Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Tell Me Where To Go

Lord Snooty and I are trying to book a holiday. We have two weeks off in September and as yet we haven't arranged anything. The problem is that himself travels a lot and I don't. He's been there, done that and has several hundred tee-shirts to prove it. Me, I have a wardrobe of foxy summer clothes, as yet unworn, and a burning urge to pose in them. I need a little warm sun on my skin, a poolside glass of something potent and fruity with several floating umbrellas and a decent amount of fizz in my hand. I need sun, sea and, erm, anything else that's going, if you get my drift. I just don't know where to go to get it.

Husband is happy to take a holiday wherever I would like to go, within the bounds of possibility, but the trouble is I just can't decide. That seems like a very spoilt thing to admit to, but I don't mean it in the way it sounds. I just can't choose. I am having one of my famous dithers.

I quite fancy Italy, but which bit? Positano sounds extremely cool but hideously expensive and now that I equate everything in terms of kitchen equipment (just a mini-break in that area costs twice as much as a new dishwasher, freezer and cooker-hood combined) it is definitely making me think twice about spending that sort of cash for a few days away. It feels almost immoral. The Italian lakes look fab, and more realistically priced, but which one to choose? I also like the look of those Trullo thingies (you know, those little pointy round stone huts), but is that going a bit too far on the "authentic Italy" scale? Presumably they have electricity, or where would I plug in my hair straighteners? These are all very important questions, the answers to which I simply do not know. I need some unbiased help.

So this is where you guys come in, please pay attention:

We don't like:

Anything to do with caravans, camping or mosquitoes, long haul flights, injections for hideous diseases (OK, that's just me, husband's already jabbed up) or in fact the actual hideous diseases themselves. We are happy to give destinations known to induce diarrhoea and vomiting a miss too.

Also not keen on:

Inner city litter. Scary dudes who grab your bag and make off with your passport, money and (worse still) my makeup. The bastards.

Can do without:

Screaming kids who cannon-ball into the pool and splash you and bat you with their sodding beachballs.

Really dislike:

"Real English Pubs" when they are not, in fact, in England.

We really, really like:

Sun, great scenery, good food and wine, nice restaurants and bars, a touch of arty-farty culture, a little bit of light shopping and comfortable but not too over the top accomodation, although I've never been one to turn down an upgrade or a little bit of unashamed luxury if it's on offer.

We could go back again to where we always go, which ticks all the above boxes, but it seems a shame to do the same thing time and time again when there are so many other places to go and things to see, but perhaps it's the safest bet.

Unless, of course, you've got any other suggestions?

Monday, 18 August 2008

Ignorance Is Bliss

Back in the office, the breaking news that my veins apparently resemble "Cheesy Strings" has caused a mild amount of hilarity given that I am the one who everyone agrees "eats healthy" in that I don't have lasagne and chips for lunch in the hospital canteen but take my own box of rabbit food instead. They are incredulous that I should have a problem with what I eat since mostly I am on a low calorie diet with plenty of fruit and veg and my lunchbox usually resembles the salad bar at Sainsbury's, minus the mayo. It's not unusual for one of my workmates to peer into the Tupperware and comment "Hmm, that looks healthy" before happily tucking into a cheese and pickle baguette and bag of crisps, leaving me to wade through the grass clippings which are my lunch.

It's not easy being in an office full of women who celebrate anything and everything with cake, biscuits or chocolate. There is no excuse too trivial to prevent a break-out of buns. You come back from holiday, you bring in chewy foreign sweets in lurid colours. It's your birthday so you buy cream cakes. You go into town to buy a pair of tights and bring back a huge slab of chocolate on special offer from Woolies, or a bag of Thorntons. You drink diet Coke so that you can, with a clear conscience, have a Mars bar just because it's Friday. That kind of thing.

It's all a cholesterolaemic's nightmare. Temptation is everywhere I turn. No other person in the office knows what their cholesterol is or has any intention of finding out. Taking a survey of what healthy eating issues actually worry my colleagues, the main areas of concern appear to be whether or not any particular food induces a) heartburn, b) flatulence or c) halitosis. The fat content of anything does not appear to be a question regularly asked, although the calorie content does in fact remain a very important one. To a woman, we all know exactly how many calories there are in a small Kit-Kat (107) or a bag of Maltesers (183) and some of us even know how many there are in just the one (10). But who can stop at a single Malteser? No one I know.

But cholesterol? Who knows? Who cares? As long as it doesn't make you fat, why worry? Refusing a piece of chocolate cake today, and having to admit to my new low fat regime, I explained that I had been told by the GP not to eat cake or chocolate any more "except at Christmas or on birthdays."

"But whose birthday did he mean?" my workmate asked, pushing the plate torwards me, "Just yours or everybody's?"

I am doomed.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Fat Of The Land

Went for the results of my cholesterol check today. Oh, bloody hell. The figure quoted sounded like a Richter measurement of a massive earthquake, or the number given to a very severe gale force wind on the Beaufort Scale. It's so bad I can hardly say it.

OK, it was 8.

Apparently my veins are full of lard and from now on I need to live on porridge. Dry porridge at that. Or for a special treat I'm allowed a bowl of curried dust. Marvellous.

I'm totally puzzled by this revelation and I am struggling to understand how so much of my "good" cholesterol turned so, so bad on me. What on earth did I do to offend it? And when did things get to this pretty pass? How can I possibly have a cholesterol of 8? Looking at the wall chart given to me by my GP (foods which are either good, not too bad or a ticking bomb, only to be eaten by those with suicidal tendencies) I still can't see where I've been going so wrong. True, I have been known to snaffle the odd chip now and then, or a bit of Brie, but generally speaking I am a careful eater. I even put my specs on to read food labels whilst I'm shopping, checking the fat content of everything in a particularly nerdy way. Yes, I know I waxed lyrical about Waitrose's Gourmet Sausage but I hardly ever actually eat one in reality. So how the hell I've managed to exchange my blood for a river of cooking oil, I really don't know.

I don't want to end up on cholesterol lowering drugs, so come on everyone, tell me how to reduce this terrible number to something more respectable. Three or four would be nice, but I'd settle for a five if that's all you can manage.

But don't say "give up chocolate". That would be silly.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

A Wet Weekend At Waitrose

Hasn't the weather been gorgeous? Been in the garden? Had a barbecue? It's been fabulous, hasn't it? Or not, if you happen to be in charge of the ordering department for Waitrose stores. For you, last weekend was a washout. You must have been the one person in Britain who opened the curtains last Saturday morning and thought, "Oh shit, it's sunny."

Determined to make the most of the summer now it's actually arrived, midway through last week we decided to invite a few friends round for a bit of a get together in the garden, as you do. With British weather being a touch on the taciturn side, I thought it would be a good idea to plan a weather-proof menu - a barbecue if it turned out nice again, a couple of lasagnes and a vat of chicken curry available should the weather decide to rain on our parade, and a massive strawberry Pavlova (or Eton Mess if it all went horribly wrong) for pud. Simple. I knew that whatever wasn't used could be frozen and eaten at some later date, apart from the Eton Mess of course which we would have to eat until we made ourselves sick. But either way there'd be no problem. I'm adaptable, me. And a little bit greedy.

So last Saturday morning off I went to Waitrose. At the risk of being labelled rich/old/posh (I am definitely none of those things, especially not the middle one), I have to say that I've always loved the store, their food and the staff so I make no apology for using the W word so gratuitously. I know it would be much cheaper to go to Aldi or Asda but frankly I just can't be arsed fighting my way round those megastores - and besides, they don't do Waitrose Gourmet Sausage which, frankly, are worth every penny. So there am I with my list, my recycled jute tote, my Bag for Life carriers, expectantly pushing my trolley round when, whoah, what's all this then? Or, more accurately, what isn't all this then? Hardly any Gourmet Sausage? No burgers (and these aren't just any old burgers, these are lamb and redcurrant or pork and apple burgers) and no strawberries? No fresh rolls or crusty bread? But why? What's gone wrong? Am I in so early I've got here before the delivery truck?

Apparently not. They have none. Bugger all. All gone. Maybe try tomorrow. Or Monday. I go to another Waitrose store (there's loyality for you) and when I speak to the manager, the story is the same. He says he is sorry, madam, but they've been caught out by the weather. At this moment I want to ask him if he's related to Michael Fish, but resist the temptation. By the look on his face I don't think he'll find it at all funny. He says that they didn't realise it was going to be so nice this weekend and had been told it was going to be wet, so they didn't order enough. It being summer and all.

My ghast had never been so flabbered. A store like Waitrose falling to order enough strawberries because someone told them it was going to be wet? How silly. Surely I can't be the only person who eats strawberries when it's raining, or cold, or even just a little bit nippy? I'd eat them with my raincoat on and thigh-length waders if necessary. Any why so low on sausages? Don't try and tell me that they're seasonal too. Surely sausages transcend season, you can eat them any time of year, any time of day or night. You don't need a weather forecast to tell you how many sausages to order, do you? Apparently, you do.

Ironically, despite the distinct lack of seasonal foods, Waitrose could have supplied me with everything I needed had I wanted to cook a Christmas dinner, a stew or roast pork. But nothing for my summer party. Drat.

So I did the only sensible thing, I left my half full trolley, took my list, my jute tote, my bags for life and my debit card and buggered off in a huff to summery Sainsbury's where they had loads of English Organic strawberries, and plenty of everything else too. Obviously they must have a better weather forecasting system or a more accurate piece of seaweed*. Or perhaps someone on their staff has bunions which play up when it's going to rain, and as she was tripping the light-fantastic throughout the previous week, totally pain-free, they knew we were going to have great weather at the weekend and ordered a shed-load of barbecue food. Or maybe they are simply more worried about keeping their customers happy than they are about having a couple of punnets of strawberries left over at the end of the day, should the heavens open. Who can say?

On the up side, on Tuesday, having forgiven Waitrose enough to pop in for some low fat yoghourt (back on the diet again), I was able to fill my freezer with all the unsold and reduced priced roasting pork, braising steak and as many Gourmet Sausages as I wanted.....

.... which goes to prove that every cloud has a silver-lining, or even that it's an ill wind which blows nobody some good, or any number of other weather-related proverbs.

Braised beef and carrots, anyone?

* For those of you too young to understand this obscure seaweed reference, in the olden days pre weather satellite, we used to be able to tell what the weather was going to be like by looking at a piece of seaweed which you'd hang up outside the back door. If it was shrivelled, it was going to be dry. If it was not, we were in for a rainy spell.

Or alternatively we'd just stick our heads out of the door, and if we got wet we knew it was raining.