Wear your poppy with pride!

This Sunday marks 100 years since the end of the first world war.  It is hard for me to really imagine what it was like to live all those years ago, but one thing is for sure, every day, I am grateful for the sacrifice that was made back then.

The war began on 28 July 1914.

I remember when the Falklands War started on 2 April 1982. Argentina invaded the Falkland islands over who should own it.  It only lasted 74 days.  I was 13 at the time.  I had only really known about war from our history lessons and what I had read.  I remember feeling a bit scared of what it would mean.  Would my dad have to go off and fight?  Would our house get destroyed?   Everything was going through my head.  Thankfully for us, this war didn’t really impact on us day by day.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for WW1.  Back on that awful day in 1914, the lives of millions of people changed overnight and forever.

The war started because Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnan wife Sophie of Austria was assassinated.   Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. The assassination was planned by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand.  The man who shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife was a Bosnian revolutionary named Gavrilo Princip.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914, it triggered a chain of events that resulted in World War 1.  After the assassination, Austria-Hungary threatened war on Serbia. They set out some very high demands that Serbia must meet. Germany sided by Austria-Hungary, while Russia sided with the Serbians. At this point, Europe was at the brink of going to war.

One month after the assassination, on July 28 1914 ,Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia with the backing of Germany. Germany then declared war on Russia on August 1, and on France on August 3.

On August 4 1914, the German troops marched on France and the route they took went through Belgium. Since Britain had agreed to maintain the neutrality of Belgium, they immediately declared war on Germany.

British and Germany forces first fought at the Battle of Mons in Belgium. This was the first of many battles between Britain and Germany on the Western Front and is when World War 1 started for Britain.

There were 2 sides to the war.  The Triple Ententes (Allied Forces) which was us here in Britain, France, Ireland and Russia.  The other side was known as Central Powers which was Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Many of the countries involved in the first World War had problems with each other before the war, but when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed,  Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Germany declared war on Russia and France not long after.  This followed more and more countries joining in the fight.

The United States didn’t get involved at first, but after a British passenger ship was sunk by a German submarine, killing 128 Americans, pressure from American citizens caused the US government to get involved.   The President at that time, Woodrow Wilson, wanted to avoid a bloody war, but the Germans declared that they would sink any ship that came to Britain.  Woodrow, had no option, but to enter the war to help Europe restore peace

In total 32 countries became involved in the war, including China, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Liberia, Romania and Portugal.

Over 65 million soldiers went to war.  Over 8 million of them never returning.  Another 21 million were injured.  Those that did return, must have seen and heard some horrific things in their time.  They would never come home the same person as they left!

Conscription

Britain soon realised that they couldn’t continue fighting with just the current voluntary recruits.

You may remember from your history books, Lord Kitchener’s campaign – promoted by his famous “Your Country Needs You” poster.  It was quite successful.  Many men were proud of their country and wanted to fight for it.  Over one million men had enlisted by January 1915.  But this was not enough.  We had already had many casualties.  More men were needed.

The government decided it had no choice.  It had to increase the numbers of soldiers.  The only way to do this was through conscription – compulsory active service.  Parliament was divided but they knew that the French army were suffering, they had no choice.

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This forced conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the anyone deemed medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker.

Men who refused to fight on moral grounds (Conscientious objectors), were also exempt, but were given civilian jobs or non-fighting roles at the front.

A second Act passed in May 1916 extended conscription to married men.

Conscription was not applied to Ireland because of the 1916 Easter Rising however many Irishmen volunteered to fight.

Some boys even lied about their age, to be able to fight for King and Country.  The youngest British soldier was in fact only 12.    Sidney Lewis was one of 250,000 underage soldiers.   Sadly for some, it wasn’t always to have the privilege to fight for King and Country.  For some it was to escape their lives.  How desperate must they have been to feel this was their only option.

You can imagine, this was not popular with some people.  In April 1916, there were demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.  Many men initially didn’t go when they were called up.  In the first year though 1.1 million had enlisted.

The age limit was increased in 1918 to 51.  Even though the war ended in 1918, conscription continued until  1920.  In total, conscription increased the army by 2.4 million.

Can you imagine your father or brother coming home one day, and getting their paper to go to war?  They would have heard what was going on.  They knew that they were possibly going to their death.  As a wife or mother, watching your husband and sons leave, never knowing if they would return.  I’m emotional just thinking about it now.

They could of course write to each other.  In fact over 12 million letters were sent during the war.  Many men were away for many years.  Missing out on seeing their children grow up.  The letters and photos they were sent must have been so precious to them.

Thankfully for Britain, 9 out of 10 soldiers returned.  Sadly, when you know how many died, the same can’t be said for other countries.

Why did the War end?

Britain had blocked all the ports in Germany with its Naval boats.  Germans were starving as supplies couldn’t come through, and their economy was collapsing.  Protestors started asking for the war to end.  Pressure was falling on them.  Something had to change.

The emperor at the time, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to step down on 9 November 2018.  2 days later, the leaders of both sides met at Compiegne in France.  Here they signed the peace armistice.

Although we celebrate the end of the war on 11 November at 11 am, when it was signed and the fighting stopped, the war didn’t officially end until 28 June 2019.  This was exactly 5 years after Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

It took 6 months to negotiate the peace treaty before the Treaty of Versailles was finalised.  In this, Germany had to accept full responsibility for starting the war.  They had to surrender their territories and colonies as well as reduce the size of its armies.

Why do we wear a poppy?

We wear a poppy to remember those who have given their lives in battle.  It is said that the poppy was the first flower that grew on the battlefields after World War I ended. It is said that the red of the poppy, is from the blood that filled battlefields.

In the spring of 1915,  after losing his friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was so inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battlefields, he decided to write a poem – ‘In Flanders Fields’. This poem is now famous. Read it and see what you think.  It really captures the feeling, don’t you think?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

From then on, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

How should you wear it?  It varies, whoever you speak to!  Some say men should wear it on the left, and women on the right, like you would a badge or brooch. The Queen wears hers on the left, so maybe not! There are also many people who say that the leaf should point to 11 o’clock.   Whatever the correct way of wearing it is, the important thing is that we do wear it and know why!

You may not know those men who went off and fought for us, but if you dig around in your family history enough, you will find someone in your family that was effected.  Even if you don’t, those brave men fought so you could have the life you have today.

There have been many more wars since this one.  Many more have died because of War,  The poppy is to remember them all.

A couple of years ago I bought my husband a very special poppy from the British Legion.  It was made out of a bullet shell that had been found in the fields in France from the Somme.  With it came a certificate to commemorate a soldier who died.  We don’t know him.  It doesn’t matter.  He still died for us.

My husband wears it every year with pride.

We shall remember

From July to November 2004,  the Tower of London with covered in 888,246 ceramic poppies.  They were created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.  They were to remember the first full day of  Britain’s involvement in WW1.  Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was an emotional tribute to all that fought.  My hubby and I both bought one each so we can always look at them and remember.

As in many towns and cities, Warwick too have a display in the main church of St Mary’s.  All the poppies are hand knitted or crochet.  Its amazing how many hours have gone into this.  Some have been sent from countries across the world.  My hubby, stepdaughter and I went for a visit to see it recently.  A church seems the perfect place for it.   If you get a chance, please go and visit this or any other display.

At 11 am on Sunday their will be a 2 minute silence to remember all the fallen soldiers.  What ever you are doing at that time, stop!  Take 2 minutes out of your life to remember!  I always shed a tear.  Writing this blog has raised the same emotion!

Don’t let those brave men and women have died in vain.  Keep them alive in our hearts.  All of them!

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Oh what a night!

Aaahhhh! Sometimes I get so frustrated ! Take the other night. What should have been a 10 minutes drive, turned into 2 hours in my car and not actually going anywhere!

So what happened ! Traffic happened !

I planned to go and visit my parents after working at home.  Between my house and theirs, is an island which leads you to a motorway, a bypass, and two other roads leading to Warwick and Stratford Upon Avon! There had been an accident northbound on the motorway at our junction, which brought the motorway to a standstill!

It’s amazing how much traffic a motorway takes. You only realise this when all those cars then try to find other routes to get to their destination!

Initially, I started off down my usual road.  As I said above, it should only take about 10 minutes, maybe 15 when its busy.  It involves 2 main roads, but they are usually moving!

I knew I was in trouble, when only minutes into my journey, I came to a standstill!  After about 15 minutes of not moving more than a few inches, I decided it might be a fabulous idea, to do a U-turn back into the village, and go up the back road!  Perfect!  Or so I thought!

What I hadn’t thought about, is that the thousand of cars that wanted to go northbound, had also left the motorway earlier on, and had used the same back roads!

An hour later, I was no further getting to my parents that I was when I left home!

Now, I am usually quite resilient.  Its the evening, so apart from cooking dinner, I’m not under a strict clock to get to my parents.  I say that, but then when you factor other drivers, that goes out of the window.

To help me through the boredom of sitting in a traffic, I decided to speak to my brother using my hands free phone.  We are not moving at this time.  We haven’t moved for a while.  Then for some unknown reason, I hear a car horn behind me!  Now, I don’t know if it was the direct car behind me, or the one behind him, but come on!  The car in front of me is only inches away from me.  The car in front of him the same, and so on.  What did they want us to do?   If that didn’t wind me up enough, 5 minutes later, they started doing it again!  I mean, what planet were they on?  The only way I or any other car could move, was to open the boot of the car in front and get in!

It’s time like this, I wish I was brave enough to get out of my car, and ask them, politely of course, what they feel hitting the horn was achieving!  The spot I am in, has views of the 3 roads ahead.  All of them are at a stand still too!  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out, that no-one is not moving just for fun!

At this point, by brother persuades me to turn around and head back home, which is actually a fabulous idea!

There is an island in front of me so I edge myself towards it.  I mean, I am now going to be going against the traffic.  In theory, I should be able to get around the island and do a U-turn.  Oh, that would be too easy!  It would actually mean someone would have to use their common sense.  Something, that once you get behind the wheel of your car, in a traffic jam, goes!

I’m at the Island.  Its taken me some time to get here, don’t get me wrong, but I am here!  Traffic is backed up, because the 3 roads off it are at a standstill.  The only exit that is free, is the one I want to go back up the road!

So I am there, i’m excited that I could soon be on a road which is moving!  That was short lived.  The car to my right on the Island is in the lane that wants to go to the exit that isn’t moving,  sees me and moves forward and blocks my entry onto the island!

Seriously, why would you do that!  I’m now stuck again! Great!

After some time, the traffic has moved enough for me to get through.  Yey! No!  The car to my left decides she is going to cut across me to get onto the motorway!  Thankfully, I’m going so slow, I can stop to prevent us from colliding!   I tell myself, it’s ok, she obviously wants to get out of the traffic too and is doing a U-turn, so taking this opportunity to do this!  I’m annoyed, but I get it!

That would be too simple wouldn’t it!

What actually happened is, she thought it would be a good way to get through the traffic onto the road she wanted, rather than sit in the correct lane.  She now realises, she can’t.  What she has now done, is stop anyone else getting around the island to escape this madness, including me!

So once again, I am stuck there until the traffic has moved enough to give me room to get by!  I was tempted to drive on the grass around the Island, but I thought better of it!

I decide to relax and stay calm!

Finally I am free!  I call my hubby and leave a message to say i’m coming back home.  I should home soon as I am now going against the traffic!

Happily, i’m singing along to the radio.  Then I see the car lights in front of me!  They are not moving!  Aaaah.  It seems every other car has decided to turn around!

Thankfully, there is no-one on the horn, or cutting me up!  I’m just sat there!

After 2 hours, I finally see my village.

I am now very stressed and frustrated.  Not because I have been in traffic.  I had my radio, had made some calls, and it had given me some time to have some thinking time.  Usually these are positives.  No, the reason I am stressed, is because I still can’t believe the behaviour of drivers!

I fully appreciate, that everyone has probably had a long day at work, and just want to get home.  The reality is, there has been an accident.  Someone at best has been hurt, at worst died!  They are healthy and safe in their cars! Getting road rage, or doing stupid things to get to your destination sooner that isn’t practical, isn’t going to help.

The next time  you are stuck in a jam, think about what you are doing, and the impact of others around you!  Everyone is in the same boat as you.  Use the time to reflect on your day, plan something, make calls to those people you have been promising to speak to (only if you can do so hands free though).

If you have children at home waiting for you to read them a story,  can you do it hands free over the phone.  I know you won’t have a book with you, just make it up!  Use the situation you are in to inspire you!

There is nothing you or anyone else can do to change the situation you are in.  Turn it into a positive.   You never know, you may feel better about the situation too!

Menopause

Today at a work away day, myself and other fellow managers attended a session on the subject of the Menopause!

Of all the subjects you would expect to be on the agenda, that certainly wasn’t one of them! It was quite funny seeing some of the men around the rooms expression, when they first saw it!

Being a women who was pre-menopausal from 45, and is now post menopausal, I was quite interested!

What was even more interesting, was the reaction of other ladies in the room! There were those of us in the room who absolutely could tell a few stories, in particular about the hot flushes, and those too young, but who were a little unsure or even nervous about it!

My husband is a manager for the same company, so for me it was a great opportunity to get him to fully understand why I need that fan on at night!

So who will suffer from the menopause?

The simple answer is any women!  Women from the age of 45-55 will start to experience the menopause.  The average age is about 51, but 1 in 100 women will get it before they reach 40.

The menopause is caused by a reduction of oestrogen in the body, and is a natural form of ageing!  Things such as cancer, radiation or chemotherapy, and hysterectomies can bring the symptoms on early.

You may have heard of women being ‘on the change’ in times gone by?  I suppose we are, as our bodies are changing!

Pre-menopausal

This is the first stage!  Its also known as perimenopausal, and is when the body starts producing less eostrogen.

Post Menopausal

You are classed as post menopausal, if you haven’t had a period for 12 months. This includes spotting, however light that may be!

So what are the symptoms?

Every women’s symptoms will vary, but below is a list of what you could expect:

  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of memory
  • Emotional
  • Anxiety
  • Heavy periods
  • Bloating
  • Hot flushes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Cystitis
  • Low Mood

Symptoms can start months or even years before periods stop, and can last for 4-8 years.  Although it can last many years longer!  I have friends who have had hot flushes for well over 10 years!

Every women will have different degrees of symptoms.  Some of them so extreme, it will impact on their day to day life.

What can you do to help relieve the symptoms?

This will vary, depending on the severity and type of symptom!

For me, it has been the night sweats and hot flushes.   I need to sleep with the fan on! I’ve even been known to stand outside naked in the snow to cool off! Don’t worry I had no neighbours then!

I also wear layers, so I can strip off more easily!

Memory loss has also been a bit of a problem, but that has been in short spurts!  At one time, I thought I was having the start of dementia!  I now make sure I put everything in my diary.  I make lists and keep notes of important things.  Now I have learned to recognise what it is, I’m more relaxed.

I think its important to understand that every women will go through, in some shape or form the same as you, so don’t be afraid to laugh it off, or talk about it!

A good diet and exercise will also help you, but if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to discuss the symptoms with your doctor.  They may be able to prescribe HRT or offer other support.  Unfortunately, as I had breast cancer when I was 42, I am not able to have HRT, as it is believed to increase my chances of getting it again.  Don’t let that put you off talking to your doctor.  Everyone’s symptoms are different.  They will be able to give you lots of advice and tips.

I have even see recipes to help with symptoms.  I’ve never tried them myself, but I do know someone who has and felt that they worked for her.

So why did we have a session on it today at work?

It’s probably not what you would expect on an agenda, but I have to say, I was so pleased it was.  I don’t think I heard anyone (and there were over 100 managers there today) walk out of the session, with anything but praise for it.

It’s important in the work place for managers to recognise and support staff who may be going through the menopause!  If they are not confident to raise it with them, at least know who else could.

You could be a really solid member of staff, but if you are struggling to sleep due to night sweats, your concentration dips, or you are having any of the other symptoms, it could impact on your performance.  By dealing with it openly, reasonable adjustments can be made.

I hadn’t thought about it until today, but most women hit the menopause at the same time as they are at the peak of their careers.  When you have worked so hard to achieve success, it would be a shame to think, it would be impacted by something brought on by mother nature.

So if you know a women who is being different to normal, think about why that might be?  Talk to them and offer them support!  They will really thank you for it!

Be Kind!

Back in March this year, This Morning on ITV supported the ‘Be Kind’ campaign. It was targeted at children and parents to prevent bullying, and the sad consequences to their mental health !  In extreme situations even causing them to take their own lives.

With the use of the internet, it is far easier for people to bully others.  Most communication is carried out by email, text or social media.  You can now bully someone without seeing the direct consequences, or even caring.

Children often find it hard to know how to deal with bullies, or even tell them about it.  There are a lot of support groups out there now which help parents and teachers deal with this.  Its a terrible thought that we even have to consider this, but if we don’t tackle childhood bullying, it can lead to them continuing to bully others into their adulthood!

Lets first deal with What is a bully?

It’s someone who attempts to control another person through verbal abuse.  This can be the tone of their voice or the content such as teasing or threats.  Bullying can occur anywhere, in the workplace, school, home and clubs.  It can be carried out by anyone whatever their relationship with you.

Why do people bully?

There can be many reasons why people bully.  If you understand the reason behind it, it may help you deal with it.  The main reasons are:-

  1. The person may have been bullied before.
    Whilst this isn’t an excuse, if they have grown up with bullies, they may follow suit, as it is all that they have known.
  2. They are lonely.
    If they feel they are not important and have no-one in their lives, they may be seeking attention.
  3. They have personal problems.
    If they have personal problems this could impact on their own behaviours.  They may be more aggressive than usual.
  4. They have low self-esteem.
    What better way to make yourself feel better than to try and put someone else down!  Bullies with low self-esteem will try and find a weakness in someone.  They will fish to find what they think they can use against them.  Unfortunately, this can backfire if the victim is someone who is actually stronger!
  5. They are jealous.
    There can be many reasons for the jealousy, an ex has moved on, the victim is more successful or more popular than them, someones been promoted or even as simple as the car they drive.
  6. They are just arrogant and believe they are better than others.
    Some bullies just think they are better than everyone else, and can do what they like, treat people how they like and its ok.   Until they feel the consequence of their actions they will continue on the same path.
  7. They think they are impressing others.
    If you think back to the gang cultures, the bully is almost like a peacock.  They feel that by being a bully in front of others, it makes them more powerful and people will look up to them.  These are usual people who don’t have a lot else to offer so use this as a way of surrounding them with so called ‘friends’!
  8. They just see you as different.
    We are all different, but some people just don’t know how to handle this.  They will pick on this difference and try and use it against the other person.

So how do we deal with them?

In the workplace we are taught to challenge inappropriate behaviours, but how easy is this outside of work?

As I said above, bullies are trying to control another person.  Its all about power!  If you take away that control or power, they can’t bully you any longer!

I’m amazed at the lengths some bullies go to to try and find something to use as a potential weapon.  Turn that on its head!  How sad is it that someone has nothing else in their lives but to focus on you.  In fact it could be a compliment that they feel the need to dedicate so much time on you!

You don’t need to be the victim once you put their behaviour into that context.  Actual they are the victim.  To what, you may never know, only they will know why they feel the need to try and victimise another person.

I’ve listed some of the reasons above.  Sometimes the behaviour of the bully is just so far off the scale of normal that you really can’t be bothered to give them another thought.  This usually happens in isolated instances.

Last year we had a driver try to bully and intimidate us.  He had overtaken us on a blind bend with oncoming traffic.  My husband had to pull off the road and do an emergency stop.  The oncoming traffic were flashing lights too.  My husband also blew the horn.  While the driver was in the wrong, he felt the need to pent his aggression on us.  He did an emergency stop in front of us which almost caused another accident.  He then jumped out of the car and started getting aggressive at my husband.

It would have been so easy to rise to his behaviour.  Instead, I calmly informed him that his actions could have caused a serious accident.  I told him to get back into his car and move on.  When you put water on the fire, its amazing how little more the bully has to come back at you at.  I then took a picture of his car and reported it to the police.    If he had just continued on his journey we may have been annoyed at this lack of care on the road.  The fact that he stopped and did what he did then took it to another level!  By not rising to him and reporting him, we took back the control.

Obviously, when its long term bullying, that is more challenging.

If like me you are not from a background where you were exposed to bullying, when it first happens its a shock.  I was always brought up to respect others.  My father used to say ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything’.  That is not to say we were a push over.  Certainly not.  We were also brought up to talk to people with respect and dignity if there was a problem.  To not gossip behind others backs, or say things that are not true for your own ends.

In business they always say, look after those on your way up because you may need them on your way down.  This is so true.

I have come across people who gossip about others.  They take a half truth and twist it to make it sound something its not.  Its all about power and getting a reaction!  They then look around to see who is listening to them.  Often they assume others agree with them.  Often its not the case.  Others may just not want to get involved or question that person about it!

If you are a target of these bullies, think about what they are trying to achieve.  If its a reaction, don’t give it to them.  They can only continue if you give them reason to do it.  Don’t stoop to their level!  If they want to be nasty let them.  It will cause them more stress and unhappiness than you.

A bit of advice I was given once was, if you can look in the mirror and can honestly say you like the person you are, you can sleep at night knowing you have done the best for others and have caused no-one harm on purpose, then you have nothing to worry about.

I’m not saying the bully will have sleepless nights about their behaviour.   Some of them are just not built with the self awareness of what they are doing, or even care what harm they could potentially do.

Another piece of advice I was given is that if you can rise above the bully, you will come out as a stronger person, or in a stronger relationship etc.

Everyone in their life will experience a bully.  Just remember who you are, your values, and the truth.  You will eventually find their behaviour both sad and funny.  Once you get to that situation, they can keep trying new ways to get at you, but ultimately, they will fail as they have no control over you.

Remember the impact a bully will have on others around you too.  They may be targeting you, but their action could impact on someone close to you too.  Talk to them about the bullies actions, comments  and behaviours.  They may be uncomfortable too, but don’t know how to deal with it.

Bullies are very good as I said at taking a half truth and turning it around.  Those impacted may also be nervous about who to challenge.  Who do they believe?  How should they deal with it?  They may have many questions.

So next time you get a text, email or social media message that is attacking you, take a step back and consider it for what it is!   Don’t let it impact on you.  Bullies rely on causing emotional and mental destruction.  Don’t give in to them.  If it becomes unmanageable, then you can also raise it with the authorities.   This isn’t always possible especially when its in the home or work place, but by using some of my mechanisms above, whilst the person will continue to try and bully you, there will be no impact on you personally, unless its just to raise a smile at the persons latest attempt!

I’m a true believer in Karma!

And finally, don’t be a bully yourself.  Think about the consequence of your actions on others and how you would feel if you were in their shoes!

If you want to join the ITV This Morning ‘Be Kind’ pledge, you can do so at:

https://www.itv.com/thismorning/hot-topics/pledge-to-share-our-anti-bullying-message

Currently over 270,000 people have done so.

Stay to Group

I’m ashamed to admit it but after reaching target last year, I lost the drive and motivation I had getting there!

To begin with, I would gain only a few pounds.  I thought it was fine, especially as my hubby felt that my target weight was  too low.  I stayed to group every week and tried to pull it back.  One week I would lose, the next week I would gain.

Then life just got really busy and stressful.  I found that I didn’t have the time to stay to group.  Working away, late trains, birthday meals etc,  meant that I would run in and weigh, then leave.  I thought just weighing in was enough.  I had been doing Slimming World for over a year.  I know what to do.  Why did I need to stay?  It won’t change what I am doing.  Oh how wrong I was!

As I said, I have been doing Slimming World for over a year so I know about free and speed food, syns, and my Healthy Extra’s!  I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and never cook in oil, eat the fat off meat or the skin on the chicken!  All said and done, my 3 main meals a day are on plan!  Ok lets think about this.  If all this is true, then why did I put over a stone back on?

The one main thing was breakfast.  Because I was always tired or in a rush, I stopped weighing my HEB’s!  I mean, we all know what 40 g of oats looks like don’t we?  I got complacent.  I thought I could guess how much I was having.  Then the other day, I went to put granola into a bowl.  There was hardly anything in the box left.  I was just about to pour it into my bowl when I thought out of interest I would weigh it!  It was 75g!  Wow.  That is more than double what I was allowed.

Lunch was always ok.  I can be honest with that!  I would have salad without dressings, using ham or roast skinless chicken and boiled eggs.  Perfect!

Dinner again fine.  Lots of fresh vegetables, lean meat and no sauces!  Oh hang on, there was the pre-packed burgers from the supermarket.  They were their finest range so must be healthier!  Ah, and I had that chilli and rice dish the one day!  We have had lots of Braai’s so there were those nibbles and garlic bread!

At work, everyone used to say how good I was as I never went for the biscuits or samosas.  One day recently there was a big box of samosas for staff.  One of my team was shocked when I asked her if she wanted one!  As we both went to get one, I was then tempted to have a spring roll too.  I even went back later that day for seconds!

My boss saw my staff member with the food and said to her she should have eaten it when I was at the gym so I didn’t know!  She was shocked when told I also had one!  If only she knew it was more than 1!

I might have prepared a healthy lunch, but I was now snacking during the day!  It is amazing how the extras can add up!

The long hot summer also meant more wine!  Whilst I was drinking mainly Slimline Wine, I was still having more syns than I am allowed!  In my head I was drinking a low calorie wine so it didn’t count!

When I look back, no wonder I have put weight on!  Going to weigh in was just to tick a box.  I was no longer passionate about my journey.

The day I stepped on the scales and saw a number I did not like, I realised I had to put a stop to it.  I decided staying to group had to happen.  I needed my motivation back.  I needed to listen to other peoples journeys and get ideas.  More importantly, I need to take an hour out of my busy stressful life just for me.

So at my first week back to group, with a heavy heart and close to tears, I listened to the group.  In previous sessions, I have been known to put food ideas onto my Tesco shopping app to try new recipes from the group.  I started doing this again!  I bought the magazine, and made a promise to myself to read it cover to cover!

I left group determined.  I went home and planned my meals for the week ahead.  I vowed not to have anything at work unless it was planned in.  I would save my syns for the evenings, and then only have them if I really needed them.

I chose the gym rather than work lunches out!  I cooked at home rather than a takeaway, even when time was limited and I was absolutely exhausted.

The following week, I walked back into group.  I was hoping for a big loss!  I know I have a long journey ahead of me to get back to how I was.  I stepped on the scales and saw a 3.5lb loss.  I was absolutely gutted.  I wanted more!

I feel stupid now feeling like that.   Most weeks I would have been overjoyed at that loss!  I wanted more because I am so desperate to get back to my target weight.  The reality is, it is going to take me a few weeks for that to happen.

I decided to buy myself a 12 week plan. That way, I could take the pressure off myself.  I could give myself small loss targets per week.  That way I won’t be disappointed.  I can also give myself treats without feeling deprived.

I really want target again.  When I get there I am also not going to fall back into the trap I am in now!

Nothing feels better than looking in the mirror and liking what you see.  I know to achieve this, I need to keep going to group.  I need to keep recipes ideas fresh.  I need to take time out for myself.

The next 12 weeks will be a journey but I’m going to do it.  I know I am because I know how much I really want it!

I feel like i’ve lost a friend!

After a busy day, or week, there is nothing better than relaxing with a good book.

I must admit, I am not a great reader.  Mainly because I just don’t have the time, but when I do, there is nothing better than being taken away into a different world.  It helps me switch off and forget about the stresses of normal life.

For me a good book needs to have characters that you can relate to, and a gripping story line.  When I say gripping, I am not talking about a thriller, or mystery, but something that draws you back to the book.

When I’ve had a busy time I like books that are fun, however I have also been known to read biographies, history books etc – books on Stalin and Di Vinci are 2 of my favourites, along with Richard Branson who I thought was so inspiring.

I have recently just completed a series of books from Sophie Kinsella.  Shopaholics is a serious of books which takes you through a period of Rebecca Bloomwood’s life.  There are 8 books in the series.  What is really clever is that you could independently read the books, or as I did read them as a series.

I have just finished the final book and feel like I have lost a friend.  Now that is the sign of a great book, or in this case a series.

In my head, I know what Rebecca looks like, her husband, daughter, family and friends.  I feel I know them personally.  I felt their pain, happiness and all their dreams.  I know what their homes, cars and clothes look like too!  Well in my head I do!

What is even more exciting is that I have now just found out that there is a movie based on the books!  I’m also a little nervous as the characters in the movie may not live up to my own expectations of them now!

So who is Shopaholic and what did she get up to that made the books so good?   I will give you a brief overview of each book, but I won’t go into too much detail.  It would only spoil the pleasure of your own experience reading them!

The Secret Dreamworld of a shopaholic

Dreamworld

We meet Rebecca Bloomwood for the first time in this book.  She is a single young lady, working as a financial Journalist.  When you know her, that in itself is quite funny.

Becky as she is known, lives in a flat with her best friend Suzie.  Suzie is from a very well off family, so doesn’t really have to work.  That said, she is a really loyal and supportive friend to Becky, who has as you may have guessed it has a problem with shopping!  Actually, to Becky, its not a problem.  She absolutely loves shopping.  The buy 1 get 1 free offers, or free gifts if you spend a certain amount, are just too tempting.  I mean they are a bargain.  Why wouldn’t you buy them?  Whatever they are?  You never know when they may come in handy!!

Considering her job, she has no financial planning skills for herself.  She has credit cards coming out of her ears, and cupboards full of things she doesn’t need, but couldn’t resist!

It is in this book we first meet Luke.  Initially, I didn’t see the pair of them together, but as it takes you through, they are a perfect match.  As with most relationships though, nothing ever goes to plan!

Shopaholic Abroad

Abroad

Life has certainly changed for Becky.  She has a fabulous job on morning TV, her bank manager has become quite fond of her and she has changed her thinking on shopping!  ‘Buy only what you need’! Ha Ha!!

Then she has the opportunity to go to New York and be a personal shopper!  What more could a shopaholic want than to help others buy clothes!

Ok, anyone that has been to New York will also know that for someone who loves shopping, there are a couple of temptations such as Saks and Bloomingdales, to name just 2!

Becky does have all the right dreams when she initially arrives.  She is going to do all the touristy things.  Of course she is!  Except those shops just keep getting in the way!

We follow Becky with her adventures and nightmares, as her shopping habits get her into even more trouble!

Shopaholic Ties the Knot

Tie Knot

Becky finally gets her man in this book – Luke.  With a wedding to plan, all her shopping dreams should come true, but as with Becky, nothing ever runs smoothly!

She is torn between giving her parents the dream wedding in her home town of Oxshott. or keeping her mother-in-law to be happy!

Her mum wants the wedding in the back garden with all her family around her.  Luke’s mum, who he has had a difficult relationship with, wants a society wedding in New York, in the best hotel – The Plaza.  Luke’s mum has plenty of money so she knows that this options would be absolutely spectacular.   Does she choose a wedding where money is no object, or a smaller more traditional affair back home with her true family and friends?

As in true Becky style, she doesn’t make it easy.  It was always going to be a difficult decision.  The trouble she gets herself into will have you in stitches.

Shopaholic & Sister

Sister

Out of all the books, the story for this one really surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting it at all!

Becky returns from honeymoon.  She hasn’t told anyone she is coming home, and is expecting a big reunion from her parents.  Instead they are distant, like they are hiding something from her.  Becky’s fears are confirmed when they announce she has a sister!

Becky’s dad had a child before he met her mum, which none of them knew about.

After the initial shock, Becky is delighted to have a sister.  She has planned this perfect sister relationship in her head.  The problem is, Jess is the complete opposite to her!  She hates shopping and wasting money.

You have to feel sorry for Becky in this book.  As she tries to build this perfect relationship with her half sister, things just don’t go to plan!

Shopaholic & Baby

Baby

If Becky thought New York was an adventure, wait till she realises she is going to be a mum!

After the shock she realises that she has another reason to go shopping!  I mean, babies need so much stuff don’t they!  Everything has to be so perfect for their new addition to the family.

It all starts to go wrong though when she hears about this amazing obstetrician to the stars.   She just has to have that doctor.  I mean, look at all the famous people she will meet and become fabulous mummy friends with!  What she doesn’t know is that this doctor was an ex of Luke’s, and  she still has desires on him!

Becky is hormonal as all pregnant women are, and starts to doubt Luke and her relationship.  This doctor is beautiful and intelligent.  Becky’s body is changing and she feels insecure.  It doesn’t help the games the doctor is playing either.  You can’t help getting emotional and feeling like you want to give her a big hug.

Who does Luke choose?  You will have to read it to see!

Mini Shopaholic

Mini

So the baby has arrived.  A beautiful little girl called Minnie.  What is more is that she is also a mini version of Becky!

The book takes you through early motherhood and the developing personality of Minnie.  As she gets more and more like her mum.   You can just imagine this little girl sitting on her mums lap or shopping in designer shops, in her pretty dresses with bows in her hair!

Finances become strained at an already difficult time for her and Luke.  They end up moving back in with her parents for a while too which adds more pressure.  In true Becky style though, there are many adventures to be had including arranging a surprise party for Luke on a budget!

This was truly a funny book!

 Shopaholic to the Stars

Stars

When Luke’s work takes them to Los Angeles, Becky sees an opportunity for her own career to take on as a stylist to the stars.

Luke is the agent to a big star, Sage Seymour.  Becky feels that they will become best friends and she too will become famous.

Becky becomes so focused on her dreams that she doesn’t see what is going on around her.  As her own marriage and that of her friend Suzie falls apart, she only sees stars in front of her eyes!

What should have been a dream time for her becomes a nightmare.  Slowly without her even noticing things start falling apart bit by bit until something shocks her back to reality.

What’s nice about this book though, is that throughout it, you see that Becky has started to mature.  I no longer see her as this young women, but a wife and mother, and a good daughter and good friend, who has just got lost.

Becky needs to make a choice, her career and fame or her friends and family?  Who does she choose?

Shopaholic to the Rescue

rescue

Becky’s poor choices in the last book cause this adventure!  She has to put things right!

Los Angeles didn’t turn out how she thought it would be, and she had paid a big price.  She potentially was going to pay a bigger one if she didn’t do something about it.

When Becky’s dad and Suzie’s husband go missing, there is only one thing for it.  She has to find them.  She has to build relationships too!

This book takes them to Las Vegas, for more adventures.

Secrets from the past are exposed, and her relationship with Suzie is really tested.

One thing that Becky is good at, is problem solving.  She might have off the wall ideas, but they do actually work some of the time!  She also never gives up.

You see Becky finally mature in this book.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say by the end of it, I felt that I had lost a friend. No more Becky!

Summary

If you want a really good read, these books are for you.

Becky is someone you can really relate to!  The author Sophie has written it so well.  You are really drawn in to all her adventures.

Its not all plain sailing for Becky.  She will dig quite a few wholes along the way.   Whatever happens though, she has a true heart. That is what her husband Luke sees in her.

She may get lost sometimes, but don’t we all!

 

 

Is this current heatwave good for you?

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There are so many mixed messages out there at the moment!  We are currently experiencing one of the hottest summers I can ever remember.  With temperatures exceeding 30 degrees on some days, should we be running for cover?

Dangers of the Sun

It is well documented that the sun can damage our skin.  The fairer you are, the more damage it will cause.  Continued exposure to the sun can also be the cause of skin cancer.

When I grew up in the 70’s, it was common practice to get the maximum suntan you could.  We didn’t even really know or understand about suncreams back then.  For us it was often good lashings of oil!  The quicker you could a tan the better!

It probably wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s I actually took stock and started really using suncreams regularly.

Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibres in the skin called elastin.  Wrinkles and age spots appear.  Whilst we will all get these as we get older, the sun will speed up the process for us.  People exposed to the sun more, will look older than those that have taken precautions.

Did you know the sun also effects the soles of your feet?  Ladies, the one time of the year when we want to wear those beautiful sandals and you look at the heals of your feet in horror!  Its all linked! Lack of moisture equals dryer skin, equals cracked heals and feet!

The suns damage can be reversed you will be pleased to know.  Using suncreams, moisturisers, keeping hydrated (avoid alcohol) will all help.  For the feet, foot balms, oils and exfoliating will all reduce the dryness.

Keeping out of direct sunlight in the middle of the day is a sensible approach.  If you can’t, then make sure you are covered up.  Wear light layers and a hat.   Men who are getting a bit thin on top especially!

Get into the habit of applying suncream every morning when you have showered.  It will act as a moisturiser as well as protect you.

Having the right suncream for your skin is also important.  The fairer you are, the higher the factor you should go.  You can still get a tan using suncream.  What would you rather do?  Get burnt and then spend the rest of your holiday inside or covered up, or let you skin gradually tan with a good factor suncream?

Don’t compare yourself to others either!  I hear so many people saying to me ‘I wish I could get as brown as you’.  The sad thing is, they probably never will.  I am lucky, I have olive skin.  Without the sun, I will be darker naturally than some.  I can get away with a lower factor suncream as my skin doesn’t burn easily.

As you get older, your skin reacts differently to the sun, so don’t think ‘I never used cream as a child so why do I need it now?’  Understand your own skin type and look after it.  You will look much healthier for it.

Also, I know its obvious, bu don’t look directly at the sun as it will damage your eyes!  Wear sunglasses.  They not only protects your eyes, but help to reduce wrinkles!

Don’t forget your pets!

Just like us, our pets can get sunburn too.  Try and get them to lie in the shade.   Fido is a nightmare and constantly sits in the direct sunlight!  I continuously have to make him move.  It’s like children.  They don’t understand the dangers of the sun, so its up to us to help them.  Keep plenty of water around for them so they don’t dehydrate and please don’t exercise them in the heat of the day!

The good news about the sun!

Yes there is some.  It’s not all doom and gloom.  The sun is also actually good for us!

The sun is a good source of Vitamin D which promotes our well being.  When the sun hits our skin it triggers the body’s natural production of the vitamin D.  Vitamin D is vital for our overall health.  It protects against inflammation, lowers high blood pressure, helps our muscles, improves brain function and bizarrely  even though it can cause skin cancer, may even protect against some cancers.

Low levels of Vitamin D can cause heart disease, prostate cancer and dementia!

So how confused are you now?

It is understandable that with both bits of advice above, it can be confusing.  Should you be out in the sun or not?

Well I think the overall answer to that question is yes!  The sun makes us all feel so much happier.  We are more likely to be more active, sociable and generally all round more jolly!

The best advise though is to take precautions.  Use suncream, wear a hat, drink plenty of water and cover up if you feel you are burning!  Where possible find some shade to cool down in!

We have a long winter ahead of us, so enjoy the few months of good weather we have ahead!