Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ouch: Part II

I know, no pain, no gain. This keeps happening to me. I played softball - well, went to training - for the first time ever on Tuesday and my knees were a little creaky the next day.* Then yesterday I did my first "special" workout in the lifting program I've been using. It's pretty smart - you do a rotation of two workouts for 8 weeks and then, just when you may be wondering about your progress, you do a special workout in which you do as many reps as possible - AMRAP - of each exercise using the weight you used in your very first workout. And it's true, you can do a lot, lot more of each.

I knew that would happen.

I didn't realise, however, that it would still hurt quite a lot today. My quads, they are pretty damned unhappy buggers today.

Still, one more AMRAP workout to go, then onto an exciting next chapter in which I do things with exciting names like the "Bulgarian split squat," "dumbbell prone Cuban snatch" (teehee!), "lateral flexion" and "cable horizontal wood chop." Awesome.

* Yes, in some ways, the big glove makes it easier, but if you've never used one before you really have to learn to trust it - that it will help you make the catch. I got a few bruised fingers because I tried to cup the ball with both hands. I slowly got better at it during practice, but it's not something that's automatically easy. And ground balls - they're still pretty hard to field.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This is a treat to say thank you if you plowed through my previous post on that book... it may be the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

The Dutiful Wife

I have just finished reading American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It's a fictionalized and imaginary account of a woman's journey from teen in the Midwest to First Lady. People have stated that it's clearly based on Laura Bush but, I think, it's actually more accurate to state that her husband is based on George W. Bush. The reason being is that we know very little about Laura and so I'm not comfortable saying that Alice Lindgren is based on Laura Bush. Clearly there are things in common, but otherwise, the characteristics of Charlie, Alice's husband in the book, are much more strikingly like those of Dubya, including the privileged upbringing, the awkwardness, the general misbehaving followed by conversion to Born-Again Christian.

I thought it was an absolutely gripping read. It's rather long - over 550 pages, and so approaching Dickensian in length - but incredibly quick and easy to get through, with the bulk of my reading done on a plane ride back from England (although, to be fair, the movie choice on Continental wasn't up to much, and yet I managed to watch both Back to the Future and Pirates of the Caribbean -well, more accurately, they were on and noisy distractions while I read and did some work). It was lent to me by TOH's mum, and she had felt that the most interesting pages are the 150 or so after Alice becomes First Lady. But I was utterly intrigued by all of it - her adolescence, their courtship, his conversion, partly because it really did set the scene for her life as FLOTUS...

The most striking thing about the book, I feel, was Alice's ambiguity and, indeed, my ambiguous response to her. In part, I thought she was incredibly courageous and, frankly, sensible - she was able to separate the man she loved from his job. In some senses, she was right - how TOH is as an economist and teacher is, really, not much to do with me and doesn't, for the most part, affect my views on or feelings toward him. Yet I thought that this in some places really reflected a lack of conviction, or, perhaps, to be more charitable, a difference in the bases of our relationships.* Because it does matter that TOH does the best he can, and strives to make lives better, and is intelligent and committed to his job. At times it almost seemed wilful blindness for Alice to not quite understand the criticisms levelled at her regarding Charlie's politics.

Nonetheless, I'd then feel swayed by and, frankly, admiration at her integrity and successes at, for the most part, being able to maintain a relationship in the face of such differences and keeping his politics out of their personal lives. That was the bargain they struck and, for the most part, they stuck to it, which was a remarkable aspect of the book. Yet I think there's definitely a strong gender dynamic being played out here, in that the wife doesn't get involved in her man's business, at least not publicly, and that makes her a good wife. I think there's room to explore whether or not a male spouse would be so easily considered a good man and a good husband for being so willing to sit and be silent on the sidelines.

The success of their relationship in spite of their differences also struck me. TOH and I used to have virulent rows--usually on the way to the train station at Hither Green in the mornings--about the role of the NHS and poverty and various other things on which he as a hard-nosed economist (ha!) and me as a soft lefty-liberal (pinko) took radically opposed views. He was all reason, I was all unhinged emotion. We've come together a lot more over the years, as you'd expect, although we're still not exactly as one. Yet I think we've always had similar core values about what people are worth and what a just society might consist of. But I was intrigued by the book because I am fascinated by those relationships in which each person has unbelievably different viewpoints. I don't think I could cope with that, and not because I'm that prejudiced (I hope). More that you need to share values. I suppose I don't really understand how you can build a life together, particularly if it's one that involves raising children, with such fundamentally different views of what is truly important. The book raises that issue and is definitely food for thought.

* And yes, I am aware the book is not real.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


First full tigers match of the season was yesterday morning. My thighs and ribs and shoulder blades are not happy. at all. but it feels good. sort of.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Pressure...

I started subscribing to updates on products and offers from Bliss, the swanky(ish) NYC spa, because I wanted deals from them - they have a very good sale just before Christmas, which has been a useful source of presents for the last couple of years. After about six months of being bombarded with messages that seem to continually denounce my body's condition and undermine my confidence, however, I've decided that I want no part of them anymore. It's not about feeling good, or attaining something, but more eradicating what's wrong with you.

Samples from the past week's subjects alone:
  • the summer slimming homestretch is on!‎ (and if you want to look good in that two-piece, you have to use all the fatgirl products)
  • new! introducing fatgirlscrub (which is, apparently, an exfoliator for those "less-than-perfect parts" and its use compliments the following products:fat girl slim, fatgirlsleep, and bliss love handler).
  • now back in stock: the buzzed-about slimming belt‎ (accompanying pieces promise to level your lumps and remove your bulge).
Eff you, Bliss. Consider me unsubscribed - and, indeed, unlikely to buy your products again anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tott(er)ing It Up

  • Hours spent asleep out of last 48: 8
  • Average count of despairing plunges of head into hands/onto desk: 1 per 20 minutes
  • Pairs of tights ruined by being unable to put them on without laddering/ripping them: 3.
  • Coffees drunk: 6 (am not yet onto double espresso shots but am, for the first time in my life, considering them) plus four cups of Yorkshire tea.
  • Drop in temperature between Las Vegas and NYC: 40F, more or less (about 22C)
  • Self-pitying thoughts: incalculable.
There are some jobs that provide you with some of these, but for genuine self-pity, mine right now is the best.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I tend to take various different routes to work in my stomp across town (I take the train south and then walk across), but they invariably mean I go past the deli where they all know my order and have it cooking as I walk through the door (which is awesome - I bypass the queue most days and it rocks). But from there, I always take the same route, because I always seem to catch the same part of the traffic lights' cycle. This morning, I didn't, and I hit Park Avenue a street lower than normal. And, for once, I looked up, looked south, and noticed outside St. Bart's an unbelievable sight - Leaves. Blossom. I looked north, and outside my building, six trees with leaves and flowers growing.

It has made me more than happy--I'm buoyant with the thought of spring, everything shooting out and growing. It'll soon be time to hit up the blossom at the Bronx and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - hooray.

Now, if only it weren't so fecking cold.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


So, a friend had to write a bio for her new post and welcome dinner (and jolly good for her, too!). I thought I might try a stab at mine. [clearing throat noise]

[Your faithful author] has no life. It is sunny today, 60F/15C (roughly) out and the only time outdoors was the walk from the subway to her office. She is miserable. She is procrastinating and writing this instead of making the dreaded phonecall she needs to make in order to find out what more work she should do. She will not be watching the opening game of the baseball season because she will, again, be stuck in the office.

Not much cop that. How about less self-pity and more bio?
[Your less self-indulgent author] is from Catford, whose claims to fame are Gary Oldman and a giant cat on top of the now seedy and desperately sad shopping centre. She spent her formative years, like many a 90s youth, obsessively listening and re-listening (thanks to the power of cassettes) to the Evening Session and Mark & Lard on Radio 1. Unlike many, she also managed to watch Starshaped, the Blur film, every single day for a year between the ages of 15 and 16. During that time she also went out with cousins of both the Rebel MC and Kenny from Grange Hill. She wanted to be an astrophysicist at King's College, Cambridge. That has not happened. University didn't lead to the career she wanted, but did help her reclaim her Catford accent after hearing the public school overprivileged brats without a trace of a Dorset accent because Mama didn't let them play with locals.

Through various twists and turns, she ended up being terrible at physics but ok at the history thereof, combining her two loves of feminism and war in her undergraduate and graduate theses, for which the Arts and Humanities Research Board was trusting enough to award her a grant. She has done nothing with her theses. She may not even have a copy of either, although the graduate one is, in theory, in the Imperial College library.

After periods messing around as a personal assistant and being a terrible teacher of English as a foreign language to unsuspecting Catalan children, she is now a lawyer. This is all very much Once in a Lifetime territory. How she found herself here is not clear, but is undoubtedly linked to a big Yorkshire oaf with an extraordinarily kind and generous heart who still gets up to make her tea before 7 in the morning most days, even after a decade of being together. Despite currently working ungodly hours and seeing far too little of her family and friends, both in NY and from back home, she is a pretty contented person.

She hates camping, has no known allergies, and thinks that Chime by Orbital might just be the greatest record of all time.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Babies, babies, everywhere. Today arrived the third of a trio of munchkins born to friends and family in the past seven days. It seems that everyone is getting sprogged up these days. I have two good friends getting married in the near future who plan to start trying pretty much as soon as the vows are done - although hopefully not as visibly as in The Wedding Banquet - and several other friends who are indeed up the duff.*

I am still - even despite my advancing years and ticking clock - very much of the feeling that sprogging is not something I want to do. Nonetheless, if everyone's doing it, I'm very happy that people I think will do wonderful jobs as parents are among them. Particularly as today's arrival was something his parents were told would and could never happen, with or without medical assistance. So he is, for want of a better term, a bit of a miracle. Which should put a spring in your step today, as it has to mine. Because good and much wished-for things can happen to good people.

* There are many fabulous ways to say the horribly coy "with child," my favourite being "up the duff," which is how my dearest HJ told me.

2009: March's Update

  1. Use the blog as active forum to update resolutions. Clearly not.
  2. Lower body fat. Well, for once, yes. I have been not very committed to the gym of late, but yesterday's session certainly can be felt right now. Not smart for my squash match tonight, but what can you do? It seems to be paying dividends, as I've picked up a bit in the last week or so and am lifting serious weights. As a result, 29.3%, so down 1% from last month. Can't expect results like that all the time, but I'm rather pleased and it hopefully will inspire me further, once the threat of wearing a bikini in Vegas recedes...
  3. Run a 10k. Hmm. At the moment, I'm not sure where I'd fit this all in. As a friend is running the London Marathon in a few weeks, I resolve to have at least scheduled an appointment by that date. Ahem.
  4. No TV one night a week. We're not even in the house to watch tv at the moment - I get home so late and we've been here there and everywhere. Hopefully this weekend I will get some time to myself. Hopefully.
  5. Read 6 books from Observer 100. I am still waiting for Anna Karenina from the NYPL - currently 6 out of 14 holds - and when that arrives, that's my next one.
  6. Watch at least 12 movies from the IMDB top 250. We have The Seven Samurai sitting waiting for us; reasons for not watching yet, see 4, supra.
  7. Not go onto the internet for recreation until midday every day. Clearly not happening, seeing as I'm doing it now. Right - start again. Seriously.
  8. Cook a new recipe twice a month AND (to make different from last year) recount the successes/failures on the blog. See 4, supra.
  9. Eat one piece of fruit a day every day I'm at work. Sticking to this pretty well - I'm definitely eating more fruit than usual.
  10. Win a game of squash! Well, I played my first game in ages and I lost 3-2, in the squash ladder. Having had 4 match points. Maybe I'm a loser, not a clutch player. A choker. AAAAAAAAAARGH. I'm playing two matches this week, and hopeful I'll win at least one of those.