Sans Sucre

I have decided to adopt a new keep fit regime and am pleased to report that I can now lift the remote control without gasping for breath.

When doing my research to decide how to approach my new found zeal for fitness I noticed a theme starting to develop. Firstly I need to cut out sweet things and secondly I need to exercise more. Not exactly rocket science.

I have therefore decided to start small and let my routine grow. I am going to begin by cutting out three sugary things from my daily life. But what should they be. I already drink diet cola. This was the result of a previous attempt to reduce my noticabilty at gatherings. I managed, after two weeks, to get used to the taste and now I cannot return to the regular variety. Now I am left to wash down my mid-afternoon chocolate biscuit with a sugar-free fizzy drink. I have a feeling that one should cancel out the other but no scientific facts to back it up.
Incidentally, have you noticed that most ‘large boned’ people tend to drink diet drinks and a majority of slim people drink the normal variety? Not sure what to make of it but I am suspicious and wondered whether I am being given the whole facts.

Anyway, I still need to move towards being sans-sucre in other areas. I have decided, therefore, to give up listening to the Carpenters, I always found them very sugary. I will also cut out chocolate in the afternoon and not eat anything sweet after 20:00 hours (not even if the chocolate mints tell me that I should on the box).

Added to this I have decided to walk up one flight of stairs before getting the lift, instead of at the ground floor. I tried walking up all six flights at once but I had to set up camp on floor three and breath from my oxygen mask for a couple of days before continuing my trek.

The problem I have is that I am stuck in a vicious cycle. Two nights ago I went to the cinema and, because I have certain standards, I ate all my chocolate before they had turned down the lighting. This meant that I was forced to share a giant bag of popcorn with the rest of the family. My bride, of twenty-six years, chooses to take once piece at a time and eat it with her natural grace. I, however, feel that it would give me no challenge whatsoever and would not treat the product as nature intended it. It is perfectly obvious that one should take the biggest handful possible and see how many will fit into your mouth. You might not agree but I know that, in the spirit of Homer Simpson, I am right.

This always results in the loss of at least half of the contents of my sticky fist. When I was younger and leaner most of this excess would drop to the floor only to be used as sound effects at the end of the film. Now, however, the majority of the ‘fallen ones’ drop to be neatly perched on the ledge of my ample stomach, not more than 6 inches from my mouth. They remain there perfectly saved for me to enjoy during the rest of the show. The net effect is that I eat twice as much popcorn as I used to do when I was slim.

I think I need to find a cinema that is up six flights of steps.

Man Malady

My wife is a Practice Nurse and as such she keeps the family in check when it comes to anything medical. In this regard I can get away with very little in the way of man maladies. When sickness does call I am assured that, no matter how much pain I am in, I will make a full recovery. The term ‘man flu’ is often used to deflect from the seriousness of the way I feel. Other terms have been used too but I am not sure whether I am being nursed or patronised. ‘Man Stomach’ after a hot curry, ‘Man Migraine’ after a ‘couple’ of drinks and ‘Man Sciatica’ when I have been working in the garden.

There was one occasion when I was on several potions and lotions at the same time; cures for back pain added to antibiotics after having a wisdom tooth removed. Along with this I have some regular treatments on the go for allergies and the like. All in all quite a cocktail of, what I am assured are, legal drugs so long as I don’t go bike riding in France wearing a yellow jersey.

Even with these ‘Man’ difficulties I seldom get a look-in when it comes to sympathy because I am usually last in the queue after our four daughters. You can imagine that one runny nose follows another, leading to several weeks of extra toilet role use.

All our girls are blond with long hair so we also had weeks of hair treatment following an infestation of friends; the creepy crawly variety. We used the ‘they prefer clean hair’ encouragement used by our own parents but everyone knows that it is not the most positive thing to have.

We tried all the remedies but in the end it was evenings of combing that seem to do the trick. Even writing this I have started to itch as my nervous system comes out in sympathy.

I tend to get the least amount of sympathy when it comes to sports injuries; I am sure that it must be part of the NHS training to be less concerned, perhaps because they are seen as self inflicted. ‘I told you that you were too old to play such games’ my wife would often say as I hobbled back from playing football. All sports are capable of providing proof to my wife that I should begin to settle down. I once injured a fellow squash player when I rifled the ball directly into his eye causing him five days in hospital and two weeks of blindness. I have even been known to break a finger nail whilst playing crib with my father-in-law; sometimes the smallest of injuries can hurt the most.

Perhaps the most bazaar pain I have caused myself is during a five-a-side football competition. It was part of the rules that everyone should play in goals for fifteen minutes during the night. (This is the sporting equivalent of every musician having to play the drums for one song during a concert). I have met very few people who enjoy being in goals, those that do tend to be drummers.

As on all other occasions I tend to keep my inhaler as near as possible just incase I need some breathing help; I had the advantage of a breast pocket in which to keep my medicine.

I took my turn between the pegs and did my best not get injured in any sensitive area. I must have had a rush of enthusiasm because I dived for a ball to perform a near heroic save only to land on the inhaler in my pocket. Lying in casualty a few hours later I understood the hospitals staff’s amusement at the fact that an asthma inhaler had been the cause of two broken ribs.

I returned home to my private nurse to be greeted with one of her usual loving post-match looks. I handed her my prescription for two items that would cost us the best part of our take-away money.

‘I have thought of another ‘Man’ malady to add to the collection’, said my bride, ‘Man Poverty’; I am sure I heard her chuckle as she headed off to the chemist.

Holiday Hat

Despite the complexities of the British weather system I feel that it is almost time to bring out the shorts and the holiday hat in preparation for summer.

The holiday hat tradition was started at a time when the girls were young and I wanted make sure that they could easily see me in a crowd. As such I tended to buy ones that were distinctive and bright in colour. In the early days our daughters seemed fine with my choices but eventually they reached an age when the embarrassment hormones had kicked in and they became more and more critical of my selections.

Eventually the tradition became more of a need as my bald patch grew to a size that needed protection from the sun.

The promise of holidays brings other odd behavior patterns with it. For example I would never dream of walking around our local town without a shirt, yet put me within ten paces of a beach and I am happy to wear just 20 inches of material.

Added to this is the craze of wearing ‘bum-bags’. I am only just getting used to carrying a wallet yet on holiday I wear a purse strapped to my midriff in order to carry loose change, sun glasses and UV protection lotion.

Then there are flip-flops probably the most underrated footwear available; have you noticed how only a quarter and inch of foam is needed to protect your feet from the burn of hot sand. When I was younger the only way to deal with a scorching beach was to shout ‘Ooch, Ouch, Ooch, Ouch!’ over and over until you reached the cooling salty waters.

Perhaps the strangest part of holiday behaviour is when people insist on wearing shorts and T-shirt even when the weather is inclement. It is not unusual to see hoards of adults inappropriately dressed walking along the prom.

On one such occasion our extended family was caught in one of those sadistic British showers that follow holiday makers around bringing gloom. Not one member of our party had brought either umbrella or suitable coat to act as protection.

We all agreed that spending a small amount of money on cheap, colourful plastic coats would be a sensible plan, so off we marched in search of a retailer.

Aunty Amy, who was a loveable if slightly ditsy older lady, was ahead of the rest due to the fact that she was also seeking a place to buy a cup of tea. (It never ceases to amaze me how much tea is drunk by Aunties and Uncles of a certain age).

Ahead of us she disappeared into one of those shops selling gifts, spades and flags, only to reappear with a look of victory on her face and shouting to the rest of the group, some 30 yards away ‘They sell goolies in this shop’.

Perhaps it was the sight of such words coming from the mouth of our aged, usually polite, relative or maybe it was the fact that she was blissfully unaware of what she had said. Either way the rest of the gang enjoyed the moment. Family holidays have always been fun.

As our daughters grew to be teenagers they were generally less happy to be seen in public with the rest of the family and therefore had to be forced into ‘enjoying’ holidays. We have one set of holiday pictures that show this vividly. Our eldest daughter, who was thirteen at the time, insisted on wearing black for the whole of the holiday. I don’t mean shorts and T-shirt either; mostly she was wore long trousers and a black jumper topped off with sunglasses. She refused to be seen on most of the shots but when she did she looked like she had been superimposed on the photographs after the event.

When it comes to photographs my goal is simple; I need be allowed the time to hold in my stomach before the camera goes click. Fortunately I have learned to multitask to the extent that I can now smile and wear my holiday hat at the same time.

Dog Sitting

I have realized that sometimes you can be far too nice. I am not sure whether it comes from the need to be liked or as a result of not having the backbone required to say a firm and decisive ‘No’ when required.

It was in this vein that we agreed to look after a friend’s dog for a week whilst they enjoyed freedom from canine responsibility in warmer climes.

We had never been committed pet owners because several members of our family had developed allergic reactions to all things fur covered. We had ‘owned’ a couple of carefully selected rabbits for a short while, until I had to perform the customary animal funeral in the front garden. But we were largely unskilled in animal care.

I decided that it would be useful in helping our girls to understand the work involved in having a dog. I also secretly hoped it would stave off the repeated requests for us to get a canine of our own.

The puppy that was entrusted to us was a lovely, if somewhat stupid, Labrador. It seemed skilled in only two things; running at walls for no apparent reason and barking at imaginary visitors whilst ignoring those that actually came to the door.

The pet owners arrived early on the agreed day with the puppy and enough dog luggage to make me feel a little uneasy. They announced that, whilst obeying the rigid feeding times, we had to ‘on no account allow Joey to eat anything’ other than the vet-prescribed concoction, manufactured to cure puppy illness. In what seemed to be an attempt at humour, they helpfully left a pooper scooper.

So here we were; in charge of a dog whose constitution was such that, if it consumed even the tiniest amount of wrong food, would return all that it had eaten; in stereo.

Nevertheless, the girls were excited so we took the pooch for a walk as soon as the owners had dashed away to their holiday, with smiling faces. Each daughter took it in turns to be dragged around the playing field whilst the dog chased butterflies.

Being inexperienced I wasn’t sure whether the dog would complete its ablutions automatically or if you had to tell it to do so. I knew it obeyed when I shouted ‘Sit!’ but didn’t feel brave enough to try other commands.

It seemed to take it a very long time to perform and, having forgotten to bring the doggy luggage, when it finally did produce an offering I had to employ the inside-out plastic carrier bag technique used only by dog owners.

We returned home and everyone but Joey seemed tired; I would have had a nap on my favourite chair but it was now occupied by the puppy practicing being a guard dog, barking at vehicles passing the house.

The next morning I arose to prepare for the day in my usual way; filling the kettle and watching the news on breakfast TV.

I entered the conservatory, having almost forgotten about our four-legged house guest, to be greeted by a smell that I can only describe as industrial in strength. I am not sure what Joey had consumed but the result was exactly as his owners had predicted.

The puppy was covered, as was the floor; in fact there didn’t seem to be anything in the room that wasn’t marked by the dogs output. As an instinctive reaction I reached for the pooper scooper but soon realised that it was designed for use with only healthy dogs.

I had never previously bathed an animal, and I don’t intend to do so ever again. Joey obviously thought it was a game and mistook my look of distaste for one of happiness, because it did all it could to make our cleaning time last longer.

I had just about finished cleaning the affected furniture when the girls came downstairs to be greeted by a beautifully clean animal. They were oblivious to the odd smell that still lingered as a reminder of my fun morning.

‘Can we get our own Dog’ said Mrs Molineaux’s eldest.
‘Please’ said the others in unison.

I have since apologized to my daughters for the miserable way I answered them that morning.