(no subject)

New year's good intentions are rumbling along well. They are always sabotaged early on by the amount of leftover chocolate and cheese still around but at least now I'm thinking about what I'm consuming - the gluttony has stopped.

Having already lost a lot of weight a couple of years ago, I now know what works for me. Cutting out high sugar, high GI foods. Cutting out bread. Cutting out anything made out of wheat, really.

Cutting out sugar feels good. It's an addiction, and when you have less of it, you want it less. Cutting out bread is easy enough when you have some good alternatives in place. Missing out on pizza and pies is awful though and I really struggle to come to terms with it! There is a theory out there that gluten triggers underactive thyroid symptoms (sets off your antibodies). I don't know if that's true but the type of food that contains gluten is the stuff that's not great for you anyway in terms of energy and nutrition. But pizza is so damn tasty.

One thing that is working as an incentive is that I have been signed up for Wolf Run, a 10k obstacle course in April, with a bunch of people from work. I am still trying to get my head around how I feel about it. I have only ever run 10k once on a particularly ambitious jog one day when I realised I'd made it to 8k and thought I'd add on a few extra streets to make it up. I ended up running up and down my road just to edge it over the 10k mark! It was exhausting and a bit boring towards the end and I've not done it since - the most I generally do is about 7k. Then there's the obstacles... I'm very short and I don't have much upper body strength at all. That's not even going into how muddy this run is. It is not going to be easy! I'm particularly horrified at the thought of not being able to get over something and my colleagues having to help push/pull my fat ass along. Pretty good motivation to shift the pounds, ha!

Despite my apprehensions, it's given a purpose to my exercise and running and it's encouraged me to throw in some resistance training that I don't normally bother with. It's early days but I'm feeling positive, which is a good sign.

The other thing I've been minded to do is practice tai chi more, since my efforts during December were minimal. I thought I'd try a trick I heard Larry David used to help him write (although I can't find anything about this online now so maybe I've made that up). To form a daily habit, tick off on a calendar each day that you do the thing. The missing ticks in the calendar will be more annoying than the effort of doing the thing. At least, it will be if your brain works like mine, anyway. I'm even using the free calendar we got from our local Indian takeaway so it really does feels like a cheap trick with nothing to lose. I haven't been practising every day, but I've been practising more than I was last month and I'm enjoying it. Just need to keep it up.

I've been thinking about tackling my thyroid problem properly too. I've been feeling rough for months - exhausted after work, struggling to concentrate, awful brain fog. At one point it got so bad I felt I couldn't drive as I couldn't concentrate on the road. I have explained this to successive doctors (I never see the same one twice) who have all dismissed that it's anything to do with my thyroid condition because the blood test results are coming back as within range. Without going into too much detail (because I've been researching this a LOT), they aren't testing me for something I want them to test me for. I'm now getting full tests done through an online service whilst also starting to look at how altering my diet and the exercises I do in tai chi can help with my energy levels. Hopefully I can find something that helps.

2018: Complete!

2018 was a funny old year. There were some proper milestones such as buying my first property and reaching my ten year anniversary at work, big life events. Our trip to Naples in March was a real highlight too, as well as a couple of camping trips we took. But certainly in the second half of the year, I couldn't shake the feeling that life was sort of passing me by.

Doing up the flat meant that during that glorious, long hot summer we had, we were spending a lot of time indoors instead of enjoying all those outdoor leisure activities we love like cycling, walking, camping, drinking in pub gardens, etc. When we did finally get away camping on the August bank holiday, it was overcast and not very warm. I saved up a lot of my holiday allowance through those hot summer days and then found that Les' wasn't able to take any time off so I took a trip to Bulgaria with my friend that also had terrible weather. Everyone's memories of summer 2018 will be of sunshine and blue skies but I was always either in an air conditioned office or inside my flat with a paintbrush in my hand.

By December, both Les and I felt really run down. I am always a little sensitive to the shorter, darker days affecting my mood and the run down to the winter solstice and Christmas seemed particularly difficult this year. I am usually so cheerful about the festive season but I felt like I was in a daze, it all seemed to come around so quickly.

I managed to get nine days off over the break though and I'm happy to say it has restored my mood and my energy levels somewhat. I had been piling the weight back on, not running, not practising tai chi except in my class, eating too much high carb food and high sugar treats, drinking a little more alcohol than I would like, staying up too late, too often. It's winter, so to some extent you're inclined to hibernate, but it just leaves you feeling crappier when it's sustained over a few weeks. It's an awful cliche to make new year's resolutions but crossing over a new year does give you a definite point under which you can draw a line and say enough's enough, time for change.

The comforting thing is that I've done it all before so I've no worries about achieving this goal. I will get my good habits and with them, my good mood back. I am already starting to plan trips and we have tickets for Shambala in August so there are things to look forward to.

Hope that everyone reading this has a happy and peaceful new year :)
  • Current Mood
    pensive pensive

Thunder in Bulgaria

I'm sitting alone in an apartment in Bulgaria as thunder is cracking and lightning is flashing outside.

This is the result of from my ill conceived idea of a holiday.

Usually, I jealously hoard my holiday allowance, tacking on extra days to bank holidays and specifically allocating precious time off for trips and holidays. We have to use up our holiday by 30th September each year and I never usually have more than a day left.
This year I saved up five days expecting that Les and I would have a week away somewhere late in the summer.
But I realised far too late that him being under probation for his new job meant he hadn't yet accrued any annual leave yet so wouldn't be allowed any time off at all. I found myself with holiday days to use up and no plans to use them.

I spent some time at home, I visited my grandparents, I visited my brother in London and at the very end of September, I finally planned a holiday somewhere sunny with my friend Katy.

Katy lives in Istanbul but for my next trip there I really want to take Les, so I suggested instead a Bulgarian Black Sea holiday resort, as she could travel by bus and meet me there. We would get some late summer sun, drink some cocktails, catch up.

All good plans except that since my second day here the weather has been TERRIBLE. It's been grey, cloudy, raining. This place is called Sunny Beach and is all set up for holiday makers and but it is now well and truly shut down for the season and there is absolutely nothing to do. There is street after street of empty hotels, closed down bars and shut up shops. Quite depressing surroundings!

Thankfully, Katy and I are very good friends who go back a long way so were able to kill time by going for walks, drinking and mooching around supermarkets. I couldn't have asked for a better companion to while away the time in a less than exciting location so on the whole I think I'll actually look back on this trip with fondness.

In around 2006, I was working as a secretary for the Express & Star newspaper in Wolverhampton and Katy was a trainee reporter for the Chronicle. As we both kept LiveJournals and were based in the same city we found each other online, became LJ friends, then discovered we actually worked in the same office. The first time we met was an awkward chance encounter in the ladies loos!

We have been good friends since and been on many adventures since, despite not living in the same country for most of it. She is someone I know I can be myself around, which is a lovely thing indeed. It's been a good holiday for our long overdue catch up, if nothing else.

Katy's bus back to Istanbul was this afternoon and my flight home isn't til tomorrow so got some time in the apartment to myself til then. The apocalyptic weather has deterred me from spending any more time outside but I've got pasta and TV and loads of books - could be worse!

It's also meant I've updated my LiveJournal for the first time in forever, which is nice.

Can we start 2018 again, please?

2018 has not got off to the best start to be honest.

New year's eve was great, we had a few drinks at home then stopped in a couple of pubs before heading to the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. They had a couple of rooms of music on including a room playing cheesy 80s which is always fun. By around 3am we'd had enough though so we rambled home and Les played some music on his decks til we felt like going to bed. Didn't feel too bad the next day either!

It was going back to work when it all started to go wrong. I got out the house on time in the morning to find the tyre on my bike half deflated. I hadn't used it since before Christmas so it could have only been a slow puncture and I calculated that I was better off inflating it in its damaged state just to get me to work on time and so I could then deal with it once at work. I forgot about it until home time when I again decided it was less hassle to cycle on a half deflated tyre than to mess about getting a wet, muddy tyre of my bike in the dark and the rain. I made it home, Les helped me change the innertube and I we diligently checked for anything stuck in the inside of the tyre, but by lunchtime the next day my tyre was half deflated again and I hadn't replaced the innertube in my kit. Another arduous rumble home and another replacement (luckily I had an extra innertube stashed away in a cupboard) and this time when we checked we found a few tiny chunks of glass that were hopefully the cause of the punctures.

My bike has been fine since, but the combination of the weather and bike problems, added to the shock to the system I always feel getting back to a full working day, meant I've starting back at work this year challenging!

This was only a little demoralising compared to the pretty devastating news I received yesterday regarding the house purchase.

It had been left before Christmas with everything ready to go but the seller being strangely reluctant to commit to exchanging. We'd been in limbo over the festive period but as soon as this week kicked off, me and all the professional parties involved (two lots of solicitors, a mortgage adviser and a estate agent - sounds like the start to a bad joke...) were straight on it, sending emails and making phone calls trying to get things moving. The sticking point remained the seller and I'd concluded following a conversation I'd had with my mortgage adviser yesterday lunch time was that she was probably stalling so that she could find a property to purchase herself instead of moving into rented accommodation like she had promised she would. It still seemed it would all happen at some point though, and my adviser was on the case in putting pressure on her solicitor to move things along.

Then, I got a message from the estate agent asking me to call her and when we spoke she broke the news that the seller had decided to pull out. She hadn't given any other explanation except for "personal reasons" and explicitly asked her solicitor not to give any further reason. I get the impression there may have been some medical issue, which would explain this weird reluctance and slow pace there has been throughout this process - why she's been saying all along she wanted to move but was extremely slow to take action when something was required of her.

I first put the offer in at the end of July. The house had been on the market since the previous summer and when we'd challenged the estate agent and the seller herself on why this was, they were adamant it was because they'd only received offers below asking price and she wouldn't budge on the price at all. So I offered the asking price and it took her three days to respond (another warning sign!) but it was accepted.

A large part of the delay between then and now has been caused by my bank requesting extra surveys on the house. It had been badly damaged by the tornado that hit Birmingham in 2005 and had to have some of its walls rebuilt and a new roof put on. It meant that for a Victorian house, it was actually in good condition and had fairly new wiring and a new boiler and had been decorated to a modern standard. I felt I'd found a bargain, but paid a small price for this as I ended up paying over £1,000 for surveys before the bank would confirm my mortgage offer. Still, that's less than you'd pay for a new roof, right?

That was all done and the solicitor's searches instructed by the second week of November. I was concerned that the seller didn't seem to be in the process of making a house purchase of her own but was assured that she would be willing to move into rented accommodation. So in theory, we could have moved in December. Then we heard the sound of heels dragging and more warning bells. I tried to put it down to everything winding down for Christmas but it didn't look good. In a final attempt to bring things to a conclusion, there was the suggestion of exchanging (i.e. legally committing) before Christmas with a completion date (i.e. actually moving) in late January to allow the seller time to get out. I wasn't going to kick her out of her house just before Christmas but I needed the security of knowing the move was actually going ahead. Everyone involved agreed this sounded like a good idea. And the seller said no.

No one could understand why but it was a pretty big indicator of what was coming so I wasn't exactly surprised when I heard the news but it didn't stop it being any less disappointing. Mostly regarding the cost, which including solicitor's fees comes to around £1,600, which is not a small amount of money. I don't think I even own anything that is worth, my car is only worth a few hundred quid! I am in a comfortably paid job but I'm not wealthy and I scraped together a 5% deposit for this house purchase. The money I've paid for surveys is months and months' worth of savings for me, money I could have spent on holidays or used to live more comfortably or put towards another house purchase.

And then there's the time spent waiting for this to go ahead, and the anticipation and expectation we would move to this house, making plans with Les about what we were going to do to the place, collecting cardboard boxes ready for packing stuff, not replacing our dilapidated sofa or raising multiple issues regarding the flat to the landlady because we thought we'd be moving soon. On an emotional level, I feel a little heartbroken about it all.

I am also now critiquing whether I could have done things differently or foreseen what would happen. The seller's behaviour has been weird from the start and both the mortgage broker and my mom had commented on it as things were going along. I felt she was just an oddball though and that the house was worth the wait as most other properties I could afford were just not of this standard. At every step of the way, before shelling out for these surveys, I had checked with the seller's estate agent that they definitely wanted to go ahead with the sale and was assured they were a little laid back with the way they went about things but that they definitely wanted to move. But there were warning signs and gut feelings, and I am wondering now if I should have heeded them. All the professionals involved have been very kind and sympathetic to me and assured me I've done everything right. The estate agent, who is meant to be on the seller's side, sounded more gutted and upset than I was.

At the end of it all, I can only chalk it up to experience and try to put things in perspective. Money is replaceable and many people have had worse things happen to them. Speculating on what's really caused the seller to move out seems pointless but imagining it is something serious makes me feel sympathetic rather than simply angry (and I have been very angry!) and reminds me that there are worse things to lose than money.

Mostly now I'm trying to be positive. I've already scoured Right Move and Purple Bricks and am itching to go view more properties although Les has suggested we leave it for this weekend. I am hopeful the house we end up in will be even better than this one would have been.

So long, 2017!

2017 is almost over! It's been a good year, I think.

The biggest thing I did this year was take the very grown up step of putting an offer on a house. This was back at the end of July and it's still going through, partly because the bank wanted every possible type of survey done but essentially because the seller is dragging her heels for no obvious reason. I'm hoping the latest delays have been because she didn't want things progressing over the Christmas period and not because she's changing her mind, having already paid out so much for surveys and solicitor fees. But I'm also preparing that I may have to wash my hands of it and walk away in the new year. I've been in limbo over the whole Christmas period and have tried not to think about it all. But yes, saving the deposit over the last few years, seeing a mortgage broker, viewing properties, ringing estate agents, appointing a solicitor, signing paperwork, etc. have all been big steps for me and made me realise how much I was capable of.

The other thing I did was finally overcome the challenges I've encountered most of my life trying to lose some weight. Some of it must be down to the medication I'm on for my underactive thyroid addressing problems with my metabolism. I've certainly made a a real effort to watch what I eat and exercise more but I've done that before and not seen the results I've seen this year. Choosing better foods (no bread, more protein), obsessively logging every morsel of food that passed my lips on an app called MyFitnessPal, reducing portion sizes and going running a couple of times a week has been the winning formula, it seems. It wasn't easy but then I feel like I reached a tipping point where I lost enough weight that my appetite was reduced and exercise became less painful so it all became easier to maintain. I am now around 9 stone and now clothes in a size 8. I have not been a size 8 in my entire adult life and still feel I need to pinch myself that it's true.

Les and I climbed Ben Nevis in June which I think counts as an achievement in most people's eyes! It was both easier and harder than I expected. It's quite a gentle walk, it's just long and I struggled more with the long descent afterwards than actually climbing the mountain. We were blessed with amazing weather which is never guaranteed in Scotland. We also had a lovely holiday in Anglesey, I went to visit Jessica in Portugal and my parents in Gozo.

I read a lot of books, played a lot of PS4 (mostly FFXV). I have progressed in tai chi in ways that is difficult to write down but also get on well with the others in my class so it's feeling like a home, which is always an important part of being a member of any kind of club. Tai chi is becoming increasingly important to me now. As is the running, which is less about weight loss now and more fitness and mental health.

I think I'm doing ok at work but it's always hard to tell, I don't get great feedback and things can change quickly. Things are about the same as a year ago except that I think I'm more confident and better at my job. I know some things are changing next year which I'm pleased about. The influx of staff in the last couple of years has changed a lot about the place and one effect has been that as the company is getting bigger, more people in the office means there are people I have clicked with. In the nine years I've worked there, I spent half that time feeling like a loner as I spent all my lunchtimes and didn't befriend anyone enough to hang out with them. One girl in particular I've actually started going to theatre shows with after work. Anyone who works in an office knows how that imprisoned you can feel sometimes so having a friend has done a lot for my morale.

That's a few selected highlights of 2017. In 2017 I am going to buy a house, all being well, whether it's this one or another one. We've also got a trip to Naples planned at Easter for Les' 40th birthday, it's my friend Helen's wedding mid May (and I'm chief bridesmaid!) and in late May we have made rough plans to go on a road trip in Europe. So it's shaping up to be a good one.

We're off to the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath tonight as it's got a couple of rooms of music and is walking distance to get home, always nice.

Happy New Year to anyone reading, hope 2018 brings you everything you desire.

Clean slate

The last time I updated this journal was in February so it's fair to say I quickly fell out of the habit of keeping a journal. I have notions of getting back to it in 2018 and thought about creating a new blog, maybe on another platform, to give myself a fresh start. Also I may be moving slightly out of Moseley next year so probably not entitled to the label Moseley Jules. I am lazy though, and sceptical that I'll stick to any new resolutions, so I'm sticking with this page for now and have simply set all my past entries as private so it at least appears to be a fresh start.

Roll on 2018 - hopefully the next entry following this will not be in ten months' time!