For a while, when I was about twenty years old, we lived in St Mary’s vicarage in Bishophill, just near Micklegate within the city walls in York (you can just see it - red brick house attached to the church, here). We had a garden there, walled - one of the walls was the church. We (my children’s father – though they were not yet born – and I) had the downstairs: three large rooms, a toilet, a long passage and a kitchen. We used the kitchen to fetch water, but we used all our grant money for the term (we were students, I an undergraduate reading English, he a graduate student teacher) to buy a woodstove with an oven, the flue of which we fixed into the fireplace. Best thing we ever did, because it snowed and froze and froze hard and snowed white and whirling that winter, and every time I went out I had to wear all the clothes I had and a thick Nordic shawl wound round my head and shoulders. But because we had the woodstove we were warm as toast indoors, and even had to have the door standing open to cool us down a bit!
We had our bed in the same room, and a zinc bath to wash in; and in the corner, sectioned off by bales of hay we got from the farm out at Acaster Selby, where we’d lived in our caravan through the summer, our puppies were born. I learned how to give birth by watching our little cross-bred bitch ride those waves and let the energy surge through her as child by child she brought those little ones through: Havoc (after the Shakespeare – “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war”), Badger, Tiffany, Mary, and Harley Granville Barker II (the first was a Shakespeare critic). I thought there were six. Maybe I’m forgetting someone.
Anyway, they grew up in that room until we found them homes, sleeping in a box under the stove in that hard winter. We kept Mary, and she was our family dog while our own children came to birth and grew.
When she grew old, Mary knew life was drawing to a close. The summer she died, she savoured everything. Every smell on every slow evening walk we had to stop for her to really appreciate, really enjoy. I saw by how she really relished life that she would not be with us long. We went camping in the country, and she came with us. I never really knew a dog could have a holiday – but Mary did. She delighted in the trees, the grass, the hedgerow, the sunshine and the open air. She had a lovely time. On our return we had to go elsewhere for a few days – I can’t remember where, but probably a Bible camp somewhere – and when we got back, we saw Mary was failing. She had stayed with my children’s grandparents, and on our return we saw it was too late to move her; she was tired and old. She stayed on a blanket in the glass lean-to on the back of their house, where the breeze could come to her over the heather that grew outside the door. My father-in-law was with her when she died. She had been lying quite still, unmoving for some hours. Then she lifted her head to him, and licked his hand, wagged her tail one time, and she was gone. Way to go, Mary. She was a good dog. :0) Like Blue.
But why I am thinking of her today, is I remember as she was growing older, that she got stout, and the vet said I must put her on a diet to keep her slim. I remember at the time thinking (but not saying, of course) “She’s not fat, she’s old!”
I didn’t put her on a diet. Life was happening to her, and getting stout was part of life is all.
We had a cat for a while – I’ll tell you about him too, some day, but this could go on forever, so not today! Bart. He was a psychic cat, and he came from nowhere to take care of us through the time our lives fell apart. He was sent. When he came to us he was lean and hungry. With us he got very plump. When I married Bernard (who was thin) and we went to live in his cottage on the edge of Flatropers Wood, Bernard thought Bart should go on a diet. So we restricted his food. Up until then, Bart had been a good mouser, but every mouse he caught, he brought in alive, carrying them with the utmost care to release in my tiny apartment (inconvenient). But after he was put on a diet, Bart turned to carnage. He killed mouse after mouse – shrews, voles, all of them. He flung them in the air and terrified them. I found – I shall never ever forget it – an arc of loose mouse shit along the front of our chest of drawers where the mouse had evacuated its bowels in sheer terror as Bart tortured it and killed it. In his last act of carnage he took out an entire family of bluetits, and that upset Bernard, so Bart went back to live in the city, where he looked after my new son-in-law freshly imported from the southern states of America, and became his first English friend (apart from my daughter obviously).
So I have observed that dieting is a mistake. I have been on many a diet, and there is no need to add the word “yo-yo” because in my experience all diets are yo-yo diets. Every time – every time – I take off weight (easily), feel triumphant, get new clothes, then put it all back on again with a few extra pounds to go with it.
Last year some time I lost some weight – can’t quite remember when – maybe a year or so back. I remember I’d got quite thin around the time they killed Troy Davis, because despair seeps into my bones so easy and stays there so stubbornly when I’ve been dieting. I exercised and ate diet food and exercised and fasted and got mighty slim. All my flattened fat cells filled with triumph and my bones filled with despair but I was SLIM. I told my doctor I was going to make it down to ten stones (from the original thirteen and a half. Ha ha.) And then of course as time went by I put it all back on again. I remember I lost loads of weight looking after Bernard when he was dying, too. I got down to about ten and a half stones (without eating any bluetits at all), and I told him because he’d be pleased, and he said, “Well don’t go putting it all back on again!!” But I did.
I have no idea how much I weigh now. The bathroom scales are on Day 148 of my 365 chuck-out. But I sense something different in my body now. It’s getting fatter because it’s getting older. It wants to be stout. I take after my granny, and she was stout. I feel well, I feel peaceful. I am a bit astonished by the size of the cushion of fat on my belly and the circumference of my thighs, but hey.
I try not to overeat, but I’m through with dieting. Carbs make me feel contented. Sweet food keeps me cheerful, and keeps the despair out of my bones. This is not to say that I will eat unhealthy food. Vegetables and pulses and fruit and whole grains are the way to go. Delicious. They should be the main thing, with everything else as an afterthought. But I have no plans for dieting, and if my body is ageing into the form of a badger or an African bush pig, well, life is always interesting, innit?
I have no idea why I’m telling you this. It was just passing through my mind.
Oh – if you’re bored and want something to pray for, I do so desperately need a new kick-start of inspiration to get my present book project done. Editor waiting patiently . . .
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)
Blue cardigan from East. Ooh – that was pretty. Perhaps I should have kept it! Never mind. It was a bit crunchy, and I do have other cardis, also blue.
Elegant linen jacket donated into my life by my beautiful mama, who is a lot smaller than I am.
Glamorous cardi. Soft. Beautiful. Furry collar. I am not a glamorous woman, really – just sometimes in clothes shops I get bamboozled for a mo.
I usually like Rumer Godden but found this one a bit hard work.
Yet another light fitting. This one wasn’t even straight.
Well this was a very beautiful salt crystal lamp that kinda went to the Dark Side. It began to absorb all the damp in our old house, and left it in weepy puddles wherever it was hanging out until the effect became depressing. Binned it.