Chester, Covid-19 and keeping your distance

Are you all safe and well? Fingers crossed that is the case if you are reading this. I hope you and the ones you love are okay.

This week, we went to Chester for a minibreak, a holiday booked months ago. By the time Sunday arrived, the doubts had set in—was it safe? Did it make us irresponsible to go ahead with it? As this was pre the isolation advice, we decided to go ahead…

Sunday through till the Monday afternoon was okay—the trains, restaurants, hotel and bars quieter than normal, though it was hard to judge as I’d never been to Chester before. Nothing to compare. Then the announcement went out that people should stay at home as much as possible, and avoid ‘unnecessary’ contact.

Chester Zoo

The following day dawned… my birthday. What to do? Chester is famous for its zoo, which features regularly on Channel 4’s The Secret Life of the Zoo. Was it still open? Yes. To do our bit for social distancing, we walked the three and a half miles there instead of taking the bus figuring we might as well add in immunity-boosting exercise.

The lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) regarded we gawping humans through half-closed eyes—their fears and worries only immediate. Where’s my food and is anyone stealing it/trying to hunt or fight me?

Enough to make you jealous of such simplistic thought processes, hmm?

Up close to the jaguars

Chester does a fair bit for conservation, reflected in the animals it keeps. Sumatran tigers (magnificent), painted dogs (fabulous looking), African elephants, orangutans and more. On the day, I got the closest to a big cat I suspect I will ever get. The jaguar enclosure had a large simulated-jungle bit undercover and one of them wandered right next to me as I stood next to the glass panel.

A privilege indeed.

Later, we stopped off at one of the Wetherspoons in Chester where people drank defiantly. Eat, drink and be merry… for tomorrow we die, right?! The manager told us later they were asking customers to sit at alternate tables and buy drinks by card payment only.

Quieter than normal, he said, but what to do but stay open when Wetherspoons employs some 43,000 people in the UK?

They’ve no choice now anyway, as pubs, cafes and restaurants were ordered to close on Friday—the government promising employees will get paid.

The joy of birdsong

One thing that struck me while we were in Chester… Sandy and I took ourselves out for a few walks. The city walls, down by the river and along the canal, and everywhere I heard plenty of birdsong and saw lots of birds. Isn’t it likely so much staying at home will benefit the wildlife in this country as it puts a temporary stop to human encroachment?

Come Tuesday evening, the visitor attractions in Chester began to close. Restaurants and cafes stayed open but were empty. Service was attentive and quick in all the places we went into as staff pounced, glad of something to do.

We cut our holiday short.

The lucky ones

Back home—one eerily quiet train journey later stations overrun by staff with little to do—I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Type 1 diabetes aside, I’m healthy. I don’t work in the hospitality or retail industries. I’m not trying to find work and my part-time job is easily do-able from home. Ditto the copy writing I do on behalf of clients.

At some point, people will need entertainment, which might lead to a surge in e-book sales. Perhaps people will crave the escapism of romcoms with happily ever after endings such as the ones I write.

One cheery story here—Man proposes in Iceland.

Finally, I have an amazing partner and family—all of whom will make the next few frightening months easier to bear. How will people on their own cope? Or those in unhappy/abusive relationships? People who need care, rely on visitors if they are housebound or who are homeless? I know this sounds trite, but I hope I can find some small way to help those who aren’t as fortunate as me…

Stay safe, sanitise and don’t panic buy, folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Month, No Wine! (Part 2)

I kissed abstinence good-bye (get behind me, Satan!) mid-February. The six weeks were okay, but Lordy having wine in your life is three hundred times better.

The alcohol-free proponents promise all kinds of benefits, from better sleep to enhanced concentration. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t expected… well, nothing short of a MIRACLE, really.

Productivity. I write fiction when I’m under the influence. It often feels as if the booze allows creativity to surface. I have struggled to write so far this year, and that makes me sad. 😦 Long-term, I know I’m kidding myself if I think alcohol’s necessary for writing. Maybe I just hit a blank after an exceptionally busy writing streak last year.

Skin. I took pictures of my face every week to see if I could spot any difference. Again, for this one I expected to emerge from my alcohol-free cocoon with the skin of a… twenty-year-old. Or I would be demanding my money back. I didn’t notice any discernible difference. It did confirm, though, that I am a rotten photographer, and I’m exceptionally rubbish at selfie-taking.

Sleep. Ah, now that one I will give you. Oh, the sleeping I did in January! It was blissfully lovely. I’ve not yet managed my husband’s enviable fall-asleep speeds (roughly two minutes, whether he’s been drinking or not), but I do get to sleep more quickly and stay there. Bye-bye 3am wakefulness!

Weight loss. I didn’t weigh myself, but I did measure my waist before and after. Nada. It stayed the same. Big, fat HUH.

Moods. That, I grant you too. The mood elevator Emma Baird rides on every day glided up and down a few floors most days, instead of pinging to the top and performing sudden stomach through the mouth plunges to the bottom.

Money saving. Hibernation meant I didn’t spend money on nights out, or in. I did, however, put a fair bit of money behind the till at Holland & Barret stocking up on (snake oil) supplements as part of an overall health kick. I also bought a LOT of face creams.

New-found liking for chocolate. Argh, where did that come from?? Actually, it’s well documented. People who give up drink often turn to the sweet stuff instead. That’s why wine gums were invented, after all! Chocolate and a diabetic don’t make happy companions, especially one who favours the low-carb approach, so I’ll need to give my new-found friends the heave-ho asap.

The Standing Desk – A Revelation in Health?

Looks comfy, hmm? And that great view...

Looks comfy, hmm? And that great view…

Ladies and gentlemen, a small but significant development in the offices of Highheelsandpinkglitter has taken place in the last week or so – I have been experimenting with the standing desk.

Throughout my working life, which now spans more years than the years I spent not working (why, why, why?) the bulk of my time has been spent stationary in front of a PC/iMac/laptop. Hence, according to experts who know stuff about the human body, my hamstrings have seized up and my glucose levels are in a permanent state of elevation. Boo.

Last week, I decided to embark on a standing desk experiment. Now, one can buy desks that are specially adapted to standing – fancy bits and pieces you can juggle around to hold your keyboard and monitor at precisely the right angle for your upright position, but I decided to go for the more basic, no-cost version.

I fetched two file folders from upstairs, positioned them on the kitchen counter and propped the laptop on top.

So, my wrists are in freefall  – I am not sure if this has long-term health implications for them, but heck standing does feel a lot more comfortable than sitting all day. Particularly as I, ahem, had elected to do so at the dining table sat on a dining chair and not one of those proper back support computer chairs.

I started a discussion on LinkedIn – does anyone else use a standing desk? A lot of people replied; yes, they do, yes they prefer it. A lot of them included useful links to sites which outlined the virtues of standing rather than sitting, or lists of famous authors who have done so (and when they died – now, not all of them reached a grand old age).

Anyway, here are the reasons why you should ensure that you’re not sitting down for the majority of your day:

Sitting for too many hours a day is harmful to health. It increases your risk of cardio vascular disease and cancer, and offsetting this with exercise (two and half hours in the gym a week) doesn’t seem to counter the risk.

Certain studies have shown that it is better for your health to be active all day – stand as much as you can, walk around, take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, do household chores, get off the bus one stop early etc – than sitting all day and then going to the gym for an hour. I know what I’d rather do…

Whole body muscular inactivity – or sitting for long period – can also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, Low HDL (or good) cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Sitting all day causes weakness in the gluteus maximus (I’ve always loved the Latin name for one’s bottom), which results in lower back pain. It also causes poor posture because of poor alignment of the neck, shoulder and back, fatigue in the limbs, painful leg cramps and clots.

And finally, standing burns roughly 50 calories an hour more than sitting. Now that figure stacks up and anything that increase my calorie count over the day is good with me.

For further reading, there’s an interesting account of a standing desk experiment here, and for a great infographic, see this one on mashable. And finally, if you do elect to stand for your working day, it feels like the most incredible luxury to finally sit down at the end of the day… (Promise).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together Forever… Whatever?

In precisely eight months’ time, I get to stand up in front of beloved family and friends and say: “I do.” (Should Mama Nature spare us and providing neither of us decide there is a better other half out there – y’know I can’t predict the future.)

Neither of us are religious: I am an out and out non believer and my fiancé describes his religious beliefs as “weak and conventional”. So, we have chosen a registrar wedding rather than a religious service.

The privilege of this is that one does get a say on one’s vows. My fiancé is pretty excited about this. He reckons he can work in something which results in me vowing to be his lawfully wedded wench, possibly also resurrecting the obey bit (as if!) whilst I am wondering about a long term promise, via wedding vows, to always fetch me wine when I ask, and forgive me my grumpiness as I forgive those who grumpy against me.

I’m very fond of my engagement ring…

One wedding vow I have been mulling over is the “in sickness and health bit”. Thanks to having relatives that lived to very old age (the magnificent Granny B lived to 101) and perhaps through a heightened awareness of the issue because of the organisation I work for, this one’s a bit of a clincher…

Some 17 years ago, my fiancé had a bad motorbike accident; unconscious for a long time, blood transfusion, permanent disfigurement etc. His future is likely to include a walking stick at the very least. I myself have a chronic condition which means cataracts may blind me, dialysis is a possibility and heart disease four times more likely. The ‘in sickness’ bit is just that bit much more likely to happen.

Projections for the future estimate that three in five of us will end up in an unpaid caring role. That brings with it all sorts of challenges – a relationship changing, the loss of independence, equality, finances and savings, not to mention loneliness, isolation and resentment.

Fate works in its own wee way. And there are plenty of self help tomes which will recommend that you always live in the present.

In sickness and in health… With the intelligent bit of ourselves, we can work out that the ‘in sickness’ bit is much more probable. Does that put me off? Not a chance!