Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Help! I Can't Keep My Knickers Up!

My diminishing girth is causing me a problem. My knickers keep falling down. I have considered stapling the sides to make them fit again, but perhaps it's time to pay M&S a visit? What? Other shops sell knickers? Don't be ridiculous!

It's not just knickers though, I just put that in the title as an unashamed way of getting people to read the page. 'Help, my t shirts are baggy!' does have quite the same pull, does it? Tis true though. My t shirts are all too big as well. Luckily, as I put weight on, I kept all my old jeans, so I'm OK there. You'll just have to pretend not to notice that they're all a bit 'retro' being as how they are at least a decade old.

So, knickers have gone from an 18 to a 14, and my t shirts have gone from a 22 to a 14 - I bought three tees today. Whoop, whoop and thrice whoop! I can cram into a 14 jeans too, but it's really not a pretty sight. Still, I think I'll claim that as being 'about a size 14', if anyone asks my dress size. I've always been a glass half full kinda girl ;)

M&S now do packs of lacy knickers not just the plain ones that I would usually get, so I'll treat myself to those. I need to bras too, but they're expensive, so they'll have to wait for another couple of stone.

New clothes! How exciting! Must resist buying too much just yet. I still have some way to go :D

I still have a nasty head cold though. Poor me :(. It's making me feel shattered all the time and walking is exhausting. I spent two hours asleep yesterday afternoon which isn't like me at all, so I must be ill. Bah!

This is all by way of an excuse for not having lost any weight again. I wonder how much snot weighs. Perhaps that's what's holding me back.

So today...


Breakfast: Yakult and a grapfruit
Lunch: Salmon fillet with veg and avocado.
Dinner: Quinoa and chicken.
Snack: Ovaltine Options hot choccie drink. 
Drinks: 1.5l of tap water

This little lot adds up to about 810 calories according to FitBit. 

FitBit Stats From Yesterday

Steps: 10,624
Distance: 6.12 miles
Active minutes: 36

My Stats

Current weight: 11st 5.6lbs (pffft)
Next weight target: 11st 3lbs (I will go from 'obese' to 'over weight' according to the NHS's BMI stats)

You can follow my healthy lifestyle/weight-loss exploits at Fat Bat to Fit Bit.

Friday, 10 July 2015

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Road!

Just recently lots of cycle lanes have been popping up near to where I live. We seem to have a lot more cyclists in the area of late, which is doubtless due to living by the Olympic cycling route. Anyway, the reason for my sudden interest is that I am currently in the Netherlands - home of much cycling and bikes that you peddle backwards to stop. I have observed a couple of issues...

Firstly, their roads are VERY much wider than ours. They have more than enough space to have sensible sized footpaths, cycle paths and roads. Some even have space for trams. Our roads are typically very narrow. Far too narrow to accommodate all these things safely. We're told that the Dutch system is being implemented where I live, but it isn't really because we don't have the space to do it properly.

Our local highways department has narrowed already narrow roads and halved the width of footpaths in order to install cycle lanes. It's just plain crazy and pretty dangerous for all users, I fear.

My second observation, as both a pedestrian and a motorist in Holland, is how terrifying it is to get around here. As a driver wanting to cross a road, you have to cross a wide footpath and then wide a cycle lane (sometimes with bikes coming at you in two directions). If you're turning left, you also have to get across a lane or two of cars. The bikes whiz along at pretty high speed, in great numbers and have the right of way. It's a very hairy experience trying to cross roads here as a result - and they have clear rules that seem to be obeyed pretty thoroughly. Worse still is that mopeds seem to be able to use the roads and the cycle lanes, appearing out of nowhere as you slowly try to negotiate your away across all these lanes. As a pedestrian, it's just as bad. You stray into the cycle lane and you will be obliterated. Crossing at junctions is a nightmare as bikes come at you from all directions. Heaven knows how you get out of your front gate if you have a footpath and well-used cycle lane in front of your home.

I can't see how any of this is safe. The reality is the Dutch system is hellish to navigate and requires huge amounts of space - that we don't have - at least not near where I live. Perhaps you get used to it? I really don't know. All I do know is that I've never been so stressed walking or driving anywhere before.

I can see the advantages of cycling as a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to driving, but I'm really not convinced that 'following the Dutch system' on our tiny roads is the answer. I'm not convinced it's the answer to cycling in the Netherlands either for that matter.

I'm not anti-cycling or anything, I'm just pro no one getting hurt.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Loving Airbnb!

When I saw my uncle and my cousin recently, they had stayed in the Netherlands using Airbnb. I'd heard of it, but hadn't really thought about using it for until I heard about their experience.

My business partner and I needed to go to the Netherlands (and some other places) ahead of an event we're running out there. So, I thought I'd look into the new fangled Airbnb thing.

You just hop on to their website (www.airbnb.co.uk) tell it how many are in your party and when and where you'd like to stay. Although it wasn't easy to find, you can also search on number of bedrooms, WiFi etc, too. Hey presto! You get a list of possible properties. If you click on the map, as you move, it'll ping up properties that follow you. It's really very cool. You can then view the properties online.

All properties are people's homes. There are boats, eco houses, apartments, houses... all kinds of places to stay. Some are whole properties and others are simply rooms in someone's house. All budgets are catered for.

I applied to rent a property in Antwerp (Belgium) for two nights. You apply for properties by telling the owner about yourself and your party. I know from one owner that they had a group of 'youths' stay who had caused some problems, so they now only allow family groups. I assume I didn't sound like someone who might wreck the place, and so our host agreed to let us stay. Hurrah!

You have to provide ID to Airbnb before you can apply for places, but this just involves either signing in using Faceache, LinkedIn or by sending them a pic of your passport or driving licence.

We emailed to make the arrangements and then I drove to his apartment. The international roaming on my phone decided to wander elsewhere, rendering my phone inoperable and so I couldn't contact the host to let him know we were there. But, he'd figured out that I had a problem when he tried my number and so he'd been watching the street to see if a car with British plates arrived. Bless him! He came and found us and all was well. Good lad :D

His apartment was AMAZING. It was beautifully clean and immaculately furnished. It was in a lovely part of the city within a 10 minute walk from the city centre, the station and the zoo (well worth a trip if ever you are in Antwerp). Our host had left us a box of biscuits, a bottle of wine and lots of mineral water and fruit. Really kind of him. Not something you'd ever get in a hotel on my budget!

So this was out base for two lovely days. It cost far less than two hotel rooms in a European city would have cost. In fact, the whole trip is costing just over £50/night - and that is for two-three rooms each night. Not bad eh?

I'm now typing this post from the second Airbnb stop on our journey. This time we are in a residential area of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Again, we have really friendly, helpful hosts and a great place to stay for far less than a hotel.

Two advantages of Airbnb, aside from the cost, is that your hosts can tell you all about the local amenities and sights, and you get to experience the area as a local rather than as a tourist in a faceless hotel. We've already made friends with the owners of the local cafe here in Utrecht who were really helpful to us when we first arrived.

After you leave a property, you get to review it, and the host... and they get to review you too :D

I have to say that I can highly recommend Airbnb and I might even look into hosting. Really looking forward to the next three stops on our trip.

I can also get my friends a £16 discount. Email me if you want the code.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How To Lose Weight: From FatBat to FitBit

Here's the thing about losing weight - you want it gone NOW, or by next Saturday at the latest. But that's just not going to happen, unless you're aiming to lose half a pound, in which case you might just be OK.

I was exactly the same, but as soon as I accepted that the weight had taken years to pile on and wasn't going to be in any rush to leave, I suddenly found that I could get on with it. And you know what? I haven't needed to lose the whole lot anyway to feel better in myself and about myself. In fact, after two stone, people started to notice and I could get into much smaller clothes again (I'm comfortably in a 16 now and can just about squeeze into 14 as long as I don't need to eat, sit or breathe <g> - down from a 22!!!). All good stuff!

If all you want is to look good in that little black dress again, you'll be searching for a quick fix - and they really don't exist. I've tried all kinds of things and none of them work, so save your dosh. If you look at losing weight as being a programme to get you HEALTHIER though, you'll tackle it very differently. So look to be healthy, which will happily also make you look gorgeous eventually.

There's a really simple formula to losing weight. Eat less than you burn off and you will lose weight. Simples. So, EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE. More specifically, eat less in quantity AND try to cut out the cack we all consume. I have ditched all the processed sugar and processed carbs. I'm eating lots of salad and fruit. I try to ensure that my diet is balanced, so I eat a lot of tuna, salmon, chicken and eggs to ensure I'm getting essential protein and fats. I also take a multi vitamin and an Actimel or Yakult, just to be certain that I'm not missing anything. I dumped cordials too and now drink a lot of water. And I drink Ovaltine Options. Those have been a real life-saver - they tick my sweet tooth box and they're quite filling too.

Yes, it's boring, but I feel so much better for it.

I'm finding the food side of things perfectly manageable and I haven't really felt hungry. If I do feel hungry, I go with it and get something healthy to eat. We've had two family birthdays this month and so I've had cake. That was fine. I got straight back on with the diet afterwards. No problem. In fact, once a week I eat a bit more because it's supposed to give the metabolism a bit of a kick.

I needed to lose five stone and so I embarked on my weight loss mission on 1 February 2015 - five months ago. I joined a gym and did lots of exercise, much of which I hated. I've managed to tear something or other that joins my sternum to my ribs while I did some weights, and I have no idea what I've done to a tendon in my thigh, but it bloody hurts. So, I cancelled the gym membership and invested in a FitBit and I have lost as much weight using this as I ever did at the gym.

There are lots of things out there like the FitBit, but that's the one I have and so it's the one I'll tell you about. Specifically, I have the FitBit Flex. The FitBit is a little bracelet you wear that monitors your movement. It counts the number of steps you do in a day and it's surprisingly addictive. I make sure I do at least 12,000 steps a day (10k is what's suggested). This is making me fitter, building muscle and helping me to lose the weight. It's GREAT and it's EASY to do. You can challenge your friends via FitBit too, so that's quite fun if, like me, you CANNOT lose... EVER :D

You can record the food you've consumed on FitBit too, so you can see when you've messed up and you can get out and do some extra walking. You'll often find me pounding the streets late at night desperately trying to burn off any excess calories. The neighbours must think I'm bonkers. Well OK, they already think that, this just confirms their suspicions.

I lost the first stone really quickly. It melted away in about three weeks. The second stone took longer and the third one has been a devil to shift, but I'm nearly there - just two pounds to go. I expect the fourth and fifth stones will be harder still, but I'm up for the challenge. It really helps that I am already feeling so much better about myself - and I look a LOT better too. You really don't need to lose all the weight to feel very much better about yourself, so it doesn't matter if it takes me another six months to lose the next two stone. I want to do it safely and in a way that I will be able to keep it off.

I set myself lots of little targets rather than focussing on the end game. In two pounds, I will have lost three stone. Five pounds after that, I will be 10-stone-something. OK, it'll be 10 stone 13lbs, but a win's a win, right? Three pounds after that, I'll have lost as much weight as my little boy weighs!!! You see? Lots of little targets.

Here are the obligatory then and now pics...

Not perfect, but a hell of a lot better. I even have ankles!

So, just do it. Want to be HEALTHIER. Forget the quick fixes. Every step you take makes you a teeny bit fitter. Every pound you lose makes you a little bit healthier. A pound is actually quite a lot. Go and look at a bag of sugar. That'll weigh about two pounds. See? It's quite a lot, isn't it?

Go for it!

Jane x

PS. Just to be clear, I'm not in any way medically trained and nor am I a nutritionist. I'm just a FatBat who's hoping to become a FitBit ;)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Blimey! Brilliant Service From Thames Water

Really good service should always be rewarded and today, I had the most amazing service from Thames Water. Seriously polite, friendly guys who came out really quickly. I'd expected to be waiting for a couple of weeks, but actually they were here in around 12 hours... and it's a Sunday... and they were apologetic for not getting here more quickly.

They unblocked a drain and flushed all the drains through near the house and then tidied it all up afterwards. They'd also been great at communicating when they'd be arriving too.

Thanks to you Darren and Adam and thank you Thames Water.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Margate's Dreamland: Even The Toilets Were Shut

We have just had the best couple of days down in Thanet. That's the sticky-out bit of Kent, in case you didn't know. It's lovely there. Ramsgate harbour is very pretty and Broadstairs is a gloriously quaint English seaside town. All the beaches in the area have vast expanses of sand, lovely eateries and some fine ice-cream parlours. Perfect.

What could possibly make a couple of sunny days in Thanet any better?

ONLY THE GRAND RE-OPENING OF DREAMLAND IN MARGATE!!! Just how excited was I? VERY! I remember going to Dreamland as a kid with its big wooden rollercoaster. I had to take Thomas and our friends there. They would surely be STOKED. It's billed as being a retro funfair with 18 vintage rides and has been designed by Wayne Hemingway. Awesome.

We arrived at the car park and were welcomed by half a dozen very enthusiastic employees who told us to find a space and head on in. They missed out the part where you had to pay SEVEN POUNDS to park, but never mind, it'd be worth it. Off we drifted into Dreamland!

Only two ticket booths were open, so we joined the surprisingly short queue. 'Can I have a family ticket please?' I asked. Apparently this family fun park doesn't do a family ticket. Well, OK, two adults and two children then. No problem. We were handed our tickets. On leaving the ticket booth, we were immediately met by not one but two members of staff. One said we needed to have our tickets scanned and the other said we needed wrist bands. Why didn't the ticket lady give us the wrist bands at least? No idea! OK. So we've got tickets (and had them scanned) and we've now got wrist bands. Let's head in. Oh no. Hold on. Now we need to have our wrist bands checked by someone else. That's FOUR members of staff required to get us into the park - in the space of less than 10 feet. Hmmm... Well, there's high unemployment in the area, so perhaps this is a way of creating four jobs where two would have been easily enough.

Now, we're in the park!

The first thing you see as you enter Dreamland is the brand new wooden rollercoaster. Actuallly it's the old one, that's been renovated.

Looks brand new to me. Brand new and closed. Apparently someone forgot to get a licence for it. Oops.

The big slide next to it is also closed.

Not to worry, there's a huge Ferris wheel we could go on. Hold on a sec, it's moving, but no one seems to be on it. That'll be because it's closed as well.

Right... let's go and eat our sarnies while we decide what to do first.

Now, I don't think I'm particularly prudish, but I remain to be convinced that stationing pole dancers next to the kiddies' swan-shaped picnic benches is entirely appropriate.

I have no doubt that the dancers are very talented and they are clearly very strong and supple. I suppose on the plus-side, at least I won't need to explain the female anatomy to my 10-year-old son. He's now seen more than most gynaecologists.

Seriously though, there's only so much minge a person can cope with whilst one's trying to partake of one's Waitrose luncheon.

This dancer's wearing black leatherette. One of the girls had flesh-coloured pants on. At least, I hope what I saw were flesh-coloured pants...

Directly behind the pole dancers, there's a hoarding. If you peep behind it, assuming you can see anything past the flanges flapping about, you'll notice there's another ride that's not open. The children's caterpillar ride.

Actually, there were SEVEN rides that were shut. The rollercoaster, the big slide next to it, the Ferris wheel, the Caterpillar, the Kiss Me Quick, the mono rail and another one that wasn't complete, so I couldn't quite tell what it was. That left only eleven rides to choose from. Luckily, all the things that cost extra dosh to play were open...

I needed the toilet. Uh oh. Locked. Even the toilets were shut! I asked an assistant who was by the entrance (and the closed toilets) where I'd find more toilets. She told me that she didn't know and wasn't allowed into the park. Then she asked a male member of staff who was on the park-side if he knew where the toilets were. He just said no and walked away.

So, I had to leave the park and go into an adjoining building that contained more attractions that you had to pay for. But, it had toilets! FOUR cubicles that were for both men and women to share. One cubicle had a note on. 'Out of Order'. Three toilet cubicles then. And no hand dryer.

It was all pretty disappointing, if I'm honest. I'd expected it to be naff, but not quite this... shut. I really really wanted it to be great. Margate needs some help. It's got amazing beaches, but it's seen better days. I'm gutted for Margate that whoever's behind this venture didn't manage to get the park anything close to ready for its 'grand' re-opening.

There were some good things though. Firstly, the dodgems (which you'll struggle to find because they've been hidden behind the big closed rollercoaster) were the fastest I've ever been on. Secondly, the motor bike stunt guys were pretty cool.

And thirdly, actually, there's not a third thing. Not unless seeing Vic Reeves hurtling down the helter skelter counts...

The staff were great (except for the man who didn't know or care where the toilets were). They were all really upbeat and working hard. As were all the entertainers. Such a shame that the management and contractors had let them all down so badly. It's pretty piss poor to open the park when a third of the rides weren't ready. Even worse is that they charged entrants full price to come in and they didn't warn anyone that so much was unavailable. They should have reduced the prices and been honest with their customers. We'd have forgiven them.

Despite all this though, it was a laugh. If you like fun fairs, you'll love this - once they get their act together. It is pretty expensive though. We paid £65.80 for two adults and two children (plus £7 parking). My advice is to park your car somewhere else and make sure you've been to the loo before you visit the park. They did have a couple of portaloos, but heaven knows what those will be like in the summer!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Supposing He's Been Barked At By His School

What's worrying me is the sheer number of children being diagnosed with various forms of autism (and ADHD too, but I'm looking at autism here). While I'm not for a moment suggesting that these conditions don't exist, I am left wondering how many children are 'diagnosed' when actually their behaviour might simply be down to them being barked at by the school.

If a 4-year-old child is barked at by a big dog, the child is likely to be afraid of dogs and we, as parents, will tell people 'oh, a big dog barked at him/her and now he/she is afraid of dogs.' Whoever we tell this to will accept this as being the reason the child doesn't want to pet their dog. No problem.

This child has experienced some level of trauma because of what happened and this will probably mean that the child is wary of this dog and possibly most other dogs they meet and the child's behaviour when confronted by a dog might involve crying, running away, hiding behind a parent etc. as they try to protect themselves from the dog.

All quite natural and easily explained.

We might even try to calm the child and will likely demonstrate that this dog won't hurt anyone by reaching out to the dog and allowing it to sniff us. Perhaps we'll even give the child some tips on dealing with dogs (bend down to them so they don't jump - hold out the hand you don't write with etc.) and maybe we'll explain why they get so excited and barky (they're pleased to see us and just want to say hello).

If we're ready to accept that a child can be afraid of dogs because of a single bad experience with one dog, why do we have so much trouble understanding that a child starting a new school might be frightened by it and that this fear might cause a child to behave differently?

My son started school aged 4 years and 3 months. He went from a quiet, gentle home consisting of me and him (plus our non-barky dog) to a room full of noisy children that he didn't know, where he had to compete for the attention of the teaching staff as well as competing academically against all the other children.

Why are we surprised that he didn't cope well with this?

Hasn't the school just barked at him? In fact, over the period of four years when he was at school, I suspect it barked, growled and jumped up at him every single day.

It seems to me that schools are very quick to blame the child for any usual behaviour. It must be a problem with the child - never a problem with the behaviour of the institution or the people within the institution. And yet our schools are getting bigger and perhaps scarier. The amount of space they occupy isn't necessarily changing, but the numbers of classrooms and children are increasing dramatically. When I was a kid, our school playground had just the juniors in - four classes of around 30 children. So that's 120 children. My son's junior school had 360 children. The infant school when I was a child had just 90 children in it. Thomas's one has 270 in the playground at lunchtime.

In short, we have busier, noisier, scarier playgrounds than ever before. Might this be one reason why we have so many children struggling?

It's Lord of the Flies out there. Very few dinner ladies out patrolling and absolutely nothing being done to help the children who are struggling to find someone to play with.

I think my son's been barked at. He was fine before he went to school. The little boy I removed from school was far from fine though and I don't think it really has anything to do with him. I think he was simply a very young child who was ill-equipped to deal with such an enormous change and his way of dealing with it was to shut down. Perhaps if he'd started school when he was 6 or 7, he'd have dealt with it differently. Perhaps, had the school been smaller and more gentle, he'd have survived the experience. Or perhaps he'd have managed the change better if the teaching staff recognised and effectively reacted to seeing a child in a lot of distress. Who knows. Thankfully, he's very much better now and I almost have the boy back that I had before school was in the picture.

He's not the only one to have been frightened by school. Now I've been barked at by schools too. I trusted them to look after my little boy. I trusted the system and the institutions and the professionals that operate within the system. But I don't any more and it'll be a long time before I get over the trauma I've experienced. If I feel like this, goodness knows how my son feels.

I wonder how many other people have experienced something similar. I wonder how many other perfectly normal (whatever that maybe) children have been labelled to protect the system and to explain away their suffering. Something's really wrong. I'm sure it wasn't like this back in the day.