Blogging, Baking, Berlin and Blisters

Im going rogue writing this post, as I am using blogging as a new stress reliever. Whilst I usually read some overly wordy descriptions of a Kardashian leaving SoulCycle on Daily Mail, or read their latest diss post regarding Justin Bieber (honestly, I know the kid isnt likeable, but give that level of fame to any red blooded young man by the age of 18 and im sure the same beast would have been created), but ive decided im feeding the trolls that spoil our online fun. So I decided to be the solution and not the problem and write some blog instead.

The last few weeks, nay month or so, as far as weeks go were rubbish. Tired and achey legs started the week. Man, can I just say marathon training sucks big time. Just when you think you’ve got it, that not only can this dog hunt, it can slay, you topple over like a weeble about 500 yards from your front door, being distracted by the smell of pizza, bugger up your ankle and leg and are left hobbling for a few weeks.

I could not wait for it to be over. As much as I love my marathon-honed physique, it comes at a cost. That cost was joy. In particular the draining of all joy from my being and replacing it with lethargy and the exercise equivalent of catholic guilt. However one plus side is my tolerance of carbohydrates. In one day you can eat 3 pieces of toast, a satsuma, a falafel wrap, a snickers and a piece of victoria sandwish and it isnt even 3pm. And have pasta for dinner. I should have a double chin, moobs and a fat gut that peeps out below a XXXL T shirt as I waddle in my giant sweat pants. Instead I need new work trousers as mine are too big. This is a good thing, but also very bad. Bad because it leaves me in a false world where one can eat what one wants and never suffer the consequences. I am now 2 weeks post marathon and the diet is equally calorific and I have yet to take myself back on the road.

Can I talk to you about Berlin. Namely, how wonderful Berlin is. Its fabulous. We were in an area called Prenzlauer Berg, which Mel described as the Shoreditch of Berlin. It was an area that reminded me of those parts of west London where you find homes built around gated gardens, as you would find green open areas in the middle of residential quarters. The streets maintained a slightly more “urban” feel, with graffiti and fly posters on walls and doors. In a residential area there were italian delis and restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, haberdashers, chemists, kitchenware stores, convenence stores and whole foods stores regularly sitting next to leather fetish stores, garages and kindergartens for children. The epitome of cosmopolitan. Now of course not all Berlin is like this, but I feel I have seen a lot of it. On foot, having ran the marathon around it. Im sure there are some terribly down at heel parts, but what I saw was basked in sunshine, completely fascinating, and populated by some of the most enthusiastic and encouraging people I could hope to be in the company of. Wonderful, all of them.

The marathon was great. My time wasnt, and im a lot upset with myself over it, but I did what I could on the day. Something happened to me and I was too cautious to start with. I didnt want to fly off too fast, but instead I flew off very slowly and couldnt recover the time. I then had to admit defeat and wave goodbye to my hoped for time, which I struggled with and got so upset I had to call a friend and ask for some words of encouragement. I ran my first marathon aged 29 in 4 hours and 30 seconds, my second aged 30 in 4 hours 10 and my third aged 34 in 4 hours 11. Now age wont matter but im getting slower it seems. I will be trying again I think to see if I can shave time off. I started with the 4 hours 30 pace makers so I was too far back but I didnt stick to their pace. Their pace was very comfortable I admit, but it was too slow for me to achieve my dream of a time with a 3 at the start. I stepped up the pace a bit. I had some very high and some very low moments on those roads. My lowest moment was when I knew I wasn’t going to get a time with a 3 in it. I just couldn’t cope. I am great at looking back with wisdom, I am just hopeless at having perspective in the here and now to prevent myself getting in a state. I began to feel burning tears running down my face. I mean burning. My body was a big old mess during those 26.2 miles, my skin salty, my leg muscles on autopilot but occasionally throbbing to remind me it was Ibuprofen time, my stomach feeling nervous the whole time, not through nervousness but just because race nutrition is so weird. A bit of banana, a gel, a shot block, warm lemon tea oddly, water. I felt sick about 23 miles in, I had to leave things alone.

Post race was fun tho. Aleksanderplatz has some open air bars serving bratwurst and beers. we sat, we ate and drank, and we cheered on the stragglers post Anne Shears ending. It was great. I wish we’d gotten there a bit sooner actually for more of the runners. We had such a great time. Post-marathon we were sore but proud. The next couple of days was just food, drink, touristy wandering, sight seeing, touch of retail. All fun things which went by in a blur. I tell you what was great, cheese fondue. I really recommend a touch of Bavarian/ Alsatian style dining when away. You don’t much care about cholesterol or calories, as you’ve ran a damn marathon, so why not make a meal of cheese. Oozing, dripping luscious yellow with a basket of cubed carbs, a tub of cornicons and baby onions, you’ll all admit that is just heaven. Washed down with copious bottles of red German wine. Great stuff. I had an odd dream that night though that my nan had a pet lion and it was playing on her patio with Daphne and bit her and I lectured my nan that she shouldn’t have a lion if she cant train it. I dont think I was unreasonable in my sub-conscience really, basic lion control is standard isn’t it.

So now I am home. Now what? I am trying to find a way back to running where its actually fun and enjoyable. I haven’t gotten there yet. I am still plodding and loathing it a bit. I haven’t ventured past 4 miles really. Its only been a fortnight so I can’t kick myself about that. I have found solace in organising things. Plans to go to the Ideal Home Exhibition at Christmas are made, plans for Anne and Mel to come up to see the new gaff and get as festive as can be have begun to be made. I have taken on the baton of christmas do organiser, and I’ve booked a table at a busy old pub restaurant for the 19th December- the Friday the world goes out, drinks irresponsibly and jigs to the Pogues badly. That’ll do for me. Too much distance from the main event and you feel a bit odd about pouring Gluwein down your neck and eating a turkey dinner. I am also having to organise the gay club Christmas event, and my annual outlet shopping for christmas shopping trip. This year its in York. I must admit I have over stretched myself with all these parallel things to sort out when my natural state is mild chaos. It will be alright, im not panicking, but there was a moment last week when I had been fielding e mails querying dates and my plans on two of these events and I lost the will to live and all faith in human kind. Believe me, being an organiser is a thankless task and everyone thinks they could do better. The thing I have learnt to say is “im not precious about it, you can organise it if you think you know of better places and have a better insight into what will work.” Not only does it demonstrate how passive aggressive you are, but also highlights how little motivation they have to actually do something about these errors in judgement they think are being made.

My weekends are back to being my own. There is something wonderful about opening your time up to possibilities. Mainly its been watching episodes of Nigella and drinking tea, baking dundee cake and bread, slow cooking chile con carne, dancing round my kitchen to the Staple Singers and mithering the dog for endless cuddles and to get the sleep out of her eyes. After the disappointments of 2013’s festive season, which coincided with us racing to sort the house out so we could move in the preceeding Friday, I have decided to do Christmas in such a big way. I mean, huge. I mean almost too much. Christmas on steroids, ragingly festive. I want a wreath, a lit tree outside. I want garland up my bannisters, I want garland over my fireplaces. I want pomegranates everywhere. I want vases full of pine cones and fairy lights. I want the house to smell of cloves and cinnamon and emit warmth and glow for all to see and feel. I want to maintain this over the festive season whilst hosting Pete’s family en mass for a week. It will be almost impossible I know but its what I hope to achieve. How hard can it be? I mean, Daphne is so much more obident these days, she wont cause me any mischief. As I type she is crawled up on my lap asleep.

Its 5 minutes to 5pm, she could be in the garden growling at Reg next door, but she chooses to stay here being a lovely little girl. She isn’t a reason for anxiety.

I have begun my Christmas countdown. Number of times in the last fortnight I have watched Ina make the gift basket for Joey and Mo, whilst TR and Michael decorate the tree and table? 5. Number of times I have watched the episode with the party, breakfast with Jeffrey, delivering the jam thumbprint cookies and traditional holiday meal? 6. I got the cards out the loft today. I will start to write them in November. I will compile my list this week and check I have all the names and addresses I need. I will make my Christmas cake next week, ready to feed. I will make a pudding the same time. I have ordered some books from Amazon, using their marketplace to buy used from stores in the US. Martha Stewart and Martha Stewart Living Christmas books, very reasonably priced. I know some people dislike Amazon for what it has done for independent booksellers and the impact its had on the print industry, and I get it I really do. But what the marketplace does is give people like myself the chance to buy out of print books from online booksellers. Used books don’t bother me at all, and it’s nice knowing Amazon is just a conduit for me to buy from a seller somewhere is New Hampshire or Virginia or somewhere. I have tried one man protests before, for example I bypassed Virgin and Sky to go for Youview when we moved in to the house. It was a joint enterprise, I thought lets give it a go. Useless. Absolutely hopeless. Back to Murdoch I go, tail between legs. At least this way I don’t have to reboot my box on a seemingly daily basis. It is so infuriating. The aerial works if plugged into the telly, but plug it into the Youview box? Its like russian roulette with TV signal. Yesterday I watched Nigella making squid ink risotto. Perfect signal. I watched 2 episodes of Nigella Kitchen and there was no issue whatsoever with reception. I had to go to the Chiropodist to have copious amounts of skin shaved off my feet, so set the recording feature to tape the festive editions of Kitchen and Express which were on after 9am. I got back, settled down with smooth feet and a cup of Yorkshire Tea, with a piece of toast for an hour of seasonal comfort. Both stated “part recorded”. My heart sank. I had 2 minutes of leaping, scrambled, pixelated nonsense. Nothing resembled turkey meatballs or gingerbread or filthy fizz/christmas in a glass/ anything we may possibly want to watch. Furious. Sky will be back before November’s end. Or Virgin. We’ll have a think about it.

I sometimes wonder whether my life should be more….. sociable? Exciting? I hardly ever go out. I don’t have the energy or inclination truth be told. I’m not NOT a people person. I’m definitely with Graham Norton tho, I improve with small talk and chit chat when I’m a few drinks down. But when it comes to weekends, I now know the precious nature of those 2 days out of 7. I never get to immerse myself in my home, in those things I truly enjoy doing. To spend time in the kitchen cooking an elaborate dinner not just a tummy filler, to tidy up, to do a sweater audit (which I did yesterday- found 3 I had either not worn or forgotten about), to walk the dog at leisure not in total darkness at 6am, to peg the washing out, to read the papers. What I dont enjoy is the effects of a night out on me. Yes, I love the fun, the dancing, the endless selfies, meeting very funny random people. I dont love nausea that lasts for 3 days, the low feeling of physical withdrawal from excess prosecco. I’m gay, its always prosecco. I don’t love the totting up of how much dinner, wine and dancing cost and then putting that into perspective when I think “that would have bought me that Le Creuset casserole dish I saw and lusted after last week in John Lewis”. I don’t enjoy the waste of one of those 2 precious days off a week mooching around the house with face on and no motivation to do anything. So I choose life, to take part of the monologue from Trainspotting. I dont choose sofa and greasy fried eggs and 7 consecutive episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Although I do love Drag Race. I choose a run out into the Peaks, I choose bread baking, I choose Radio 2, I choose red wine and bed before 11pm. I choose middle age. At 34. That being said, I am out next week with Amy and Pete for a Friday night out, followed by a Saturday of wine and Nashville catch up. We are post Bake Off now, I can do some chores post work this week. We can indulge Saturday, as long as I dont let it spill into Sunday.

So will this weekend be the time I learn how to moderate my drinking and be sensible? Dont hold your breath, world.

When I see you next remind me to tell you about the Maz’s birthday extravaganza that included a trip to see Yotam Ottolenghi in conversation. He said that writing required an angle. Thats thrown me, world. An angle? Whats my angle? I think my angle appears to me “moi”. Moi, with the odd reference to Barefoot Contessa to keep my blog name relevant. Moi, I love chintz. And Westies. Which is why my house is chintzy with a westie twist. I think for the next few months my angle is going to be Moi with a christmas obsession, but little reference to the religious bits.

But the good thing about blogging is I can tweak my angle whenever I want. I started blogging more foodie stuff than I do now, but soon realised I didn’t want to copy peoples recipes, adding nutmeg to a chef’s carrot cake recipe and call it my own invention. I have read those blogs and hate them, its not invention. No wit, little charm, little personality. Its lovely for them, there is a huge community who embrace that world of talk of children, parties, cakes etc. I can see why people are into it. Blog recipes that feed tiny bellies and Mum and Dad too, party recipes that feed 25 tiny humans, easy birthday cake recipes. I totally get it. But I like my blogs a tad…… quirkier I suppose. Heaven knows I know I’m a hopeless writer myself, garbled, distractable and never going anywhere! But at least these words are my own, not Bill Granger’s with a tiny alteration to claim it my own.

Right, I am going to put the rice on for the Chile Con Carne I made last night. I put it on at 5:30pm for dinner before realising it takes 3 hours to cook down as I had made double so it would take longer. I had to make an emergency dinner of Nigella’s barbecue mince, which was great but I stirred it up too much with a spoon and the texture reminded me of something served up to the orphans by Mr Bumble. Or prison food, as I imagine it.

Hope the world is in fine fettle. I’ll blog soon everyone with tales of my Martha Stewart aspirations. How fabulous is that?

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