FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANY WAY I DAMN WELL LIKE

Well, this was going to be a light-hearted little number about how I scare the living Bejeezus out of tourists visiting our happy little town by driving round the place blasting unexpected genres of music and singing along with exaggerated mouth movements.

It’s quite true – I was doing it only this morning, bopping along the main street happily trilling along to ‘Go Home’ by Eliza Doolittle and causing seismic tremors in the pacemakers of several out-of-towners in the Market Square with my impassioned, not to say vehement, rendition of the finale: “I just wanna go home in my dancin’ shoes/Put my dancin’ shoes on/Gonna cha-cha-cha, I’ll cha-cha-cha my way home/I won’t stop till I’m/Goin’ through my front doo-ooo-OOORR!” …and so on. They seemed to be in fear of their lives for some reason.

And so it is by this wacky and roundabout route that we come to today’s real theme: fear. After almost a year of planning and daydreaming, the Highland Games become a really real reality of the real kind this coming Saturday. And I have to say, I am pretty scared.

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I just project apprehension, don’t I? But honestly, all kinds of stupid little fears are jumping at me like yappy toy dogs going for my ankles: what if I can’t even lift the stupid weights when it comes to it? I’m 47, for goodness’ sake, and I spend most of every day sitting on my arse in front of a computer screen – what if I’m kidding myself and I really am too old and saggy and wobbly to make a credible athlete? Is my throwing kilt too short? Are my kick-arse motorbike boots too extreme? Am I actually a self-deluded idiot that everyone will be glad to see the back of at the end of the season? Will I ever be able to turn a caber? I have hearing problems – what if I can’t understand what’s being said over the tannoy (seriously, can ANYBODY understand those things?) and miss my throw, how pathetic would that be? And so on… and on.

Fear eats you alive if you let it. Sometimes it does it in dramatic, bone-crunching fashion, but more usually it hollows out your resolve and character from the inside, saps your motivation and drive, paralyses you, a cancer in your spirit. You try to avoid it, flinch away from it, and it warps your path. Choice by tiny choice, you end up in a place you don’t even recognise, let alone want to be. Something I’ve learned: those toy dogs grow into Dobermans if you feed them.

In the pilot episode of ‘Lost’, the hero, Jack Shepherd, is talking to the heroine, Kate, about fear. He says he coped with it by making the decision to let the fear in, let it do its thing – but only for five seconds. That was all he’d give it. And he started to count: one. Two. Three. Four. Five. And the fear was gone. It’s a great scene, a great TV moment. It also happens to be true. This post is my five seconds, if you like – my way of dragging my fears into the light and letting them do their worst, showing them to myself for the yappy toy dogs they really are.

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Take that, yappy toy dogs!

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And that.

Counted to five. Committed my spirit to the Almighty. And oh, look.

No more fear.

Thank you and goodnight, all you Dobermans.

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Supergirl and the Killer Flamingos!

For all of you who have been jonesing for photographic proof that actual Highland Gamesiness is going on up here – your day has come. Well, kind of…

Remember ‘The Little Dance’? Here it is:

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Oh yeah, shake it baby!

For the record, I now have several new and interesting moves to add to my repertoire.

The first is something akin to Morris Dancing, but without bells.

And with a bigger stick.

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The obligatory “duck-face pose” avec caber. All the guys are doing it this year.

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Did I mention it’s a very, VERY big stick?

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Actually, it’s MY very, very big stick. Caber envy, anybody?

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OK, got my stick, who wants to dance?

The second new move is a Highland tribute to Michael Jackson’s seminal music video from the 1980s. I’m just calling it ‘Killer’:

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Then, of course, since we’re dealing in cheesiness, how could I possibly leave out ‘Supergirl’?

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Thematically linked by the concept of flight is the expressive ‘Aeroplanes’:

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And moving seamlessly from powered flight to the animal kingdom, I give you the Highland Flamingo:

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My Bangles tribute, ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’:

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And last but not least, to end on a classical note, here we see the Highland Ballet:

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Yes. It’s going to be an interesting summer!

Store-cupboard Brekkies

Yes, it’s another porridge post!

I figured everyone needed something calming after all yesterday’s… excitement.

So, got up at six this morning to get the firstborn on the bus to college. Starving. REALLY starving. And thought, “Aha! Porridge! I think I’ll just swing by Tesco and pick up some blueberries and yogurt raisins to go on top.” Then remembered that it was the crack of dawn and Tesco’s was firmly shut till eight. Foiled again!

Stared moodily into the cupboard. Tried another cupboard with no better result. Rifled through the tins, and found a small tin of crushed pineapple. Inspiration struck! So herein may I proudly present:

PIÑA COLADA PORRIDGE

Oh, yeah.

First you make your plain ordinary porridge. Then you add half the tin of pineapple, and mix it in.

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If you like cinnamon, add a goodish sprinkle, and mix again.

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I intended to add shredded or dessicated coconut to the actual porridge as it was cooking, but a quick search through the kitchen cupboards revealed that after last month’s ill-advised out-of-date-food blitz, I didn’t have any, so I substituted a good glug from a tin of coconut milk. This had the unexpected but welcome side-effect of making the whole thing very creamy-tasting. Cat optional. *Cat-hair probably not optional.

(*see my post from a few days ago)

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At this point I tasted it, decided it wasn’t quite pineappley enough, and dumped in the rest of the tin.

Top with a proud twirl of aerosol cream and a leetle sprinkle of demarara sugar, et voila!

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If you don’t have to actually function today, you could go the whole hog and add Malibu. Just sayin’.

Tastes nice cold, too.

Holy Crap, I’m a Wuss!

I’m starting to love my gym. It’s not an intimidatingly sleek, potted-ficus, air-conditioned mind body and spirit type of place filled with intimidating, sleek, potted-ficus, air-conditioned mind body and spirit type of people. On the other hand, it’s not like the (her words) crap box haunted by my pal Ethelthedean where the pipes drip on you while you work out.

My gym has the Goldilocks factor: it’s just right. Cheap-ish, quiet-ish, unpretentious, friendly, informal. I can breeze in any time of the day, say hi to whoever’s on the desk, drop my bag behind the filing cabinet and just get the heck on with whatever it is I want to do. Sure, there are TVs everywhere blasting out some godforsaken rap crap about bros and hos and mofos and all that …shizzle, but it provides a good strong bass beat for when you’re goofing around on the cross-trainer, and other than that I can pretty much ignore it. I’m strong in the Force in these matters, having raised three daughters to teenage and therefore being acclimated to a hideously wide range of musical styles. Let’s just say it would take a strong stomach to open the playlists on my MP3 player.

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Sweet Baby Jesus! What the mofo shizzle is on that thing?!

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I know. I know. James Blunt, Nickelback, Rihanna, Erik Satie AND Hannah Montana. *sobs*

The sheer volume makes conversation a non-starter, so that’s another plus. 🙂

I have recently passed over an invisible barrier, gym-wise. I have ventured where, I’m finding, ladies don’t tend to tread very often – into the free weights room. This is testosterone territory. It even smells different to the rest of the gym: sweatier, oogier, male-er. I have been strolling in and out for a few weeks, doing some upright rows and dumbell curls with as much nonchalance as I can muster, and every time, whatever men are in there always stop and look.

I mean, it’s not that I’m drop-dead gorgeous, ripped, toned and semi-naked; really not. Trust me on this. It’s simply that I’m female and middle-aged. They’re probably wondering if I’ve lost my way en route to the Zumba class.

So I feel as if there’s a spotlight trained on me as I shove the press-bench out of the way so I can do my pully-uppy things on the big bar machine. This morning, I went in early (7.30am, people!) to settle on an accelerated weights program to fit my last 4 weeks of training before the Highland Games start.

And yeah, I know I’m 47 and starting pretty much from scratch, but how lame does it feel to have to take away every weight plate but one? I’m bench-pressing 15kg, sweating like a sweaty thing doing landmines with a 20kg bar! I just feel like such a colossal wuss. I even had to ask the guy to take the weight down on the bar I’m using for back squats because I was seriously worried that I wouldn’t be physically able to do 5 reps.

I’m aiming at this:

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But I fear at the moment I’m more resembling this:

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Just so long as I don’t go too far and end up like this… human balloon animal, I think I’ll make it.

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Mike the Emergency Inflatable Life-Raft

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Holy facepalm. Shoot me first!

Ninja Fingers

Just a quick update to the previous post: added bronzey-brown to the greens – it worked! Now, instead of looking as if I have an unfortunate case of fingernail fungus, I have Stealth Fingers (patent pending)… nobody will see them coming! World domination next week, provided I can remember how to get the top off the bottle…

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I Kilt It!

The Highland Games Heavy Events have one particular, immutable rule: ALL participants must appear and compete in Highland dress. That includes me.

Ohh, yes. Time to consider the kilt, my friends.

First, despite the slightly unfortunate coincidence of it being termed “Highland dress“, vastly the most important thing to grasp if you don’t wish to appear a complete moron: A KILT IS NOT A SKIRT. DON’T, JUST DON’T CALL IT A SKIRT. Not if you value your assets, anyway. It may seem like a funny thing to say (heck, even I, having a puerile sense of humour, am tempted to find it funny occasionally), but most kilt-wearers (unlike me) are male, have heard the joke a bazillion times from lips less charming than yours, and will not feel inclined to chortle along with you. Not even a bit.

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Secondly, every kilt wearer you will ever encounter has also heard the question about what he wears UNDER his kilt a bazillion times and finds it, if possible, even less funny than the ‘skirt’ remarks. Some may go on the offensive and offer to show you if you promise to kiss whatever you find under there; the smart ones just wink and say, “Shoes, of course!”

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Speaking personally, anybody who tries to investigate what I’m wearing beneath the kilt this summer is going to find themselves in a new world of pain. But hey. What’s a girl to do?

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Yes, the Alternate Universe Princess Fiona in “Shrek Forever After” really rocks the kilt! Also the battle-axe and the kick-arse boots. My heroine!

As soon as I had definitely decided to do the Games, I bought myself a secondhand kilt off eBay. Why not new, you ask? Because a decent new kilt would have cost me upwards of £300, that’s why! That’s also why I’m not wearing a clan tartan: if I ordered a kilt from a proper kiltmaker, I could specify a particular clan tartan, even a particular weaver, and get everything exactly how I wanted it. I could stride confidently into their showroom and say, “I’d like an 8-yard kilt in the Ancient Graham of Menteith woven by Lochcarron, with a 16″ drop and black leather straps and buckles, with a fringe end, pretty please.”

Alas for financial reality! My Aunty Doreen (our family’s one and only Scots connection for aeons in any direction) just had to go and marry a bloke whose tartan is scarcer than hens’ teeth. So, reluctantly, because I love the teal-blues of the Graham tartan, I abandoned my shaky claim to Scottish ancestry and settled for a secondhand kilt in a rather nice ‘generic’ tartan called “Heritage of Scotland” (or in my case, “No Heritage of Scotland”). I hung my acquisition carefully in the wardrobe, and forgot about it.

You will have seen my training efforts below. It suddenly occurred to me that, if I was going to wear the kilt with conviction (and without embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions) when the season started, I had better get it out and get used to wearing it now. So when my buddy Robyn called to ask if I wanted to go out for a drink the other night, I said, “Yeah, OK, but I’m wearing my kilt!”

The first thing that dawned when putting it on was that this was nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – like wearing a skirt. It’s more like strapping on armour for battle. Honest. In kilted circles, an 8-yard traditional kilt is known as a ‘tank’, because believe me, it’s built like one. Trust me on this. It feels very secure, and rather bracing. And when you move, it swishes. I think it’s something to do with the six yards of fabric folded into knife-edge pleats behind you! Wowza, does it move! Swing your hips, and you could take out a small child or an elderly aunt without even realising.

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Kilts: weapons of mass destruction? Stand well clear until the pleats have come to a halt, ladies and gentlemen.

Robyn captured the event for posterity (yeah, sorry about that, posterity…). Excuse the specs and slightly crazy hair. I had done battle with fibre putty hair-product earlier that day and the outcome still wasn’t decided, so I rammed the lot up in a bun and went forth as is.

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Schoolma’am-meets-Kilted-Warrior-Woman. I think.

Or there’s always what I’m calling Attitude: Kilted.

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I’ll be keeping this kilt as my reserve/pubbing/ceilidhing kilt, as it’s a tad long for athletical endeavours. I’m ordering one in the same tartan from an eBay shop, it’ll be 8 yards, like this one… just a fair few inches shorter – a girly throwing kilt, inspired by my friends on X Marks the Scot.

As I’m sure I heard someone say on the forums one day, “Swish happens!”

And when it does, I’m going to be wearing bullet-proof Lycra leggings under my kilt. ‘Cos, seriously, nobody’s been quite bad enough to deserve the sight of my nekkid thighs on a summer’s afternoon.

Deprivation? I think not, Mister Bond!

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Does this look like diet food to you? Me neither. After feeding my family on pasta last night, I constructed this little beauty for myself feeling very, very smug indeed. Sorry about that, but it’s hard not to gloat.

This is (deep breath) half a butternut squash and one chicken breast, drizzled with olive and sesame oil and chucked in the oven for half an hour; half a tomato, wedged up; a big handful of rocket, ‘cos I love rocket; a handful of roasted pistachios (they’re the purplish things that look spookily like borlotti beans); a dollop of full-fat soft cheese in the scooped-out bit of the squash; a squirt of mayo on the chicken; a shake of lime juice and Lo-Salt overall (and here’s a big shout-out for potassium chloride), and a final drizzle of the cooked-out juices from the roasting pan.

That, my friends, not only looks like a bleedin’ feast, it tasted like one too. Who knew low-carbing was such fun? It also means I can have cream in my coffee, ‘cos cream has less carbs than milk, I get to freak out the disembodied voice at the McDonalds drive-thru in Newcastle by asking for a Big Mac without buns, and I still get to down the occasional single malt at the pub. Win. Win. Win-win. Hence my insufferable smugness right now. Again, sorry about that.

I’m just off to make a coffee and peanut butter protein shake for breakfast.

Love,

Mrs. Gloaty McSmugness of Smugsham, Northsmugsland.

xxx