Monday, 4 January 2016

Observations from my chair

Before I got ill, I was the woman who ran everywhere in five inch heels.  Like nearly almost everywhere, I mean, I wouldn't get on the treadmill in a pair of skyscraping slut shoes. I would be the one (late) running across the school courtyard, five year old child in hand, mobile phone in the other... Running... Running across the courtyard, inappropriate clothing flapping in the wind and meaty puddles splashing in my over made up face.

Running through some old ladies front room, as you do

Mainly because I'm five foot nothing but also, because I was bloody good at it.  And I hardly ever fell over.  That's a skill right?  So.  Imagine my the juxtaposition I came face to face with at spending a good 80% of my time in a wheelchair..?  I was about two foot ten tops in my trusty wheels of thunder or my "lady pram" as it became affectionately known in our house, causing an instant and identity stealing,  distinct lack of height.... But I shall go into more details about this in another post some time soon.

In my lady pram

But of course it's good.  I jest of course, I pretend to be that shallow, but all the time I was doing that five inch heel dash, I was observing.  You can see a whole lot more of the world with those extra five inches. 

I have always had stacks and stacks of empathy, on the outside I look like a freaking cray cray desperate fish wife, but I'm always on the look out for other people and thinking about what they're feeling.  As a result, I considered myself a pretty good pioneer for anyone that suffers any prejudice.

When I was growing up, I was near enough the only Asian kid in town.  Definitely the only Asian kid on our avenue in Redcar anyway.  Lovely place, it's got a beach AND a race course...

Redcar beach and it's stunning vista

To say I was different looking was an understatement, a place so backward thinking in bygone times, that our neighbours in Hartlepool were collectively known as "The Monkey Hangers," (their football team are still known as this.) And why are they called the "Monkey Hangers?" Well, if you don't know, the story came about because a monkey was washed up on their shores, during the Napoleonic Wars with the French and they thought the monkey was a Frenchman... A Frenchman?! They took the monkey to trial and then decided to hang the poor monkey.

 The monkey hanger incident took place in Cleveland some time during the Napoleonic War which ended in 1805... Fast forward to Cleveland in the early 1980s and times didn't really feel as though they had a evolved an awful lot and let's face it.  I did kind of resemble a monkey but they knew I wasn't French.

Nice fuzzy photo from the early 80s, from left to right, I'm posing in my hot beige boiler suit, that's my cousin Joni in the red trousers, my dad in his Christmas jumper, my mum looking like a twig here and my gorgeous sister in the wheelchair rocking a red poncho which I was later forced to wear and hated.

Kids down our street would regularly come up to me and say, "Abigail, you're Chineeeeeeeese...!" (In a horrible Cleveland accent)

And I'd say, "Noooo."  (That was me trying to sound less Asian and more Cleveland)

Then they'd say... "Yeah, well, you are African then... You're not English."

And I'd say, "Noo, I'm not.  I'm English."

And they'd be like, "But you have to be.  You're black."

Black?  Me black? I'm like beige at best, but black?

"Well, if you think I'm black, then that must make you Irish." I'd say... (Probably letting the accent slip as I didn't feel the urge to fit in with them quite so much at this point.  Also, my Dad would tell me off if I sounded too "Middlesbrough." Not condoning it, his views not mine)

"Nooo, we're not Irish....!"

"French then?  Are you French?" I'd retort. (The monkey hanging irony was totally lost on the six year old me, I just thought I was being clever.)

"Noo, we're not French... You're stupid."

Would blue hair make me more understood?

I mean, I knew they weren't French.  I was trying to make a point.  I was six for God's sake.

Then one girl asked... "Do you know what a Chinese burn is?"

"No," I answered smugly, this was bound to be proof that I wasn't actually Chinese.  I'd never even heard of a Chinese burn.

"I'll show you." She said sweetly, gimme your arm.  

I held my arm out obligingly, she put both her arms around it and squeezed it tightly in two different directions and back the other way with all her might.  Bloody hell..... It really fucking hurt.

Tears sprang to my eyes... "Would you like to play with my Sindy dolls?" I asked sweetly back...

"Yeah, alright then..."  So in they would come and play with the few bits of Sindy stuff that I had till my mum got fed up with them and threw them out.  The kids, not the Sindy's.

Chinese Burn... It what happens when you eat too many chillies, right?

This was a frequent happening.  Loads of kids down our street seemed to be a bully and also completely ignorant, so I made it my job to show them kindness.  There was always a reason for people's cruel actions, I put it down to stupidity even though I was so young.

Then one day, I was getting my gorgeous sister off her school bus.  She went to a special needs school, she has cerebral palsy, she was starved of oxygen at birth... She's eleven months older than me and can't do anything for herself and still lives with my elderly parents... But that's another story.    So, one day, when I was helping my mum get my sister off her school bus, one of those kids waved at me from across the green and then shouted, "Marie-Lousie is a bugger!!!"

A bugger?  I'm sorry but what exactly does one mean by calling someone a bugger?!  What kind of an insult is that?  Marie- Louise is my sister.  She's a cutie, she laughs a lot and needs to be fed and at the age of seven, if left to her own devices would just go wondering off up the street doing her funny little walk that she'd only just learned to do.  I mean, she dribbles and makes funny loud noises, but a bugger she is not.

I kind of passed it off in my head as absolute nonsense.  I was more impressed that the local dimwit family actually knew what my sister's name was... So I went inside with my mum and my sister and found my mum really, really upset.  She was not happy at all.  In fact, I'm pretty sure she was crying. I'd not seen her cry before.  We'd been screamed at and spat at in the streets by punk rockers... (Pretty scary that was...) Get back to your own country, were their words...  This is my country were my thoughts... I always wanted to put them straight.  In a calm and polite way of course.  I never got angry... I just wanted them to know that I am English.  Born in England.  Actually better at speaking English than them too...  But Mum would just grab my hand in a bad ass manner, walk even taller and say, "Just ignore them..."

This time, no.  My mum was crying... Or at least having a little sob.  Not sure of the facial wetness details... "What's up Mum?"

"That horrible boy, call your sister a bugger.  She is not a bugger.  Marie-Louie can't fight back. She never hurt him.  Nasty boy..."

"What's a bugger?" I asked.

I never got an answer.

This is me leading up to telling you, that after that, I spent more and more time hanging out with my sister and the other children she went to special needs school with.  They were lovely.  They didn't judge me.  

Girls in wheelchairs would roll up to me... "You've got black hair." Which I did. A true statement!  Lots of long black hair. "Can I touch it?"  Of course.

"You've got two legs..."  Yes, I did.  Couldn't argue with that one.  There was a gorgeous little girl with no legs at all who would either commando crawl across the floor or they'd put her in a plastic leg stand.  She was adorable, Tina I think her name was, she made me laugh a lot

They would say stuff about me that at least was accurate and true, I mean, some of these children were classified as handicapped and disabled.  (Don't get cross with me, this was the terminology back in the early 80s.)  And theses kids seemed far more astute and intelligent than my fully functioning neighbours...

"Will you dance with me?" All the gorgeous cuddly down syndrome kids would ask at the discos we used to have. I loved dancing.  I studied ballet and threw myself into music and
writing to escape the bizarre world that I lived in.  A world where I wasn't accepted based purely on the colour of my skin. And when I wasn't doing that, I hung out with my sister's mates at her group weekends.  A world where I was very much accepted.

And so I almost take you to my point.  My point is, that I have always had an extra dose of empathy.  A great deal more than others.  I liked to throw people off the scent with my mad clothes and bright lipstick.  But the fact is, as much as I have dealt with all manner of incidents and experiences in my life.  Nothing.  Nothing puts you in the empathy spot quite as much as actually being in that wheelchair.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lose Weight & Get The Body You Want Through Weight Lifting

I really miss my fitness blog.  But I'm still working hard at working out even if I'm not writing about it so much any more.  Those of you who have followed me from the beginning will know that I trained to be a personal trainer and worked as a fitness instructor in one of my past lives.

I took this picture of myself at the gym and have had a lot of stick for it, particularly the lipstick and blusher.  But it's funny, so why not?
I currently use the Holiday Inn gym in Southsea and really have to keep my mouth shut when I see other gym members training incorrectly.  People use the machines and weights with absolutely no control and have the settings so low, that they must be doing more harm than good, but I don't think they'd appreciate me telling them to soften their knees and straighten their backs!

The lady in the front is showing good posture and technique, I'd have to have a word with the ladies stooping at the back though. Tut tut.

My advice to anyone desperate to shift those pounds quickly would be to take up interval training.  You'll often see me sprinting for 45 seconds to one minute followed by jogging for three minutes on the treadmill.  It certainly brings out a sweat and it means that I can run for longer at a steady faster pace when I am not interval training. The same technique can be applied to the rowing machine, the bike and the cross trainer.

You'll also find me using the bench and free weights in addition to the interval training I do.  Which is why the article I was sent below, caught my eye.  I don't think women do enough weight lifting.  It's what our bodies are designed to do. I lift 7kg weights (12 reps), rest by working on my lower body, then I'll lift 10kg weights (10 reps), rest by working on my lower body again, followed by a final push on 12kg weights for 8 reps.  It's a killer but if you're going to workout, I believe in working as hard as possible.  My current favourite exercise is climbing, it works muscles you wouldn't normally use and is a lot fun as well as a huge challenge. I don't have the coveted Jessica Ennis body as mentioned in the article below but I'm looking alright for a 37 year old mother of three.

 Jodie Marsh works out for a gruelling six hours a day to look like this, her daily workout includes three hours of cardio work, two hours of weights and an hour of “posing”

Read on to find out more about REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals) latest press release on weight lifting.

Why won’t women lift weights?

Women keen to lose weight are often doing the wrong exercises say REPs
Many women associate lifting weights with dramatic muscle gain, avoiding the male dominated weights section of gyms at all costs. However, Jean-Ann Marnoch from industry watchdog REPs has explained that lifting weights can be an important part of workouts, whether training for a charity run, getting fit or even losing weight.

Lifting the weights will not leave you looking like a man, even after six hours training a day -  Jodie looks more lean than bulky
She said, “There is a common misconception that weight lifting should only be undertaken when building muscle, however, this is not the case. Lifting moderate to light weights for endurance gains (you should reach muscle exhaustion in 15 repetitions) has been shown to give improvements in muscle metabolic rate, in other words the rate at which your body burns calories. This means that even at rest, your body is a better fat burner, in addition to the improved tone to the look of your muscles.”
Britons waste £37 million a year on unused gym membership, with many growing frustrated as they fail to reach goals. However, if fully understood and utilised, lifting weights could help women up and down the country drop a dress size.

Drop a dress size and get rid of those baggy trousers

“Lifting weights also strengthens muscle and bone but does not mean you will instantly bulk up. Strengthening the bone is an important contribution to reducing the risk of osteoporosis or brittle bone disease. Lifting the right weights can dramatically improve the productivity of a workout regardless of your aim. Just make sure if you are receiving instruction or advice, you do so from a REPs approved instructor, who can ensure you safely and efficiently meet your goals.”

The number of women lifting weights could also dramatically increase considering the shifting ‘ideal body image’. With an abundance of ultra-fit, toned, sculpted Olympians gracing our screen last summer, a recent survey has seen Britons vote Jessica Ennis “best female body”, with 72% of women would now prefer a more athletic figure. 

Jessica's multi-disciplinary training gives her this amazing figure and those superb abs

REPs (the Register of Exercise Professionals) is the industry regulator for exercise  professionals, setting a benchmark for proficiency within the health industry. They ensure any registered professionals will be sufficiently qualified, ensuring public safety and confidence.

I am not a member of REPs but if you have any questions about weight loss and exercise, then leave a comment below. Right I'm off to do some crunches...

Friday, 24 August 2012

Southsea Fashion Week!

This is the article I wrote for Portsmouth Life Magazine, but unfortunately it hasn't been released on time, so I'm pushing it out on the old blog for everyone to see.  Come to Southsea Fashion Week - shows are taking place this weekend around the city.  Tonight I'll be watching from the front row at Portsmouth Cathedral!

Southsea Fashion Week is taking place at the end of August and will be something completely different for local people and visitors to Portsmouth to enjoy.

Intrigued to find out more, we interviewed Briar-Rose Kelleher, director of Southsea Fashion Week to inform us all further.

All photographs are of actual designers who will be headlining the shows.

1. What is Southsea Fashion Week all about?

Southsea Fashion Week is about giving recently graduated designers from
London and South of England a chance to showcase their work and build
their brand. Equally, to raise Southsea's profile within media, commerce
and the fashion industry.

2.  What inspired you to set up Southsea Fashion Week?

I am a Designer myself, I know how hard it can be to produce and showcase
a collection on limited funds. Also, historically, Southsea has aligned
itself with Portsmouth and its Naval heritage, it is only in more recent
years with the help of Love Albert Road, Southsea Fest and the regular
Boutique markets that the profile has been raised and branched in Arts &
culture, but not so much into high fashion.

Design by Briar-Rose Kelleher

3.  What can we expect to see happening during the week?

Friday and Saturday evening will unveil collections with a particular
focus: At Portsmouth Cathedral on the Friday, Ready to Wear and Demi
Couture collections will walk the runway, with Saturday's show at St
Peter's Church beginning with Haute Couture and ending in the adventurous
and sometimes shocking Avant- Garde. We have tried to cater for all areas
of runway fashion to enable a fluent yet exciting show.

Headliners include Carlotta Actis Barone, Dumpster Couture, MIMI.C and Sef

The fashion week will end on a high with the SFW Closing party at the Wine
Vaults offering entertainement from live bands and DJs.

Carlotta Actis Barone

4.  Who are your hot recommendations for Southsea Fashion Week?

Oh, hard question! Carlotta Actis Barone is a London Fashion Week regular,
for SFW she has put together a capsule collection of her previous work
that I can't wait to see. Also, Boat Khajeenikorn, I didn't think menswear
could excite me so much it is simply stunning! Also, Kayleigh Norman,
Lesley De Freitas, Laura Jane Bailey and Mimi.c from Friday's show and
Melanie Austin, Gerli Liivamagi and Amber Hards from Saturday. Almost
mentioned everyone...

Boat Khajeenikorn

5.  How would you describe your own personal style?

Over the past year I have taken a 40 year leap from being a faithful
1940-50's vintage girl to reliving my 90's childhood with rainbow hair,
platform trainers and backpacks.

Carlotta Actis Barone

6.  Who are your fashion influences?

In personal style I take influence from 90's films and style, when
designing, my main influences are Alexander McQueen and Gustav Klimt.

Dumpster Avant Garde Headline

7.  How do you support local businesses involved in

We have the high street fashion, we have great vintage shops but where is
all the high end fashion? There needs to be a market in Southsea for it
which is what local SFW designers such as myself, Dumpster Couture, Nicole
Ford, Jessie Potter, Katie Barrett and Mia Mai are showing.

Kayleigh Norman

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