness in the early days of this blog, I forgot about the refreshment breaks. No wonder 3 years and 9 months into retirement that I continue to wear out the soles of my feet on what seems to be an elusive quest. Still I can thoroughly recommend the National Trust's scones and flapjack.


Sunday, 11 March 2018


We are now, it seems, all familiar with the Danish concept of Hygge; a feeling of charm and cosiness that acknowledges special moments of intimacy. Yugga, according to an article I was reading in 'This is Yorkshire' (one of those items of reading material left out in hotel bedrooms), is essentially the same thing but in Yorkshire. 

Consequently we have just returned from three days spent revelling in the concept: a mini break; two charming country house hotels; roaring fires; my mobile off; a celebratory lunch with family; strolling along the cliffs at Flamborough Head and then the beach at Filey; pre-dinner drinks served to our sofa; exploring Beverley with its cobbled streets and huge Minster; locally sourced ingredients for dinner; cooked breakfasts; a spa with saunas, steam rooms and an outdoor pool; a memorable art exhibition; cosy coffee shops; small picturesque Wolds' villages and enormous vistas on the North Yorkshire Moors; Helmsley's Friday Market; a handmade cake, courtesy of my sister. 

Hygge, Yorkshire style, has much to recommend it especially when you are celebrating a milestone birthday.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Festive Fever

Eventful or calm and peaceful, I never quite know how to describe that week beginning with Christmas and ending with New Year. Interspersed with periods of: family and togetherness, memories and resolutions, indulgence and even gluttony, activity and then indolence, nostalgia and reflection; it is definitely a unique time of the year.

For us this year was different in that for the first time in modern history the eldest was at the opposite side of the world and not therefore with us to enjoy what have become our own family traditions. Even the beloved Boxing Day Quiz had to be deferred when he failed to rustle up an internet connection on the national park trek that he was undertaking.

A quarter down, we still manoeuvred our way through the week, even managing an overnight trip to Hull before its reign as the UK City of Culture 2017 finished. Less than 80 miles away, it took an end of year cut off date to get us there. Who thought working to deadlines has no application to retirement?

Of course we ended up travelling on the snowiest day of the winter so far, but with the early evening darkness were able to appreciate not only the city's Christmas lights but also a series of robotic installations in the atmospheric old town area by Jason Bruges on the theme of "Where do we go from here?"

There is something almost sureal about standing on a cold December night watching a robot attempt to communicate with a statue of William Wilberforce, not to mention a circle of them working together to send a series of laser beams upwards or the more inquisitive set outside the Minster which seemed to deliberately inquire and to interrogate the visitor beneath.

I really appreciate how art speaks to the individual and we each take something complex to describe but personally moving or inspiring away from it 

We wandered from gallery to gallery.

Amongst them we took in the Turner prize short-list at the Ferens Art Gallery and after seeing the winning collection by Lubaina Himid, I am of course inspired with the idea of buying china plates from charity shops and adding my own artistic flair and cultural message (if only) to them.

An exhibition that stood out for all of us was a Portrait of a City especially the photographs by Martin Parr of food in Hull. It did little to convince us of haute cuisine on Humberside nor were we persuaded of the need to try a deep fried pattie but I was left with the memory of the vibrancy of  the culinary delights on offer and, albeit solely in the imagination, the smell of cooking. 

We also enjoyed the display entitled "Turner and the Whale." JMW Turner's paintings of whaling ships were showcased alongside pictures from the Hull school of art and artefacts from the historic whaling industry in the city. Forget painting china plates, I want to create a masterpiece in oils of sea, and light and waves.

A feverish boost of creativity lasting 24 hours had to be a sure fire way to return home uplifted, motivated and ready to make my resolutions for 2018. Except it wasn't... yes, I had festive fever alright but of the sneezing, high temperature, runny nosed variety. Confined to bed for two days, I missed the New Year's arrival and have been too weak and befuddled to consider my objectives for what is already the present year.

Thankfully the brain fog is now lifting but to make life easier for my somewhat delicate state (I exaggerate), I simply avow to continue with those resolutions from last year which somehow seem even more appropriate with increasing global turmoil. So once again in 2018 and without comment on how I fared last year, I resolve to follow what I seek to be the pattern of my retirement and:

1. Be happy and enjoy the fun in everything
2. Stand up for what I believe in and endeavour to engage others to fight the cause
3. Use less (avoiding single use plastic in particular), live simply and shop locally wherever possible
4. Think globally and be aware of the impact of my footprints on the planet and the suffering of all those in war zones or denied the liberties that I enjoy, doing what I can to raise awareness and improve outcomes
5. In an annual tradition, or perhaps because I'm still suffering from a virus induced delirium, lose weight and get fit.

Finally, albeit a little delayed: best wishes for 2018, everyone.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Giving Up

After my last blog entry I have been contemplating my retirement and am beginning to feel that the next driver is "giving up." I don't mean by surrendering but rather in a very physical way in order to reach that nirvana of a simplified life.

So for me July has been a month to embrace Plastic Free July and abandon added sugar. 

The statistics on plastic are appalling and when I looked in my own waste-bin at the beginning of the month I saw with horror that, despite our conscientous devotion to re-cycling, we were still disposing of more plastic in the form of cellophane-wrapping and cling-film for landfill than any other form of waste. Just realising the extent of the problem that we were creating (and we consider ourselves good at sorting re-cyclable waste from our other rubbish) was a start in the right direction and now it has become a crusade to deliberately shop to try to avoid the worst excesses of single-use plastic whilst looking for items made of other substances for repeat use. It's too late to undo all our errors in the past; the children's toys, coffee capsules, melamine picnic plates, garden chairs, plant pots, all now presumably buried deep in a local authority pit never to decompose in our lifetimes. The plastic containers in the fridge and coathangers in the wardrobe provide a daily reminder of  our wilful disregard for green living. We are, however, now stepping up to become eco-warriors as, going forward, we relinquish the plastic trappings that go with an early 21st century lifestyle. Giving up is good, providing both challenge and ambition whilst benefiting the planet as we hopefully reduce pollution.

Sugar is another horror now scientifically linked to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes. The Action on Sugar website highlights the issues but it is only when you start to read in detail the written information on food products that you get any appreciation of the scale of the problem. Have you for instance ever tried to find bread without added sugar in your local supermarket? It does exist but elusivity means you have to track it down. On the plus side, the eradication of added sugar from our diet in the last couple of weeks has done wonders for weight loss and energy levels and I can thoroughly recommend it.

In September 2016, I posted a blog entry which I titled Letting Go and Making a Difference.  They were for me the second and third phases of retirement, the movement or divergence from one to the other blurred by an overlap. Giving Up, following  a period of what I can best describe as plateauing, seems to be a natural progression and whilst many might say there is no obvious distinction there is actually a subtle difference stemming from the maturing of retirement. Letting go was as much about the mental state of change from worker to retired person as the relinquishment of physical stuff; there was an understanding of the need to shed and a start to the process. In making a difference I had reached a point where I was energised by my efforts and strove to achieve. To give up is I now believe a natural sequitur but it is more brutal and deliberate, requiring passion, renewed energy and aggressive determination. It goes beyond recognition of and lip service to what must be jettisoned, to deliberate deprivation in order to achieve it. To let go, I must now give up previously perceived comforters rather than extraneous stuff; to make a difference I must give up the comforts of self-indulgence and infinite time. 

Retirement has turned up more challenges.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Nectar or Not

Some people love Marmite. Mister E is one of them. Unfortunately I have only once managed to get past the smell in order to taste it and let's say that I was singularly unimpressed. If you have to consume it to be a vegan, no wonder I'm sticking to meat and dairy products.

Of course I understand that  some people suffer Marmageddon moments when there is no jar in the house or Tesco falls out with its supplier and they struggle to even buy the stuff. On my part, however, it haunts  my life. I despise the stuff but am forever running into jars in  my kitchen. I hate the way it sticks to the knife that I invariably find myself washing to put away, or the way it seems to dribble down the side of the jar that I want to put back in the cupboard.

Now I know its reputedly eco friendly, made locally from brewers' yeast and low in calories but still I have never been persuaded to fall for its purported allure.

Today, however, I understand that I could be missing out on important benefits. Research at the University of York appears to suggest that there is an apparent link between eating Marmite and an increase of a chemical messenger associated with healthy brain function. The Daily Telegraph reported the outcome more bluntly indicating that it may boost brain power and stave off dementia.

Wouldn't it be typical if a food item that I find totally unpalatable is the one that could help defeat those senior moments I have been referring to recently and perhaps even help me finish the daily crossword? 

Of course such research is only in its infancy and further studies are required before any benefit in the treatment of dementia can be claimed. In the meantime it will take more than the odd episode of momentary witlessness to get me to volunteer to take a teaspoon a day.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas is Coming

It is very easy  to lose track of time in retirement. Without young children in the home, colleagues at work or even an Advent Calendar to remind you of the number of days to go until December 25th, there is of course a risk that Christmas Day can creep up almost unawares.

Today however my Christmas run up officially began when our Pilates wind down took place to the accompaniment of Silent Night. This was followed by a gym workout the sole purpose of which was to burn as many calories as possible in order to join fellow gym bunnies for a festive meal. Unfortunately three courses, including turkey with all the trimmings, really meant that  I ought properly to have returned for an overnight stint if all damage was to be avoided. With cards still to buy and write, it was not too difficult to formulate a legitimate excuse.

Tomorrow is Christmas Jumper Day and then there are 8 days to get those cards posted, presents bought and wrapped, food sourced, house cleaned, decorations put up and family welcomed. Goodness that's a whole week that I never got whilst working; plenty of time!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Harvest Effect

The view around us at the moment is illustrative of the season; late summer mellowing into autumn and all around us the harvest coming home. Indeed in the last week I have dug up and stored  the remainder of the potato crop whilst continuing to pick beans, tomatoes, lettuce and spring onions not to mention copious buckets of apples.

We've also been enjoying some glorious weather although perhaps it was a little premature to hear it being described as an Indian summer. Certainly the local farmers don't have any faith in such a prediction  because they were working through the night to get their cereal crops in. Indeed when we awoke and drew back the curtains this morning there was a haze that seemed to stretch for miles; a rural smog of harvest dust.

Unfortunately it had also entered through the open bedroom windows to irritate eyes and nostrils. Peeping in the mirror after a sneezing fit, one eye was bloodshot and remains so. Whilst therefore I might have sought to prolong the good weather a little longer (after all we did wait rather a long time for summer to start this year), I couldn't help but cheer when it began to rain mid-morning. However it's now been replaced by a stiff breeze that's moved the dust on but also created a deluge of windfall apples that now need processing into pies, jam or the freezer.

Is this what retirement is? Farming by another name?

Monday, 11 January 2016

A Return to Normality

The last of our Christmas Holiday invaders, in the form of the youngest, left us to return to university yesterday. Normality now reigns supreme after what has seemed like a hectic festive period.

As previously recorded it started with erecting the Christmas tree at the last minute and playing host to a Yorkshire Terrier, small in stature but big on making her presence known. In various stages we were then joined by the youngest, the eldest, the eldest's girlfriend, family on Mister E's side, family on my side. We have only 10 dining chairs which is meant to limit the number we can cater for at any one time; this year the limit was exceeded at 11 when one guest went chairless, but hey he did get fed!

So during our 12 mad days of Christmas we were visited by two eccentrics dressed as elves and a glove puppet. Our youngest suffered from an infection which led to a fever which in turn led to vomiting. I had to take her to the doctor on three separate occasions including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and during which period we were constantly accompanied by a bright orange bucket. I also worked out that the out of hours GP telephone number is 111 for a reason: if you dial it often enough you realise it actually spells ill!

Meanwhile, the dog seemed to think it was in charge of the cooking, refusing to leave the kitchen during the long periods of food preparation. We solved a murder mystery when our guests included Sigmund Fraud and Dame Barbara Carthorse. Several people ate too much chocolate and the bright orange bucket made another appearance. 

The dog seemed to think it was the only being that deserved to be eating Christmas dinner and when excluded barked constantly. As it did so, the ghost of Christmas present wandered through, gin bottle in hand and in search, presumably, of an orange bucket.

We had a mini disaster in the form of a fire when, instead of burning out, a candle tried to continue its life by eating its way through a table decoration, resulting in Mister E blistering himself by rising to the occasion and extinguishing it single-handedly and before the wet tea towel or orange bucket arrived.

The dog seemed to think it was the only guest at the party and objected to the pulling of Christmas crackers. The living room (still suffering in part from books and other items that properly belong in the study) started to resemble the council tip as gifts were unwrapped and it stayed that way for several days. 

Life was turned upside down, when for the first time in living history, Mister E and I lost the Boxing Day Family Challenge to the next generation and the ghost of Christmas present (or maybe it was one of those elves or a bright orange bucket) walked through again.

The dog seemed to think that our smallest nephew was hunt potential for the New Year's Day Meet and insisted on chasing him around our downstairs. With only three teeth left, however, it rather detracted from the sense of viciousness. At this point someone handed the gin bottle around again or maybe it was the orange bucket but nobody really cared, in fact there was even a suggestion that we had a lion in the house.

Lions, elves, orange buckets, and ghosts; at least we were able to track down the murderer. The newly furbished study was spared the grief of Professor Plum and the lead piping and instead the culprit on this occasion was one Mike Bison.

One mystery remained unsolved however, namely the disappearance of two forks but a search of the wheelie-bin has only revealed a pastry brush and spoon. I'm blaming the ghost rather than family or the dog.

Utterly exhausted, primarily from tidying up, waving goodbye and putting away that orange bucket, I am now about to start on the laundry. I have heard tell that it is a new tradition at Christmastime to bless the family home with a whole term's worth of washing; certainly it is a tradition that both the eldest and youngest seem to have embraced wholeheartedly.

Happy New Year everyone and let's have a peaceful and less frenetic 2016!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Health Trip

Well it is said that retirement is a journey and also that it is full of surprises. Certainly I had never expected to be embroiled in so much physical activity in retirement, becoming, if I am allowed to quote from the urban dictionary, something of a "gym bunny." Mind, you would never think it to look at me, but bit by bit the abs and glutes are developing.

So the natural progression from all the exercise has to be to think in terms of general healthy living and, of course, that old chestnut: what we eat and drink.

I thought I had tackled that a few weeks ago with My Fitness Pal but no, in the true spirit of moving on a stage in the journey, I have now started another Future Learn Course, this time from the University of Aberdeen on Nutrition and Well-Being. So far I have been absorbing some fairly basic facts about carbohydrates, protein, fats and micro-nutrients but do not have a clue where this trip is leading, especially when I have completed the course.

Will it stop with a cookery lesson perhaps or move into the world of medicine and/or alternative therapies? I have no idea but I am not getting off now, the journey is too exciting!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My New Best Friend

Following on from my post about food, exercise and the paucity of weight loss in retirement, after I had somewhat overindulged in Whitby last weekend, I thought it was time to make amends. With all the exercise I now get in retirement and the healthy diet I follow, I decided that if I was not losing weight in any significant amounts then life needed to  be shaken up a bit.

So I have found a new friend: My Fitness Pal.

Yes it's a virtual friend, a wonderful app from Under Armour that records the calories you take on board and the calories you burn, producing graphs to show how balanced your day's food consumption has been, the nutrients you need and what you are likely to weigh in 5 weeks if you continue eating in that way.

I have never calorie counted in my life before, failing to understand how some people, it seems almost intuitively, know just how many of them are in a slice of bread or chocolate biscuit. After almost a week I am still none the wiser in that respect, which is where My Fitness Pal does all the hard work. It is programmed with so much information that it never fails to surprise me; like yesterday when I succumbed to a Marks & Spencer pistachio and almond cookie, it had all the detail, right down to the last grain of sugar.

Doing all of that manually would of course be totally boring, but when, like me, you are compliant by nature, very pedantic, logical and love living by rules, then My Fitness Pal could become a friend for life.

Even better, every time I visit the gym, my new companion effectively gives me a pat on the back and allows me to eat more. Now who doesn't want a friend like that, especially in that fish restaurant in Whitby?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Cod and Chips

I am conscious that food has not played an enormous part in my commentary on this blog. I am unsure why, as I certainly eat a great deal of it! Perhaps it is because my nutritional need in retirement has not varied enormously from when I was working. If anything, I probably eat slightly healthier (although we have never been a family for fast food, ready meals or take-aways) and maybe less than when I was working.

There are of course exceptions and I would be being disingenuous if I did not confess to partaking in a small sized (Yorkshire measurement) fish and chips when we were in Whitby on Saturday. We ate late to ensure we could get a seat in one of the renowned eateries without queuing; deliberately ate small breakfasts and then, in my case, nothing more for the rest of the day. We also prepared for the feast by a running pace up the 199 steps to St Mary's Church and I did an extra long work-out in the gym the next day too.

The trouble is that one of the problems of being of a retirement-appropriate age, is that no matter how hard you exercise or deny yourself, you shed weight in solitary ounces. Wink at a fish in batter however and the bulges appear instantly around your middle! I am exaggerating but the truth is that, although I now seem to live in a state of permanent exertion, losing those pounds gained during my sedentary office lifestyle is no easy matter. 

Of course it would be easy to blame a sluggish metabolism but, as the NHS website points out, numerous studies have failed to find evidence to support the view that overweight people have slow metabolic rates. Instead it recommends the only effective way to decrease your waist size is by aerobic activity, strength training and being active, whilst eating sensibly, of course.

It looks as though I'm just going to have to keep those gym visits going along with the decorating, gardening and walking. Oh and maybe I should avoid Whitby and its quintessential English seaside cuisine for a while.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Cool as Cucumber

Why does it seem that every day the outcome of  yet more medical research, much of it contradictory, is reported by the media?

Today I learnt that overweight people are less likely to succumb to dementia as early as their slimmer counterparts. However, and before I give up on the gym and frequent Burger King instead, I do have to consider the fact that obesity is likely to lead to heart and other problems. Moreover it was only earlier this week that we were told that there is a genetic link between short height and coronary artery disease, coupled with high cholesterol, raised blood-pressure and the inevitable risk of stroke.

So as someone who only just extends to 5 feet and 2 inches (1.57 metres) when fully stretched, do I cut back on cake and risk dementia instead?

Of course this all had to follow an evening at the Civic Theatre in Darlington last night to see "Grumpy Old Women," and from which I encountered the amazing statistic that, as they get older, women spend 26 hours of every 24 hour day worrying.

You will discern that this morning I was in an inevitable state of anxious fretting trying to resolve the health conundrum. How long will it be before my heart gives up? Is it already showing signs of disease? Could it be enlarged? Could it even have stopped beating without me even noticing? Should I be changing my diet, and if so in what way? Do I go to the gym more or less often?

All of these thoughts were occupying my mind as I drove along one of the narrow lanes that leads out of the village. Suddenly there was a flash of white to my left as a young deer leapt out onto the road in front of my car. I slammed down the clutch and brake in an emergency stop and avoided hitting it by inches. My hand went to my chest: there was no perceptible reaction on the left side; no skipped or racing heartbeat, not even a flutter.

Cool as a cucumber, I drove on, confident that my heart is sound and strong.....for the moment!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Back in Time for Dinner

"Back in Time for Dinner," is the name of a programme on BBC 2, the fourth episode of which was screened tonight. For some reason it has caught my imagination, perhaps it's the nostalgia trip as a family has spent one day for each year since 1950, living and dining as if it were actually living in that year.

Rattling through the 1980's tonight I was surprised at the role of the humble pre-packed sandwich. Along with thousands of other workers, I have certainly bought my fair share of those for lunch over my working lifetime. Whatever good intention I may have had to make and pack my own lunch, it invariably flew out of the window each morning, as I flapped around  with a tight deadline for leaving home for the office looming. Fortunately having to go out to buy the sandwich did mean that there was a reason to leave my desk at lunchtime, even if it was only for a few minutes.

As the programme indicated, since 1980 the average worker's lunchtime has decreased from 60 to less than 30 minutes, presumably aided and abetted by the availability of that packaged sandwich. I certainly recall that, when I started working, lunchtime was a social occasion where a group of us would meet and eat together, often in a local hostelry or otherwise in the office kitchen, and a full hour would indeed be taken. I even worked in one office in the early 1980's where lunchtime was a whole hour and fifteen minutes so that the gentlemen could return home to a cooked lunch prepared by their wives. So much for progress: by the time I retired it was very much the norm to mix crumbs with files and papers at your desk.

Thankfully in retirement, Mister E and I have rediscovered the joy of lunching. We have always been a family that has sat down together for a properly cooked evening meal and now we tend to do the same at lunchtime, although the meal is inevitably lighter than later in the day. We take our time over it, chat and relax, away from whatever activity has occupied our morning. Most importantly, we never have pre-packaged sandwiches!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Eating Out

Mister E and I seem to have eaten out on an inordinate number of occasions in the last couple of weeks, in part attributable to and during our trip to the Lake District but also locally since our return as well as on our day visit to London.

It seems that there is something of a revolution taking place with restaurant menus.

Perhaps it is a result of the growing prominence of vegetarianism or alternatively part of a desperate fight to counter the effects of obesity, but the last two years has seen a definite rise in the number of dishes featuring butter-nut squash and now too it would seem kaleslaw. I blame the likes of Jamie Oliver myself!

There was a time not so long ago when eating out, certainly in the North, was based on a choice of stodgy carbohydrate-laden dishes featuring such delicacies as Cumberland sausage, battered fish and chips, lamb shank and roast potatoes followed of course by sticky toffee pudding, treacle tart or chocolate sponge all with custard.

I am sure that none of those traditional dishes was in any way beneficial in the fight against clogging arteries, heart disease and middle-age spread. They were however always welcome after a long day out on the fells when you could tell yourself that you were only replacing calories expended by tramping in the hills.

Now when perusing the menu after an active and tiring day you can, halo justly shining, tell yourself that the meal will be another healthy addition to your virtuous day. That is, until you see the size of the portions; taste the cream in the accompanying sauce; oil in the dressing and note the enormous chunks of bread to accompany your plate.

It's just as well I rarely eat more than  two courses these days, often just one, otherwise, and despite all the exercise, I really would be on the verge of developing a heart problem.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Another Day Out

I had another day out yesterday. Whilst Mister E drove off to his 3 day week job, I hopped on a train to Leeds to browse a few shopping streets in Yorkshire's big city but more importantly, from the perspective of someone who hates shopping, to meet my sister for lunch and then view an exhibition of work by Shezad Dawood at the City Art Gallery.

Wandering around our city centres is always a great experience even when you do detest shopping, because when you look up there are invariably wonderful buildings and Leeds' Victorian Quarter fulfils all expectations in this respect with its old covered arcades the forerunners to modern malls but so much more interesting.

The exhibition too was intriguing especially the main feature which was a video film about humanity entitled Towards the Possible Film. Beautiful and cruel; mystifying and straightforward; I am still puzzling it out.

A little like the tasty and artistically presented salad we ate at lunchtime, where we had to guess the ingredients!