Monday, 14 December 2009

Computer says, 'fat bitch'!

Computer says, ‘fat bitch’

OK maybe it didn’t use those words but that was what it meant. My new toy, a Wii Fit, pulled no punches when it diagnosed the state of my body. I thought it would be just like any other computer game but was shocked to learn that it weighs you, gives you a BMI and awards your a body fitness age based on its results.

And its results on me were pretty damming. I have been avoiding the scales for years and tend to judge my weight on how comfortable my clothes feel, but I have always known I could do to loose a few (ah-hhem) pounds. The poor weather recently has meant that my meager attempts at running have been reduced to once a month, if I’m lucky. Pilates once a week isn’t enough and the empty calories consumed in the red wine I drink are a disgrace. But do I really need a computer to tell me that I am overweight and dying prematurely? Apparently yes.

The Wii gave me a fitness age twelve years my senior! I am a crumbling heavy wreck according to the black box plugged into my telly. But help is on hand, this little darling has promised to help me, all I have to do is visit each day for 30minutes and I will be saved.

Being a computer of course means it doesn’t sugar coat anything with excuses; the fact I am big boned does not wash with Wii. This is a nuts and bolts solution you can’t argue back with and that is the reason I like it. I have decided to give this solution a go, I know it is the wrong time of year or maybe it is the right time of year. I have to do something because if what this thing is telling me is correct, my body is going to start giving up twelve years before it is suppose to. I live in the West of Scotland, I am surrounded by premature old, young folk, it is not going to happen to me!

Once I made a Wii mini Mii (small and dumpy) I was ready to go. So what is it like having a computer as a trainer? My personal virtual female trainer is very encouraging, but individual games have their own scoring system. The boxing trainer, a crabby faced cockney, is horrible and shouted that I hadn’t even broken sweat. The text rankings aren’t much better; they hurl cheeky insults at you like ‘couch potato’ or ‘amateur’. It gave me an ‘I’ll show you’ attitude.

There is one exercise where I managed to persuade the computer to call me ‘Champion’. This is Zazen, a zen exercise that measures how still you can sit. It involves sitting on the balance board and staring at a candle on the screen. If the flame flickers your body is moving, if it moves too much the flame if extinguished and it is game over. Distractions are thrown at you, creaking footsteps and fire flies that sizzle in the flame. I can out sit the computer time of 180 seconds. It seems I excel at sitting doing nothing.

Monday, 7 December 2009

History Lesson

My weekend was spent in London and the highlight for me was a trip to see Billy Elliot the musical. I remember a few years ago watching the film with great interest particularly the parts about the miners strike, but the musical is a far better representation of these times.

When I was at school reading '1984' for my 'O' Level English I had no idea the year would have such an impact on my life. Billy Elliot is not just a musical it is a social history. There were many foreigners in the audience who I am sure did not really understand what was going on, or maybe thought that police riot scenes are exaggerated. But they aren't. The writer of Billy Elliot obviously lived close to the miners strike - as I did. From the years of 1977 until my divorce in 1991 I was married to a coal miner. I lived through that time and I had forgotten what that life was like.

It was the orange overalls that did it. Each week I would boil my husband's overalls in my hire purchase automatic. Tiny pieces of coal would get stuck in the rubber of the door. I would hang them out in all weathers just to get them out of the house. often bringing them in frozen from the line, like cardboard cut out. They never really were clean.

I never agreed with the miners strike. I hated all the leaders; MacGaughy, Scargill, Macgregor and of course Thatcher. Not one of them cared what happened to the families.

During the strike we had our rent paid and received a food voucher for the local supermarket. I would go armed with calculator and carefully buy a week's shopping trying to use the whole amount of the voucher. No change was given, no non-groceries were allowed. My blood still ices over with the humiliation suffered at the hands of the checkout girls if you miscalculated and had to decide what to leave out of the basket, while other shoppers looked on.

It was during this time that I learned to economise and have now turned this skill into my How to Survive the Credit Crunch course. The single mothers I teach are fascinated with my hard luck stories.

It wasn't until after the strike that many wives, myself included, found that Social Services were giving cash hand out to the men to help the families. In my case these handouts got no further than the Miners Welfare Club. How did I find out? As soon as the strike ended, Social Services billed us over a thousand pounds, the handouts were in fact loans and had to be paid back. Oh happy times.

There is a nostalgia attached to the demise of the coal industry that I will never understand. It was a terrible way to make a living. I remember my ex husband had pock marks all over his back from falling debris coming off the tunnel roof, the only time it cleared up was during his three week annual holiday. Many men were injured or lost their lives working in unsafe conditions. I admit that the small communities were unique but I don't believe it was only the pits that kept the community spirit alive, the strike shattered communities as is documented in Billy Elliot.

With the right attitudes and the right resources communities can thrive again, they just need another enemy to fight. It would be good, considering the damage the coal carbon omissions make to our world, if their fight is against climate change.

On a brighter note, Billy Elliot is not all doom, the dancing is superb and the young actors are to be admired. And the sight of burly men dancing in tutus over those orange overalls made washing them all those years ago worth while - my ex husband should be spinning in his grave.