It’s a bit sad, probably, to be watching Time Team when it’s a nice day outside (or on any occasion, really – it took me a long time to realise that although the show has merit, and characters, it really is just a show about people digging in ditches, and is therefore quite boring), while our friend Mel is outside, on a hill that we can see, in Great Dalby, on an archaeological dig of her own. That’s why we’re in Leicestershire. But we’re on the couch in the second sitting room, watching TT and Top Gear. Or in the conservatory, lying like fat mice, seduced into dangerous inattention to any surrounding cats, by the heat radiating through a roomful of pretty glass panels. We really are being fat and lazy. Emily isn’t, but she is running around playing with some blocks that the landlady gave us, which sing ‘I’m a friendly puppy / won’t you come play with me? (missing an article, but whatever) / Stacking blocks, fun with friends! / Fun with blocks never ends!’
And it never ends. Believe me.
I mean, I’m running every day, but still. This country is beautiful. I should be out more. Even the weeds are pretty. And some of them sting like a bastard, but I forgive them, because they are a part of Leicester. Think sexy green bulbous hills covered with spring grass. Think sheep shorn, their necks ‘exaggerated’ by professional shearers (ask Rowan’s YouTube dog groomer what that means – she’s been ‘grooming dogs professionally for fifteen years, and competitively for seven’; she knows the importance of an exaggerated neck on a stocky animal). Think real proper roads, driven on by adults, but childishly only about a meter wide, so that death lurks, but remarkably prettily, around every corner. When you’re on foot and the wind is in the trees, every gust sounds like an oncoming truck. I walked to the nearest town, the other day, Borough, and had to actually stop on occasion because I couldn’t see or hear around the corner. It was kind of nerve wracking.
Running and weight? Health and fitness? They’re hard when you’re travelling (as you heard me scream), and I’ve put on a fair bit of weight. I know that I’m at least 70kilos, and I think that I’m a little more. I just know. Not only is health important for my life in general, but it’s incredibly important to a writer. My brain, and your brain if you’re a writer (or anyone, actually) will not start up properly without exercise. Like a car, or a motorbike. Exercise starts the creative process in motion mainly because it kick-starts the brain. Not exercising and trying to get things done is like not using the car you already have. You might be getting things done, but you’re not feeling great. This is because – as you finally realise – you’ve abandoned the car by the side of the road, because it hasn’t started properly and has broken down in the fast lane, and you’re running along the footpath by the side of the road. And that’s difficult. (Ironically, the analogous you would be healthy by now, with all of that running… but unfortunately, it’s just a simile.)
Even things you wouldn’t think need exercise, need exercise and good health. Work needs it. But also love. Have you tried loving the person with whom you’re in a long term relationship, without health? It gets crabby, boring and terrible, and it’s not punctuated with any of the things you used to like. Have you tried love on exercise? I don’t know about you, but everything’s wonderful when I’m on exercise, including love and appreciation. Sounds sappy. Is sappy. News flash: the sappy stuff is the same as the good stuff, a lot of the time. I am so often overwhelmed by love, and the realisation of what a crying great loser arse I am to my husband, when I am exercising.
Love boost. It makes you think. What other problems are there because you are sitting on your arse, or drinking too much beer?
So, what is the solution to my fat, terrible, unmotivated and grumpy lifestyle? Long term health and fitness. The path to that?
Outdoing my brain.
My reasoning brain is a lot smarter than I am. It gets what it wants, whether or not it’s good for me. If it wants to eat or drink something, it will get it done. There is no reasoning force that is greater than my old reasoning brain.
I have to override it.
I have started training again from scratch for the half marathon, and have so far stuck to it. Whether I reason against it or not, it is just done. I am just taking the other me’s word for it – it’ll be good for me. But the most important thing is eating. And I’m slowly getting happier, and doing what I know – chocolate is bad for my health, salmon and lettuce is good for my health. Whether I reason that way or not. I often fail (last night, even though I was within my calorie goal, I had an ice-cream dessert. At this stage, I just can’t afford the habit), but I am getting there slowly. I am thinking of doing Michele Bridges again, because I like the community accountability. But I am not sure yet. I would need to do it with a view to creating lifelong habits.
Enough crapping on. I’m on a ferry to the Horn of Holland from England. We got up this morning at 4am, and left for Hewark (or something that sounded like that), in the Punto. We stopped only for petrol and a coffee, and I disregarded the coffee: it had advertised itself as Costa Coffee, a chain just like Starbucks here, but turned out to be three ‘Costa’ branded automatic coffee machines. Like the vending machines you get at service centres. So I declined on principle. (See? I criticise just as much coffee in Britain, as in France!) If I am going to have crap vending machine coffee, it has to be the real deal. Some industrial brand I’ve never heard of, coming from a machine that looks like it might be a younger, cooler cousin of the first working computers (you know, the ones that fill rooms in musea), which will dispense over-hot drink specimens, dribbled into the cup in separate elements: chocolate>hot water>milky froth>sugar (dosage perhaps even selected first). I will be getting hot chocolate (this is not a time to expect drinkable coffee – no need to be unreasonable), and I will be cupping both my hands around the thin walled plastic cup, which will be leaching BPA. And I will like it.
I mention a service centre because I had such a cup of glorious waiting-chocolate at a Quick-Fit just the other day. We were driving across France to the ferry, and immediately before going through passports, we hit a barge of a pothole. Scared the life out of me, and I had (I admit; this is what Butters has to put up with) a panic attack while going around the subsequent round about. It was only after passports, and before check in, that we realised that we had a flat. The tyre change, then check in, then relax. But the Punto’s spare is hardly a thing of beauty and longevity. It is basically a black painted doughnut left too long out in the sun and gone hard, with bright orange paint sprayed around the outside, so that passersby are fully aware that, at any moment, you may crash-lean into their lane while the spare wheel flies out onto the road, and into the path of an oncoming lorry, a spray of metal sparks spewing over the road, like so much blood from a violently severed limb.
So we went to get it changed. The guys were great. It cost £118, including wheel alignment. The coffee was a pound. It was good and sweet.
I had my second industrial strength beverage cup waiting in the car lane, with the engine off, to get on the ferry this morning. I also bought a Cleo with a pair of free sunglasses and a packet of Mentos in the plastic wrap around it (the Mentos Butters presently confiscated, good boy), and a copy of Good Housekeeping.
I will actually read the Good Housekeeping.
We are heading to Holland to visit (and housesit for) Nils and Christina, our relatives on Bob and Glenda’s side, and are looking forward to the flat plains and tall people. We will also be looking after their diabetic (I think) cat. I am learning Dutch. Ik doe het nu.
The ferry, in which we have a sleeping cabin, with a shower and a toilet and a TV and in which we feel like we are actual little people with lives and everything, and in which we can lie and think of tulips and windmills and languages made of English and German and phlegm, is currently surrounded by so much water that no one has ever fully explored it.
The ocean, that is – not specifically this part of it.
This part of it is covered in wind turbines.