Wednesday, 27 May 2009

If someone said 'icky moment'' to you, what would you think of? Some spilt honey, or a blob of ketchup down your front? A baby spitting up on its parent's shoulder perhaps? Not, I'm guessing, anal incontinence. But 'icky moment'' is one of the euphemistic terms one website uses to describe this deeply unpleasant side effect of Alli, the recently launched otc weight loss drug. Another shows us pictures of happy healthy slim young people cooing over their apparent recent weight loss. And despite the fact that pharmacists are meant to establish that anyone wanting to buy Alli has a BMI of over 28, and is therefore clinically obese - it's ok if you don't fancy sharing that information with any stuffy old chemist person. Because you can just hop on the internet and buy it from Boots online, or another online pharmacy. Hooray!
A report in the British Medical Journal concluded that Alli didn't actually work any better than a low calorie low fat diet, and one journalist who tried it found that it worked through fear. She explained that having read the leaflet warning that the more fat you ate the more likely you were to shit yourself - sorry, experience an icky moment, terror of such humiliation made her reduce her fat intake to virtually zero. Funnily enough she lost a lot of weight.
But predictably the promise of a pill to make you slim, rather than having to diet and exercise, has had chubbies flocking to their local chemists. And the Glaxo Smith Kline executives chortling with glee. 'They stay fat - and poo their pants,' they laugh. 'And we get rich!'
Two of my children have always had to take handfuls of digestive enzymes when they eat, which have exactly the opposite effect to Alli. To put it another way, Alli creates the condition that they take pills to correct. Unsurprisingly they find the idea of this vaguely obscene. I share their view. Alli costs around £50 per month. That's a lot of salad, a monthly subscription to a gym, and (since they're not free) several prescriptions for digestive enzymes.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I'm always amazed when women describe themselves as being 'just a mother'. Where did this trend for self belittling come from? This idea that being a full time mother is the kind of mindless activity that anyone can do well. When was the last time you heard someone describe themselves as 'just a secretary,' or 'just a taxi driver'? Have you ever heard anyone say 'I'm only a personal assistant'?
Being a mother requires all kinds of skills and patience, and mothers are on duty 24 hours a day. Good mothering is something that has to be worked at. It doesn't come naturally to most women, and it's a job that is although rewarding, exhausting and often thankless.
Mothering is a minefield of guilt, joy and fulfilment, and women who do it deserve our respect and admiration. Plus a break from it now and again. Try www.deborahdooleyjournalist/mummymetime.html

Monday, 18 May 2009

In praise of pyjamas

Everyone should have at least two pairs - but heaven forbid they should be the scratchy checked cotton variety. Pyjamas should be soft, warm - or cool as required, and caress your skin, without, in any way, judging you. Not unlike the perfect lover. Pure cotton or silk are ideal pyjama fabrics, and they should be lightly scented with lavender, and worn at least a size larger than normal day wear, to facilitate much lounging - usually on sofas in front of a tv or DVD player, and also the kind of snacking that can sometimes cause a bulging tummy. Pyjamas are the only item of clothing in a woman's wardrobe that can legitimately flaunt an elasticated waist.
I was charmed and delighted to see that some recent guests very sensibly stayed in their pyjamas nearly all day. It did my heart good to see their obvious contentment and reinforced my viewpoint that pyjamas were created in order to make our lives more comfortable and pleasurable.
But of course the test of a really pleasing pyjama garment is the noise made by the wearer as pyjama and skin first make contact. A kind of contented sigh - like the sound made in response to a lover's touch.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

This morning I woke up with a feeling of dread, and for a few seconds, I couldn't think why.
Did I have to travel to London to give a presentation on 'what journalists really want,' to a large group of eager PRs and their clients? Was the bank threatening to withdraw our sizeable overdraft facility? Had I had too much to drink the night before and promised to mow the village churchyard twice a week for the foreseeable future - starting today? All these dread provoking possibilities flashed through my mind before the grim reality of my situation hit me with the all the force of a large container of Ajax. Today I planned to clean the house in preparation for our next guests. From top to bottom. All five bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, dining room, sitting room, tv room, study, kitchen, boot room, utility room and hallway.
Mindful of the aforementioned large overdraft combined with reduced work opportunities and therefore income (hopefully side effect of the recession rather than dwindling journalistic capabilities), I had dispensed with the services of our lovely family friend and wonderful house cleaner, Linda. No more (or at least not until our finances improved - surely only a matter of time) would I sit happily in my office listening to the comfortable hum of the hoover and the swish of her duster as she rendered the house dog hair, dust and cobweb free. No longer the calm satisfaction of emerging into a veritable nirvana of shining loveliness. Now it was all up to me.
Gritting my teeth determinedly, I arose, pulled on jeans and tee shirt, downed two mugs of strong coffee and some fruit salad (vitamins and caffeine for plenty of energy), put on some red lipstick (in order to avoid depression when polishing mirrors), chucked the dog and my husband out of the house, hefted the hoover up the stairs and set to work.
For four and half hours, I hoovered, scrubbed, polished and washed floors. Over and over again, I fed sheets, towels and rugs into the washing machine's gaping mouth - and pegged the regurgitated results onto the line. Up and down the stairs I went, emptying bins, folding laundry - and finally checking all the rooms for creases, smears or missed cobwebs. At last it was done. The house sat silently, sweet smellingly thanking me for restoring cleanliness and order. The taps winked at me happily and the wooden floors gleamed under their newly freshened rugs.
All was in order, and I was tired but happy.
As I flopped down exhausted in a kitchen chair, admiring the sparkling worktops, my eye was drawn to a half full bottle of wine. Du vin, du pain, and a bit of cheddar, I murmured sexily to myself. Just right for a hard working girl.
Just then the front door opened and in came Linda. I was happy to see her. I couldn't afford her cleaning services any more, but I could still have lunch with her.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Pigs that fly

Am I the only person that's noticed how the 'official' number of deaths from swine flu in Mexico has not so much plummeted as hurtled - from 167 to 7? Everyone else, including eminent scientists and highly credible news reporters and journalists seem to have accepted the quite startling and sudden discrepancy with not even a hint of a sneer. Call me a cynic, but am I right in thinking that the current swine flu 'crisis' has done a masterly job of deflecting public attention from the global economic situation?
Picture the scene. The powers that be are earnestly discussing ways to persuade the public that they're actually doing a fantastic job of safeguarding the public -and that they are truly a responsible and caring force for said public's wellbeing.
World leader 1: 'Hmmm. The obvious answer is a war - always gets Joe and Josephine Public fired up and brings out the old Dunkirk spirit.'
World leader 2: 'True, but it's a bit soon after Iraq - which backfired slightly if you recall. And where's Dunkirk?' (Makes mental note to fire personal assistant for not briefing him better.)
World leader 1: You're right. Well then, how about a global health crisis. Some sort of pandemic perhaps?'
World leader 2. 'Excellent idea. Plus it'll keep the pharmaceutical companies on side - always a good thing since they're so powerful. We can spend huge amounts of tax payers money on stockpiling antiviral drugs 'just in case'.
World leader 1. 'That's settled then. We just need to figure out a way to dump the last lot we spent huge amounts of tax payers money on. You know - for all that bird flu business. 'Course it's all gone off now.'

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Mars and Venus on the beach

Yesterday, we made the most of this glorious early summer and went to the beach. There, with the aid of new £3.99 darker than dark sunglasses, I was able to study the habits of the male and female of the human race when partially clothed. My findings are as follows...
Slightly Overweight Woman (SOW), when swimsuit clad, behaves in a rather covert way, slinking down to the water's edge, with sarong or towel wrapped around her which she discards at the last minute, hurling herself into the waves at top speed in order to prevent any glimpse of dimpled thighs. SOW on the beach only really relaxes when lying prone on back - hence illusion of flat stomach. Although she then has problem of bosoms intent on escaping off chest and hiding in armpits. SOW frequently attempts to remedy this by propping herself up on elbows and raising upper torso, which has effect of restoring boobs to rightful position. (Sadly, difficult to hold for longer than a few minutes due to neck spasm.)
The behaviour of Terribly Overweight Man (TOM), couldn’t be more different. TOM arrives on beach sporting huge baggy shorts, waistband perched precariously just below start of bum divide at back and just above penis at front. Top half is clad in small slightly grubby white vest, parted from waistband of shorts by about eighteen inches of bulging beer belly. (Tattoos may or may not be present). TOM then selects a spot on beach, arranges towel and beer cans, and proceeds to spend a few minutes eyeing up the selection of female bodies around him - all the while stroking belly rhythmically. Finally peels off vest garment and stands looking around for another few minutes. More stroking. Catches eye of young bikini clad girl and winks lasciviously. Divests himself of large shorts, by dint of a casual wiggle - which easily persuades them to relinquish their half hearted grip on groin area, revealing tiny purple/luminous green nylon swimming trunks. These, it is immediately obvious, conceal extremely small genitals. Adjusts penis and testicles carefully, looking down trunks to check all is well, and swaggers down to water's edge. More stroking and more looking around, in hope of catching eye of any passing attractive women - all of whom will, he is confident, find him irresistible.
TOM does not however enter the water, but contents himself with kicking water in small child's face, and swaggers back to towel, stroking all the while. Takes huge swig of beer and flops down onto front - having first scooped out hole for belly to comfortably rest in. Snores for two hours and on waking, doesn't mind in the least that skin has turned unattractive shade of puce, since feels that this only enhances his appeal to the opposite sex – and knows that suncream is for girls and poofs.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The book inside you

I know everyone's got a book inside them. I should do by now - I've heard it enough times.
I also know how lucky I am to be a writer - something else people are fond of telling me.
So, a couple of years ago, I decided to use my good fortune to unleash the literature that, like everyone, I had been concealing within. I wrote a book. Or, to be more accurate, I wrote half a book - around 50,000 words. As a journalist used to writing to commission, I drew the line at doing any more work with no guarantee of payment. Full of enthusiasm and hope I sent the first three chapters off to an agent, and waited with mounting excitement. Within a month, I got it back, along with a polite - and standard - rejection letter. Mindful of the fact that Harry Potter was rejected 6/12/150 times, depending on who you talk to, I reinflated my dented enthusiasm and sent it to a different agent. The same thing happened. 'Publishing is a subjective business,' I told myself cheerfully, (not realising that this phrase was written on both rejection letters and had now filtered through to my subconscious to become part of my 'try and try again' mantra).
When the bloody thing had come back seven times, and I was sick of counselling myself, I decided to put my book firmly on the back burner. I told myself that I would return to it some day soon, polish it and hone it and start the dispiriting round of agent badgering once again.
We recently had a guest at our writer's retreat who was also writing a novel, and clearly enjoying every minute of it. He had a refreshingly unusual approach to the entire business. 'My book has become my best friend,' he told me, 'and whether or not it is ever published is irrelevant to me. When life is tough, the characters I have created in it sustain me, and when it's good, they make it great.'
When he left, I was inspired to dig around in the darkest recesses of my laptop and dust down an old file. My book. As it emerged, I began reading avidly, and soon I found myself smiling. I was enjoying my book.
That day another couple of thousand words joined the 50,000 already there, and now the prospect of completing my book seems more fun. And finding an agent and a publisher, less important.
I suppose that what I'm really saying is that if, like most people, you've got a book inside you, why not let it out?