Tag Archives: humor

Exercise, Ovaries and the Meaning of Life

The late, great Victoria Wood is one of my all-time comedy heroes. With lines like, ‘Take my knickers off and my ovaries will ‘ave fell out or something,’ I challenge you to watch this genius step aerobics scene without splitting your sides. God, I miss her.

I read an article in Reuters this morning, entitled, When Heart Disease Runs in the Family, Exercise Tied to Lower Risk. I sat on this thought for a little while, wondering whether my youngest daughter would mind being buckled to me while I used the step machine. Concluding that she really, really would, I scrubbed that idea. Yet the truth hit me harder than she did when I suggested it. Heart disease does run in my family. It runs harder then we all have, judging by the look of things.

I’ve been thinking about my own morbidity a lot, which has driven me to exercise. It started, as I’ve written about previously, as I entered perimenopause and began thinking every cough or earache I have means I’m going to die. The solution to the problem has to be to take more exercise, yet I’ve had to alter my approach somewhat. All of a sudden, working out on a step machine while listening to Alicia Keys and belting out, ‘This girl is on fire!’ has become less of an empowering chant and more of a literal experience. So instead of _Totally bonkers... and totally brilliant!giving in to this overwhelming fear of death, which is definitely connected to the fact that when my dad was my age he only had seven years left to live, I’ve begun to try and turn all my new anxieties into something positive. I’ve come to realise there is (sometimes) much to learn from those we’ve lost while figuring out the way to make our own lives fuller and longer.

My father died when he was just fifty four. The ultimate cause was the last in a series of strokes that began as early as when he was in his thirties. A late life onset diabetic, he had to have his leg amputated due to complications and spent his last years in a wheelchair. This after being a young, fit corporal in the Royal Engineers and later, a damn fine architect forced to quit very early in his career due to ill health. Because, as it turned out, my dad was not such a damn fine architect of was his own health and longevity. He smoked like a chimney, was addicted to sugar (he liked to take carnation milk and syrup in his coffee) and was morbidly obese. It still hurts my heart to recall the times I eagerly ran errands to the shop for him each day after my step-mother left for work, because I would get to keep the change. I was sent to fetch what I wasn’t to know were prohibited chocolate bars and sweets for him, things that had been banned from the house and that he was no longer able to get out to collect for himself. Not a big drinker, my dad’s drug of choice was sugar and it, along with the cigarettes, took him from my life when I was fifteen.

My mother was a chain-smoker and died more recently. She was seventy-four and suffered from, among many other things, chronic obstructive airways disease. Something that will stay with me forever is the fact that during her last days in hospital, terrified from her experience in an induced coma in ITU and unaware she was dying, she told my sister and I that she would never touch another cigarette for as long as she lived. She was quite correct. Mum was a diabetic too, and had a lifelong battle with her weight. When my sister and I went to clear out her home after she’d died, we found boxes of Slimfast shakes everywhere. I cried, remembering that mum had been ecstatic at waking from a coma to find she’d lost around forty pounds – a feat that had alluded her, despite her best efforts, for all of her adult life.

_Totally bonkers... and totally brilliant! My parents have taught me more very valuable lessons than they could ever know. It is how they lived that has influenced the way I have. It was their addictions to tobacco and sugar, the resulting chronic illnesses and the realisation that both of them would have had so much more time had they known what I know today. Both of my parents had heart disease too, hence my interest in the Reuters article. I’ve never smoked, and have read everything on insulin resistance, fasting and type 2 diabetes reversal going, my favourite books on the subject being Dr Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code and The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet by Dr Michael Mosley.  The latter resulted in my easily losing a staggering twenty-seven pounds in two months! My eating habits are far healthier – and more informed – these days than it ever was in my twenties and thirties. I fast three times a week and feel all the better for it. I will never be a slave to sugar again, unless Gerard Butler coats himself in chocolate and gives me a call.

Yet I can’t find, nor understand, the will to engage in punishing exercise. In my younger years I did try hard to join those I considered to be the elite fitness folk, i.e. everyone with a gym membership card that gets used every week, and not just for scraping ice off car windscreens or to remind them of that loan they defaulted on after going for four months then giving up. I went to the gym once, and it resulted in a cardiovascular accident of a different kind: my public humiliation by treadmill, which I wrote about in my article, Who’s Laughing Now. Now news items like the one I read today, coupled with my advancing years, are making me worry all over again about whether I’m doing enough to avoid an early demise.

I confess, I don’t go to the gym anymore and it’s because I’m older. I’ve developed a more laid back perspective on life in general, and that includes anything connected to exercise. From years of listening to people brag about lifting fifty, I find myself pushing fifty and wondering what it was all for. Do I want to run for hours on a treadmill where the scenery never changes? Isn’t breathing in the fresh air of outdoors preferable to the CO2 and sweat of forty other people? Do my personal health objectives have to include letting a fit twenty-two year old monitor my vital statistics? Why did I even ask that last question? (Scrub that and file under life goals – Ed).

The fact is exercise, whilst important, shouldn’t feel like a chore. It’s like everything else _Totally bonkers... and totally brilliant! in life. Time is precious. I want to spend it engaging in what I love, never what I feel forced to endure.

I have two, regular workouts of choice: walking my dogs and freestyle dancing in a sporran.

The first began as something I had to do, but developed along with my deep love of the countryside. Where I live now, out in the Southern Uplands of Scotland, this exercise routine has frequently and unexpectedly launched me closer to Sportswoman of the Year than I ever thought I’d get. I’ve broken the four minute mile while been chased by Galloway cows; I’ve invented and competed in the world’s first solitary version of Tough Mudder in Socks by trudging up boggy hills without realising I’ve left my boots stuck in the mud at the bottom, and I hold the current record for most falls on my backside. I’m less of a fell runner and more of a ‘fell running’ kind of person.

dancing in a sporran
An OAP dancing in a sporran

And never let it be said that I don’t take the advice I write into my own stories. Dancing in a sporran was an activity I invented for a character in my book, I Hate That You Bloody Left Me. Elderly widow, Fleur Brookes, would put her mobile phone inside her husband’s sporran, plug in her earphones and dance away to rap music. Being married to a Scotsman myself, this has been my favoured method of keeping fit ever since. The beauty of it is being able to harp back to the days where I liked to dance about my bedroom, behind closed doors, pretending I was Suzy Quattro. I’ve been down to Devil Gate Drive a lot in secret recently, and no one knew until today. I do this mostly in the afternoons as I started walking first thing in the morning, after reading that working out early could mean you get more sunlight, a key to setting your body’s circadian rhythm. It’s been reported that people who bask in early sunlight tend to be thinner. This could be true. I live in Scotland, where basking in early sunlight results in your double chin being eaten by ten thousand midges.
Anyhow, I’m still alive and so are you as you’re here reading this. So between us we must be doing something right. My work in progress has a leading character who works out by letting a neighbour’s dog chase her up the street. There’s an idea I won’t be adopting in the near future, given that my nearest neighbour breeds and sells Boerboels, which aren’t Christmas tree decorations, as I first thought.
Have a lovely, healthful week.

_Totally bonkers... and totally brilliant!

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Hot Tub Springtime Machine

spring in the garden
Me as a snowdrop

The first day of Spring has sprung, and again we have the promise of new beginnings, plus a lot of dead leaves to pick up. The hardy little snowdrop has appeared again in my garden, having endured the harshest of winters in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. Which leads nicely into my telling you about the month I’ve been having.

Yes, we had some fun in the extreme winter weather. Yes, there were occasions when I was up to my thighs in snow and travelling home in the car was like flying through space on the Starship Enterprise. However, we also had a lot of fun being snowed in. I made warming bowls of soup, fresh bread and churned up some butter – aren’t I the saintly/homely one? – while Mr H went to face the extremes, digging out the car and chopping loads of fire wood. We were like the proper country folk of yore, with a Vauxhall Astra and a bread maker. Okay, so I cheated a little bit.

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Me as a Weeping Angel

Yet like the snowdrop bulb waiting under the frozen ground to bloom, we did suffer real hardships. We bought tonnes of candles for the anticipated power cuts that never happened for more than a few seconds at a time. There are no street lights where we live, so walking through a very dark cottage with the lights flickering on and off did mean I could freak out my fourteen year-old daughter. All it takes, in case you want to have a go, is appearing to be approaching in a series of quick, statue-still moves like a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who.

Then, of course, the private spring supply of water we love so much froze up on a Saturday night while we had visitors round for dinner and (one or two) drinks. Being twelve miles from the nearest village, our visitors tend to stay the night and-it’s-nothing-to-do-with-alcohol. This was fun without a supply of water. I was melting snow on the wood-burning stove to fill the toilet cistern half the night, because as we know, alcohol inhibits secretion of the anti-diuretic hormone (Fancy! I learned that in nursing college). The ‘do not flush when it’s only a pee’ policy seems to stop working when you’re a little bit three sheets to the wind. It was flush and be damned! Which is exactly what having no water feels like, incidentally.

Invited by our farmer/landlord, we raced round to take twenty bottles of water from the

galloway-stand
Not me as a Galloway coo and her calfs.  And three of her babies too =)

tap in his cow shed. Being up close to his Galloway cows, who have chased me through the hills in the past, was enough to give me more chills than I already had. Stealing their water right in front of them no doubt puts my face on their ‘GET HER NEXT TIME’ list. Galloway cows don’t see a soul but the farmer for months out in these hills, so they aren’t known for being the friendliest of creatures, as I found out when two of them decided to chase me one summer. I’ve hiked all over Scotland and never been afraid of cattle until I met the Galloway coo. With apologies to vegetarians, I have enjoyed many a steak dinner, but I never thought I’d become one.

So at the end of all this we headed down to Dawlish in Devon to visit my son, who works

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Me in the Hot Tub

on a holiday park down there and booked us a gorgeous, luxury cabin with a hot tub for the weekend. They had running water too, which was nice. Now, I have to confess I had never before been in a hot tub, and hadn’t intended to try it, particularly on that rainy night when my son and his girlfriend invited us in. It was raining for Pete’s sake, I could get wet! However, they coaxed me in eventually, and there I was, bringing sexy back in my purple t-shirt which kept filling with air from the bubbles, making me roll around in the water like Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And the truth is I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in a long time. It was a ridiculous amount of giggly fun. Everyone should try the drinking in the hot tub at night experience at least once.

That weekend I had treated myself to a little spring-is-approaching, time to get my arms

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Actual me with my fake tan face (Don’t look at the camera or you’ll look cross-eyed, don’t look at the camera or you’ll look cross-eyed… dammit!)

 

out fake tan. It was a new one I hadn’t tried before. First impressions? The quilt cover, my dressing gown and a couple of white towels. That holiday park won’t be having us back anytime soon. Apparently you aren’t supposed to go in with fake tab on, which I wasn’t to know. Interesting to note though, if you’ve seen the very funny film, Hot Tub Time Machine, and fancy a visit to Dawlish. This hot tub really was one. I got in then came out an hour later as me before I put my tan on. Two hours of soaking later, I was me at eighty years-old.  Three hours later, crawling out after copious glasses of gin, I was a toddler again. Amazing.

So that’s my March-going-into-spring written out for you. It’s been fun. Now I really must get back to my work in progress, a new book called ‘The Ballad of Jeanie Burrows,’ which is a comedy about a middle-aged woman who meets the ghost of Scotland’s Favourite Son. More news on that soon!

PS If you liked what you read I’m always grateful for a book download, which you can do by clicking the novel of your choice below. The proceeds go towards keeping me writing, so thank you for every, single one. Much love and gratitude, Heather xx

 

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Buy My Book! Buy My Book! Buy My Book!

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This is The New Mrs D on the first page of the TOP TWENTY Amazon UK 100 Best Sellers for Women’s Fiction Humour chart as of five minutes ago. On the same page as Helen Fielding and Maria Semple, author of one of my favourite recent reads, ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette?’.

Maybe for one hour, maybe a day… or maybe it will have fallen off by the time you read this. But thankfully for me, I have captured forever the moment that I WAS there.

My ‘unmarketable’ and now self published comedy novel for women actually reached number 11 on this chart within 24 hours of its release for pre-order for about an hour, but guess who didn’t take a screen print because she couldn’t believe her eyes? Guess who genuinely believed someone had placed it there by accident or that it was some kind of fluke? Guess who made a mock up cut and paste shot of it sitting at number one? Ha! Just kidding on that last one!

Note to self: hide evidence. Other note to self: Don’t forget to delete this bit.

I’m thrilled and so very grateful for the wonderful messages I have received telling me how much people have enjoyed the book. Self publication is no easy feat; it is as I feared, like throwing a fish into the ocean. There are so many great books out there and when nobody knows who the hell this ‘Heather Hill’ is, it is a very difficult business to sell yourself. So, in the great tradition of giving oodles of my comedy writing away for free over these last few years, there’s a sneaky peek of a chapter of the book below for you.

The New Mrs D is currently on offer until 2nd September at just 99p. That’s less than a tube of  toothpaste from the Pound Shop. So why not have dirty teeth, support some exciting, new comedy writing and buy a copy?

PS you may have noticed subtle shades of self promotion in this post. Ignore (pink elephants) them, you are just (pink elephants) having hallucinations after that third (pink elephants) glass of wine last night.  images

Chapter Four

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beeeeeep! This isn’t an episode of The Osbournes… We’re renting mopeds!

At the age of 18, I passed my driving test and wrote-off my dad’s car on the way home. I lost all confidence and handed back my keys, deciding never to take to the wheel again.

I’d only taken my eyes off the road for a second – to throw my L-plates into the back – when a corner had caught in the brushed nylon roofing material and pinged back at my head. But that wasn’t when the crash occurred… the crash occurred when I stooped to pick them up for another go. ‘It could have happened to anybody,’ didn’t seem to convince my Dad as I handed him the now-detached steering wheel of his prized Sierra Cosworth.

From then on, I’d relied on others to drive me around. Following a barrage of ‘Are you stupid?’ type abuse from my furious mother when I got home, and my own realisation that I must be the most accident prone woman on the planet, all the confidence gained in 30 weeks of driving lessons was lost forever.

‘My darling Binnie, I’m going to teach you to drive if it’s the last thing I do!’

With David gone there wasn’t going to be anyone to drive me around or teach me to drive – I was on my own. My driving license was in my handbag ‘just in case’ David could talk me into hiring a moped – though I’d been convinced he’d never be able to do it. My choices were to stay round the hotel pool with a group of unadventurous, sunbathing couples, or to get out and explore the real splendour of the island alone. It was no contest. For the sake of doing everything on the adventure tour group itinerary, I was going to have to take to the open road alone. Never had I needed some freedom to explore as much as now.

The short walk from the hotel to the moped centre took me past shops where I was able to purchase supplies to aid my sickly stomach. Bye-bye sugar low – hello very large bag of mini chocolate croissants, two cartons of orange juice and a packet of mints to stop my breath vaporising the faces of all the new people I was about to meet at the painting class. I downed the first carton of orange juice greedily, but still my suffering, grief stricken belly wasn’t accepting any food callers.

‘Now, remembers Mrs Dando, you drive with bike on the right. It is not like in the English.’ The boy from the hire centre handed over the map he’d drawn to Chris’s villa and searched my face for a glimmer of understanding as I sat astride the moped. Peering through the visor of my oversized helmet at the controls that he’d just spent an age explaining, I nodded… and the world went black. Pushing the helmet around until I could see again, I took the map and his pencil before grabbing the handlebars. This didn’t look so hard; what had I been worried about? Front brake. Back brake. ‘Why would I want one half of me to stop and not the other?’Accelerator.

‘And this button is…?’

‘BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!’

‘Oops! That’ll be the horn,’ I laughed, as several mystified faces appeared from nearby shops to see what the noise was. The boy, who looked about 12, failed to see the funny side. Judging by the look on his face in my rear view mirror, he was pretty worried.

‘How on earth do people manage with the island heat in this headgear?’ I asked, turning towards him but finding one-half of my view of his face missing, as the mahoosive helmet remained facing forwards. I adjusted it again, just in time to spy him rolling his eyes.

‘Don’t they make these things for people with normal sized heads?’ I muttered into the sweaty, foam lining.

‘Mrs Dando,’ the boy began, gravely, ‘do you understand? Do not forget. You drive on the…’

‘… right side of the road. I get it. Really, how hard can it be?’

‘Mrs Dando,’ the boy waved a hand in front of my face. ‘Are you going to be okay?’ he asked.

‘Fine,’ I said, a little more confidently than I felt. I turned the throttle on the bike. ‘Let’s do this!’

‘Okay. And Mrs Dando?’ he continued. ‘Can I have my pencil back?’

Except I didn’t have the chance to respond to that last bit because I was already revving off, giving an awkward ‘I’m okay’ wave to the lad. Which I wasn’t, because I hadn’t meant to move forwards at that moment. Where did he say the brakes were?

Even over the sound of the engine and through muffling headgear, I could hear shouts from behind and risked a swift peek over my shoulder. Seeing the boy waving at me, I waved again but struggled to keep control of the bike, which mounted the curb sending several stray cats scattering up trees to safety.

‘Aww, come on!’ I complained, revving the engine a second time. Looking back to the hire centre, I saw the boy had been joined by what looked like two huge Greek men, and all three were now running after me, gesticulating wildly. Shit, was I about to be arrested for pencil theft?

I turned the throttle to full and, as my head was almost torn off my shoulders with the force of sudden forward motion, I threw the pencil to the ground behind me with a shout of, ‘There’s your pencil!’ The moped charged onwards, bumping up a cobbled side street. It seemed there was no way to stop, even if I wanted to, without crashing into something.

‘Mrs Dando! MRS DANDO!’

Another rearwards glance showed that the sales boy had now jumped onto a rental moped with the beefy henchmen on another, all in pursuit. Oh god, this was it; I was about to be ambushed… maybe even killed! The island newspaper headlines of tomorrow flashed into my head:

BRITISH PENCIL THIEF RUBBED OUT BY LOCAL HITMEN

Would a stolen pencil really warrant such an elaborate daylight operation? Of course not, stupid woman. Maybe I was being mugged. Was it the stash of Euros in my purse I’d flashed while paying for the moped? Oh no, wait – they surely weren’t after my faux diamond emblazoned Primark flip-flops?

In a panic, I kicked one off into the path of an elderly couple as they strolled out from a hotel car park. The shoe shot straight into the old man’s portly, bare stomach with a sickening slap.

‘They have the diamonds!’ I called, mercilessly pointing them out to the gangsters before whizzing onwards to make my getaway.

But it was all for nothing; the roar of bikes continued behind me. I slowed to turn a corner into another side street and heard a shout.

‘Stop! Mrs Dando! You stop NOW!’

What on earth could they want? I reached down with one hand, trying to take the other flip-flop off to throw back as a ransom, but dropping it instead. As I cursed myself and looked up, an ancient Greek woman on a scooter was zipping round a bend straight at me, only swerving at the last second to avoid a collision.

‘What the…’

‘WAAAAHHHH!!!’ We screamed the last part in unison; ‘Waaaahhhh’, it transpired, being the international synonym for ‘OH SHIIIIIT!’ In an instant, her front wheel bounced off the kerb, sending both the old lady, and the basket of lemons balanced on her handlebars, flying, Frank Spencer style through the air towards a couple of teenage boys. Christ, I’m in a Carry On film.

‘Save the lemons!’ I called back, rattling onwards with no time to look behind again or wonder why my first manic thoughts were for Frank Spencer and the fruit – not the little old lady. Speeding away from the increasing chaos behind, I rounded a honking car pulling out from a driveway and yelled at its startled occupants, ‘CALL THE POLICE!’

Despite the throttle being fully open it seemed the tiny moped engine had no more to give and the roar from the biker gang got closer. Turning round once more, I could see the two bikes were still in hot pursuit, and for the first time I noticed the boy had a very fat man riding pillion. So there were four of them! And the fourth had mad lady-killer written all over him. Heart pounding with fear, I grabbed the nearest thing to a weapon from the moped basket and began hurling ammunition overhead at the assailants. However, taking my eyes off the road to lob miniature chocolate croissants was a last, fatal mistake.

Crunch!

The moped bumped straight up a kerb, sending my stomach boinging up to my lungs and my knicker tops rolling back down below my belly again, as the bike came to a near halt. This was it, the end. I waited for my life to flash in front of me… but a massive, spiny bush got there first. Without testing the moped’s brakes and fuelled by an extraordinary burst of adrenaline, I dived off, sending it ploughing, un-helmed, into the bush. This was where, in a moment of TV cop-esque brilliance, I rolled over-and-over onto a grass bank before springing back to my feet.

‘Whoa!’ For a split second, Mrs David Dando was Lara Croft; crime-fighting, tomb raiding stunt rider. That was until My Big Fat Greek Assassin got off his bike and made towards me and I remembered who I actually was. Bawling Binnie – with her knickers rolling down again.

‘Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! I’m unarmed!’ I yelled, trying – and failing – to get my helmet off before throwing up my hands in surrender to the waiting gang.

‘Other side, Mrs Dando! Other side!’ yelled Zorba the Crook, taking a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe bits of chocolate and pastry from his fat sweaty face. Spying his accomplices coming up behind, I turned around and flung myself face down in the dirt with my hands behind my still helmeted head.

‘Okay, okay,’ I whimpered, ‘just, please don’t hurt me.’

There are moments that should flash through your mind when you think death is imminent; the faces of loved ones, lifelong friends, long-forgotten happy moments, childhood memories. This was my crucial moment – and I was going to die wondering if Greece had body bags big enough for me in this colossal monstrosity of a biking helmet.

The Fat Assassin flopped down beside me and prodded my shoulder. ‘Oh God,’ I thought.‘He’s really mad! Goodbye cruel world!’

Dear Facebook, today I was so hot. Oops, bloody mobile phone typos! I was s-h-o-t.

‘Mrs Dando…’

As I lay there with my eyes screwed shut waiting to feel a gun in my ribs, (please God let it be a gun in his pocket) hearing him huffing like a muddy, wet contestant on Total Wipeout, his voice took on a calmer, more sinister tone.

‘I not kill you. You kill yourself.’

I froze. Oh my God, he was going to make me shoot me.

I heard him take another deep breath and cough. ‘Mrs Dando,’ he said finally. ‘You drive with the moped on the other side!’

‘I didn’t mean… I wasn’t… oh!’ Ah. Right… I rolled back over to face him, but again, met with nothing but blackness. Bloody helmet! So, I wasn’t going to be bumped off for stealing the island’s only pencil. Or for assault with a supersized bag of mini croissants.

Twisting the monstrous headgear off and easing myself upright, I was met by four nonplussed faces caked in, well… cake.

‘Oh,’ I said, smoothing my hair in an attempt to recuperate some composure. ‘Well, er… why didn’t you just say so?’

Twenty Eight Days to Mrs D

COver design smallerANNOUNCEMENT: Four weeks today my debut comedy novel, The New Mrs D, will be published. On Independence Day, which is sort of fitting, as that is what it has turned out to be for me –  a twelve times rejected author.

You can read pre-order the book now on Amazon HERE

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my protagonist, Bernice Dando –  a lady who, unbelievably, marries a man knowing full well he has a history of porn addiction and who is the most accident prone and socially awkward/borderline embarrassing person you’ll ever meet.

Or, is she?
Continue reading Twenty Eight Days to Mrs D