Magic Eye Me

Please forgive me; I offer this post not because I think I am inherently more interesting than anyone else.  In fact, once I tell you how i discovered these things about myself, you will probably agree that I am inherently less interesting than you.  

That’s okay.  

I don’t wish to come across as someone who believes that they should be the focus of a column in a Celebrity magazine, called something like “20 questions!” “Get the lowdown!” “The skinny on …”  Good lord no.  I barely rate a mention in my workplace newsletter or all staff email list.


That too, is okay.  My brain contains dark workings, too febrile for the general public ……


Not really, it’s just that I’ve had a week off and I haven’t done much with it, which has been truly liberating.  I think back to the article in the Onion, headlined, “Area Man disappointed to find that he has failed to sort his life out in week off.” Or something like that, the point is that I work in a job that regularly grants me a week off (no I’m not a spy), so I’m all too aware of the “I will turn my life around” phenomenon that hits and I’m cautious of its effects.  Monday: get a new job. Tuesday: sort out will and revolutionise wardrobe and living space.  Wednesday: Get fit.  Thursday: See all absent friends and family.  Friday: Meditate the shit out of it. Saturday: Sort out finances. Sunday: Repeat Wednesday and Friday.  This is made more challenging if you have any add ons, like seeking a life partner, or the desire to learn to cook or horse ride, or master an instrument for example.


Allow me to take on the guise of a salty seadog, propped up at the end of a beer sodden bar, holding a few novices in the palm of my hand and pausing to suck on a cheroot before delivering my credo.  Beware the week off: it fulfills nothing but your well of disappointment and shame!  You will never sort your life out in a week off.  A more believable timetable runs like this: Monday: sleep in.  Feel bad about sleeping in.  Tuesday: Get up with good intentions. Wander into town at midday and feel bereft.  Wednesday: Try to do the things that you set out to do on Monday and Tuesday and realise that it will never happen.  Thursday: Netflix. Friday: Drown out impending doom feeling about work through any available vice.  Saturday: Look at what other people have done on their week off. Sunday: do laundry, cry, drink.


Sorry – that’s just how it is.  If you are a novice!  A better option is just to accept that not everything will be achieved and that this isn’t your one-shot at success, anyway.  This week, I’ve been to the gym, watched an entire series of House of Cards, done some writing, done some walking, failed to get Prince tickets.  That’s a good haul, all told.  Well done me.  Through hours of not doing very much I’ve also found out some previously incommunicable things about myself.


I am a Magic Eye.  The longer I stare, the weirder the fruit.  For example, through long bouts of not doing much, I now know that:

The default taste in my mouth is parmesan.

I can gauge how stressed I am by how many hair bands I can avail myself of.  The fewer I have, the more stressed I am,

Facially I do have a better side, but I can never remember which it is.

As child, I remember being so bored that I danced full out to the theme tune from Sons and Daughters.  In a room on my own.  Full out.


Don’t worry, I’m back at work next week

Put the kettle on

Every Monday (and by every, I mean the first two Mondays that have elapsed this year so far), I go to a room with twenty other women to sweat and groan.

In hoodie and leggings, I make my way to the second floor of a terrace in central Manchester, above a Thai boxing studio.  I think they do Thai boxing; the door is always closed and the smell can only be described as ‘well used terry towelling’, but there are plenty of yelps and the sound of skin hitting boxing mitt, so yes, thai boxing.  I continue up the stairs and join the throng there to worship 6 kgs of metal for 45 minutes.  I’m there for the kettle bells.

Kettle bells are the maiden aunts of the gymfloor.  No-one really knows what to do with them, so they perch at he back behind the freeweights and the gymmats and the yoga balls, waiting for a date with a firm grip and a 6 pack stomach.  But in kettlercise, they are queen.


Here’s how it goes: you follow a 45 minute plan of exercises, alternating between arms and legs, finishing off (thankfully) on the floor for a series of stomach exercises.  The bell doesn’t leave your hand for the duration.  Each exercise is repeated for 1 minute at a time.  This is perfect for me, because I normally limit myself by the number of reps, with 15 being the golden number.  But in Kettlercise, you keep going for a minute, partly through dogged spirit and partly because you can’t remember what exercise comes next, so you have no choice.


This week we worked out to a soundtrack of deep house and acid rave – so most of the time I was blissfully off in a field somewhere in Hertfordshire, mentally at least, getting a solid groove on.  Most of the exercises would look ridiculous without a bell in the hand.  There’s lots of squatting and grabbing which would otherwise look like you were having a tough time sorting your Tesco shop, but with the bell, any movement has purpose.


It’s one of the hardest hours to commit to in my entire week, but I never regret it at the end.  Especially the next day, as I hover than collapse on to the toilet seat, I imagine my kindred kettlers doing the same in lavatories all over the North West, desperately clinging to the toilet roll holder for balance and company.  The quad burn is incredible!  I imagine a kind of alternative Half Nelson, where a student would walk in to find me collapsed on the floor, pitifully crying out for the loo roll.  Fortunately, this hasn’t happened, because I don’t know whether my headteacher would understand that my weakened state comes from exercise rather than sustained drug use.  If only, they kettled, they’d understand …. 

Thought jogging

I’ve been reading a lot of Sara Paretsky novels recently, specifically the V I Warshawski detective series.  In fact, I’ve read nothing but these novels since summer.  I devour them, often reading one a day (decadent, much?)and I’m beginning to experience a sense of loss, because I know there are few left; it is taking me longer and longer to search a new title out.  Because I read them so quickly, I often forget the titles (a Kindle curse) and have to read the precis only to discover that I’ve already shared that particular journey with V I and Mr Contreras and Lotty and the dogs.

Why do I love V I?  She’s a woman in her thirties and forties (she ages in real time) but she does all the things that only, and rarely at that, women in their early twenties do.  She gets her ass kicked, gets right back up, and fights back, and fights dirty.  She is unfettered by the things that women in their thirties are supposed to be concerned about; children, meeting the right man, washing the dishes, looking pretty.  And she loves her mum.  I cannot applaud her enough and she has given me inspiration from the first time I came across her.


And she runs every day.  5 miles at the least.   I have tried to be a bit like her ever since.  Not fighting crime and the patriarchy, but running as often as I can, which is an immense tribute from me, as I was not built for P.E.  My mum was an early conspirator in the avoidance of sports.  She was once uncovered in the gym horse, aged 12, smoking a woodbine, while her peers leapt gracelessly overhead.  she never forgot the bollocking that was meted out to her and was therefore always happy to write me a note to get out of cross country or hockey or whatever godforsaken physical jerks we were ordered to undertake.  Many a happy hour was spent holding the netball bibs on the sideline blissfully unaware of the venom boiling in the teacher, Mrs Marshall’s, perfectly toned stomach.

So when I say run, it’s more of a trot and instead of thinking about achieving that golden time or distance, I usually think about anything else.  Or read a V I Warshawski novel.  Another crime detective, Magnum PI once said that he did his best thinking when he was swimming  and for some strange reason this is the only piece of notable advice I hold on to*.  I can never remember anything worthy that Mark Twain, Jane Austen or Noam Chomsky said, but Magnum has lodged with me.


Because it is true!  Something about engaging the body in one activity frees up the mind to do other things, even if it is just a little mental spring cleaning, better than any effort to relax or meditate may do.  I am unlikely to solve any major intrigue, but I am likely to remember where the misplaced casserole dish is, or resolve to call a long-lost friend, or plot what to do with that unruly boy in my year 9 group.  Or devise a wonderful plot twist for my own novel.  Or whatever.


Like I say, I’m unlikely to break any records any time soon, but I will sort my life out a little bit during a 30 minute bluster on the treadmill.  Mrs Marshall would be proud of me. 


*Not entirely true.  The other piece of advice that I recall on cue comes from Annie Lennox in a Smash Hits from the 1989.  Always wear rubber gloves when doing any form of housework.  Thanks, Annie!