Category Archives: Hobbies

The Cult

It is official, I have finally joined a cult. There was always a good chance of this happening really, I’m your classic cult type as I’m a joiner. Not the wood and saw type of joiner of course, that would be silly, I’m a thing joiner. I see a queue, I’ll join it just to see what’s on the other end. I see a group advertised nearby I’ll join it. I see a volunteer request, I’ll join it. Therefore it wasn’t going to be long before a cult came calling and of course what am I going to do? Join it.

This isn’t any old cult though, not some silly little cult that is stockpiling for a zombie invasion for me. Oh no, I have gone for one of the biggest cults in the world. I have joined fat club. Now of course those of you who know me will be uttering that classic line…but you don’t need to join a fat club. The Pavlovian response that is said to everyone who ever joins the cult even when it’s blatantly obvious that they do. However in my case it’s true, I don’t really. Mr F however, has been saying he wants to lose a bit of weight. Therefore having done some research I found the local group (which tempted me with the offer of a free book – that was the biggest disappointment ever!) and as the ever supportive girlfriend I nagged him into submission and we signed up to our local branch of fat cult.

It really is a revelation and I have to say that I am absolutely convinced of the fact that fat club is a cult. Behold the evidence:

·         It has thousands and thousands of members but its members are silent. I bet 50% of the people you know are members although like all good clubs the first rule is that you don’t talk about it. Well rules are made to be broken, so go on ask someone. You’d be amazed at how many are fellow fatties.

·         It’s leader might change but there is always someone in the wings. Branches of the cult may be marketed under different leaders yet they all follow the teachings of one person – Nicola at Pinkneys Health Farm. For those of you unaware of this women, she was profiled on a Victoria Wood programme a few years ago

·         It’s members are all brainwashed during their initiation. Once brainwashing is complete, conversations will no longer be around normal adult themes. Instead cult members will focus only on naughty bites. You are allowed a certain number of naughty bites a day which is how they hook you in. Then once you start counting the brainwashing is complete and you are now one of them.

·         Whatever the leader says the cult followers agree with, and apologise no matter how ridiculous. For example, ‘Oooo Vicky, half a pound on this week, have you had a naughty week?’ ‘Yes Nicola, I’m very sorry. I did eat that one peanut I found down the back of the sofa and once I started I just couldn’t stop. I ate the lemon bonbon that was stuck in the hoover bag and the chocolate button that the dog has chewed. I promise I will try harder next week’

If that isn’t enough to make you realise it’s a cult then finally the biggest indicator is the fact it calls itself a business.  Yet if any member stopped counting naughty bites long enough to re-enter the real world they would soon realise that the whole business modal is decidedly dubious. You join in order to lose weight, if you lost weight you wouldn’t need to be in the club, therefore the business would lose its clients, why has no one spotted this glaringly obvious flaw? Members of fat club don’t leave, some have been there for decades and clearly haven’t lost weight.

You see, fat club is a cult. It’s the scariest type as well, because believe you me, once you are in that reinforced floor room you are never getting out. The combined bulk of the long term members would stop an overweight elephant in it’s tracks. It’s too late for me, I am a joiner and so I am stuck but save yourself! Go the gym, they’ll never find you in there.



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Dead woman walking

A few months ago I had a text from a good friend of mine suggesting we sign up for a 20 mile walk. Love to, replies I, with months stretching ahead in front of us and visions of lots of lovely training walks through the countryside with a nice glass of wine at the end.

So it came as quite a shock to realise the number of weeks until the walk was only 1 and the number of training sessions undertaken was 0. It’s only 20 miles we thought, how hard can that be we thought – bloody hard is the answer!

I wouldn’t say that I was unprepared for the walk, however the night before I looked at the list of items that we needed: sun tan lotion, check; walking boots, check; waterproof jacket, check; whistle, sorry?; map, what?, survival kit; seriously?? It’s a charity walk not a Bear Grylls expedition.  To be fair even if I had a map I wouldn’t know what to do with it, although at the 13 mile point I would cheerfully have taken a map and beaten the person who suggested the walk round the head with it!

Whoever said 20 miles wasn’t far has clearly never done it round Haworth in the blazing hot sunshine.  I know the Pennines are meant to be hilly, but these were ridiculous. I am from the fens and I live in York, my legs are not built for hills. The first few miles were not too bad. There was one pretty grim long hill that knocked out a few of our fellow walkers straight away. Once at the top those who had done it before were keen to tell us that we were passed the worst. Well one of the many things I learnt during the day (the main one being never to agree to walk 20 miles in the Pennines) was that people lie. This wasn’t the worst over and done with, this was just a taster of what was to come.

For 9 hours we walked through bogs, up hills, down rocky paths, climbed over styles and squeezed through tiny gaps in walls. We got sunburnt despite the factor 50 cream, we ate melted peanut butter balls and drank litres and litres of water (yet only went for a wee once, how does that work?) Eventually getting up to Top Withens, which was apparently the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Well I’m afraid by this 17 mile point the views might have been absolutely stunning but frankly I was sick and tired of seeing amazing views, and if I never saw another stone wall in my life it would be too soon.

Those last three miles were the longest three miles I have ever known (At this point I also found out that the walk was actually 20.9 miles – that 0.9 extra would have sent me screaming for the hills if I hadn’t already seen more than my fair share of hills that day) Every signpost we passed said 1 ½ miles to Haworth and I’m sure there was someone just moving the signs to wind us up. Yet we made it back to base eventually. Barely able to move and with no energy to even talk anymore, but we did it. 20 miles over the Pennines done!

I wonder if Mrs G fancies 26 miles next time…


Why did we do it?

We were raising money for St Leonard’s Hospice in York and sponsorship is still open if you would like to:

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The Swimming Pool

So a while ago I signed myself up for a new challenge. To swim 22 miles in 12 weeks. That is apparently the same distance as swimming the Channel. Although, as it is done in a pool it’s without any added dangers such as big boats, jelly fish, and sharks.

When I signed up it seemed like a really good idea. Our gym has a lovely open air pool, which is always pretty quiet. Apparently not everyone is as keen as me on the great outdoors. Even though the pool is nice and heated unless it is a glorious summers day there is rarely anyone in.

However what I hadn’t factored into my swimming challenge was that the lovely quiet outdoor pool shuts at the end of October. Therefore the majority of the 22 mile slog was actually going to have to be done in the indoor pool. Well frankly I think swimming the Channel itself might actually have been an easier option.

It seems that there is no time when the pool isn’t absolutely packed. If it’s not full of kids trying to see how much water they can knock out of the pool, it’s full of old people reenacting scenes from Cocoon. 6 am the gym opens, so you’d think that would be a good time to go. Nice and early to beat the crowds. Well you’d be wrong. 5.55 am I arrived the other day and there was a queue of octogenarians channelling their inner Usain Bolt. As soon as the clock struck 6 they shot off through the turnstiles, literally running to be the first in the changing rooms, a pile of walking sticks and zimmerframes left in their wake.

The other problem with indoor swimming is the dreaded lane choice. There are three lanes, slow, medium and fast. Choosing which to go into is a nightmare. Try the slow lane at 6 am and sometimes you have to poke the other swimmers just to check they are actually breathing. Medium would probably be my lane of choice yet again this can be tricky as working out if you are supposed to swimming clockwise or anticlockwise can take up valuable time. The biggest nightmare is accidentally getting into the fast lane. If that is the only empty lane I’ll jump in there, but then you are stuck if someone else gets in. Obviously you can’t just get out and swap lanes, what would people think? Instead you end up having to swim as fast as you possibly can for six lengths and then pretend that was all you had time for. This involves getting out of the pool, staring pointedly at the clock for longer than completely necessary and then hurrying into the changing room as though in a rush.

  It really is no surprise that more people don’t take up swimming when it is fraught with such anxiety. It is a lesson to us all though that signing up to swim 22 miles might seem like a good idea, reality isn’t all its cracked up to be. It’s a good job it’s all for a good cause!


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You can run!

A couple of weekends ago I took part in the York 10 mile race. This was run alongside the Yorkshire Marathon. As you know a marathon is 26 miles (26.2 to be precise, why someone added an extra 0.2 is beyond me, was 26 not enough?) When you look at it in that context, 10 miles doesn’t seem far. If someone said lets go shopping, you’d jump in the car and happily drive off ten miles without thinking twice.

Well I can tell you now, covering ten miles on foot is definitely something to think twice about. In fact you should think three and four times about it, ideally whilst sat in front of the television with a glass of red so you are not tempted to think it’s a good idea. I never really thought it was a good idea, I just didn’t appreciate what a bad one it was. One friend suggested we sign up to do it. I then mentioned it to another friend who was already signed up. He said maybe I would need to train more and should wait until next year. Well that was a stupid thing to say, as obviously I jumped on my high horse and signed up straight away.

The training went quite well. I completed some nice long runs, in fact at one point I ran from pluto to the sun* So I turned up on the day confident I would complete it in my target time of 2 hours. As always before I signed up I checked the results from last year. I’m a very slow runner, but as long as I’m not going to be last then I’m happy to give it a go. Therefore with some 3 hour runners at previous events I was confident I’d be as usual in the middle average.

Of course when looking at previous results I’d concentrated on the slowest people without realising that there was still going to be a rather large number of fast people doing it. I don’t mind getting overtaken by speedy professional looking runners. That’s just part and parcel of being a bit of a fairweather jogger. However when you suddenly realise that you are actually being passed by Zippy and Bungle from Rainbow you do start to think it might be time to hang up the trainers. Luckily one of the best things about these runs is the constant supply of sweets that the kindly spectators are giving out as you drag yourself round. The man in the batman suit might have finished way ahead of me, but I bet I enjoyed my jelly babies more than him.

 The thing with this kind of event though is that as soon as you reach the finish line you forget everything. You forget about the fact that at the half way point you were ready to sit down and wait for a taxi. You forget about the fact that your face is that red you are stopping traffic as you go past. You forget about the fact your toenails will probably never be the same again. As soon as you get your finish time, which in my case was a very respectable 1 hour 44 minutes, you forget what a stupid idea trying to run 10 miles actually is. In fact once you are actually able to walk again you think, what’s my next challenge going to be all pain forgotten. One thing for certain though is I won’t be doing a marathon. 26 miles ok maybe, but 26.2, that’s just silly.


*York Solar System Cycle Path obviously!

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A game for all the family

On Wednesday it was national Winnie the Pooh day. Winnie the Pooh has always been one of my favourite children’s characters. However unfortunately my celebration of this national day didn’t include a nice cuddly bear, I had an encounter with a completely different type of poo.

I like the outdoors. Other than reading, most of my pastimes are based outside. I go horse riding, and jogging in the great outdoors, and I try and go for a walk every lunchtime. I’m lucky in that I work near a racecourse so there is always somewhere nice and green to have a wander round.

I was enjoying one of these lunchtime walks on Wednesday, until the nice quiet contemplation of nature was rudely interrupted – by a huge seagull poo landing on my head. Sadly this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, in fact it’s starting to become a bit of a habit. Most people go to Scarborough and their only concern is whether the seagulls are going to steal their chips. I spend the time looking upwards trying to avoid walking under any suspicious looking gulls flying overhead.

Why don’t more people get pooed on by birds? It doesn’t seem to happen to other people. You never read in a book about so and so finding a body covered in bird poo. DS Roy Grace is never casually walking along Brighton sea front catching criminals only to have to stop to wipe bird poo off his head. Even Tippi Hedron was bird poo free despite having hundreds of birds trying to kill her. You would think it would be a common occurrence really bearing in mind the numbers of bird around. Yet it seems to be only me that gets targeted. I think it is some kind of game the birds all play. There is probably some kind of national league that the birds join. They get given a score card when they sign up and it has a big picture of me on it. Extra points every time they get a strike.

Apparently it is meant to be good luck but that is a load of nonsense if you ask me. All it means in reality is you have to wash your hair and/or jacket depending on the site of the aforementioned strike. I think it may be wise to give up my delusions of being a country girl. Next year I am just going to stay inside and read Winnie the Pooh to celebrate rather than venture outside.

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I have recently started watching The Zoo on TV. For those of you who don’t know, this is not as the name suggests, a nice family show about zoo keepers and their charges. Instead it’s a series based on the James Patterson novel of the same name where animals are essentially taking revenge on humans in the most gruesome ways they can find.

As someone who has often thought how I much prefer animals to people (although I wouldn’t want to be confronted by a grizzly bear in my kitchen especially if I’d just opened a bottle of wine) this is the kind of programme that gives me a slightly satisfied feeling, animals fighting back. It also rather terrifies me though as it may already be happening. I can’t look at a crow without thinking of the Hitchcock film the Birds which I thought was really scary. I don’t think it helped that for the first few times I watched it, back in the days of the good old video tape I never got to watch the end. Either the film was overrunning so it didn’t record all of it, or the video ran out before it had finished. I even once bought a copy from the local charity shop and the tape mangled before I could watch it all the way through (anyone under the age of 40 reading this will have absolutely no idea what all that is about!) That just made the film even creepier if you ask me, did they get away from the birds or not?

Living near a field I often take the nice route to work which involves walking through a herd of young cows.  I like the cows, yet as I walk through them carrying my leather bag I’m sure they are watching me. They can sense that I’m using their grandmother to carry my sandwiches to work (It’s ten years old and was made from recycled leather so it may actually be more like their great great grandmother) I’ve never actually seen them following me, but I know they are. Every time I turn around they stop and pretend to just be going about their business chewing grass but I think it’s all an act they are just trying to plan their next move.

Squirrels are another one to watch out for. I hate spiders and once heard that if you put conkers round the edges of rooms they give off some kind of odour that puts spiders off coming in. So I like to collect conkers for decorations. Yet there I am happily walking along, eyes on the ground, and suddenly get hit by said conkers. These didn’t just fall they were launched from the tree. Exactly at the spot where a nice little squirrel sat smugly grinning away, clearly warning me off of his nuts.

I think we should just be glad that we don’t live in a country where there are crocodiles and bears, and all we have to worry about are squirrels and cows. Just watch an episode of Zoo if you don’t believe me.

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I must confess to not normally being a sports fan, much preferring to sit around and read a book. Therefore usually the Olympics passes me by. Only marked by the noticeable lack of Casualty on the TV due to the BBC’s continuous Olympic coverage. However this year due to a) living with someone who is utterly sports obsessed and will watch absolutely anything and b) my newly rekindled love of horses,  I have actually watched quite a lot.

One of the things that really struck me was how easy all the sporting people made things seem to look. Take the equestrian sports for an example. I go riding and recently I’ve been learning both jumping and dressage techniques. Neither of these things are even slightly easy. Attempting to jump a cross bar approximately two inches off the ground at nothing faster than a trot still feels as though you are being asked to jump the Grand Canyon. As for dressage, well my riding style is more windmill like than calm and serene so trying to get a horse to smoothly trot in a circle is neigh-on impossible (see what I did there?) Yet the fantastic Charlotte DuJardin made dancing horses look very cool, and Nick Skelton barely broke a sweat as he took his horse over impossibly high jumps.

I suspect that writing a novel is another of these things that on the surface looks really easy, yet in reality is the exact opposite. It’s not only the writing, but also the coming up with ideas. Last weekend we spent a lovely evening having a dinner party (how very grown up!) with some friends. The conversation as it often does turned to books.  This on the back of a conversation about our dream jobs, led to the suggestion that I should write a novel. Clearly due to my love of reading it was seen that the next logical step was for me to write one myself. However that lead to the first stumbling block, the idea. I think coming up with an original idea is harder than winning gold and silver in the Olympic Triathlon, unless you are the Brownlee brothers of course. One suggestion for an idea was that a group of people at a dinner party agree to murder each other’s enemies. Hmm where have I heard that before?

Even if you do then come up with an idea that hasn’t already been done to death, you have to get round to the actual putting of pen to paper, or fingers to keys in this day and age. Whilst it may seem that the hardest bit is starting and that once you begin the rest will follow I’m pretty sure this isn’t the case. The likes of Mark Billingham and Val Mcdermid may make the whole process of writing a novel seem easy as they put out hit after hit, yet I’m sure in reality just like in sport the hard work that is put in behind the scenes is monumental.

I like most readers would love to have the ability to write a novel, however I’d also like the ability to win a gold medal for dressage at the Olympics, or take the winning trophy at a triathlon yet considering my best 10k race time is 1 hour 4 minutes, and Alistair completed his Triathlon with a 10k time of 31 minutes, I suspect I might be somewhere off, especially when you add in the fact I am actually inherently lazy. In fact I think I’ll stick to reading books and complaining about the lack of Casualty, it is certainly much less exhausting.


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