Monthly Archives: July 2013

Top down and Bottom up

People lose weight in different ways;  Some lose it in fits and starts, getting seemingly random outputs from consistent inputs; Some struggle to lose any, no matter what they try;  While others only seem to need to think about going on a diet for the weight to fall away.  I’m sure these change over time too: “past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance”.

Someone else’s feet!

For me, it appears that I’m losing weight from the top down and the bottom up.  To date my “health kick” (this should be “lifestyle change”, but let’s take it one step at a time”) has not extended beyond thinking about what I put in my mouth and walking (up to 2 miles, twice a day).

I think these small changes have started to deliver some results:  my legs have definitely “shaped up” a bit as a result of the regular exercise, and while shaving off my facial hair last night I discovered evidence of a long forgotten jaw bone.

The upside of losing weight in your face is that it’s relatively easy to show external signs of progress.  The downside is that it’s easy to declare success too early, before the hard work has been done.  (Not this time!)

As a result, I was greeted on several occasions today (my first day back in the office) with:

“You look much healthier than you did before!”
“Yes,” I was tempted to respond, “but the last time you saw me I was a heart attack waiting to happen!”

So, independent verification that things are headed in the right direction!

Someone else’s body!

The next task is to move forward with the fitness regime…  I wouldn’t say I was particularly toned right now.  In fact, the combination of losing weight from the top down and bottom up, together with years of giving up diets too soon, has resulted in all the pies gathering around my midriff, in combination with my Umpa Lumpa feet (Always wear sunscreen) I’m really not an attractive sight!

Rehabilitation starts tomorrow.  I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it!

Back to School

I have never had 4 weeks off work.  I had an extended break when I became independent, but I’ve never returned to the same role after more than 3 weeks of away.

I’ve had 3 week vacations twice; once for our honeymoon and once for a family trip to St Lucia.  Both were fantastic breaks, much needed and thoroughly enjoyable.  Special times.  I know it sounds silly, but 3 weeks is so much more than 2 weeks, as far as holidays are concerned anyway (I would highly recommend it!).

4 weeks is a long time!

Can you remember what you were doing on 14th June?  No, neither can I!

To compound things, I hadn’t exactly planned to be off work.  I hadn’t wound anything down, handed anything over or prepared in any way.  I just didn’t turn up on the Monday.  Yes, there are extenuating circumstances, but life has to move on.

So, it’s back to school for me tomorrow;  my clothes are laid out, shoes polished,  pencils sharpened, lucky stress ball looked out (ironically in the shape of a heart!), bag packed.  Everyone’s a little bit on edge.  Ready to move on.  Uneasy about what the future holds.

I’m sure everything will be fine.  One way or another it’s going to be more than a little bit strange, for me and everyone else around me.  Another journey into the unknown.

Onwards and upwards!  Wish me luck!

Always wear sunscreen

While glorious, always welcome, and generally unexpected, the sun in Scotland isn’t renowned for packing much of a punch.

Having spent much of my recuperation period inside, Thursday was the first time I’d really been exposed to sun this summer.  As a result, I was keen to leave the beach on Thursday with “bit of colour”.  I wasn’t showing too much skin (I wore Shorts, T-Shirt and a baseball cap), but my limbs were left exposed to the elements.  I declined the offer of sunscreen – factor 50 really wasn’t going to do much to enhance my “tan”.

As hoped, I was starting to show signs of colour as we left the beach.  Colour which continued to evolve throughout the evening.  [I guess now’s a sensible time to point out to anyone who doesn’t know me, that I don’t generally tan very well.  At all, in fact.  Whereas the rest of my immediate family go a nice olive colour, I tend to go red and then back to white.  Two years in the Middle East left me slightly “off-white” at best.] 

During the evening my arms and legs started to get warm, then hot.  It is at this time that I made my mistake…  to relieve the increasing heat I reached into creams and potions in the bathroom for some soothing After Sun, and applied liberally.

All was good.  Relieved, I went to bed.

The following morning I awoke to a slightly strange colouration, particularly on my legs.  I assumed my heart medication may have altered the way my body reacts to sunlight.  Perhaps, I could finally produce melanin.  Perhaps I was tanned!  Slightly suspicious, I checked the After Sun (all seemed in order) before re-applying.

Umpa Lumpa

Before and after “Tan Maintaining” After Sun

The colouring continued to develop.  By Friday evening my feet wouldn’t have looked out of place on an Umpa Lumpa.

While the After Sun had been applied liberally, it had not been applied consistently.  The smudges and blotches are perhaps less appealing than the solid sections.

I guess the upside is that it did take the edge off the sunburn… the colour should last for weeks!  Delight!

What I now know, is that I should avoid any products that includes the words “Enhancer” or “Maintainer” in combination with “Tan”.  Apparently “maintenance” on me is the equivalent to a full-on artificial tan for others.  You live and learn!

Two lessons:  (1) Wear sunscreen and (2) Read the small print!

That’s why they call it fishing!

The Caribbean?  South of France?  North Africa?


No!  Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

We have beautiful beaches.  We also have fairly crappy weather.  The occasional cracking day brings people out in their droves.  Today there appeared to be a surprisingly large number of pre-school kids (and supervisors), a cross-section of society I don’t tend to rub shoulders with very often.

Visiting beaches in Scotland isn’t something I’ve done very regularly.  However, on Tuesday I made a move that might change this… buying a fishing rod!  It got it’s first outing that evening, feathering for mackerel in Inverbervie… without success!


Feathering for mackerel in Inverbervie

Today was the rod’s second outing… targeting flatfish.  To be honest, beyond 5 minutes research in the internet, I didn’t really know what I was doing.  Fortunately, every nursery school pupil on the beach appeared to be highly experienced, and very generous with their advice:

Expert #1:  “Throw it out further!”

Expert #2:  “You need to put it in the water!”

Expert #3:  “The fish were nibbling my toes while I was paddling.”
Paul:  “Can I borrow one of your toes to put on my hook please?”
Expert #3: 
(After a nervous pause)  “No.”

Unfortunately, despite this sound advice and offers of assistance, my rod must still look forward to it’s first catch.

Still, it was a good excuse to switch off and stare at the sea for a few hours while the girls turned into kids again, playing chicken with the (near Baltic) North Sea waves, collecting shells, burying each other in the sand, and generally larking around.

Apparently it’s going to be even nicer tomorrow.  Head to Scotland, and bring your buckets and spades! (or fishing rods)


An arty picture of driftwood and rocks

The best time of the day…

This morning was one of those mornings…

We seem to have had more “summer” since I’ve been off work than we had in the past couple of years.  It’s very unusual on the East Coast of Scotland, but there have been several mornings when you wake up and you know it’s good to be a beautiful day.  All day.  Usually you wouldn’t bet on the weather in 15 minutes time!  This morning was one of those mornings.

Despite having had so much rest, my sleep pattern doesn’t seem to have been too disrupted over the past few weeks – good news for next week (returning to work) as waking up shouldn’t be too much of a shock!

Anyway, I was awake before the sun had done much damage.  A light fog had been laid down over night, almost as if an alien space craft had cruised through the mountains leaving a vapour trail as it went.

Cloud in Valley

Alien vapour trail through the mountains

Everything had been touched by it.  Damp.  Glistening.


The spiders had been hard at work!

Even Geoffrey was out and about (I hadn’t seen him for a couple of days)… clearly the best time of the day!


I think we’re off to the beach for a picnic.  🙂

Am I in denial?

“The books” say that it is normal to experience psychological issues following a heart event… relief, worry, fear, anger, anxiety, dread, depression.

I feel fine.

Am I in denial?

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”
– George R R Martin, A Game of Thrones

This is a big question, so I started by looking online for guidance…

I was amazed to discover that it’s possible to perform one of many Popular Denial Quizzes!!!  Somehow it seems reasonable to have “Denial Quizzes”, but this is a serious matter and adding the word “Popular” trivialises it somehow.  Anyway, after some time I discovered:

  1. Yes, I am really over her  (Are you really over him / her?)
  2. I am “Quite Normal”  (How insane are you?)
  3. I’m in “Acceptance”  (What stage of sorrow are you?)
  4. My soul shines “Red”  (What colour light does your soul shine?)

  5. Sorry… No more!  I’m losing the will to live, and not feeling like I’m getting closer to an answer… please feel free to explore the other quizzes and let me know if I missed anything insightful!

The thing is, I don’t feel like I’ve been through anything particularly major.

Yes, I know having a Heart Attack is a big deal.  If someone I know had been through the same experience I would be concerned for them.  I have first-hand experience of this – I think my feelings were a little pity and a little fear.  For them, not for me.

Am I in denial?

“The thing about denial is that it doesn’t feel like denial when it’s going on.”
– Georgina kleege, Sight Unseen

I was ill for a couple of hours – the time between having the Heart Attack and completion of the angioplasty procedure.  I was clearly at risk before this (and definitely in denial at that stage!).

I didn’t need to have an Operation.  There were no stitches.  At no point were any procedures performed on me while I was unconscious.  I was able to play my own (very small) role as and when required to do so.

It might sound strange, but I wasn’t scared.  Uncomfortable, yes.  In distress.  But I didn’t feel like I was particularly in danger.

Am I in denial?

“Denial is an essential part of my existence. Without it, I am nothing.”
– Jason Krumbine, Just Dial 911 for Assistance

Am I now more aware of my mortality?  Probably, but it’s not a new concept for me.

I think about things… a lot.  I think about what the future might hold – bad as well as good.  I don’t obsess about it, just think from time to time.  I guess I’ve always worked on the basis that thinking through lots of potential scenarios will make me better prepared when something does happen – like having a Heart Attack, for example.  For me, it was a shock but not a huge surprise.

For most of us we will never know when we faced our greatest risk.  These moments pass, leaving us safe and blissfully ignorant.

Am I in denial?

“I wasn’t crying about mothers,” he said rather indignantly. “I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.”
– J M Barrie, Peter Pan

I have Coronary Heart Disease.  I always will.  As a result I have a higher risk of having heart problems in the future.  However, the medication I take, and a living healthy lifestyle, will help prevent it inconveniencing me, but I know I’ll never be “cured”.

There is nothing I can do about the choices I made in the past.  As far as I’m concerned my health is down to me and the choices I make in the future.

Am I in denial?

“Everything was perfectly healthy and normal here in Denial Land.”
– Jim Butcher, Cold Days

I feel good.  I feel strong.  I am sleeping well.  I am really looking forward to the Rehab sessions so I can set some new goals and start to build a new routine.  I feel ready to return to work.

I have already made changes.  I am ready to make more.

The more people I talk to or hear about the more I realise how lucky I am.  There are lots of people in far worse positions than me.


Personally, I don’t think I am in denial, but I would wouldn’t I!

A good day! (FD +22)

I have some days when I wake up in the morning with a feeling of excited anticipation for the day ahead.  Today wasn’t one of those days.

The feeling has, however, grown as the day has gone on.  My immediate reaction was that I’ve overdone it, I’m exhausted, but I’m happy to confirm that this is not the case!

It’s amazing what a bit of targeted pottering can do to raise the spirits!  Today was my first official day of “preparing to return to work”.  Given Wimbledon has finished and it’s a rest day in Le Tour, it could hardly have been planned better!

I’m up to over 30 mins on my twice daily walks now.  I have found a circuit that takes between 14 mins (fast, hard) and 15.5 mins (steady, comfortable).  Today was a comfortable day.  The sun put in an early appearance too.  I was home and hosed early.  A great way to kick the day off.

The rest of the day was spent connecting…

Life in a bubble (with connecting tube)

Life in a bubble (with connecting tube)

Communication was difficult immediately after the Heart Attack… not the easiest thing to drop into casual conversation (“Oh, and by the way, I’ve just had a Heart Attack”), and not something that you can leave out (“No, everything’s fine. Honest!”).  So, the easiest approach is to avoid the conversations.  People who need to will find out in time, one way or another.  As a result, it’s very easy to live in your own little bubble.  Comfortable but isolated.

For a short time this helps.  You get rest, not tired out by visitors.  Protected from the stresses and strains of every day life.

Eventually you need to re-connect, catch up, make contact.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The longer you’ve been in the bubble, the more difficult it is.  The world moves fast (or at least it feels like it does when you’re not moving with it!).  Today was my day to grab the bull by the horns…

The day included a (very) brief client meeting and a “news” release on the website to announce my imminent return (so much easier than having to announce that I was sick!).  Both were small things, but felt big to me.

Website Photo by Daughter #2
[Not sure how long the facial hair will last!]

The highlight of the day was re-connecting with a couple of really good friends*.  Being men, I am confident that now we have spoken about my Heart Attack, there is no further need to discuss it.  More than anything, I think this has helped me feel like the worst is behind me (and, fortunately, that really wasn’t that bad either).

Oh… and I’m hopefully going fishing tomorrow!  🙂


*Pete – I know I need to call you, sorry!

Lottery funding application

I am thinking of applying for Lottery Funding.  I hope you’ll agree my case is quite compelling:

Since following sport became more than a part-time hobby for me (recognising it has been more or less a full-time commitment for me over recent week), the following has happened:

  • Justin Rose won the US Open, the first Englishman to do so since Tony Jacklin in 1970
  • The British & Irish Lions won the Test Series against Australia, the first series win in 16 years
  • Andy Murray won the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon, the first Brit to do so since Fred Perry 77 years ago
  • At the time of writing Chris Froome (“British”) is wearing the Maillot Jaune in the Tour de France.

The common theme… I have watched almost every minute of all the events*.

Congratulations Andy!

I’m sure that there have been other notable British performances over the same period.  I have been limited to one TV and an iPad (with SkyGo) resulting in a maximum of two sports on the go at any time.  This has resulted in some difficult decisions, today for example – Sorry Lewis! Apologies Jenson!  Clearly some of the funding would need to be diverted to increasing the number of screens / feeds!

I don’t want to detract in any way from the fantastic accomplishments of each of the sportsmen & women.  They have worked for years to reach the pinnacle of their sports,  They deserve everything they get.  However, it is widely recognised that, at the very top level, small fractions can make the difference between success and failure.  I’d like to think that my unerring [refer to previous note] support has helped to tip the balance… even just a tiny bit.

Unfortunately my “time off” will come to an end very soon.  I’m concerned about the potential impact on British Sport!

Surely allocating some funding to me would help to remove the “lottery” from the funding process.  I am happy to watch pretty much any sport, and will always support a Brit.  My support would be able to assist many rather than the lucky few who happen to be competing in the stolen moments of live sports viewing going forwards.  A win-win situation, I’m sure you’d agree!


* Technically I slept through many of the key moments of Justin Rose’s final round as it was my first night in hospital, but it was on, and I was watching in spirit!
Actually, thinking about it, I think I may have slept through a few of Andy Murray’s sets too… but the same principle applies.  [Note:  I have been asked to clarify that this is not because Andy Murray is boring, but primarily due to the fact that rest / sleep were key components of my recuperation.]

Rude awakening (FD +21)

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Things to do at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning #23 The Petrol Strimmer

Who in their right minds thinks that using an petrol-powered garden strimmer at 07:30 on a Sunday morning is a reasonable thing to do?  If it were me, I would feel selfish, guilty, self-conscious every time I pulled the trigger… irrespective of whether I wanted to get it done so I could watch the  tennis this afternoon, or take little Jonny to his football match, etc.

Anyway, one of our delightful neighbours clearly doesn’t have the same hang-ups as me.
[I think we will come back to this is the future as I tend to feel guilty or responsible for a lot of things I shouldn’t, thus adding to the stress in my (former) life]

In our house, we tend to have special sensory powers – each of us has been given a “gift” that makes us super-sensitive to a specific sense.  Louise has a “super” sense of smell.  For me, it’s my hearing.  Noise does my nut!  I’m not super-sensitive in that I can’t handle loud sounds, but I start to struggle with multiple concurrent sounds and, if you couldn’t guess, inappropriate noises when I’m trying to sleep!

I suspect I’ll discover the guilty party when I’m on my morning walk.  When I’ll do, I’ll look in an extremely disapproving, but unobtrusive way to register our disgust.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the neighbours that have recently applied for planning permission.  I was going to let my opportunity to review their plans slide as they’re unlikely to impact us in any way, but perhaps I should re-consider.  perhaps they are planning a Bell Tower, or converting their garden into a Chicken Farm with a Cock to welcome each morning… both would seem strangely apt, and certainly par for the course!!!

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A Cock

Habits: Past and Future

Coffee & Cigarette

Breakfast in a previous life

In the [I want to day “good” here, but I’m not sure that’s appropriate] old days, my day used to start with a nice strong coffee; black, extra shot, a little hot water, brown sugar.

Before that, the coffee would be accompanied by a cigarette… drive to the office, coffee, cigarette. An unrushed, gentle introduction to the day. Wonderful!

How come bad habits are so easy to get into? Is it as simple as the fact that being naughty and getting away with it makes you feel good? I guess I got away with it… up to a point!

Over the recent past I’ve broken lots of bad habits:

  • I stopped Smoking about 9 months ago. Mentally I was done with it (“for the time being”), now I’m just done with it.
  • I haven’t had a drink since before the heart attack. I guess Red Wine should be my drink of choice now but to be honest I don’t like it that much. If I were to have a drink, I would do so in moderation, of course, sticking to guidelines on safe limits.
  • I’m now drinking decaf… coffee, tea, coke (if I had drunk any… so far my carbonated treats have been limited to an Appetiser… and very nice it was too!).
  • I have always had a penchant for nibbles… eclectic mixes of savoury treats to “fill a little hole”… crisps, nuts, pretzels, nachos… the more the merrier!  These have been replaced by a nice healthy piece of fruit, or some crudités.

I know one drink, or a cup of ‘proper’ coffee are not going to kill me (more accurately, based on recent experience, are unlikely to kill me!).  I know moderation is the key…. “give yourself a break from time to time”. The problem is that I’m not good at moderation.

I’ve always been an “all or nothing” kind of guy.

[I think this means that “I am an all or nothing kind of guy” but I guess that’s something that may potentially change too… we’ll see!]

I recognise that breaking bad habits is only half of the equation. I need to find myself some good habits to fill the gaps.  At the moment I’m “sick”…

Concerned friend / acquaintance:  “Hi, how are you?”
P:  “I’m fine, thanks.”
Concerned friend / acquaintance:  “No you’re not, you’ve just had a heart attack.”
P:  “OK, I’m fine… considering.”

This situation will end. Eventually I will be “Fine, thanks.” At that point in time I need to have some good habits up my sleeve to fall into. I think it’s important that they are my habits.  I find it’s much easier to get into your own habits rather than those that others would like to push onto you. Call me selfish, but for me habits are personal!

I’m looking forward to exploring the options of habits for the future.  What will be my drink of choice?  Perhaps I’ll end up being the annoying guest that always wants something different to drink (always something different to what there is in the house!).

About 15 years ago I went through a (short) period of loving spicy Virgin / Bloody Marys… my mouth is salivating at the thought of one… bring it on!

Virgin Mary