The original ‘Flab Battle‘, which commenced in March 2012, saw me go from an outrageous 18’6″ (116kg) to a low of 12’7″ (79.1Kg). In truth, I had lost too much, too quickly. There was very little fat/cushioning left on certain parts of my body i.e. base of spine. To this day I remain convinced that I somehow screwed up my metabolism and as a result even when it’s hot I can still feel cold.
For the best part of three years my weight remained in my defined comfort zone which capped off at 13’7″. However, we then decided to move house. This involved stress. This also involved dismantling our treadmill. These two things allied to me just getting lazy and into some bad eating habits saw my weight begin to rise again. Now that we’ve moved and are settled it’s time to get back on track. The stress is easing and of course the treadmill is now back up and running in the garage. A starting weigh-in last week shocked me to the core. The scales flashed 14’8″ (92.6Kg). This was all the motivation I needed to get back into action.
A combination of treadmill sessions, every other day, and calorie counting (with my trusted app/website MyFitnessPal) has borne some early fruit. Not only do I feel physically and mentally better, but I weigh less. Today’s weigh-in showed I had dropped down to 14’4″ (90.7Kg). Yes, I know a good percentage of this will be water weight as my body starts to flush out the sludge, but it still an encouraging first week or so.
Plan is to lose at a slow, steady and sustainable rate until I reach my target of around 13’3″ (84Kg). Hopefully I can achieve that before autumn turns to winter. Regular updates to follow.
I started messing around with paint when I was a kid. I painted everywhere; on walls, on floors on windows. I drove my old mum mad. If I weren’t leaving paint on something I had it all over myself. No matter how many baths I had, no matter how much I scrubbed, there were always paint under my nails. More than that it was under my skin, and everyone knew it. In the end they just let me get on with it. And I did.
There wasn’t a part of town where you wouldn’t see my tag. Fizz I called myself and the cops and the council hated me. They’d clean a wall and I’d be back. From time to time they’d catch me. It didn’t bother me: if I had to pay for my art then so be it.
Funny thing is last week I went back to one of those walls I sprayed as a kid. This time the council were there again, but to say well done and give me a cheque. Yeh, so get this, they’re now paying me for my art. ‘Urban regeneration’ they call it; ‘Fucked up’, some old fella called it. Call it what you want – I just love to paint.
The palm trees lining the wooden promenade swayed gently in the hot ocean breeze. The sky above the village was its usual cloudless blue. From my seat outside the café I watched as a small crowd gathered down by the shoreline. Even from this distance I could soon see what they had also surely seen – the waters of the bay slowly receding into the shimmering horizon. I quickly finished my coffee and walked across the street to the beach. A single, white-topped ripple now rolled its way back towards land. Then the horizon went dark. Then we all ran.
For fifteen years I worked as a Cabin Steward on various Mediterranean cruise ships. Before that I served nine and a half years in the Her Majesties Royal Navy – many months of which was spent under fire in distant combat zones. I loved everything about the life at sea. From a boy I’d dreamt of nothing else. I’d never suffered from sea-sickness, never once felt frightened by rough, foreboding seas. I actually enjoyed the feeling of being calm and in control when others around were unable to suppress their fears and worries.
Yet, as much as I enjoyed my work, I also enjoyed my time on shore. We stopped in so many places. I never had time to form lasting relationships: there was always another departure looming, another month at sea just around the corner. Instead I preferred to deal with my urges on a needs basis. I’m not sure when I lost the ability to control those urges; I can’t truly remember the first time I hurt someone. I didn’t mean to – I still don’t.
I was always glad to get out to sea again. However, no matter where we sailed I knew I’d never escape who and what I am.
For years when I closed my eyes it was still there: the cries of a hundred, teething infants; the tears of a thousand, desperate mothers; the stench of a month on the open oceans – we had been on land for a week before the sea-sickness truly subsided.
Hour after hour, day after day I waited in different lines. I was without my dear mother, my brothers and sisters for the first time in my life. They said they would come eventually, but I was to be the first. The land of the free they called it – I just wanted to go home.
The twisting pass between the lush valley floor and the steep sides of Col Lauran used to be filled with the sights and sounds of excited travellers. Ahead lay the end of the road and Val Deraux. You never travelled through Val Deraux, it was a destination; it was a journey’s end with one purpose – the snow covered slopes of Col Lauran.
Today that road lies all but deserted, as does the small village at its end. Cable Cars sway gently in the late-winter breeze on lines rusted to shining copper. La Hotel De Marché last saw a guest over ten years ago. Its wooden shutters remain tightly shut. The small main street shows the same state of disrepair and disinterest as its Hotel. Crumbling potholes cover the narrow roads. Leaves drift and gather in piles which will never be swept. Only one window remains curtained, only one front door leads to a resident. Madame Felence was born in the village and refuses to move down to the valley.
‘Will the snows ever return?’ I ask her.
She smiles. A mosquito buzzes around her tightly-bunched grey hair. She shields her eyes from the blistering sun. ‘J’espere,’ she says. ‘J’espere.’
The pencil-thin man in the stiff, dark suit remained unmoved. He readied a fresh sheet of paper and switched the tape recorder back on.
‘Once again, Sir, please.’
I was exhausted. I’d been there for hours, or was it days?
‘As I’ve already told you, we were out night fishing on Jessop’s creek. Something came out of the water – something big. Lights flashing all over, but silent.…and then it was just gone. That’s what happened.’
The man sighed. Nothing I could say seemed to satisfy his questions.
‘What do you want?’ I asked.
‘Only the truth, Sir: that you saw nothing. Now, shall we try once more?’
Yesterday the Scottish electorate went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2016 Holyrood elections. In 2011, Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic, and apparently, all but theoretically impossible majority considering the constraints of the De Hondt voting system. Last night, the SNP, under the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, came within 2 seats of breaking the De Hondt system for a second time. However, the overall result was never really in doubt. The SNP are re-elected as Scotland’s party of Government for the 3rd term in a row.
A quick look at the numbers shows the SNP winning 59 of the 73 “first past the post” constituency seats with over a million votes – a record, and more than Labour and Conservative combined. However, despite over 950,000 votes on the Regional Lists, this only garnered the SNP an additional four seats. That’s the De Hondt system for you – it sometimes fights back and actually stops the thing it was designed to prevent i.e. a majority. In some respects this election was all about who would come second. Much to the on-going disappointment of Labour in Scotland, it was the Scottish Tories who now form the second largest grouping with 31 seats. This includes a constituency seat for the abrasive but undoubtedly media friendly figure of Ruth Davidson. Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale failed to win her seat and instead was once again elected via the top up list votes. Elsewhere LibDem leader Willie Rennie won his seat in Fife and the Greens did well on the list to move ahead of Willie’s party in number of seats.
Moving forward, despite no SNP majority, there is a natural pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens having 69 seats between them. I can’t begin to speculate what horse-trading may go on over the next few years, but the SNP have governed before in a minority scenario (with many fewer seats) and I’m sure they can do so effectively again. Just as interesting as how the SNP perform is what will become of Labour in Scotland. It should now be clear to even the most blinkered Labour supporter that their party was well and truly used and abused by the Tories to save the union. The price they paid for that toxic marriage has been reflected at the last two national elections. Labour in Scotland need to move ground, reinvent, put distance between themselves and the Tories. Until they do I can’t see any way back. Until then the Tories will revel in Labour misfortunes – misfortunes of their own making.
The overhead power lines gently trembled under the weight of chirping winter birds. The nearby tree tops were all but shorn of their autumn red leaves. The cracked slabs in my exercise yard glistened under a light frost; the skies above grey and heavy. It said to me what I already knew, and had finally accepted: I’d seen my last summer. No more for me the smell of the warm waters of the bay; the sun on my face; the smiles, the laughter – the innocence. All I had left of this world was its cold, its emptiness, its despair. Yet I had made my peace. I was ready.