I came to Greece in my gap year before university. It turned into a 27 year long gap. After my liver thanked me for ending my party years as a holiday rep, I went on to teach English to Greek teenagers. This part of my career was what is commonly known as a ‘flash in the pan’. If you have ever sat in an enclosed space with 15 Greek teenagers you will understand why. Ironically after this, I went on to start my own noisy Greek family and started a villa rental business alongside. Today I am the proud mother (but not English teacher) to two teenagers and continue to give a personal touch to my villa rental business.
I can’t function for a couple of hours after my run and find myself watching ‘The Great British Bake off’. Fortunately I am too exhausted to compete with them, but I do contemplate challenging Jo Brand to start running. (Oh yeah, I watched ‘The extra slice’ too. I told you it was a couple of hours.) I bet she would be a hoot.
I am now an early morning runner. Not much choice really. If I left it to the afternoon it would never happen and its just too blooming hot. But my daughters’ social lives and Greek island life are not conducive to early nights in the summer and I am feeling the agitation from lack of quality sleep. Continue reading “Meltdown. And solidify.”→
It takes a couple of minutes to register that the scream is a scream and no longer ‘singing’ along to One Direction or general teenage conversation. There’s movement too. Gangly knees poking into the back of my drivers seat as someone writhes about to accompany the screaming.
‘What’s the matter?’
‘There’s an insect!’
I pull over and between myself and 4 hysterical teenagers we get the insect to disembark so that it can no longer endanger their lives by, erm, buzzing.
We are Poppy and Maria (my daughters) and Mary and Tina (twins) who are Poppy’s BFF’s. And myself of course. Self styled, well cool mum who the girls just love to hang out with.
‘Lets go and light a candle first’ I say to the car as I am locking it since the girls are already off up the road.
We have come to the ‘Paniyiri’ in Kremasti. This is the religious festival which celebrates the ‘assumption of the virgin mary’. As far as I can tell, there are two assumptions here. The first is that the virgin Mary died on this day and the second is that she was ‘assumed’ into heaven, as opposed to physically decaying on earth. The date celebrated is 15th August and one of the most important in the Greek orthodox calendar. You can read about what the saints day celebrations entail here. This particular celebration goes on for well over a week and is centred around the big church in the square which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As with all good greek festivals there is plenty of food around. Souvlaki (pork on a skewer) sizzling on hot coals, corn on the cob, candy floss. And then there are Loukoumades. Freshly fried balls of soft dough, smothered in honey and liberally sprinkled with cinnamon. I’m drooling as I type.
I catch up with the girls outside the church, although I nearly miss Mary as she is hidden behind a giant ball of candy floss.
‘We had to buy it to get some change for the church candles.’ They smile. Fair enough. Mary gets her change back, but it’s still too big for the collection box so we decide to break it down some more by ordering souvlakis.
Feeling a bit sick, we wander along the gaudily lit stalls of tat and after being momentarily distracted by the fairground (think health and safety nightmare) we end up at the church. We light our candles outside and go inside. The church is big and imposing and exquisitely decorated. The smell of incense is heavy in the air and people are quiet and thoughtful as they cross themselves and kiss the icons.
We spill out into the warm evening air. Its past 11pm, but people are still arriving. We spend our last euros on loukoumades and ‘komboskinia’ and walk back to the car. As Tina is about to get in the car she suddenly leaps back with a shriek.
‘There’s a spider!’
Its going to be long drive home…
(‘Komboskinia’ are prayer bracelets made of 33 knots. You are supposed to pass the bracelet though your fingers, saying a prayer at each knot. There is a bead or cross in the middle so you know where to start and finish. The number 33 represents the age of Jesus. People often buy them as gifts to bring good luck to their friends and keep the devil away!)
I’ve become very attached to this old boy. A lovely old ‘Pappou’ with his head back, snoring. I call him ‘O Rochalitos’ – the Snorer. I see him from all my happy places – on the home stretch from my run, from the beach where I swim and from my house.
I nearly deleted the email. I’ve been getting a lot of junk mail with similar subjects recently. You have been selected…for a new herpes cream/penis enlargement/replacement windows. But no, I have been selected as an official blogger for ‘Too fat to run – the fat girls guide to running’!
As I read through my fellow bloggers bio’s (here) I can’t help feeling a bit of a fraud. I am fat and I am a runner, but an official blogger? These guys have been blogging forever and have at least a zillion followers. I have my mum and some facebook friends…
I tell my friends the news. They are delighted, although some had misgivings; what about when you lose weight and are no longer ‘fat’? One even exclaimed ‘But you are not fat!’. I like that they concentrated on the fat issue and didn’t say ‘but you aren’t a blogger’ or ‘you can’t call yourself a runner’. It’s probably why they are my friends.
But they did say ‘when you lose weight’. Because for as long as any of my friends have known me, I have been at that ‘when I lose weight’ precipice. I’ve just never managed to push myself over. I’m not hung up about my weight, or not enough to actually do something about it. I’m currently 5 weeks into a half marathon training programme. I run three days a week and swim on the other 4. I am still in the ‘obese’ area on the BMI chart. Obviously I have heavy bones.
I did start running to lose weight initially. Now I’m eighteen months down the line and possibly a few kilos heavier than when I started. Because the truth, according to my nutritionist friend, is that weight loss is 80% healthy eating and only 20% exercise. I’m sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear. Running alone will not get you into those skinny jeans you bought in the sale because ‘you will lose weight’. But it might just make you want to lose weight so that you can run further or faster.
I started on the 27th December 2013. I was post Christmas bloated and couldn’t wait for New years resolutions. I put on my trainers and was heading out the door when my then 12 year old daughter Poppy said she was coming too. We endured little bursts of jogging interspersed with welcomed bouts of walking. We flicked ahead on our training programme to see what the future held and rolled our eyes at week 5, day 3 – ‘jog for 20 minutes’. Would we really ever be able to run for 20 minutes without walking?
We did. According to our stats, our running pace was only 7 seconds a kilometer faster than our walking pace, but who cares?! We RAN without walking for 20 whole minutes!
‘Do you want to go to Thessaloniki and do a 5k race?’ I asked Poppy.
She wasn’t sure. So far we had been running in places where we were unlikely to be seen. But at least she didn’t know anybody in Thessaloniki, an hours flight away from Rhodes. So she agreed.
On April 6th 2014 we find ourselves in the Alexander the great marathon. The 5k part of it anyway. The route takes us from the suburbs right into the centre of Thessaloniki. Along the harbor front and with the finish at the landmark ‘White Tower’. We get a taxi to the starting point and are dumbstruck when he drops us half a kilometer away because there are so many people! Feeling like a couple of hicks from the sticks, we edge our way into a spot in the middle of this throng of 8500 people.
Poppy’s discomfort is flowing off her in waves. Her mouth is set in a grim line. ‘This is embaressing’ she mutters. ‘We won’t even be able to run all the way. We will make fools of ourselves.’
Then we are off. She is like a hare at a greyhound track. I’m battling with keeping a steady pace I can maintain and trying to keep up with miss doom and gloom. We dodge the walkers (that makes us feel good) and Poppy keeps looking back for me, urging me on to go faster. We settle into a pace and before we know it we are on the last kilometer with the White tower and the end line in sight. It can’t come soon enough for me, but Poppy the gazelle is totally living the moment and sprints over the finishing line. She turns to me with a big grin
‘Mum that was great. We have to do another race!’
And that’s the rub with running. Before and during you might be thinking ‘what on earth’. But at the finish you just want to go and do it all again.
On the night of the blue moon I was busy counting my blessings. We were down on the beach just below my house, (that one was counted). We weren’t the only ones; there were lots of people there to enjoy the spectacle. Families with small children, groups of friends from all age groups. Mostly Greek. Everyone had settled in a spot and there was a gentle babble of conversations punctuated with exclamations and laughter, emphasized with energetic gesticulations. People dipped in and out of the sea and it was peaceful. Not in a silent or quiet way, but in a ‘feeling’ way. I drank ice cold shandy’s with my friends, I swam backwards and forwards through the moons long reflection in the water. I did handstands in the sea with Angeliki, aged 6 and was very grateful when her face scrumpled up in giggles and told me ‘your booby’s out!’ And it was just so beautiful. That moon, the sea, the atmosphere. My ‘booby’ safely back inside my bikini.
I was talking to someone a couple of days after, whose (Greek) cousin enjoys a successful business in the UK. She appears to have a settled life. Nice house, family, good standard of living. But the lure of her Greek DNA is calling and she wants to move back to Rhodes. ‘I told her don’t come!’ he says ‘you have everything there – here you will be poor, your children will have no opportunities and you will live in this chaos!’
Am I seeing all this through my rose tinted sunglasses? Should I have traded our beautiful, but apparently hopeless life here in Greece for one of more opportunity in the UK? Would my children have been better educated, been better people, would we have a new car?
As I swam in the moonlit sea my teenage daughter and her friends were a bit further up the beach, singing. Their voluptuous, bikini clad bodies not quite in sync with their gaucheness and folk songs. Its 10.30pm and the only light is coming from that huge, radiant moon. It’s mesmerizing. But I am happy to be mesmerized and I have made my choice. Too many blessings to count.
That awkward moment when you get home from the school run and find a horse in your house…
Yes, this is a real picture. Of my house. And my horse. And I really did come home from the school run to find him like this. My friends will tell you its nothing unusual. Many a time I have posted pictures of him sticking his head through a window or through the half door of the kitchen. He has been living in our garden for a year now. Since the fire brigade flattened the fence around his field to put out a fire. It was only supposed to be temporary, just until I fixed the fence again. But, I admit, I like it. I mean who wouldn’t want this half tonne beauty just outside their back door? It’s every young girls fantasy, isn’t it? (reminds herself she is 44 years old) But the problem with them being just outside your back door is that sometimes they make their way inside…
I’m in the shower. I can hear rustling of plastic bags and a bit of commotion. Flippin’ dogs, I think, they must have got into the rubbish again. ‘Poppy’, I call in vain. Poppy is plugged into goodness-knows-what on youtube and my shouts fall onto large earphones. I mentally run through what was in the rubbish to estimate the scale of the mess. I calculate it’s not that bad, so I don’t hurry. Towel wrapped round me, hair dripping, expletives for the dogs on the tip of my tongue and Woah! I almost collide with half a tonne of princely horse beauty…in the kitchen. IN the kitchen. IN THE KITCHEN. He’s standing so peacefully, resting a back hoof. Nudging through a bag of rubbish. I panic. I laugh. I panic again. I think twice about taking a photo, feeling things might have gone a tad too far this time. Oh, do you think?
I do manage to manouvre him back outside, albeit reluctantly (on his part, honestly). Its quite a tight spot corner from the back door into the kitchen and I am ridiculously grateful that he is such a laid back horse. And that he’s not wearing shoes. And that my husband wasn’t home.
So you would think that might have prompted me to get that fence fixed and send him home. But he’s such good company. And he saves us having to mow the lawn. I don’t rate him much as an assistant though, he drinks far too much tea for my liking…
There is something that’s been baffling me for a while now. When I start out on my run, my fat bits jiggle. Especially the two lumps above my bum cheeks, just under my lower back. After a couple of minutes I forget about it. At some point later into the run I invariably become body (or rather fat) aware again. I put my hands on my hips and my ‘bread rolls’ seem smoother and less like actual hot dog buns resting there. This reminds me of my other fat store, the aforementioned bum jiggling. Its not jiggling anymore, in fact its quite firm.
So what the dickens is that all about then? Does the fat melt like butter and distribute itself elsewhere, only to reform later and solidify once again? I tried to catch it out once. I felt up other parts of my body and down my legs to see if it had spread itself somewhere else. A man going past in his car slowed down and asked me if I was alright. ‘Yes, fine thanks! Just looking for my fat.’ I didn’t say.
I tried another scientific approach to get some answers. I googled it. Nothing. Nobody knows! How can there be a whole scientific community out there dedicated to studying how our bodies work in sport and yet there’s not one reference to it on the internet?
Or am I the only person this happens to? Or the only one that’s noticed it?
I’m going to sit back now and wait for some eminent medical sports boff to contact me to discuss this phenomenon. I just checked my hips for those hot dog buns. They’re back.
Are you an overweight runner? Does this happen to you to?! Do you know where the fat goes?