Taking charge

My sister, the doctor, says I am morbidly obese. That is as brutal as they come. When I have looked at myself in the mirror, I have rationalised my size by looking at other people, or by blaming the mirror for being too convex. The harsh cold truth though is that I am at my heaviest ever. Whilst I can count to a plethora of reasons why, the fact remains that my current weight is a health risk.

This little tiff with my sister  – coupled with the seeming rise in age related illness around me –  has rubbed me the wrong way; and I do need, if only to prove a point to her, to loose a lot of the flab. The strategy is time worn of course – eat less and exercise more. So my personal plan is this:

  • Control potion sizes – eat half of what I would normally eat
  • Walk a lot – My new house is ideally situated, in walking distance from a lot of the places I go to daily. I intend to walk everywhere, and only use the bus if required
  • Cut out the fizzy drinks – cokes, colas etc should be eliminated form the diet all together – diet or not
  • Have a morning run. I intend to do a morning run each day, going from my house down Seaforth road, around the stadium and then back home.
  • Have a weekly weigh in.
  • Attempt to track total number of miles I walk/ run each week and plot this against final weight each week

Hopefully, with this regime, I can start showing some weight loss… Sigh.

For the record, my current weight is 118kg on a 5′-10″ frame.

What I have been reading

Thanks to lulls here and there –  as opposed to the fast pace at which April, May and June went by – I managed to do a bit of reading:

  • Salman Rushdie’s – Midnight’s Children (1981 Booker Prize winner, 1993 Booker of Bookers Winner &  2008 The Best of the Booker Winner): I read this one mainly on the go, off a hand held device which probably affected my enjoyment of the book. I did think it was a laborious read at times.  It might be a thing I have for Booker winners, as I didn’t exactly enjoy my reading of The Finkler Question either earlier in the year.
  • Ian McEwan’s – On Chesil Beach (2007 Booker prize shortlisted): Good read, if only for its description of 1960s England, before the advent of the pill and the mainstream-ing of contraceptives.
  • Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz (2006 New York Times Bestseller): An engaging read on Christianity, and how it is meant to be a passionate relationship not based on stultifying rules. The section on being addicted to solitude hit too close to home too… Definitely one I should re-read at a more leisurely pace.
  • Haruki Murakami’s After Dark: Seven hours one Tokyo night… Part real life,  part dream.

Baguette days



Given the decidedly appalling weather we have had out here, the very first signs of sunshine returning are enough to tempt people out of their various hiding places on to the public spaces again. Walking down my usual route back to work  – after a quick lunch hour detour into town – I notice the forecourt at the Square is a lot busier than usual. There are people seated on the wooden benches,  others standing in little groups and more , like me, passing through,  all united by the desire to soak up the rare sight of the noon day sun.

I make my way to my baguette place and order the usual – a freshly baked baguette stuffed full with plain chicken, crispy bacon and mozzarella cheese. I add a bag of potato chips and a coke and then join the queue slowly snaking its way towards the till. It is one of the regulars manning it today.

 – I think you not come anymore today, she says. She is Polish, speaks English in a decidedly belaboured manner, and smiles a little too enthusiastically at times.

 – Had things to do in town today. Totally forgot the time, I say shaking my head for emphasis.

 – No sauce for you?  Her tone is flat, almost listless, delivered in that half-question half-statement tone that masks resignation at the fact that I am short changing myself – or so she thinks.

Nah, I reply. You know I like it dry.

 – Your money, four pounds, she says.

I rummage in my wallet, find a five pound note and hand it over to her.  She unlocks the till, finds  two fifty pence coins and hands them over to me.

 – Tada.  That is the one Scottish quirk of language that is default out here. Even she, knows that.  I nod her my reply, grab my stuff and head out the door.

Outside I find a spot on a bench,  settle in to attack my greasy carb fest and soak in the sunshine. Knowing this city, there is no telling when the next opportunity will come.

Growing old

Any pretensions to still being young I might have had are slowly evaporating. It does look like all around me,  there is a slew of people having to face age related health problems. Over the weekend, I learned that someone close had a biopsy and was facing possible surgery over an enlarged prostrate. Someone else had somehow copped an ankle strain in April which hadn’t eased up since then and another one had significantly elevated blood pressures.

All this, coupled with the fact that in a few days time, I endure celebrate another milestone birthday,  is a stark reminder that I am no longer the strapping teenage bloke who ran the midfield like a colossus played football for fun. I am growing older, and that fact needs to sink into my head. Time to resolve the differences I have with friends and family is slowly ticking by.. Sigh.


And she wasn’t there

Each day – for the past two months and some – when I get off my bus and walk the couple hundred  metres  to the hole office I work at, I take a left turn off Union, down the dingy stairs via the back roads on to Guild street and then into work. Most days I am plugged into my iPod, listening to whatever catches my fancy on that day, hands in my pocket deep in thought. Nine days out of ten, just before I take  the turn I see her – a lone black face bobbing in a sea of browns and whites,  wrapped up to the nines waiting for her bus. She can’t be more than 5′-2″, usually rocks a ‘fro and dangles her little bag in the tell-tale Nigerian chic ninety-degree arm pose.  At first all there was were a couple of  furtive glances, followed by the straight face pretending-I-never-took-a-peek look. And then with time, and the familiarity of a shared routine, there was the almost imperceptible nod and the odd mouthed greeting.

Today, just before I took the turn, I looked, but she wasn’t there.  As I walked the last few steps to work, there was a certain sense of disappointment as though I were a kid who had been promised a treat which was taken away at the final moment.  I got to thinking about how one face – however distant and removed – merely by being there and by its sameness can become part of a routine, something to be looked forward to amidst the frothing morass that is daily life.

I do not think our non-verbal exchanges  – if I can call these exchanges – have ever extended beyond a couple of seconds at the most, but for me at least they have become part of my commute. In a logic-defying way, I am left hoping that she will be there…tomorrow.

About Town: The chicken tikka edition

My memories of previous encounters with Indian cuisine are not exactly fond. The last time – an impromptu appearance at a leaving do for an Indian expat from work – I ended up tossing and turning through the night, tormented both bodily and mentally by masala dosa. Thanks to that, and my well documented lack of adventure when it comes to food, it was my last attempt at eating anything Indian- a full five years ago.

Without any prior planning we end up standing and chatting outside an Indian restaurant. There’s me, my Iranian buddy and a third guy who he once worked for. We have spent the last few minutes catching up and reminiscing on the various bits and pieces of the shared lives we have missed in the intervening months.

The thing about these meetings is that they invariably segue into a catalogue of cynical musings. We moan about the lack of excitement in our line of business, gleefully swap stories about former bosses whose careers have gone awry, and self deprecatingly (in mock humility) discuss what it is we are currently working on.

As we stand in front of the Indian restaurant, someone suggests we go in and grab a bite. My Iranian friend is ambivalent, his ex boss is keen to try something new in the city and I am positively petrified, but for lack of a coherent excuse I agree and we walk in.

There are several empty tables available and we grab a seat by the window, in a smaller section of the room. I skip the starter, some sort of corn wrap with mixed sauces.

When the main menu arrives, it is a curious mix of names I am blissfully unaware of. I eventually order a chicken tikka with some rice, only medium spiced. When it arrives, it has a soft, light aroma. The chicken is slightly salty but tastes great, as does the accompanying rice side dish and the curry sauce. As I eat it, I half expect to suddenly throw up and massively embarrass myself, but I survive; washing it down with a sweet cider.

All in all it’s a great evening out, one more place to file in my places-to-take-a-prospective-love-interest-to and more importantly there’s one more flavour to my international food basket.

On the futility of forgetting

Memory is a strange thing. Even the most tenuous of links can breach the walls of enforced forgetfulness, triggering the release of a barrage of memories once thought to have been successfully sequestered deep beyond the reach of even the most pernicious of random triggers.

There are the shared banalities, the simple everyday things which in themselves hold no sentimental value but which in the context of a shared life paradoxically serve to bridge the miles. She, bored in a work meeting, emailing you a doodle of the big fat goat head that is her boss, you roasting rice to dryness, setting off the fire alarms and eliciting mock sympathy from her, all in good faith.

There are the shared spaces, places inextricably bound to happier times. Neatly stacked rows of sweet corn in the local shop or the smell of fresh tomatoes triggering memories of shopping together a scant few months ago. Or worse, shared routines – blocks of time once looked forward to which now stretch interminably, snaking on and on into the distance like a string coiled on itself multiple times with no obvious end.

There are the shared connections, friends and family who once provided validation of a match seemingly made in heaven but who now are the shattered testaments to yet another failed sortie on the battle field of love. There is the nostalgia, a selective amnesia that remembers the happy days and paints a honky dory picture that really never was.

You know you haven’t forgotten when the heady highs of finally tracking down that bug amidst a few hundred lines of code has you reaching for your phone, almost automatically, to text her the good news. That is before reality hits you, reminding you that that phase of life is gone, there are new rules of dis-engagement now.

The truest lesson is the hardest one to learn – you never forget, you can only try to replace…. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, new life like a stubborn shoot rises from dead seed, but the old has to die first.


Thankful… the kinda random thursday edition

Thankful for:

  • Top blokes: Met up for dinner with a chap I once worked for in Nigeria. He was one of the more senior engineers on my first job, was in town  participating in a design review and called me up for dinner. We met up at an Italian place in town. The nachos were delightful, the spaghetti and meat balls were awesome too, plus he paid. Now I know where to take the lasses I am eyeing to for a ‘spoiling’ session. 🙂
  • Fortuitous nose bleeds: I haven’t had nosebleeds in a long time, at best they are unnecessary irritations at worst they can spoil a perfectly good day. In a first for me, a nosebleed saved my bum in a meeting just before I was due to get a grilling, talk about unintended consequences…
  • Milestone birthdays: Someone really close turned fifty (not me). Thankful for the opportunity to have shared their life over the past few years.