Saturday, 26 April 2014

Pain or pleasure what's your poison?

Before you read anything look at this picture which one is pain and which is pleasure?

Depending on your upbringing and reference points the answer is obvious isn't it?

I went to an independent grammar school that had recently ceased being a catholic girl's school.  My teachers were an odd combination of residual nuns and militant left-wing feminists.

All pleasure was sin, and redemption could only be found in....
1. religion
2. the sports field
3. application to the point of obsession

Pleasure was the devil, the route of all ills and the wastrel's route to a meaningless life.

Pain was an angel that brought success be it hours of running on the sports fields or all day and all night revision sessions to achieve the elusive top grades that would open the door to Oxbridge and a future that would embrace constant challenge and mental vigour.

It is this,above all else, that drives my search for balance in everything. The above delivers success, but it definitely does not bring happiness. Since by default any feelings of contentment and well-being are suspiciously close to pleasure, which is the road to dereliction.

I've always actively sought out the company of those who see this picture the other way round.  Those for whom pain is the devil and pleasure their angel.  Long before L'Oreal told them they were worth it, whilst students, they were thousands of pounds overdrawn due to bulging wardrobes and fresh-cut flower deliveries every week.  At work they nipped out for facials in the morning, enjoyed long lunches and often didn't quite make it back into the office.

But they were always full of charm and laughter and were such a joy to be around that they rose to the top with out any backstabbing and politics.

Everyone know someone like this, they dance through life in a haze of guilt-free happiness and well-being with an utter conviction that is spell-binding.

This blog was meant to be about weight loss and exercise, and the pain and pleasure principle is one of the keys of finding balance and health through emotional equilibrium.

Have you ever opened a packet of biscuits/crisps/ chocolates/ loaf of bread/bottle of wine and started by thinking, 'I don't really need to eat this, but it is perfectly normal to have a biscuit with my tea'?  The first leads to a second (all very normal) the second leads to half the pack, now we are moving away from normal into knowingly eating too much and at this stage, rather than do the obvious thing and just stop, we reach for the rest of the packet, forcing them down by means of some kind of 'punishment' for having gone too far.

I wonder if it this is the Northern European/North American protestant work ethic gone mad.  Deep down we expect to have to pay for pleasure and so we punish ourselves by our own hand.

This week I have been following the Thermic Plan (4 meals of 500 calories, all protein, vegetable and complex carb based) A typical day would be;
8am breakfast 3 eggs, apple and flat white coffee x2
midday Whole grain and seed roll, packet of ham, bag of mixed veg (broccoli, carrots, beans), mini pack of hummus.
mid afternoon packet of Almonds and cup of tea
Dinner Chicken, brown rice, salad, decaff coffee small bar of dark chocolate

It's boringly easy to follow since you are never hungry so you never think about food. After two days my slightly snug clothes were already feeling better and I was well on my way to getting ready for bikinis in the South of France.

But then I got a package in the post which included a free Chocolixir from Godiva.  For anyone who hasn't tried one, it may be best never to know.  Imagine a perfect dark chocolate turned into a milkshake topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce...

I knew this would be my nemesis as it is pure shameless pleasure and something the nuns would find particularly sinful (chocolate spread was an earned reward awarded at tea times on Fridays only).  It was an irresistible temptation that would wholly remove me from the straight and narrow.

But resistance was futile, this was something special and it was free.

Pain, pleasure and guilt kicking in again, I'm not good at taking 'free' things, when this goodwill is thrown my way I feel obliged to repay the favour, so of course I bought a bar of Godiva chocolate whilst picking up my freebie.

By 4pm that day I had polished off both the milkshake and the family sized bar, halfway through the bar I was past pleasure and into penance.

Because I have rationalised the process, I just went for a run with the dogs this morning and am back on my Thermic yellow brick road.  But back in the old days when the scales wavered between 14 and 15 stone, this once incident could have been enough to tip me over the edge to a Summer of secret hordes of food and tent dresses.

Does this behaviour ring bells with anyone? Are there areas of your life where this applies outside just food? I'd love to hear, especially if you have found ways of dealing with it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Ugly clothes and a blogger night out...

Before Easter, Cynthia from The Perfect Life and her beautiful daughter and myself and my wayward teenager, made up a foursome for early drinks at the Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge.
Early drinks turned into quite a number of glasses of Champagne and we staggered home at 11pm, I had no idea of the time and thought it to be only 9.  
It is novel to meet a virtual stranger and yet to know so much about each other's lives, conversation came easily, even to my normally monosyllabic school boy who discovered a modicum of charm that evening (check out Cynthia's blog and the reason is apparent!)
I didn't take photos as Cynthia's blog is a private/ public endeavour and it didn't feel right to intrude on our laid back night.
I've never met up with anyone that I have 'met' through the blogworld, and would have thought the whole 'what to wear' thing would require much thought and agonising.  But a work meeting earlier the same day changed that preconception.

I was meeting with the fashion team of a fairly well-known magazine and we were talking about fashion week. One of them mentioned a collection from a designer who I know personally and have always liked (both him and his clothes).  She dismissed the collection saying that she would never feature his 'Ugly Clothes'.  This designer uses draping and beautiful silks in jewel colours, there are lots of words that could be used if you are a detractor, 'attention seeking, impractical, overly dramatic', but 'Ugly clothes' really surprised me.  And confirmed yet again how fickle and silly fashion is. It is truly just in the eyes of the beholder.  A particular aesthetic comes into 'fashion' simply because a few of the 'opinion forming' editors like the look (and the ad revenue) and tell us we should all adopt it.  Call me fickle I wrote a post about this very thing when I first started the new job and had been sucked into feeling utterly inadequate.

The whole exchange confirmed what I have been thinking for a while, I am just going to go back to wearing what I like, having fun with clothes and not thinking about them too much.  

All of my favourite blogs have a bit of fashion in them, but generally are more about the ideas or people behind the clothes than trying to 'sell' garments to the readers.  The ones that I read religiously are  Bourbon and Pearls, The Perfect Life,A woman a life blog, Style at every Age, there are more, but these spring to mind as they have been going for years and post regularly.  

I thought I was interested in the clothes, but I have realised, I'm not really, it is the life behind it all that grabs my interest (weird voyeuristic stalker that I am!)  

Sometimes I do like the mindless scrolling through people's high street picks and I love looking at their own real life outfits, I actively seek out those who have a completely different taste to mine.  But words like 'ugly clothes' wouldn't even cross my mind, I like to see how different we all are and wouldn't life be boring and predictable if it were any other way?

And so for my big night out, I dressed in a way that is just me.  Nothing to do with designers or fashion, I like this cocoa brown colour and the dress gives me some longed for shape rather than my usual Honey Monster bulk, luckily I have a matching brown fitted cardi, it's all easy and forgiving and my taste, and I am sure to fashion editors who are trying to flog the latest looks, the epitome of 'Ugly Clothes'.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Jumping jack flash...

Because I am old and rarely throw things away, I have more clothes than I could ever need.  Countless pairs of jeans, coats, jumpers, T shirts, a whole wardrobe of 'Holiday clothes' ie stuff I wouldn't be seen dead in in the UK, but suddenly become the height of sartorial elegance somewhere hot where no one knows my name.

From now on, I'm going to avoid anything that is simply a new version of what I own already and seek out the 'new', there will be lots of mistakes, but there have been a lifetime of fashion crimes so a last hurrah seems like a sensible way forward....
Introducing exhibit one, the jumpsuit.  This was a little 'out there', but I really love it, I tried a Tibi one that is now winging its way back to the online retailer.  But this lace and black number is a keeper, really comfortable and much more flattering, really nice touches like the detachable straps, deep pockets and arse slimming black reverse.  I can wear it for day with a jacket and rockstuds, or at night with high strappy gold heels and feel a bit Carrie from Sex and the City (rather than Dame Edna meets the incredible hulk which is the vibe I usually give off)

This one is not so successful, it is pure Andy Pandy and nicely shows my Easter excesses. Depressingly it is also an XL, there is however something strangely comforting about the fitted high pockets and how tight it feels across my middle, I think it is some latent memory from infant romper suits many decades ago.  I might just hang on to it for hanging out at home.
What are your fashion thoughts for Summer? Do you stick to a style that you love and buy less, but buy well? Or are you still experimenting?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter memories

It's been a crazy few days of long drives, family, more family and chocolate fest and we wouldn't have it any other way...

Can you spot the windows that are real and the ones that have been painted on?

The i-phone is the best entertainment.

Trying to embrace some colour in my spring wardrobe...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A mermaid's tale...

Given the choice between being able to fly or live underwater, I've always fancied becoming a cold-blooded fish that can breath underwater and never feel the chill of Winter days.  I didn't want to be a Disney Princess and couldn't understand Mr Andersen's Little Mermaid's desire to walk on two legs when the freedom of all of this could be hers...

Do you ever dive as deep as you can on a really hot day and watch the rays of the sun through the water?
I've always been a bit obsessed by all things marine, my bathroom has turned into a mermaid grotto...
Complete with Louis style mirror

Giant clam and decorative coral...

A mermaid picture over the bath...

Wouldn't it be great if pictures moved like the ones in Harry Potter, this is the view that I have when I am washing my hair.  I love the idea of the baby mermaid catching the boy (it is a proper oil painting and was only about £30 from ebay)

This is a long-winded way of justifying my splurge on Sergio Rossi Mermaid shoes.  I have always loved them...
But those death-defying heels are an inch or so too high for me, they give me a gait as becoming as Dame Edna and bunions the size of cricket balls.

So joy of joys apparently there is a 7cm heel...

Which I might be able to manage.

All this silliness made me think about the role of fantasy in our lives, with my new job I spend a lot of time with a younger crowd. And there is a tendency towards nihilism and despair that I am not familiar with. Someone sent me a link to a new magazine website that wanted the company to advertise, I was struck by how bleak and depressing it was.  I've noticed amongst the younger bloggers how there is much black and white photography with grey skies, sad faces and androgynous clothes.

Am I alone is seeking my fantasy Zeitgeist? Are you a hard-edged realist or are you for suspending your disbelief and dreaming a little?