Monday, 19 March 2018

Still Broken and so's Everything Else

Another eight days until my plaster comes off, and yet I am still not getting a full night's sleep as I keep waking up in pain after intense dreams about my feet and kicking myself awake. The cat is very worried and comes and purrs and dribbles in my face. Or, he might be hungry and thinking I'm awake so that means breakfast time now. Who knows the minds of cats...?

The frugalling is very mixed: I can't get to the shops, so have not been coming back with half of Aldi's special aisle every week... A tad too much spent on takeaways... Rather a lot of frozen veg eaten... Same meals several days in a row... I've run out of 30p chocolate...


I have only managed to get to the pub once since last blog and I only had my walker when I got there so had to climb over the steps. OH arrived with my crutches to get me back out of the building with more dignity. Well, I say more dignity, if you can have any after midnight when you've been on the Thatchers and only have one leg. Besides this, we had a boozy couple of cans-at-home days the week before, but generally much less in the way of alcohol than the early days of gloom, so I am hopeful that the expanding belly has not expanded as much as I'd feared. I can still get in my grey combats anyway. Plus, witness me on a friend's telly yesterday, looking kind of like a small child*!

* specifically, Wednesday Addams.

On a snowy day, I made my way to Northampton College to take part in a debate about Northampton County Council being slammed in Max Caller's "Best Value" Report. I was there representing library campaigners, and I was really concerned that libraries only got mentioned once in the report once, and it seemed to be to blame NCC for not getting rid of library staff already to save the money. This makes me really worried that when the commissioners come in a poo situation will become one of such deep guano, it will be visible from space and we find more penguins in it. Not Penguin books, either.

As I nearly brained myself getting there (falling over on the ice as soon as I got off my front step, and slipping several times on the path up to the college), I was a bit miffed to be told I was question 4, and they only got up to question 3. So, yet another political debate programme next to my long-haired husband, where we have smised, looked miserable, and not got to speak (we are Northampton's Posh and Becks of politics). 

Of course, I had to be sitting next to Jim Harker, former head of NCC until 2015 whose fault the mess most definitely mostly is, but no torches can reach him like they could Heather Smith. He seems a nice enough fella, but my goodness, does he seem blithe or what?

I think what the report does seem to indicate is a lack of strong management, but is riddled with p-taking statements like "In Local Government there is no substitute for doing boring really well." Things like that are hilarious, but not really very helpful. I agree with Gareth Eales speaking in the programme yesterday, that services will need transitional funding, not just some vague statement within about "This may require some transitional funding to ensure the effective establishment of the new authorities and also the postponement of any local elections due in May 2019." What, does that just cover the cost of elections? Whoop-de-doo. Unless the commissioners can come in and help run the services as they should, and not just make things worse, then what is the point?

So, what the report doesn't do is wave a magic wand over the incredible cheek of the March 13th cabinet notes and make them go away. Community groups have now been offered a range of packages to take over their closing libraries from bronze to platinum, and they are so crappy. Bronze is 500 books for £6K for 1 year. Silver is the same for £6.5K but shelf-ready. No idea what you are getting either, all blind. Gold, you have to buy silver package first, then can start adding on the NCC library management system (1 scanner, 1 terminal, system support - but read on - catalogue and manual) for £3.5K per year, plus £1.75K set up costs, and then you need to pay an annual charge of £600 for telephone/email support. You must buy Gold and Silver to then buy Platinum bolt-ons inclusing a self-service terminal at £650 per year, a training session on how to use the stuff at £500 for a 6.5 hour day, participation in schemes like Bookstart and national reading challenge charged at (mystery) cost. Plus if you need on-site help after, that's £100 per hour plus travel expenses please!

Of course, you could just go your own way. And at these prices, that's what many are planning from what I've heard. Totally manual, uncomputerised systems, sourcing their own book stock, hoping the volunteers keep coming and users too. And they'll be spending a fortune on leases and running costs. I've heard some are taking out special loans for the village to pay back. I mean, that's... wow. Might as well shove your old Martina Coles in a telephone box, call it a library and save yourself the heartache. I think many such things also have defibrillators in them, which is not only very useful, but handy if you suddenly go into cardiac arrest at the realisation that this is kind of the best some places can manage. 

My heart is utterly broken.

Still, we keep campaigning and fighting for our libraries.

After leaving filming, I went to The Lab to run a comedy creative writing workshop, and had a lovely Sunday lunch and a great time with the Arts Lab crew. It started snowing again then. Even though the Lab has ramps for easier access to the pavement, getting out over the ice was traumatic, and it took 4 people to get me to the car. I had decided to let the ice melt a bit before venturing out today as my little walker brakes can only do so much and I don't have help getting from the station to the office. Means I've had to take it as holiday, but what can I do?

Can't wait until I'm a bit more mobile again. Just worried about the pain now.

I've cheered myself up with booking a convention for October

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Frugalwench is broken

The wench is broken! I broke my ankle almost three weeks ago when I got lost on the way to a gig at Leicester Comedy Festival. I found myself being led by Google Maps over a scary traffic bridge, where I panicked and fell over. 

No, I'm not sure either, but I keep doing this, especially on tall stairs and footbridges. The temporary stairs at Northampton station were an absolute nightmare to me, and for some reason when I have gone to fall sometimes, it hasn't been in the safe direction. I've frequently ended up having to quickly sit while the crowd flows past me tutting, because my hand-rail is suddenly occupied by someone in the opposite direction who won't let go either. People have asked is it vertigo, and I do get vertigo as well, but it's not that.

I just hate heights.

A pants way to end what had been a great day. I'd gone to see the Adventures of Baron Munchausen, starring my mate Nig Lovell and others - a fantastically funny improvised storytelling event, which was a real hit with the grown ups as well as the kids.

We spent some time with the storytellers before heading off for food, and then Lucy Thompson's show "Shake it Off", except I went and broke my ankle in between.

We did make the gig eventually, through much pain for what I assumed was a mere sprain, but only after reaching the wrong venue first - a skate park called Broom, instead of a bar called Broood.

Broom looked like a cool skate park, and I winced at every skilful landing the skater kids were doing as though they were about to do what I had just done, while OH and the attendant worked out where we should have been and tried to sort out how I might get there, as apparently it was not the sort of area where the taxis would go.  Uh oh!

Massive gratitude to the attendant who went and ran for a taxi for me, and we got to the venue okay. The show was really good too. But... ow!

The next morning, my ankle was looking distinctly odd, so we looked for the details online as to where was best to check it out. Very important you do this as sometimes it will not be your A&E .

It was very quickly ascertained that I had a broken fibula and I got some crutches and a temp cast before my fracture clinic appointment, and my brill friend Jen took me to that. And so I got a purple cast!

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It quickly transpired the crutches were not going to get me to work and I kept having clumsy accidents in my house, so I have had to splash on kneewalker hire. I get lots of enquiries from other fracture sufferers, and I know I'm lucky to have had some savings to cover the cost, as some people have been very crestfallen when they realise it's £23 a week. I think it has helped me lots, and even though I've been in lots of pain, and not slept, I at least have this which helps me maintain my balance to cook, wash up, or even pursue the crumbs OH leaves on the floor with a broom like some demented polo player. And of course, go to work... as I don't get sick pay.

It's not perfect, I have hurt my knees using it, and some basic things are still beyond my power, like carrying a plate or cup. To get round this, I have a screw-top thermal travel mug, which I still need to be very slow and careful with, and a screw-top lunch pot that I can out in a bag hanging off the bars.

Some tips if you are going to use one of these to get to work on a train. It's not common knowledge, but you should arrange for ramp assistance 24 hours in advance of when you need it, and turn up to the station 20 minutes before you need to travel. Try to travel in quieter times if you can, as people walking through the train can be oblivious.
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I've been accommodated by work to work from home this week, but that has to change as I have classes. I've been spared the need to walk in the snow (I am out of food, chocolate and ibuprofen though), but I am worried about coping next week. Big time.

Also, the other bones in my foot keep relocating themselves as gravity pops them, which is a shocker. And cramps.... ai ai ai!

What's it like to have a broken ankle, apart from painful and sucky?

Well, I've had to cancel gigs, signings and weekends away. I've got addicted to social media just to feel like I'm keeping in touch with things. I can see great swathes of housework not being done and feel antsy. I'm having to sleep downstairs as my bedroom is inaccessible due to a danger landing. I have to make sure OH is on hand with my cast cover to help me shower as the danger is getting up our Victorian stairs. Our Victorian lean-to toilet is my accessible toilet. Yep, in this weather, I'm practically going outside. I'm not wearing my Fitbit because it's depressing. I have had to throw lots of defrosted fruit I was going to make into jam because I am not capable of that. Thanks to a slow and careful removal of the foods OH was blithe to, at least the fridge no longer looks like the one in  Minority Report, but I'm very frustrated at not being able to go shopping for things we need now. I'm eating Christmas Panettone, I'm that desperate!

A lot of convenience food has been bought to save my poor overworked OH the bother, and I'm neither feeling healthy nor frugal. I am beginning to see the point of Wiltshire Farm Foods.

So, what's to come? Six weeks in this cast (2 weeks down), then a boot, then crutches alone. This is gonna be sloooow.

And my X-Rays don't really show healing, but they show I'm still aligned. I have a sliver of bone that was cracked before , and now wedged out like a triangle, but apparently that's okay. It just means my fibula will be thicker there.

Oh great. Asymmetric cankle!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Aldi does it too? Well, so do I!

I'm an idiot! I can't believe I've had my Fitbit for 2 years and have only just figured out the weight loss calorie adjustment!

I wondered why the heck it kept telling me to eat as much as I was burning, and then I ended up gaining weight after guesstimating a bit too much. I've now started using the food log properly, and though the first 3 weeks of the year now look a bit candy striped as I've apparently missed my goals loads without realising, I'm now on track to do better. But, 2lbs lost every week so far regardless. Heeey! 😇😇

Might as well use these tools, they're free! If you don't have a tracker but do have a smartphone, try these. I also used a combo of Strava, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal. And yes, I wasn't obese then, so those things did help.🏃

One of the things I've learned is that protein is such a huge factor in levels of satisfaction and avoiding cravings. And so is fat! I used to avoid fat and really load up on starchy carbohydrates. But, I actually think I've cracked this malarkey now. I eat nuts, seeds, avocados... the very things I used to avoid. I'm not hungry, and I feel great.

I must fess up though, and it pains me to say, but that First for Wellbeing thing may well have been right about the booze. I may have had my dreams haunted by missing bottles of Malbec, but I have not just gained in the wallet. I've gained actual time back. It means extra minutes in the morning, extra energy to fit in my exercise, less ennui generally. I don't get hangovers... but I now recognise I was extra tired and hungry thanks to booze. So happy to be weaning myself off that. Wonder what I'll do when it gets to February? (38 cans of cider in the kitchen...)

Absolutely no problem getting up for the last 3 weeks of Parkrun, and getting faster each week. 🏃 I even ran in the rain today! Plus I've already won 2 Workweek Hustle challenges on Fitbit.🏆

I'm also looking to save money and pay off my debts still, so this weekend I thought I'd address my new-found weakness for protein-rich snacks. I've tried various ones from Aldi: the Pecan Pie crush bars; the Macademia and Coconut Paleo bars and both flavours of Cacao brownie - almond and raisin and peanut and choc chip. They are tasty, have no nasty extras, and fit my macros. Unfortunately, they're almost as expensive as regular chocolate bars, which I wouldn't have bought every day, so they are adding significantly to my brought-in lunch costs.

I found this recipe for 'paleo' bars that looked so similar to something I was tempted by in a café near work, I just had to give it a go. But I tweaked the measurements to make them more Brit-friendly.

150g blanched almonds
55g walnuts
35g cocoa
20 dates (just the ones I had, bought from the awesome grocers in the arcade in Gold Street)
orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
pinch salt.

What that gives me nutrition-wise is this:

And cost-wise, this:
almonds: £1.49
walnuts: £0.55
cocoa: £0.33
dates: £1.24
orange: £0.16

Total: £3.77 - 31p per bar.
This compares very favourably to the Aldi Peanut and Choc Chip Cacao Brownie, which at £1.49 for 3 is 50p per bar, and much the same size.

Also, I can confirm, delicious!

I'm a tad busy writing tonight, otherwise I'd cosy up with a library book. I found The Doctor's Kitchen, which I've been listening to the podcast of. Soon, soon...

Monday, 1 January 2018

Chicken Rescue!

As promised, here is my rather dishevelled attempt at 80s style icon Caron Keating in her bin bag dress!

Well, one person remembered her wearing it, anyway. She might have been humouring me...
The advantage of wearing a wraparound binbag dress was that I could stow it away as soon as it became a nuisance. But the fact that it became a nuisance was because it was made of binbags. They tend to stretch, and the thing was constantly falling off.

Total number of people who bothered wearing fancy dress: 4, I think. Ah well. Mind, OH dressed as the second Doctor, so didn't even have the right decade.

Well, maybe the above can be my "before" image. One day into the new year and my new fitness regime is going awesomely! While OH slumbered, I went for my traditional New Year hike. 

I thought I'd go the 'pretty' way to get to the walk I wanted to do. Mind, the pretty way is not so pretty right now... loads of abandoned alcohol cans littering the way into the park behind the industrial estate, but at least the boggy conditions by the nature reserve seem to have deterred inconsiderate drinkers from going past the river.

Conditions were pretty squelchy as I went through the park, which is on the site of an old mill. Here you can see little eddies in the fast-flowing river.

 In order not to lose my shoes in the mud, I picked my way through the bracken at the back of the church.
 But the way really was very muddy! Some straw for the horses in a relatively dry spot, or a bit of equine line-dancing?
 Then on to the N6, Brampton Valley Way. It was a very busy day. People out with their dogs, their kids, their chicken...
Oh yeah, there was a chicken. Wondered what to do about that at first. A lot of people just shaking their heads and worrying about foxes, but the poor chuck was clearly just as worried by some of the dogs on leads who were showing her some interest. I was close to phoning the RSPB, but a family were out walking their Labradors, and they knew the owner, so were able to alert her to the fugitive fowl.
I continued apace, and wow, my Fitbit is currently on 23799 steps, just over 9 miles walked today!

It's so tempting to throw money after keeping fit and healthy and losing weight, especially at New Year, but I'm using what I have (the Fitbit!) and won't be joining any clubs. All it has been doing over Christmas is logging just how far behind I am with my steps groups... no more. I'm winning, winning the Workweek Challenge I tell you! Mwa ha ha ha ha....

Won't last. There are some very competitive bods in my group. I can sense them getting twitchy...

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Bananas and Bin Bags

It's New Year's Eve, and I'm sleep-deprived but feeling great.

OH is very sensibly having a kip before we venture out into the madness of a pub doing a 70s/80s night. It sounds a very mainstream thing, but it's just our usual regular lovely real ale pub, with its predominantly rock and metal jukebox, and regular goth nights. 

Now, they haven't said it's fancy dress, but that didn't stop me making a fancy dress outfit. I felt some effort was required, you see. It's just a shame I've put on so much over Chrimbo, as I have a very serviceable puffball skirt in my wardrobe, but I think being able to zip whatever I'm wearing all the way up would be a bonus. Therefore I'm wearing a very forgiving chazza-sourced LBD (originally Autograph M&S, ooh swish!). And a tie-on skirt made of bin bags.


Oh yeah!

I made this out of bin bags yesterday while watching old black and white films on the telly, and if you're thinking, ooh, that's very Blue Peter, that's exactly what it is! I remembered Caron Keating making a dress out of bin bags on the show in the 80s, and whilst it doesn't seem to have gone down in Culture memories as prominently as Anthea Turner's model of Tracey Island, I remember it. Can't seem to find any stills from that time, mind, but it definitely happened!

And the bonus is that it will fold away very easily in case of embarrassment!

Now bananas... I want to share a rescue recipe I tried when I discovered some mincemeat I wanted to use had opened to the air, so I needed a festive filling quick.

Festive banana pies!

You will need:

2 bananas, 8 almonds, a capful of brandy, 4 chopped dates, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Oh, and the shortcrust pastry. Butter, flour, bit of water. I don't even bother measuring anymore.

Oven - 180 degrees C.

Just blitz the ingredients in a food processor (I would chop the bananas first to be honest), add filling to pies in a buttered patty pan. 

If you taste the mix now, it is sooooo sweet. Baking removes some of the sweetness, so don't panic if your teeth hurt.

Seal down pies, add prick holes, brush with milk or egg for glazing.

Pies are done in about 20-25 mins.

Whole like this, the bananas look very ostentatious, but won't chop down. 


Anyway... promise pics tomorrow, if not too hungover.

Friday, 22 December 2017

A Year to Save My Life!

It's 5.30 in the morning, and I am up ridiculously early because I woke up with indigestion, possibly because OH treated me when he came off shift last night to a massive trifle he'd picked up at the garage, and I sat in my PJs, eating it,  watching Bridget Jones' Diary...

In said film, Bridget notes, "I am 142 lbs."

OH quickly did an incorrect conversion, so I let him know, "No, that's 10 stone 2 lbs."

"Well, that's not really very heavy is it?"

I grimaced. "Well, depends on your height, but to a short woman like me it would be." I put the empty trifle carton on the floor. "Except, it's now my goal weight."

Seriously, though... I am back in the red zone. Unsurprising after the month of gluttony I've had, and I didn't have to step on the scales to know that: I am wheezing like the penguin in toy story; I am permanently wearing my looser combats; things get strangely crushed every time I try to tie my bootlaces. But what could be causing such a scenario? Well,  here's less than 24 hours of my life for context: last Sunday, I had a three course meal with the Arts Lab at 4, followed by the Northampton comedians' Christmas party at 8, where we went for a curry. And I forgot that the next day, my boss was taking me out for lunch as well.

I could do something about it today and go and do Parkrun (seeing as my lost trainers have miraculously been found!), but I have to go to a distant Argos to pick up a present for littlest nephew today, plus get all the very much not done domestic things done. I am not sure who I need in my life more - Chris Powell from Obese: A Year to Save Your Life to encourage me to eat right and get back in shape, or Kim and Aggy from How Clean is Your House? Clue: right riffy.

Even having had more holiday than I've had at this time of year for years, I've been struggling to fit in all my duties. I've been reading and editing, answering queries, getting frustrated... and I have also been out a couple of times this week, to my writers group and also to help out at the local theatre for James Acaster's last gig of the year.

We were in a bit of a hole last year, like we have been in previous years, but things are getting easier. I have been stressing since about September about whether I'd have enough for the tax man, but it's fine, and so, we are in a good place to face 2018. Still got a busted car to fix, a tumbledown house continuing to tumble, and there are some threatening bits of mail to sort... but it's all cool. I made get all chilled next year and do lots of Kirstie Allsopp-scale crafting. Oh yeah... need time. See above.

It's now 6.45, so not long now until the shops open, may as well crack on! I've been listening to Wolf Alice on Spotify. Hadn't heard any before, think I like it. Now listening to Stewart Lee. Well, an ad by the Turin Brakes in between bits of Stewart Lee.

So, got some resolutions. I'm doing them early as opposed to when drunk. You can't say the word "resolutions" without sounding drunk.

  1. Booze! I'm doing the Dryathlon. However, I am not signing up. If people are impressed and would like to donate to Cancer Research off their own bat that would be awesome, but I don't want to pester people. It is often said by cynical people on that there Facebook that if you feel the need to give up alcohol for a month then you have a problem. Well, yes... 
As it happens, I saw the poster for First for Wellbeing when I was in the library, and saw they could help with weight management. I thought - ooh, that will be beneficial, and perhaps save me from the costs of signing up to Slimming World or similar, so I did. I filled in the questionnaire... and this is what popped up when I'd finished.

Priority 1! One!

"Based on the information you have provided we are delighted to confirm that you are eligible for Alcohol support from our trained alcohol specialists. Once you have confirmed you are happy to proceed, we will pass your details onto to your chosen provider and one of their team will be in contact with you shortly

Our trained First for Wellbeing staff will deliver up to 3 sessions where you will have the opportunity to discuss and agree your goals to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, find alternative things to do and learn the health risks associated with drinking. Our advisors will then agree with you an action plan and give you resources to take home to support you between appointments."

What the heck did I put? I don't exceed the advised number of units, or drink when I'm not supposed to, or feel like I can't cope without a drink, or drink to get drunk. I like a cider in the Black Prince, or when I'm at my writers group, and some wine if I go out to dinner. I get tired, I get emotional... I do not ever get 'tired and emotional'. Good grief!

Now, I do know some of the First for Wellbeing staff. They are librarians. I hurriedly texted my sorry tale to OH and said, "I must have filled something in wrong. It says someone is going to contact me about my alcohol consumption as my first priority. Agh! ... oh my life. That someone could be Malcolm." Malcolm being the made-up name of one of our librarian friends... and OH happened to get the text just as he bumped into him in the street, read it, started laughing, and showed Malcolm.
Oh my life!

Anyway, no one has got in touch yet. I am dying in the gutter, clinging to a bottle of Frosty Jack...

2. I am determined to beat one of my crazy fitbit group pals one week and get a trophy. 100,000 steps Monday-Friday should do it.

3. I. want. to. swim.

4. Write more! Cook more! Eat good veggies! Make my allotment beautiful!

5. Lose at least 2 stone.

That should probably do it. anyway, let's forget about all that for now... it's Christmas! Happy Christmas everybody!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

One Day All This Will Be Over

It has been a rather chilled end to a busy week. Besides the day job, I have been editing and gigging keeping me very busy in the evenings, and this afternoon I was at the Love Kingsthorpe Library event, doing some Christmassy poems. Not many kids there for my competition, but I had fun, especially as my friend Wayne and my brother and sister-in-law and the nephews turned up, and we all went and had cake!

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As frugalling has gone, OH and I were both feeling a bit too boozyliciously overspent ahead of Christmas already, so we've avoided the boozer tonight and stuck to hot chocolate. Black Forest Gateau flavour, from Poundland. Got a gig tomorrow, so... mind it's a school night.

Having sorted out my tax return this week, and had a look at the progress of my debt repayments, things are going well. We've got to be sensible next year to whack the next lot, but we will properly hammer them. I'm happy with my lot anyway. But as to the nature of this blog... well, I'm a tryer, I'm a failer. Sometimes I do superbly well. Sometimes I'm a hypocrite. At the end of the day, I'm a human being, and while I'm working towards improving my lot all the time I don't expect anything to stay fixed exactly the way it is. I don't expect me to stay the same either. I spy a point on the horizon where I know there's comfort, security, more space to be me and do what I like doing. It doesn't seem to be an impossibility for me right now. I'm very lucky in that respect.

A few years ago, I found the most amazing and inspiring blog, written by a lady who lived in a beautiful little cottage. She'd paid off her mortgage and was now set on travelling the world. She wanted to travel in a line from North to South Africa ultimately, but had interim goals of getting to Japan, but also enjoying travelling in this country. Every time she planned to do a thing, then found a cheaper way of doing it, she'd save the difference. And the pictures! I lived vicariously through that blog. But then, something made her switch it to invite only. As I wasn't a close friend, just a stranger in the internet, that world closed off for me. Her blog, she can do what she likes with it, but I felt sad and hoped it wasn't due to unkindness.

But I found someone else whose blog I liked, recommended by the other blogger. Frugal Queen! I was hooked on her story. She wasn't on a low income, but she had got a whacking load of debt, and so she went to extremes to clear it down as quickly as she could. A lot of people were inspired by her early years of blogging when she battled the debt and she became quite famous as the debt was conquered. Many stayed to read once she was in better circumstances, myself included. But now she has gone. All social media shut down. And I understand trolls are to blame. Why? Why would you do that?

As I came back from my gig last night, three of my friends were talking about being trolled on social media. Different reasons. A lot of my friends from performing get the "women aren't funny" brigade... but in lifestyle blogs, a lot of the invective seems to come from people who seemingly don't appreciate that the process of blogging is to share experience as you change your life. People change too. They can't stay perfectly imperfect forever. They therefore become imperfectly perfect instead.

So yes, I fully intend Frugalwench to be gone one day. Then maybe she'll be Comedywench or Poetrywench. Maybe I'll change blog on that day; start fresh. Maybe I won't. But I know one thing - that's not going to be down to a bloody troll.

Merry Christmas, Froogs and SFT, wherever you are.