All posts by Caroline

Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5

Living life in the slow lane

Five weeks into a summer holiday in Spain and I can be forgiven for succumbing to a complete and utter relaxed state of mind and body.Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5

I feel I am fortunate because having your own business means you can take longer vacations; downside is you never really stop working.

In my ideal world my out of office email would read something like this:

I am out of the office from July 12th – August 24th unless you have loads of work you wish to discuss or you have nothing better to do but whine about something then f**k off until I get back into the office on August 25th when all your requests will be dealt with.

In reality my out of office email doesn’t exist because I choose not to disclose the fact that I am ‘out of the office’ on holiday.

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_9My customers have me 24/7 and if there are urgent queries that need to be addressed then they are dealt with.

You can’t realistically expect your clients to wait until you return from a long summer holiday and delegating work stuff to others isn’t always practical.

Basking in the sun for over a month seems idyllic and it is but, when you run your own business you never truly switch off and you look forward to the weekends with the same anticipation and expectation as a normal working week.

One of the joys of the southern European way of life aside of the fact that everyday is filled with blue skies and endless sunshine is how quickly you embrace the slowness of it all.

The European lifestyle beats ours hands down.

Can we really live life in the slow lane?

Staying up late, eating late, then rise early for the beach where you make up for the lack of sleep from the night before.

There is no set time for eating; if you are hungry you eat, if you are tired you sleep.Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_10

Learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had. Anon. 

The Mediterranean way of life can be summed up as follows; no one lives to work, they all work to live.

The weather has a significant bearing on this way of life particularly when summer arrives. With such a hot climate people take time away from the heat and rest during their siesta.

The Spanish leave the beach from 2:00-3:00PM and are not back until after 5:00PM. Most leave the beach at 9:00PM either heading home to shower and then out to eat or, to the nearest Chiringuito restaurant.

This genuine love of life involves more than a diet they embrace life to the fullest, finding peace and happiness in everyday activities and ultimately living life to the best of their ability.

You don’t see anyone rushing, they are dictated by the weather, the hotter it is the slower people go.

DeathtoStock_EnergyandSerenity4-672x372With temperatures that soar upwards of 36-40 degrees you have to slow down because the heat is physically draining and even after five weeks of acclimatisation it still penetrates your inner core and makes you weary.

The Spanish appear to have the perfect balance between life, work and family.

Family’s head down to the beach with their cooler bags, sun beds and towels they look more prepared for an expedition to the Amazon rather than a trip to the beach.

Each one has a valuable part to play from the youngsters responsible for carrying their buckets and spades to the great grandmother who oversees the younger generation.

It is lovely to watch and I have to admit I am jealous of their way of life.

Nothing seems to faze them they have no concept of what it is to rush let alone run to get to their destination.

They plod along, stopping for a chat as a group, and then off they go again only to be distracted by another passing group of friends.chipiona beach

Compare that to our way of life, three days back in the UK I am back on the old familiar treadmill again, the summer holiday a distant but fond memory.

Anger, weather, impatience, queues, traffic, misery.

No wonder we are a nation stressed out over worked underpaid and incapable of enjoying ourselves.

And even when we are on holiday we are under pressure to check emails and work, to be seen to be doing the ‘right thing’.

Wanting to understand what it is about this way of life that makes people happy I discovered the “Blue Zones?”

A concept used to identify a demographic/geographic area of the world where people live longer lives?

Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain were the first to identify blue zone people and Sardinia’s Nuoro province as one of the regions that have the highest concentration of centenarians, people who live beyond 100 years.

Dan Buettner, author and national geographic fellow has written a book: “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the people Who’ve Lived the Longest”.

Some of the areas that have been identified include Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Icaria, Greece.

The prospect of living to 100 doesn’t exactly fill me with joy but what does is getting the balance between work and living and many of us are living to work and not really enjoying living.

The most important thing is not necessarily how long we are going to live but how good and fulfilling our life is, full of love, purpose and meaning.

iStock_000016287028SmallFrom my own observations of the southern European lifestyle they do live with purpose and meaning, they are family centric, their diet is rich in vegetables, and fruit, fish and meat and they know how to enjoy wine.

Family is at the heart of their way of life and the extended family is an integral part of the way they live; grandparents provide support to parents who leave their children whilst they go to work.

Elderly people are looked after by younger family members they appear happy, content, fit and healthier than their western counterparts.

I think of the anxiety and worry I have about work, my children, life and the future and appreciate that there is something I can learn from this way of life.

Be mindful and purposeful; be aware of the wonderful people and good things I have in my life.

One day in the not too distant future I will be old and may find myself looking back on life regretting the things I should have done with only time and work to blame for stopping you and me from doing the things we should have done.

Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.

©Jawaharlal Nehru

 

 

 

Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5

Why are we so angry?

Following Brexit I was shocked that families were falling out over how they voted.

In my extended family my brother-in-law refuses to talk to his own father over the way he voted.

Brexit was a justification for the anger that we feel over a whole host of other issues. are we a nation of angry people

A month on and the FTSE has returned to normal the calamities that were dramatically posted across the media didn’t materialise.

Life continues.

I had my own view on Brexit and to those who whined and moaned about the outcome, get over it, it’s done, move on there is more to life.

If you voted for Labour last year did you start whining because the conservatives got in? No, you accepted that that was the majority and moved on.

Stop moaning and get on with living

Were you angry when England got knocked out of the Euro 2016 and angrily request that England have a replay, no, you accepted the fact that England didn’t make the cut and went home.

portrait of a angry young manThere is a lot to be angry about in our often unfair and unjust world and I admit that I too am angry.

I am not the explosive dramatic type that is likely to launch a desk in your direction I’m the one that huffs behind someone in the queue who cant decide what to order I huff and puff when I’m trying to get around on foot quickly only to be stuck behind someone who has all day.

We spend most of our family holidays in Spain, the Spanish appear to be very passive and non aggressive, the English appear to have gone the other way.

I can share two recent personal examples of anger directed at me.

On the way home from school a car pulled out in front of me forcing me to brake heavily.

The driver was a young black man in his 20’s and he felt I should have let him out of the junction even though it was my right of way.

The anger and venom of abuse that streamed out of his mouth and yes, I’m pretty good at lip reading and he did have his window open so it wasn’t difficult for us to hear.

What was he objecting too? Did he object to the fact I was a woman or, was it because I was driving a larger vehicle?

Clearly he felt he ‘owned’ the road and even my children commented ‘what’s his problem?’

Why waste time and energy getting angry over stuff you can’t always control?

Two days later and this time it was a white woman who felt compelled to unleash the same venom on me whilst I accidentally bumped into her walking down the high street, sorry I said genuinely, it was an accident, as I was exposed to her tirade of abuse.

Contrast this to the Alrumbo music festival in Cadiz, Spain where my husband, two boys and I spent most of the early hours of Friday morning and Saturday evening dancing to Martin Garrix and The Prodigy.

There was no aggression or fighting even though alcohol and drugs filled the air.

The Prodigy concert which was completely mental and brilliant all at the same time resulted in us being squashed and pushed around, I got so annoyed at one point with the Spanish moving to the front and then deciding to go in different directions, that I literally had to push people out of my way.

Was I met with hostility? The complete opposite, in fact only apologies were offered for stepping on my feet and they quickly moved out of the way.

When they saw my youngest boy dancing with me they gave me the thumbs up telling me it was fantastic that we were together as a family, no anger or aggression just laughter and fun.

If that had been England I probably would have been punched for being assertive enough to stand my own ground.

Being angry is causing increased anxiety and high blood pressure with reportedly high levels of stress, palpitations, reducing the effectiveness of our immune systems.

I recognise the signs of stress myself – eczema, insomnia, palpitations, irritability, irrationality all of which in the long term can lead to serious illnesses including cancer and I don’t need a medical degree to know that stress can kill.iStock_000010338713Small

Since the 2008 financial crash and recession we have had a lot to worry about, reduced income for many of us and yet the cost of living keeps on going up so there is a lot to be angry and worried about.

Anger causes stress, anxiety and common illnesses.

We are angry over ‘everything’, the incumbent government, who doesn’t blame them for all that is bad in life, austerity measures, women who can afford Louis Vuitton handbags those who can’t.

People who drive luxury cars, cyclists who think they own the roads, motorists who think cyclists are moving targets and should be run down for good.

People who go five rounds of verbal abuse because you inadvertently jumped a queue in Costa to someone who beat you into the car parking space that you had spotted first.

Miserable retail assistants who couldn’t even tell you what they sell in their store.

People who start bonfires on Sunday afternoon’s whilst the family are trying to have a BBQ, the national debt, no pay increases, low interest rates.iStock_000012614300XSmall

You only  have to read the comments on blogs, on news sites, social media and the vitriolic words written with such hatred because they know they can get away with it and we live in a democracy.

Whilst I don’t believe we can change the status quo, by accepting it and moving on leads for a less stressful and a more favourable outlook on everyday life.

My attempt to banish negative thoughts is slowly taking effect.

Negative thoughts creep into my head on a frequent basis, I’m the proverbial glass is half empty but I am also a realist and pragmatist.

It is like touretts, it doesn’t come out of my mouth but it does reverberate in my head.

I find myself walking down the street looking at things, objects and people and my brain making comments like I wouldn’t wear those shoes with that outfit or why does he want to look like that, to what’s with the hair!

The woman with the huge nose in the school car park who never smiles, the daily frustrations with business, my children not doing as they are told, my husband who seems to have developed a hearing impediment whenever I ask him to do something.

Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5Since I’ve banished negative and angry thoughts from my head I feel better in myself, as soon as I experience a negative thought I vanquish it immediately, like a vampire slayer and focus only on positive nice things.

Whenever you feel anger enveloping you breathe in deeply for 7 seconds and exhale for 11 seconds, it is difficult to change a lifetime’s habit but definitely worth trying.

Anger is bourn out of an emotional reaction to something or someone you don’t agree with not because someone decides to use a zebra crossing to cross the road.

Wikipeida describes anger as a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.

We have zero tolerance to anger in the workplace, airports, planes, pubs, hospitals almost every public service area exhibits a notice that says verbal and physical abuse will not be tolerated by staff.

My 17 year old’s response to why are we a nation of angry people is “because it’s a crap country, the weather is always miserable and the average person works very hard for very little.”

Prophetic words from someone who has yet to live and experience the real world.

We are a nation of givers and carers, there is no spite or Printhatred when Children In Need or Sports Relief takes to our screens, every year we give vast amounts of money to help children, if we didn’t care we wouldn’t give.

Those carers who give up so much time to care for people with little or no recognition, which should really be the sole responsibility of the state, but like good citizens step up because they care.

Are we really an angry nation of people ready to explode?

Have our tolerance levels finally been pushed to breaking point?

Is the tide turning, are we are no longer wanting or agreeing to accept the status quo as it is?

Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire in Manage Your Anger: Teach Yourself suggests that as a nation we are getting angrier.

“Our expectations have risen steadily and so have our stress levels. We have higher expectations of our world; we believe we have the right to expect things to go well or to be perfect.

We have become more demanding as a nation, we are also living a more frenetic and frantic pace of life, which means our stress levels are raised. This raised stress means that our tolerance for things going wrong is dramatically reduced.”

Sometimes it is the smallest things that can send us off the deep end.

I have discovered a new app called Headspace a meditative app that helps you relax, unwind and be more reflective there is also a headspace for kids to help them relax and be mindful.

I’m on the first step and am determined to do this during the day or prior to bedtime to see if by listening to an app on my phone helps to make me less worried, anxious and less angry and able to manage situations better rather than losing it at the first opportunity then I am all for trying something new, how about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter and Pen

How often do you call your parents?

The last few weeks have been challenging and frustrating to say the least, anxiety ridden and almost always caused by family issues and whilst I was thinking about all that had come to pass it gave me the idea for this blog post.call your parents

I am at odds with my parents and it feels like it has been this way for as long as I can remember. Since leaving home over 30 years ago it seems that distance has sought to worsen an already deteriorating relationship.

Having children appeared to regain some of the lost love and kindness but even that has been short lived.

I am speaking german and they in swahili, neither party appears to understand what the other is really saying and I have to ask does the fact that we live so far way affect the relationship?

Living a long way from your parents makes the familiar drop in for a cup of tea and chat non existent, a phone call doesn’t provide the same physical connection you get when you talk to someone face to face.

In the same way an email can be misconstrued so can a telephone call. Yet when in the company of my parents we are unable to communicate in a meaningful and loving way.

Miscommunication is usually over something so trivial but the fallout is often followed by pain and distress.

How often should you have contact with your parents?

One of the most perplexing dilemmas of the modern day parent is how often should you call, visit or even write to your parents?  

If you are fortunate enough to live nearby then you find yourself in the enviable position of never having to face this conundrum unless you are alienated from them due to a specific set of circumstances or, because you choose not to have any contact.

Much press attention has been given to this prickly subject with modern parents citing they are simply too busy to either visit or call their parents.

The silver haired generation might find this at odds with the accessibility afforded by modern technology.

It is easier than ever to connect anytime and from anywhere in the world but this doesn’t mean our parents share the same interest in using technology in the same way we use it.

There is a genuine perception that the digital age conveniently expects adult children should regularly contact parents.

The fact that the parent knows that the child is easily contactable only serves to create the expectation of regular and prompt communication.

It is an irony that the revolution in communications has only served to stress an already overworked overstretched working generation who quite simply find it difficult to squeeze in quality time with their children let alone find five minutes to pick up the phone to speak with parents.

call your parentsCall your parents

My parents live in the midlands and my ideal time to call them is on the school run between 7:30am and 8:00am.

This provides the perfect opportunity for me and my children to have a quick catch up.

But this is fraught with anxiety because my parents aren’t early risers and usually aren’t up much before 9am.

By the time the school day is over and the after school activities finished with, home time is anytime between 6:00pm and 7:00pm.

Evenings are taken up with the usual duties delegated to most working mothers, preparing the evening meal, household chores, preparing for the next day and catching up on any last minute work tasks before it starts all over again.

If, like me you are always on the go the prospect of trying to find time to make that call could mean that it is well after 9pm, and by then I want to be tucked up in bed reading the daily news or watching television.

When is the ideal time to give your parents a call?

Retirees quickly forget how busy the working day is especially where teenagers are concerned.

I try to call my parents every friday morning but I have to admit keeping to this schedule isn’t easy.

By the end of the week I am usually tired and cranky and the thought of making a call to parents with joie de vivre whilst making the conversation engaging and cheerful is challenging to say the least especially when all I want to do is lie down and make it through to the first Gin and Tonic at approximately 6:30pm.

But it cuts both ways they are just as busy and if I do call and I catch them in, my mother might be on the way out to her pilates class whilst my father is off to play bowls.

Sometimes it feels that it is always me picking up the phone and I have at times deliberately not called just to see if they will make the effort to call me.Upset young woman and senior mother having bad argue indoor

The longest I have gone without speaking to my parents is two weeks at which point I get the obligatory reminder text from my mother “are you alright?”

Why not pick up the phone if you want to talk?

Do we have to wage a silent competition over how many times who has called whom and when?

As a teenager, I recollect my father calling my grand-father every sunday evening always 7pm on the dot.

I would hear my father lamenting after the call, grumbling that his dad was forgetful and annoyed that he had made the effort to call him in spite of the fact it was by way of mutual agreement.

University life seemed so much easier, sunday nights were invariably the call home to parents night, with a 50p in my pocket and only 3 booths in an accommodation block of girls only it wasn’t uncommon to be waiting upwards of an hour to make that proprietary call home.

The duration of the call was dictated by the number of minutes a 50p piece provided and back in the 80’s that was a lot of talk time.

That would be it for another week, no pressure, just a quick catch up with handwritten letters thrown in when the time allowed.

In spite of hand written assignments, there were no laptops or PC’s back then and most nights spent out in the student bar or at local hot spots there was time to write home to parents.

What has happened to the art of writing letters?

Those of you reading this will snigger at the prospect of physically making the time to sit down and write about what has been going on in your life, after all, when do any of us have the time to breath?

Who has the time to write a letter or a note?

The art of letter writing appears to have been relegated to the past.

When was the last time you wrote a postcard from your holiday destination?

Texting and whatsapping is for the generation of now it is quick easy and efficient and describes that moment as you see it in the here and now.

Letter and PenHow many times did you send postcards to family and friends when you were on holiday only to arrive back home before the postcards were delivered?

And on one occasion I remember six months later?

My mother has kept the letters I wrote during my college days and the subsequent years when I left home.

Nostalgia, maybe, it was a time when our relationship was close without the pressure of age, family and distance thrown in.

I wrote beautiful letters, my mother remarked recently maybe that’s where my love for writing developed from many years later?

Why should hand writing be saved for the once a year obligatory christmas cards with a few hastily written words for friends and family who live far away and who the customary christmas card is a prerequisite to show that we are thinking of them at this most special time of the year.

Words speak volumes and a letter can say more in its use of words and imagination than a phone call ever can.

How many times have my parents called me and caught me at the wrong time? A recent  sunday morning and my mobile phone rings at 9:30am I had just fallen back to sleep again after a poor night.

Not my father’s fault he couldn’t have known but my tone of voice and sharp response was unkind and unwarranted.

Writing a letter enables you to sit down and make time, be creative and think about what you want to write and share.

A letter can be short and sweet or long and deliberate, it can be creative include photos, a poem, a cutting from a magazine but that letter can be saved and read again and again, a phone call will be forgotten a few days later or at worse leave you feeling bewildered or hurt.

A picture is worth a thousand words, in the same way a letter can evoke pictures for the person reading it, you can express feelings and sentiments more easily with words.

Words give you permission to open up and show your emotion whether it is about a situation that has happened to you, describing the moment when your child said their first words or your son or daughter being recognised by the school for their valuable contribution.

It requires time and creativity, thoughtfulness and imagination.

Who remembers having pen pals?

I had three that I wrote to who lived in countries so far away that my imagination created exotic faraway places, what was their home and country like, where did they go to school, what did they study and where did they go for their holidays?

Waiting for the next letter to arrive was exciting.

Sweet and full of innocence as we embarked on this written journey of words.

When you read a great book it invites you into the plot, the story grips you, the plot twisting and turning and your imagination running a mock trying to work out the ending.

If the plot is brilliant the book envelops you, you become one of the characters, absorbed by its twists and turns.

A handwritten letter, a hurriedly scribbled note expressing thanks and I’m thinking of you, will sit on your window sill or mantelpiece as a reminder, a phone call can’t be seen nor can it be heard by anyone else other than by the recipient.

It can’t be shared in the same way a letter can.

Words can express the emotions of the letter writer, what they are thinking, what they saw and how they felt.

They cannot be misinterpreted unless written with innuendo and maliciousness and are read with joy and wonder by the recipient.

A letter shows that the sender has thought about the recipient, made time to write to them by sharing the bits and pieces of their lives.

With the pressure of everyday working life, taking a few chosen moments to write a letter to family, friends or a lost love can be calming in our instant always on digital world.

I am going to write a handwritten letter to my parents hopefully this will move my parents to see things differently without passing judgement and being misunderstood.

The next time you find yourself with a few moments to spare write that little note and tell someone how much you love them or what you have been doing, make someone happy.

Drop me a line and let me know how you get on?

 

Concept image of a Calendar with the text: EU Referendum

What next for the future of the UK and the EU Referendum?

The EU referendum is dominating every news medium as the UK heads to the big vote on 23 June.Concept image of a Calendar with the text: EU Referendum

As a UK citizen, I have found the lack of balanced and objective arguments frustratingly misleading and biased ranging from the ludicrous suggestion of an outbreak of a third world war to another economic downturn.

Worse still, that the UK will be cast asunder by the rest of europe.

Neither campaign has sort to differentiate the good from the bad, the pros and cons, they have succeeded only in blurring a complex issue.

The £9m spent on the 16 printed page brochure is the government’s view on why we should remain in the EU but surely this should have been balanced with reasons why exiting the EU could also mean good news for the UK too.

David Cameron, the prime minister was adamant in January that if he couldn’t renegotiate better terms for the UK it was highly likely that the UK would leave.

By February his position had changed to the UK remaining in the EU in spite of this there was no evidence to suggest that the renegotiation was statute other than proprietary agreements and none of which were made public.

How do we know if this renegotiation will stand the test of time? 

The vote in campaign argues that if stay in the EU our economy will continue to thrive and our position will be much improved because the new deal makes it conducive for the UK to remain in allowing the economy to prosper and benefit from existing trading relations.

The vote exit campaign say that if we remain in the EU we will be subject to more rules and regulations, our  unique identity and sovereignty in the long term will be increasingly eroded because the EU is committed to a more integrated and unified europe.

It is difficult to make a decision without understanding what the EU is and how it was formed this is an essential part of the decision making process.

iStock_000003694882SmallWhy was the EU created in the first place and do we need to be a part of it?

The establishment of a ‘United Europe’ goes back as far as 1948 in the wake of the second world war. The real foundations of the EU originated by the signing of two treaties in Rome on March 25 1957.

The treaties gave birth to the European Economic Community (EEC) which gave its  signatories notably France, West Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Luxembourg the premise to lay foundations which they hoped would lead to a safer, democratic and closer union among the peoples of europe.

A worthy ideal and one which governments of the day embraced with open arms.

A collective europe where people and countries were united sharing economic wealth and prosperity was an ideal status quo following the aftermath of two bloody world wars.

The EEC, also referred to as the common market was designed to foster closer ties, economic co-operation and integration by promoting trade with one another so that states would become interdependent enabling free circulation of goods, services, capital and free movement of people, reducing the likelihood of further conflict.

EU Referendum

Britain did not want to become a member because of its commercial and political bonds with its colonies, former colonies and the commonwealth. It also did not want to be part of a custom union and defended the right to establish a free trade area.

It believed that national governments should set up their own tariffs with third countries and was opposed to any surrender of sovereignty of national states to a ‘Supernational European Institution’.

Britain wanted to be responsible for governing its own people and transacting business with the european trading partners of its choice and suggested an alternative to the EEC collectively known as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland.

With Britain effectively excluded, the 1960’s saw the EEC grow economically with growth rates better than the USA.

Harold Macmillan, then prime minister sought in August 1961 to open negotiations for full integration into the EEC.

French leader, Charles de Gaulle vetoed GB’s request in 1963 and again in 1967, when Harold Wilson, prime minister requested membership of the EEC. The french leader was suspicious of the close relationship Britain had with the US.

Although De Gaulle was committed to creating a strong and unified Europe to stand before the might of the US and the USSR he did not believe in a politically unified Europe and wanted to maintain the national independence of France.

iStock_000000568002SmallDe Gaulle’s resignation in 1969 paved the way for Britain to enter the EEC.

In 1972 with negotiations finalised, Edward Heath, the prime minister signed accession to the EEC in 1973, in the same year Ireland and Denmark joined but the Norwegians rejected the EEC in a referendum held later that year.

It wasn’t until 1975 that Britain held a referendum after renegotiating its entry terms this resulted in the voting public agreeing to Britain joining the EEC.

In 1979 the European Monetary System or EMS came into force introducing the european currency unit or ECU and the exchange rate mechanism ERM.

This was to be the precursor to the euro and meant that national governments were committed to coordinating their monetary policies.

All EEC members joined except Britain.

Jacques Delors became the the first president of the European Commission in 1985. Part of his remit was the removal of barriers to free trade along with free movement of capital and labour so that a single market could be created.

He wanted further european economic and political integration so that europe could compete with the US.

In the same year the Schengen agreement was signed by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Germany which was an ambitious initiative guaranteeing free movement of persons and gradual removal of frontiers among the community states.

The UK has never signed the Schengen agreement because governments have sought to maintain governance over our borders and who is allowed access into the UK.

When did the EEC become the EU?

The EEC from its inception was seen  as a regional organisation founded on economic integration among its european members. 

The Maastricht Treaty on european union was signed in December 1991 and paved the way for monetary union, social policy and european citizenship among its EU members.

This treaty gave europeans the right to live and vote in elections in any EU country, the treaty was designed to foster cooperation on foreign affairs, security asylum and immigration between the member states.

But  it proved to be a controversial voting issue in national referendums, the danes rejected it in June 1992 and accepted it only at a second vote in May 1993 after they negotiated an opt out on monetary union like the UK.

In France the vote was 50.4% for to 49.7% against,  in Germany and the UK there was considerable public discontent surrounding the signing of the treaty.

The formation of the EU in 1993 by the treaty of the European Union meant that the EEC was incorporated and renamed as the European Community, EC.  

By 2009, the EC’s institutions were absorbed into the EU’s wider framework and the old EEC ceased to exist.

Throughout the 1990’s the inclusion of european countries continued with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.

By 1998, the EU had opened talks with Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Malta.

Whilst the union sort to increase membership from european states it faced discord amongst its members and allegations of mismanagement of public funds by the european commission.

In 1999 the EU President Jacques Santer and 19 other commissioners resigned due to fraud and mismanagement of the commission’s funds and questions surrounding the future existence of the EU continued to be asked.

The introduction of the euro in 1999 was one of the greatest changes undertaken by the EU, member states abolished their national currency in favour of the euro.

One of the sole purposes of the euro was to provide a unified monetary policy making it easier for european partners to trade.

Whilst the euro was phased in from 2002, most of the european populace were discontent with its introduction.

Sweden, Denmark and the UK opted to stay out of the euro.

During this time Valery D’Estaing, the french president hoped to establish a european constitution, one in which all member states could sign up to and agree.

The purpose of the constitution was to simplify EU treaties, ensure that the existence of the EU and its position was better understood by its citizens and to make it more efficient as it increased its membership size.

Throughout 2002 and 2003, the constitution failed to materialise because heads of state and government could not agree on the final context of the new constitution.

The June 2004 elections to the european parliament were held in 25 countries resulting in EU leaders signing a new constitution to establish the EU.

But referendums held in France and the Netherlands in 2005 meant the constitution was all but rejected by the voters this meant that the constitution failed to come into effect because it required all 25 member states to agree.

Where does that leave the future of the EU?

Understanding the background of the EU makes it easier to appreciate the concept behind the creation of a European Union.

It was founded on the fundamental principle that having a single market would make it easier for countries to trade with each other openly, to be able to travel freely across europe to live and work in whatever country its people choose.

Ultimately the EU was designed to create a better, fairer and more integrated europe .

A great vision maybe, but how can agreement be sought between 28 member states that are  so culturally and economically diverse?

The lack of agreement between members regarding the constitution has left the EU in limbo, with no future direction and with a handful of trade treaties which would not change the way the UK and the rest of Europe continue to work with each other regardless of the existence of the EU.

We need each other and whether we stay or exit the EU relationships will continue to thrive and prosper and trade between the UK and europe will continue.

Whatever happens on the 23rd June life will continue and the EU will manage with or without us.

The most important thing to consider is whether the risk of remaining in outweighs the risk of exiting Europe.

The fear of change and lack of inertia because of what we don’t know often outweighs our ability to view the facts clearly, the old adage of why change something when it isn’t broken rings true.

We are a great nation but fear of what lies beyond the EU scares many; for others it offers  greater opportunities and the prospect of making our own decisions about the future of our country.

It rather depends on how you view it.

 

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Take those bloody earphones out of your ears.

At work, in the car, at the gym, at home, at school, along the high street, in airport, on trains and tubes, in cities, the world.

Take those bloody headphones off
Take those bloody headphones off

Wherever I go I never fail to see someone walking with earphones plugged into a mobile or iPod. 

In fact I did a quick survey, I counted 13 people, 9 had either on ear headphones or in ear earphones, that is 69% of a group of people who I happened to walk passed on my way to an appointment in town.

69% of people ranging from teenagers, middle age, elderly a good representative mix of the population.

It isn’t just teenagers, even the silver generation are getting in on the act too. Walking in the park, town centre shopping and the gym.

There is no stopping this phenomenon of headphone/earphone wearing individuals zoning out from the rest of world ignoring all that is around them oblivious to sounds, distractions and noise,

What am I missing?

I love my music and I listen to my iPhone all the time especially when I’m in the gym and almost always when I’m on a run, it distracts from the pain and anguish but I just can not get into wearing them when I am out and about. Take those bloody earphones off

I’ve tried the in ear earphones, the on ear and over the ear headphones in fact I’ve got headphones for every occasion.

I’ve walked around London shopping, travelling on the train and the tube and I can’t get into it. I feel like I’m missing out on what is around me.

I did listen to my whale sounds and meditative music coming out of London one late night, I fell asleep and ended up in Bedford.

I am a professional voyeur, a watcher of people. I like to note their idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, social graces or lack of, I look at people who I catch staring at me daring them to see how long they might hold my stare.

Does wearing earphones mean that people want to opt out from human interaction or from the world that surrounds them?

Does the thought of a long nauseating day at the office mean the only way they can counteract frustration, anxiety or boredom is simply by zoning out?

Following the cursory how was school today boys, a few short grunts and nods and my boys too plug those suckers into their ears.

Apparently it breaks up the monotony of the journey.

What is wrong with CONVERSATION, it isn’t called the art of conversation for nothing. 

iStock_000023887471SmallDale Carnegie sold 15,000,000 copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People which talks about becoming an effective communicator and engaging in conversation with people without offending them and no earphones.

How to understand and get along with people, how to make people like you and how to win others to your way of thinking, all this was written by Carnegie in 1937, pre-mobile phone although we have Nathaniel Baldwin to thank for inventing audio headphones in 1910.

There were no smartphones to plug into back then.

Has conversation become too strenuous and time consuming in our fast paced society?

The basis for any human interaction in a society is communication, talking, chatting and sharing information.

It seems we have become a nation of Z-O-O-N-E-R’S

Zone-Out-Of-Nothing and-Everyday-Rituals

Interacting with a device is more important than talking.

iStock_000087025531_SmallPeople are in their own bubble, unaware of what is going on around them absorbed in their own world bumping into other pedestrians on their way to work distracted by their mobile phones.

The government should introduce a mobile phone lane for texting and listening to music in our large cities like its counterpart has done in Beijing.

If you decide to opt opt out of texting, listening to music or any form of interaction with your mobile phone you can stay out of harm’s way and not have to worry about being carved up or hit from behind by some gormless human that has strayed into your pathway not looking where they are going.

Psychologists call our fixation with wearing headphones while using electronic devices ‘divided attention’ or ‘intentional blindness’. I call it intentional rudeness.

You can easily disengage from society and I really get that but, seeing people with headphones is sending a message that says ‘don’t talk to me I’m unavailable for conversation or social comment, I don’t want to be disturbed or spoken to’.

My own children are not immune to the solace of earphones and conveniently go deaf, dumb and blind when they are wearing them.

During the holidays I nip out to do some shopping and I ask my children to listen out for me as I am not taking the house keys.

Only to arrive home ringing the doorbell, shouting, banging doors and windows for the umpteenth time trying to get their attention with me having to resort to phoning them on the very device they are otherwise engaged whilst I am standing outside the front door.

The moral of this sad tale, when you leave your kids at home, don’t forget to take your keys.

Music soothes me pleads my 12 year old, as he winds down after a long and arduous day at the school office.

I sigh as I yank the earphones out of his ears and kiss him good night.

Less listening more doing I say.

 

Girlfriends Friendship Party Happiness Summer Concept

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the menopause. Why you’re never too old too…

In spite of what we know about this important chapter in a woman’s life, for many, not only is it a defining moment known as ‘the change’ but it can also be a transformative time when we choose to make life changing decisions. Menopause

This might mean setting up a business, divorcing a spouse whom we may have shared our life with for over thirty years and for others it is the realisation that time is marching on and that we may have just seen the best of our years.

Not me. I feel fitter, healthier and more athletic than in my thirties.

Time maybe marching across my face but it certainly isn’t as far as my brain and the rest of me is concerned.

I might be menopausal but just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I’m dead yet.

When I met with girlfriends recently one couldn’t help but remark ‘let’s face it, luvvies, we’ve seen the best of our years.

menopauseI bristled because not only did she dismiss the menopause as a defining moment for a woman but effectively consigned womanhood to the shelf??

I came away thinking is it really over for menopausal women?

By chance a PR company approached onewomansview by email to promote a new book, So that’s why I’m bonkers! A Girl’s Guide to surviving the menopause.’ by Sheila Wenbourne.

I read it, loved it and had to interview Sheila, we were two kindred spirits experiencing this ghastly woman’s change but in hugely different ways.

When I asked Sheila why she wrote a book on the menopause she said ‘because I went to my Dr. and was told it was the menopause, that I was going to have to learn to live with, goodbye G-string hello big knickers.’

That was enough for Sheila who looked at other options as well as HRT.

Whilst the book doesn’t unearth how or why women endure the menopause, it is a medical fact that all women will at some stage go through the menopause. She writes in a fun, honest and educational way describing what women have to go through but who are afraid to either acknowledge or talk about, what both Sheila and I refer to as the dreaded M word.

In fact the menopause gave her the confidence to set up her own online business selling magnetic jewellery, an alternative therapy she subsequently discovered helped her with all the symptoms associated with the menopause.

She first came across magnetic therapy when she discovered that Yuk, its the menopauseher dog was suffering from acute arthritis and was told that putting him down might be the kindest thing to do but instead she researched what alternatives were available and discovered magnetic dog collars, popped one on her dog and watched her beloved collie transform into a sprightly pup.

Believing that if it could work for her dog why not her and so she decided to find a way of selling magnetic jewellery online.

I’m currently wearing a magnet in my knickers on the recommendation of Sheila. (You can find out how magnet therapy works here)

I’ve fished it out of the toilet twice already as I forget it’s there, but I am going to persist with it because if it means coming off HRT a drug designed to stabilise our declining oestrogen then I’m all for it.

But the moral of the tale is that just because women hit the menopause doesn’t mean it is game set and match.

Coming out of the other side of the menopause, Sheila said that she is more confident than the person she was before so much so it gave her the desire and verve to set up a business.

She acknowledges that magnetic therapy isn’t for everyone and I have to admit I was a little skeptical too, but if you don’t try you don’t know?

As we spoke and shared experiences of the menopause I drew a parallel with our lives.

At 50 I discovered a desire to write and went onto study freelance courses in journalism which after successful completion led to me to the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

Not a course for the faint hearted and whilst I have really struggled with time, business and work I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for the menopause I might not have taken the decision to consider a change in career.

Cameron Diaz reportedly said in her new book, “The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging”, she is not afraid of getting old it’s Hollywood she worries about.

It was refreshing to have a Hollywood A-Lister stand up for women aging and admit that she isn’t in the least bit scared.

There is a generation of female silver surfers and webpreneurs who have set up businesses in their late 50s and 60s following the menopause.

In eastern and asian societies women who start the menopause are revered and considered wise and worldly, a far cry from how western societies view menopausal women.

Sheila has confirmed many successes of women who have used magnetic therapy reporting that that they are more adventurous, confident and happier.

As for Sheila she says; ‘I’m happier in myself, I can cope with life generally much better than I ever did before, the only thing I do is wear a magnet.’

During our chat, she mentions Linda Barker and Julie Walters who both described the experience of the menopause as horrible. Julie said that she feels more liberated and has more energy than she had in her 50s following the menopause.

Instead of viewing this stage as the final act, Sheila says; ‘it’s hard going through it but once you’ve come out the other side, we’ve got 30-40 years to enjoy life, accept the fact you are older.

Fighting back at 50+ she says, ‘we’ve got so much to offer, so much to give to people, so much experience, we are in our prime.

We can feel good about ourselves, why can’t we wear lovely makeup and beautiful clothes?

We are not washed up at 50, we are in our prime, who says you can’t have it all?’

Amen to that!

 

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_2

Why I’m glad my children are bored.

If, like me you are looking forward to the easter holidays with a sense of dread,  you won’t be on your own. Anger

Scratching your head in frustration wondering, if, you are not going away, how you intend to keep your little horrors occupied for the two or three weeks they have off.

One of the nuances of 21st century parenting is this ideal that even if you are at home with your children it has to be time well spent rather than doing nothing with a capital N. 

So much so that children have forgotten the art of joyful playing.

Parenting has become very competitive and it feels like ‘the who did what with whom and when’ when comparing who did the most exciting things over the break.

I on the other hand advocate the complete opposite and that is to do NOTHING!

The last half-term went something like this.

This holiday was no different to the christmas break! I’m bored, what can I do now?

Can I watch that film again? Can you take me to bla bla…

Do you have a favourite child?The same statements but disguised with the vitriol words of a 12 year old: ‘Mum, I’m bored.’

I have one sixteen year old studying for AS exams and a 12 year old bored because his brother is occupied.

How can you possibly be bored? Look at what you have around you as I pointed out the PS4, television, books, drawing and sketching.

When I was your age I was never bored and we didn’t have the things you have or great children’s television during the holiday time.

‘I hate playing on the PSP by myself’, came back the response from my younger son.

‘Poor you’, I said ‘can’t you arrange for a friend to come around and play’, can’t be bothered, and besides my best friends have gone skiing.

Lucky them.

One of the things I have been guilty of as a mother is there has been a lot less ‘doing’ and more ‘vegging’.

I am doing my best to instil in my children the art of ‘vegging’ to be still like vegetables, in other words, to rest or sleep during the day, listen to music, pick up a book and read.

Why?

Because in this day of over parenting and over protectiveness of ourDo you have a favourite child? children we are almost made to feel guilty if we are not doing ‘something’ with them.

I was guilty of doing nothing, particularly when when they were young.

With various invites to pool parties, gymnastics and other activities, I was selective with the invitations because the prospect of sitting with mums talking about potty training, first words or what the little darlings had achieved that week filled me with boredom and horror.

Competitive parenting was not on my radar of expectations as a mother nor was traipsing around museums, parks or birthday parties just to keep them occupied and tantrum free.

They are now at the age where they come with us wherever we go with certain exceptions and I love it when they are with us. I feel it is payback for the lack of productive time I had with them when they were babies and toddlers.

My children were either in a baby jogger whilst I was running or at swimming pools and gyms rather than doing ‘something.’ And I have no regrets.

They got 100% of me then and the same now, but, when they were babies I spent my time in a state of workaholic frenzied insanity, the nursery took care of the day time whilst I loved and cooed with them at night time.

I do not feel under pressure now that they are older to organise and plan their days, they are old enough to think and do for themselves.

iStock_000016673127Small And I really believe they benefit from being bored.

Their school days are packed with learning then there is homework, which I hate and extracurricular afterschool activities.

By the time the holidays arrive I want them to be bored, it gives them time to slow down, breathe, rest and think.

I am not about to schedule a holiday rammed with a host of activities just to keep them from being bored or to prevent world war three from breaking out because they fight with each other.

My children have always known I have to work and they are proud of that so much so that my youngest said to me, Mum you’re so cool I’m glad you’re not like so and so.

Big compliments indeed.

I also believe I am teaching them a solid work ethic and that it is perfectly alright for women to work.

My children are my number one priority but not at the expense of everything else. If I get a phone call from the school nurse advising me that one of them has a fever my response is I will get there when I can.

Heartless, no. If they are ok and are being looked after I will get to school as soon as I’ve finished what I’m doing, if it’s not important I’ll collect them right away.DeathtoStock_Simplify10

My life does not revolve solely around my children I want and need them to be independent of me otherwise they will enter the world ill equipped if my parenting is too child centered.

Giving them too much attention  and constantly being on hand doesn’t foster self esteem, or the ability to think and play for themselves.

Instead, it creates narcissistic children who need constant adulation and attention and to be continually told just how good they are.

I want my children to develop into healthy adults capable of making choices and decisions without me.

I love my children but will not cater to their every whim just because they are bored.

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_8I encourage them to muck about, play outside, anything that allows them free time from structured school timetables and the pressure of homework.

Parenting has been turned into something that we should be doing rather than just simply being a parent.

There is nothing wrong with children ‘mucking about’ and having fun.

When I’m waiting in the car park this Friday and overhear conversations about planned trips to Dubai, Florida or some far flung destination, I’ll be smug in the knowledge that I’ll be going home with my children to ‘be still like vegetables’ and I’m rather looking forward to it.

 

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Diary of a sugar addict

Thursday 28th January proved to be what can best be described as one of those life changing moments when you least expect it. Scrumptious-roast-turkey-chicken-on-platter-000051408164_Small (1)

The whole of the month of January was spent feeling sick, tired and generally doubled over with stomach pain.

As a sufferer of IBS I assumed that was the problem and my gut clearly went into overdrive.

For anyone who has IBS you’ll completely understand how bloated and irritable, tired and lethargic it makes you feel.

January is a real hard slog especially after Christmas and so I aim to get through the month with the minimum amount of bother and try to maintain a positive outlook.

I know that if I get through January then the rest doesn’t seem quite so bad.

My earliest recollection of struggling with IBS was shortly after my eldest son was born that was 16 years ago. Out of the blue one afternoon I had the most gripping spasm pain in my gut.

That same evening off I went to the Dr he confirmed that it sounded like IBS prescribed me mebeverine to take before meals to calm the stomach and that was that, a one off event with occasional bouts that we’re manageable.

Jump forwards to 2013 and I had another bad attack one afternoon whilst we were on holiday in Spain. My coup de grace was to treat it with porridge which seemed to settle my stomach.

In May 2015 with the encouragement of my then personal trainer I decided to change my eating habits, drop meat not because of ethical or political reasons but because I felt that I really needed to get lean and mean.

chocolate cakeOut went porridge, toast and cereals in came natural yogurt with fruit, vegetables, pasta, salads and I seriously cut back on carbohydrates.

I like the odd biscuit dunked in tea at the weekend in bed and the occasional bag of maltesers or marshmallows but not in one sitting.

I have more of a sweet tooth than a savoury one and if you ask me to choose between a sandwich or a cream scone, guess which one I choose?

That said I stuck to my new vegetarian diet, having the occasional biscuit and bit of chocolate when I fancied it but, not everyday.

I am not a needy person when it comes to chocolate or sweets I can have a big bag of maltesers in the car and truthfully they will still be there in a month but for the kids eating them.

The final straw came when I took a day off with Mr M and went to Cambridge to meet with some spanish friends who were over for a few days.

A few tapas and a glass of Prosecco and I was sick as a dog and couldn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Over night I started to worry and managed to get an emergency appointment with the Dr early next morning.

Following an examination I was left with the belief that it was IBS that had flared up and that I would need to fast and drink water for 24 hours.

I had blood tests but they all came back negative.DeathtoStock_Medium1

During this time on the recommendation of a friend, I went to see an allergy consultant that uses non invasive techniques and a form of acupuncture to determine what I might be allergic to.

I found the whole experience liberating.

I was diagnosed with candida albicans. The reason my gut is so ill is that it has a yeast infection.

And my food intolerances are sugar and yeast.

I burst into tears when the consultant went through all the symptoms, each time I nodded my head.

I explained that I have been feeling like this for so long now it is hard to imagine what normal feels like.

The sickness, constant tiredness, exhaustion, lethargy, confusion, iStock_000009024892Smallfuzzy head, headaches, heart palpitations and a hangover feeling.

The fact that I had changed my diet by substituting healthier options meant that I had overloaded my body with even more sugar.

A list of foods to avoid was provided and these included cheese, bread, cakes, pastries, mushrooms, fruit juices, nuts, in fact anything with sugar and on the yeast side this was just as comprehensive no alcohol, wine, cava, prosecco but for gin and vodka but no tonic and champagne, at this I whooped thank god for small but expensive mercies.

That evening I went through the cupboards and to my horror and I mean horror all the food items from beans, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, dolmio sauce, all had excessive amounts of sugar.

Even my so called natural live yogurt had a whopping amount of sugar.

OMG there is NOTHING I can eat.

The yeast thing I can cope with as I don’t eat loads of bread or carbohydrate but you try and find something that doesn’t’ have sugar in it?

Mr M came in late that same evening and found me with my head in my hands. There is absolutely nothing in the cupboards I can eat that doesn’t have sugar.

That night I ordered Davina Mccall’s ‘5 weeks to sugar free’ and ‘I quit sugar’ by Sarah Wilson.

This was more than just a change in diet this was a massive change in my lifestyle.

The allergy consultant insisted that I start “cold-turkey” straightaway and that very Thursday afternoon I quit sugar and yeast.

Day 1 – Friday morning

How do I start today with no sugar.

Last night my beloved Mr M went to Morrisons to get me stevia and truvia a substitute natural sugar made from a plant. I can’t use saccharin or canderel.

The tea tasted strange and thankfully I had Ryvita in the cupboard so I could at least have that with butter. The jam Mr M bought me although diabetic still contained sugar.

I went shopping to Waitrose and spent 2 hours going through the store trying to find items without sugar what an uphill task even the ‘without’ section had plenty of sugar.

I am looking for 0g of sugar or <1g-0.5g per food item.

I finally come away with a load of foods including vegetables, rice crackers, irish sourdough bread which doesn’t have yeast and a whole host of other products,.

But even the low fat, low calorie natural yogurt has sugar in it and so I buy that reasoning that if I have less than the 100g portion I should be ok.

Mid morning and I think I’m experiencing a desperate need for sugar drinking water will reduce my appetite but it’s not hunger, I can feel a need to have anything sweet.

I grab a pear and the sweetness helps my sweet craving.

But I still want more.

After tea, I am desperate for Ben & Jerry’s peanut buttercup ice cream.

Friday night use to be a bottle of red wine and a tub of ben & Jerry’s not all in one sitting but a good third of it.

And now I’m in the kitchen looking for something sweet to eat and finally settle for a piece of sliced melon.

I’m never going to get through this.

Day 2 – Saturday

I have a dull headache and I’m feeling lethargic.

Saturday morning’s use to start with tea and a stem ginger biscuit dunked in it.

That has now gone and I start my day with a tea and stevia followed by porridge with agave syrup on the top.

By 11 o’clock I’m feeling restless, fuzzy headed and my head hurts.

I research candida albicans reading the books that have arrived from Amazon and one of them suggests not to take ibuprofen for the next 3 months because this too can disrupt the stomach’s natural gut flora.

I never take tablets unless I need to so I keep going.

By lunchtime I feel like I’m dying the sweetness I so crave is really Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_7taking a hold and my headache is getting worse.

I’ve been in the gym and the exercise has made me hungry and desperate for sugar.

I might have a small diet coke or a biscuit but instead I have a gluten free plain nairn biscuit, although I’m not GF these biscuits have next to no sugar.

I make a sourdough slice with philadelphia cheese this fills the gap.

I see an advert for chocolate and then a victoria sandwich with fresh cream, I would kill someone right now for a bite.

I now have some idea of what ‘withdrawal’ must feel like for drug addicts or anyone with a serious habit. This is testing my willpower to the limit and believe you me I have plenty of it.

Day 3 – Sunday

We are off to the Albert Hall, London to see the Cirque de Soleil.

I’m nervous.

What am I going to find to eat? I stash some GF biscuits and rice cakes in a plastic container just in case.

My eating habits will never be the same again, I can’t just grab something on the go even if it’s healthy, all of it has sugar.

Then I panic about the next working week how am I going to find time to make ‘everything’ from scratch. When I’ve been used to buying a salad or sandwich, not even fruit in a plastic container from Tesco comes sugar free it has added sugar in it as well as the fruits natural sugars.

The VIP area has canapés and food that is cooked for you whilst you wait. There isn’t one item of food I can have save for a Chinese dumpling with the chicken and vegetables minus the dumpling.

But, I have a glass of champagne and I wait for the gripping stomach pain to kick in on the left side, hooray, nothing happens I can really drink champagne.

It’s off to Lidl for the cheapest champagne I can get then!

Day 4 – Monday

I stay at home today and I’m relieved because I can cook at lunchtime and make something I can actually eat.

I’m in my PJ’s until gone 1’o clock. I can’t concentrate, I’m confused and I stare at the blank computer screen before willing myself to do something.

But I can’t focus it feels like my head is detached from my body.

Mid morning and I want something, anything to take away this sugar craving which, I have in the past, mistakenly thought was hunger.

Day 5 – Tuesday

For the first time since forever, there is no pain in my left side and my headache has gone.

I’m off to Birmingham for a meeting and last night made a feta cheese salad.

It’s a long meeting and the hosts have arranged a lunch – the food looked fabulous and I died when I saw the profiteroles.

I’ve had to explain my nervous energy, my lack of concentration and the fact I need to get up every five minutes because I am agitated.

They are very supportive but joke about how wonderful the food is whilst I hungrily tuck into my plastic container containing my salad followed by fruit.

There is one good thing though, I’m not eating anything in between meals.

Last night I did make some sugar free flapjacks taken from Davina’s book, thank god, one of those mid afternoon gives me the energy boost I need.

Day 6 – Wednesday

I’m alert I feel like spider man, my reflexes seemed to have speeded up I’m more aware of what’s around me I can remember things, what people are wearing, what they say.

Today I’m in London but have allowed enough time to have a quick lunch before heading off for the afternoon/evening.

I’m tired and feel like I’m lacking in energy but I know I’m not, it’s like having a hypoglycemic sugar drop but without the effects.

I am aware that my heart palpitations have gone is this what normal feels like?

Day 7 – Thursday

One week cold turkey.

I’ve made the first week the sugar cravings have lessened and I’m feeling a bit more energetic.

I’ve got more books on this candida albicans and made lists for recipes I’m going to make for the weekend.

Am I really a sugar addict?

I have a long way to go.

The candida albicans yeast is a part of the gut flora, a group of microorganisms that live in your mouth and intestine.

When it gets out of control it weakens the intestinal wall and penetrates into the bloodstream releasing its toxic products throughout the body.

It causes trouble when there is a change in your body that allows it to overgrow, this could be a course of antibiotics, a prolonged diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates or stress.

The candida albicans is kept under control by the friendly bacteria in your gut but when your immune system is down candida multiplies quickly and dominates the gut.

Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_6By producing the toxins the body’s immune system struggles to cope and finally gives up causing a wide range of symptoms from abdominal pain, headaches, depression, aches.

I ticked the boxes in every category and as I start to join the dots, suspect that this all started in 2008 when I was under a serious amount of prolonged stress at work.

Day 8 – Friday

I feel lighter and wonder if I’ve actually lost weight. I don’t need to but I wouldn’t say no to a few pounds. I won’t have scales in the house I don’t want to start that treadmill of weighing myself as I did as a teenager.

I’ve got into a bit more of a routine but still need to plan better.

I actually need to sit down and plan out the whole week’s food for me, what I need to buy so I can prepare meals.

Day 9 – Saturday

I have a sketch class, a day of drawing orchids and I wonder if I can get through the day without touching those biscuits the artist leaves for us to have with tea/coffee.

My willpower is tested because he has chocolate biscuits and I look at them longingly, stuff it I’ll have one and then I think better of it.

The consultant reminded me that if succumb to sugar I could get really sick and put my gut back again. And so I grit my teeth and continue.

It feels like everywhere I go I see sugar. absolutely everywhere, mouth watering chocolate brownies, biscuits, cakes.

How I long for a marshmallow or a cream cake or a doughnut, would it really hurt me?

For so long I’ve deluded myself into thinking I eat healthily just because I train, work out and eat so called healthier foods but lurking underneath is this poison they call sugar.

I call it a poison because what it has done to me has ravaged my body depriving me of feeling great, taken away my energy, my fun and the joy of living.

I look fine say my family but this gut infection is hidden it doesn’t come with a warning sign it takes over and infests your body with its toxins and sugar is the primary cause.

Day 10 – Sunday

I’m experiencing a sugar craving I’ve been for a run and I need to satisfy it but I can’t reach for the biscuits or a packet of crisps.

Nope, instead it’s ryvita with cream cheese and a portion of mackerel with red peppers.

I’ve had so much salad this week I’ll start to turn into a rabbit and there have been times when I swear I could eat the carpet.

But I know each day will get easier.

Day 11- Monday

Feeling tired today. Yesterday I made some lemon cupcakes with maple syrup they taste scrummy but they don’t rise as much so they come out like biscuits more than cakes. But at least it is something naturally sweet to have.

I’m actually tired today, not much rest at the weekend and I feel down.

Is this the bit where I start to question what the heck I’m doing or is this just because I’m tired.

I want half-term to come so I can think and plan my eating requirements.

Is this what it is like to be a diabetic? Constantly monitoring what you can eat?

Will I ever be able to actually enjoy food again without having to think what is in it, where has it been made and will it harm me?

I’m not feeling quite so positive now..

Day 14 – Thursday

I’ve made it to 2 weeks. It has been the hardest two weeks ever and I’d rather have my teeth pulled then give up sugar and yeast from my diet.

The yeast diet has been easier it is mainly bread, there are whole host of other foods but not what you might eat everyday. Although I am missing marmite.

I felt crap yesterday, so tired it was a struggle just to keep going and the sugar craving seems to be back again with a vengeance.

The last two weeks I’ve really been going along by the seat of my pants just making it up as I go along but I know I can’t do this any longer.

I ordered a load of ingredients last night so I can prepare food at the weekend and then I am going to plan a 3-4 week menu so I know what I will be cooking each day.

It sounds so regimented and organised with no spontaneity.

I’m use to  either grabbing a healthy snack or sandwich or going without altogether but now I can’t do that it is too risky and the consequences on my body could be grave.

This morning started very early followed by a fitness class and now I’m tired and irritable.

The cafe downstairs at work has had a revamp and the food is unbelievable but I can’t eat any of it. I have to ask the head chef what foods he has cooked that don’t have sugar and yeast.

I settle for a parsnip and apple soup with bread I shouldn’t have the bread but I’m desperate, also it looks more like that soft red pepper ciabatta.

I know I may pay the penalty for this slip up later with a jabbing pain in my left side and feeling sick, but I don’t care.

I want to taste real bread again. I feel hunger but I know it really is sugar withdrawal.

I see it I want it but I can’t have it.

I’m still not able to concentrate 100% but I’ve noticed things are changing.

My ever so white tongue with grooves and edges on the side are lessening.

Maybe this candida albicans is real after all and not having sugar and yeast  in my diet is beginning to have an impact on my body.

I’ve read more and discovered it could be 1-3 years before my gut flora is back in balance and if I fall off the wagon it could easily flare up again.

I’ve done a lot in my life but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to manage.

Yes, I know it’s not cancer and there are far worse things but I challenge you to give up sugar in your diet and see how you find it.

Day 15 – 17

It’s Friday and the last day of term before the kids break up. I’m tired and cranky and I want something sweet.

At lunch time I eat a jacket potato with tuna and mayonnaise, the latter a no-no because it has a yeast by product but I wanted something substantial.

I paid for it later on that afternoon when the sharp left pain in my stomach reminded me what happens if I slip up.

Thursday and Friday were a disaster, I had half a scone with butter and some sesame seed biscuits even though they contain minimal sugar it is still sugar.

By the weekend I have a cooking frenzy.

I make a batch of ginger biscuits I was so excited at the prospect of being able to dunk a biscuit into my tea that I took a bite and promptly started choking.

They were so dry I could barely taste the ginger Mr M had to get me a glass of water and slap me on the back.

How can they be tasty there is no sugar in the recipe what was I thinking, believing they were going to be my life saviour. Fit for grouting my bathroom absolutely not for eating.

Still as Mr M said if I whizz them through the processor it will make a great cheesecake base.

Saturday saw me make a victoria sandwich with spelt flour and maple syrup. I substituted the baking powder with bicarbonate of soda also a raising agent.

What I later discovered is you need to add something acidic like lemon juice or natural yogurt to counter the bicarb.

I decorated it and waited to serve it up on Sunday afternoon, it tasted foul, it looked lovely but because of the baking powder substitute it was awful. I scraped off the fruit and cream and threw it in the bin.

Another one bites the dust. The veggie quiche was a disaster I decided to use coconut milk instead of my normal dairy milk just because I thought it might be worth trying something different.

It was my dinner for Saturday night and looked like it had been in a fight. I didn’t even try it and lobbed in the bin.

At this point I was in tears I had spent all Saturday cooking following the recipes and not one was coming out as I had hoped.

Who am I kidding, this is all because I’m addicted to the taste of sugar.

I felt angry.

The food manufacturers have duped me into needing sugar without me even knowing it. They’ve convinced me that I have to have sugar because it is in every food item I have in my kitchen cupboards.

I’m angry that because of them I’ve had to make a massive lifestyle change. This is not something I would have chosen for myself.

I am fit and fitness is an important part of my life but I realise that I am not healthy. Many people make the assumption that just because we go the gym, run and exercise we must be healthy too.

Wrong!

Even the healthier food options I adopted in the middle of last year are full of sugar.

In fact, most of the so called healthier options are bad for you. The recipe books I have and the research I’ve done indicate that many people who have candida albicans have reverted back to proper whole foods.

Milk instead of skimmed, butter instead of these low fat spreads and so forth.

I’m angry because if it wasn’t for all the processed sugar in our food items I wouldn’t have to be going through this now.

I am faltering. I want to stick to the plan. I know that at three weeks it should start to get easier and become a habit.

But like a recovering alcoholic, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic.

I am a recovering sugar addict but I know I will always be a sugar addict. There will never be a moment when I don’t want to have ‘just one’, or, ‘let me have a bite’.

One slip and I’m back to be being that sugar addict again.

Week 3

I made it to 3 weeks! It is half-term and the boys, Mr M and I are off to London to have lunch in the Aqua Shard.

I’m looking forward to it but still apprehensive about what I can eat.

The menu turns out to be ok and on checking with the chef my starter is sugar free.

I get through the meal with 2 bottles of champagne, ok there was 2 of us involved.

And champagne is the one alcoholic beverage I can enjoy and as Mr M points out you’ve been cold-turkey 3 weeks have a blast, and I most certainly did.

Three  weeks with no sugar other than the addition of stevia in my tea and I am starting to see the benefits.

I feel leaner, my stomach has flattened. My eyes appear bright and my skin looks clear.

Mr M remarked that my eyes looked ‘milky’ before this lifestyle change and now they look healthier.

The prolonged tiredness has gone and I wake up in the morning feeling fresh and more alert.

In the past, I would have struggled to get out of bed, feeling constantly tired and sluggish and the walk to the bathroom was the equivalent of finishing the London marathon on the mall.

I’m more aware of my senses than ever before.

For example, smells, some of which I could tolerate before are now no longer bearable.

I am full of energy and have spent more time in the gym training, running and doing yoga and pilates that even I am surprised.

My sleep is better, by the time my head hits the pillow I am out oblivious to all asunder. I have the odd disturbed night but not enough to make me feel wretched in the morning like I use to feel.

I am convinced more than ever that my menopause started early because of stress and candida albicans and I am angry about this, angry that the so called healthy diet we eat as a family has been contaminated with sugar.

If you are aware that the foodstuffs you are eating contain sugar you can make an informed choice to buy that product but prior to finding out about candida albicans this I had no idea the affects of sugar on my body.

Buying foodstuffs without sugar remains a challenge.

Week 4

I am struggling this week and I am not sure why.

I think my body is fighting a virus because I feel aches and pains.

By mid week I am experiencing hunger for the first time since I gave up sugar and yeast and I overload on carbs.

I had a pancake with chickpeas, spinach and feta cheese all ok in my new diet save for the pancake which was made with white flour not wholemeal.

The potato and leek soup I had for lunch, I can’t have any potatoes in my diet not until I come through the first 12-16 weeks, and , I didn’t ask if there was any sugar in the soup.

My stomach reminds me why I had to adopt this lifestyle change a stark reminder that any slippages will come back and bite me with nausea, bloating and a cramping stomach ache.

That’s how easy it is to slip up and then I pay for it.

I take heart I’ve reached 4 weeks and it is the first time I’ve really slipped up unintentionally. I haven’t eaten cakes, biscuits or ice-cream and there have been enough temptations I can tell you.

But it will be another 4 weeks before I really believe that my new diet will take hold and it really does become a way of life.

I would be lying if I said I don’t miss that stem ginger biscuit dunked in tea, my B & J’s ice cream  and red wine.

Just that sluggish, nausea, bloated feeling I experienced last night is enough to remind that I can never go back to that again.

Week 5

I made it to 5 weeks with no sugar or yeast. I’m feeling stronger, revitalised and more healthy. My sugar craving has vanished and I don’t crave sweet things. Of course I miss doughnuts, toast and marmalade, marmite with cheese and red wine.

It has been a tough uphill struggle but I feel better and stronger for it. I get the occasional reminder in the left side of my gut that tells me I’ve overdone it on sugar somewhere during the day but that is my red flag to make sure I drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins.

Week 8

Two months since I went cold turkey, I made it.

Following my seven week check up with my allergy UK consultant I have made great progress.

My candida albicans is in check, my gut flora is in balance and my hormones which had been so ravaged by this infection are more or less normal.

I was under no illusion that this was going to be a long drawn out process. I have to continue with my yeast and sugar free diet and it is challenging but I have persevered.

How I feel eight weeks on is the distance between the North and South pole, in other words I feel so much better.

I have had some critics along the way suggesting that I am mad even considering the advice of an alternative practitioner.

My Dr couldn’t diagnose my condition and the fact that I feel so much better, why would I seek a second opinion?

Our lives are dominated by what we should or shouldn’t be eating, the media has been dominated by the sugar levy which will be introduced in 2018 and obesity.

Does the Chancellor really think that taxing sugary drinks will make a difference?

It is a start but what is earnestly needed is education about nutrition and balance when it comes to diet.

The proposed food labelling campaign could see the introduction of a sugar wise logo that identifies foods low in added sugar is another bold step in the right direction.

But, I believe all this starts in the classroom. The proposed PSHE (personal, social, health) taught in schools should be expanded to include basic nutrition.

Providing our children with an understanding of what is good and bad for them is a good start in increasing awareness.

I miss red wine, stem ginger biscuits, my favourite ice cream, a sandwich, toast and marmalade but the sharp jabbing pain in my stomach, sickness and the symptoms I’ve endured for the last year are a stark reminder that sugar and yeast can no longer be a part of my life.

 

 

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Shopaholic? I just have to have it!

It’s no use I have to have it I said exasperated as I looked longingly at the new iPad Pro over the Christmas holidays.shopaholic

As luck would have it Mr M, my dearly beloved husband treated me to it for my birthday which was a big surprise.

What was the hesitancy in buying it myself?

I could have made the purchase through the business as a legitimate business expense after all I’m always taking notes at meetings and tend to use the iPad and stylus more than paper and pen.

iStock_000072924745_SmallI hesitated because I need time to justify, fester, think about it, dissect how and where I will use it, after all, it isn’t cheap.

 

Do I need it?

Do I want it?

Do I desire it?

Like most women we can justify a yes to all those questions.

I met a woman recently who, from last November has put herself on a spending ban.

That means spending no money on anything from takeaway coffee to holidays for one year.

This made me think long and hard and I had to face up to the fact that my spending habits are out of control and I am ashamed to admit I might just be a shopaholic.

If I stay away from the shops and I rarely go out “shopping” I’m okay.

But last Wednesday I took a day off and along with my husband met with friends who were over from Spain, I succumbed to the temptations that were in my path.

I’m going through a fitness update stage what I mean is I’ve thrown a load of old fitness wear out that has turned grey and decided to update it. 

Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing
Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing

I happened to fall into Sweaty Betty in Cambridge and ended up having to deduct two of the items of clothing I’d chosen because the bill would have been £355.00.

Are you kidding I said to the young woman who served me, that much for these few items?

Immediately I felt guilty, buyers remorse we call it in sales.

That point when the customer says yes to what it is you are selling and then immediately panics internally, wrestling with feelings of have I made the right decision, is it the right thing to do.

Whilst I felt justified in buying these items of clothing, did I really need to spend so much when I can buy fitness clothing for less than half of what I paid.

As we walked along the streets of Cambridge I analysed my purchases.

Why did I buy them?

I needed cheering up I thought to myself I’ve been unwell lately and unhappy.

Why am I feeling guilty?

Because in all honesty I could have bought similar items cheaper. I am definitely running out of storage space for all my stuff which implies I have and own too much stuff.

I invariably pay for things with my credit card and therefore always have a balance left to pay, again, I am buying stuff I really don’t need.

Does that make me a compulsive shopper?

Shopping, Shopping Bag, Women.

Although I rarely go out “shopping” I have to fess up to the fact that yes I must be. I like shopping online because it is so easy to hit that ‘order now’ button.

Compulsive shopping is a genuine addiction some might even say it is a direct consequence of the consumer driven capitalist society we live in.

I have to admit opening up a bag and examining the items gives me a buzz and it doesn’t matter whether I’ve ordered new sketch pads, drawing pencils, clothes or anything the thrill is not so much what is in the package or box, I know because I’ve ordered it.

It is the feeling you get when you actually go through the process of opening it, the contents are very much secondary, opening a box, package or plastic bag makes me feel excited and tense all at the same time.

A bit like having a sugar or adrenaline rush you get from exercising in other words ‘ a high’.

This is immediately followed by a feeling of ok, that’s it, it’s done, then disappointment almost like you were expecting it to be something remarkably different from what you ordered.

According to Ruth Engs at the University of Indiana some people get addicted to shopping because as they shop their brain releases endorphins and dopamine and this becomes addictive.

Chatting to the same woman who is on the spending ban, we admitted that when we see something we really want those thoughts take over your thinking you decide you want it and you simply cannot get that thought out of your head until you’ve bought it.

And then when you have it, there is a ‘let down’ phase, ok I now own XYZ what’s next?

Lurking in the mix is anxiety and insecurity both issues most of us subscribe to and shopping momentarily makes us feel better but it isn’t long lasting.

I am definitely going to start my shopping ban after pay day, wait a minute I’m being offered 10% discount if I buy online today at M & S I’m off byeeee…

 

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Christmas done and dusted!

Well that was it. Christmas 2015 done and dusted. Christmas background

Crept up from behind with no warning, then bam, there I was in December and christmas cards still hadn’t been written let alone mailed.

I’m anti-christmas not on religious grounds, quite the opposite in fact.

As a working mother I never seem to get enough time to actually plan, analyse and execute my christmas master plan.

Oh yes, I had mine all mapped out in September but guess what I didn’t stick to the plan.

The christmas puds were done and put to rest in a quiet and cool place ready to be called upon on christmas day but aside of that NOTHING!

I got some of the christmas presents done when I passed through The best things in life are freeBicester village on my way back from a business trip in November and very proud of myself I was too.

And we had such a nice christmas 2015, it went so smoothly, parents well behaved, family all got on well with no in fights and for once in god knows how many years I had the most relaxing christmas ever.

No inbox full of emails, no customers screaming at me having left something to the last minute. It was a surprisingly quiet and wonderful christmas with normal, well behaved children and husband.

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Then without a bye or leave, christmas and new year over, you had your chance my left brain said to me, whilst the right is still reeling with where did three weeks go?

First week back on the familiar treadmill and I’m scratching my head, did I miss something or was that christmas 2015 over and done with?

Christmas late busy business woman running against timeFast forward one week and we are head long into 2016.

‘Can we get into some good habits this year boys’, I proclaim on the first day back to school. ‘What’s that they both say in unison’.

‘No earphones in ears or playing games on phones just good conversation on the way to school, let’s talk’, I say.

‘What is the point in that they retort’, er, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to talk rather than stare at a small screen’ I say.

Can we leave the house and by that I mean get into the car and depart at 7:20am each day rather than me constantly screaming reminder time checks and to get a move on.

We always leave on time Mum, er, no we don’t not once last year did we ever, ever leave on time we managed 7:22, 7:25, 7:35 but never ever 7:20.

Well what’s wrong with a few minutes either way says my eldest son.

I sigh, because my dear when you get to university or the big world of work and boss says I need that done by 10am tomorrow morning, 10:02, 10:22 won’t cut it, unless you can start to manage your time now, you will never manage it.

You can find bags of time to  play on your playstation in your weekend schedule but can’t seem to find time to write a book review that you’ve had three weeks to read and write ready for the start of school.

to do listsAnd so the usual treadmill of work, school runs, extra-curricular after school activities, nagging, reminding, shouting starts all over and I’m left breathless.

Saturday afternoon is spent aimlessly, whilst my youngest is cricket training, followed by an equally mind numbing Sunday with my eldest at school play rehearsals.

No rest for the wicked they say, they are right.

No weekend to speak of and a blinding row with Mr M on Sunday morning is not a good sign for the rest of what remains of Sunday or the start of a new week.

Finally Sunday evening and I’m tired already,

Still I am refusing to get down or sucked into the January misery even though my birthday was last Sunday I am remaining upbeat and confident 2016 will be a damn good year.

I rely on Pinterest for my quotes of inspiration to get me through like “the best is yet to come”, the past is a place of reference, not a place of residence” and my favourite “it is what it is and it was what it was. Fuck the past. Life is in front of you. Fucking own it”

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis

And on that note Happy New Year.

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D