Monday, 30 July 2007

The ties that bind

When something happens that you've been anticipating for months, it can seem surreal when it finally takes place. The wedding of Mike and Emma (beforehand referred to as GEMDAP or Get Emma & Mike Down the Aisle Project) was a certified production number with a cast of thou...well, a couple of dozen, actually.

I've never actually been that heavily involved in a wedding before. Perhaps my own, maybe? Erm, maybe not - bystanders tell me that Katie and I were so laid-back about our own celebration day we were practically horizontal, so maybe not.

We started out at the best man's house, where this picture was taken of the groomsmen:

Ladies, form a queue.

Anyway, I'm not going to say the whole day went without a hitch. There are things you can't legislate for - like the bride showing up at the church without her bouquet. I was outside doing ushering duties and for one second almost suggested, "Can't you just go on without it?" Apparently, that would have been a dumb question - just about every woman on the planet would, with varying degrees of hysteria - have given me a fairly robust slapping for suggesting that one. And I'd have deserved it, too. It did mean I got to walk down the aisle myself to reassure Mike that whilst his bride was here, she wasn't ready.

Thinking about it, it's probably a good job I didn't use those exact words.

Anyway, one high-speed car dash later, her step-father came good with the bouquet - the ceremony went ahead and here's the proof:

What a handsome couple indeed. And before you ask, it is actually a bye-law that if you have a young girl as your bridesmaid, she has to hold the hem of her dress in her mouth for at least 25% of the photos - if only so you can embarrass her 15 years later.

Rushing down to the Welcombe Hotel in Stratford for the wedding breakfast meant we got there about 30 mins before the bridal party, so Katie had a good half-hour of mithering to do (I'm aware that this blog gets some American readers, so that's hopefully a new word for you. Please use feel free to use it in your day-to-day life). She wanted to construct the cake, the dining room wasn't ready - it took a significant amount of Pimms to quieten her down.

And if I do say so myself, when she did put things together, the results were excellent:

The wedding breakfast went well, I think, although I was about to start my duties so was stressing a little. Standing up and talking in front of people is something I do at work, and it normally doesn't phase me at all. But this was different and the pressure was telling - I kept off the wine just to be sure.

I wasn't going to be a formal toastmaster, more a compere, and I'd drafted some notes to link each of the speakers. With an age range of 5 to 89 in the audience, I had to be careful of content. One of my jobs was to say grace, which for me was...unusual to say the least, given that organised religion has never really been my bag. I got through it by studiously avoiding Katie's eyes. My mother, observant Catholic that she is, would be proud.

The rest of the wedding breakfast went on. People were in good spirits, they laughed in the right places (the groom and best man's speeches being highlights) and the business of the afternoon progressed well. Ten minutes after we'd finished, with a particularly pithy quote from me, there was an almighty roar from outside as nine red fighter jets flew past in close formation. I'm assuming it was the Red Arrows - unless EasyJet are allowing passengers to DIY. Damn - 15 minutes earlier and I could have convinced the wedding party it was part of the plan.

That first pint afterwards was like nectar. Actually, it wasn't - it was John Smiths, which I call "I Can't Believe it's Not Bitter", but beggars can't be choosers and I'd earned it.

The reception - evening dress - me in a tux, Katie in a floor length gown. More compering, live music, a table magician, disco - something for everyone. I wish I could have carried on, but by 11.30pm, after running around to make things happen, I was bushed. Someone asked for my business card - they thought I did this for a living. God, no, I'd be in an early grave...

It's great to be sitting here, looking back at it all. Emma and Mike had, I hope, the perfect day. And I enjoyed myself too, as I was able to satisfy the unreconstituted show-off in me.

What impact it's had on my waistline is yet to be seen. That pint of John Smiths was followed by quite a few friends.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Four weeks in

Here we go again.

Once again I'm rushing to weigh myself, just before dashing out of the door for a busy weekend. This time, it's the long-awaited wedding of Mike and Emma. This has been a great test of the whole weight-loss regime, actually. Several stag-night related events in the last few weeks, being around the house whilst Katie makes a huge amount of cake, and now the wedding weekend itself.

We're lucky enough to have been invited to the whole thing - I'm actually Master of Ceremonies for the wedding breakfast and evening reception - so a certain amount of socialising is of course expected, with the potential for calorific collateral damage that might entail.

The diet books don't normally give you any advice on what to do in these circumstances, so we've decided to stop stressing about it and just step off the wagon for 48 hours.

Anyway, I'll update this blog with details afterwards. In the meantime:

That's another two pounds off. 11 pounds off since I started and another 17 to go. With nine weeks still to go, that's a pretty healthy progress.

Yes, I think I'm happy with that. I'm even more delighted that Katie, who's been following the same programme as me, has lost a stone so far. Perhaps people should be sponsoring her instead...

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Advice for the hard of thinking

I'm fully convinced that Birmingham City Council do, in fact, employ idiots. Ok, that's a little controversial. Not all of the Council employees are having difficulty with backside-and-elbow comparisons, I accept. My eldest brother and his wife-to-be work for the Council, for instance, and they're both very intelligent.

But the people who work in the Environmental Services department, particularly those responsible for recycling, should really never be allowed to organise parties, even in licensed alcohol production facilities.

I'm not exactly green; to be honest I struggle with the whole Earth Mother thing. But I accept that recycling should probably be filed under 'Really Good Idea'. So I was pleased when a blue sack appeared on my doorstep, marked 'Recycling Bag', a gift from the afore-mentioned geniuses at my local authority.

Note that description. 'Recycling Bag'. Nothing to say what I can actually recycle in it. Paper? Plastic? Tins? Glass? Left over pie crusts, maybe?

Or all of the above in one go, perhaps? (I say this because that's exactly what we were able to do in a rural backwater in France earlier this year). But no-one had thought to tell me what to do. How many residents just won't bother?

But have no fear, because yesterday they sent us some leaflets. Nice, glossy, four-colour print leaflets telling us, well, pretty much nothing at all.

Oh yes. Leaflets. Plural. Four of them, in fact. Three of which were exactly the same. Brilliant. Quite brilliant. There are several hundred thousand households in the central Birmingham area alone. The wastage in materials alone would give Al Gore nightmares.

Not only do these people not have a clue, they couldn't even get a clue. Not even if they dressed up as a female clue and stood in the centre of a clue field, in the midst of the clue mating season, drenched in clue pheromones.

Somewhere a polar bear is crying. Or something.

In completely unrelated news, the house smells of cake at the moment. I have a well-developed sense of smell where food is concerned, funnily enough. I'm a bit like a shark detecting prey in the sea, although I suspect your average Great White doesn't go hunting Ginsters Pasties. But this time it's because Katie has become a one-woman production line, making the wedding cake for Mike and Emma. It's quite a project, with chocolate, lemon sponge and fruit cake layers.

The trouble is, great cook that she is, Katie uses most of the implements at her disposal even for straightforward stuff. Unfortunately, it's me that has to deal with the aftermath in the kitchen. I swear it's like the Somme in there - I'm tempted to brick up the doorway and build a new kitchen elsewhere.

It's putting me off cake better than any aversion therapy, I can tell you.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Three weeks in

It's at time like these that you get those little self-doubts.

The first two weeks have been good; dramatically better than I thought beforehand. But I've been through weight-loss programmes before, and I know that things tend to tail off. It's the law of diminishing returns, I suppose. Or whatever you call it when you're not actually returning anything. Perhaps it's the law of diminishing reductions.

Anyhow, enough of this - you're only here for the leer, aren't you? Here we go then:

Another two pounds off! So that's nine pounds in three weeks. Nine gone, anothere nineteen to go if I'm to reach my target and raise as much cash as possible.

I'm still pleased with my progress so far. There is a pattern emerging, though. Four pounds in the first week, then three pounds, now two. Hopefully the law of diminishing reductions is just a figment of my fevered imagination. We'll see.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Moments of panic

From time to time things happen to give you the screaming ab-dabs.

Preparations for Mike and Emma's wedding continue at a pace; it's next week, and this morning I went to collect my suit from Greenwoods in Redditch.

Weeks ago, before we went on holiday even, I went to get measured up, so this visit should have been a formality. Essentially I could have just picked up my suit carrier and come home. But I thought it would be wise to try it all on anyway.

  • Shirt - fine.
  • Waistcoat - fine.
  • Jacket - fine.
  • Funny looking cravat thingy - fine.
  • Trousers - oh bloody hell.

These strides were cutting me in two. I was having a little difficulty in breathing. And any sensation in the lower half of my body was rapidly becoming a fond, if somewhat distant, memory. "We should be thankful it's not my wedding day," I thought.

Having struggled to do them up, it was all I could do to get them undone again, as I couldn't move the waistband out far enough to get a hold on the various inside-out buttons and hook-and-eye things they put inside formal trousers these days.

But whilst I was grappling with myself around the groin area, I noticed something odd. Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd find myself typing. Anyway. The size label was shouting 38" waist at me.

I think the year began with the number "1" the last time I was wearing trousers that size. 38" is something I aspire to - the Holy Grail of pants, if you like. And I knew at that point that there'd been a genuine mistake - the actual measurements they'd taken those few weeks ago were well in excess of a puny 38" - I remember the measuring session too well.

There were some mixed emotions at that point, I can tell you. The annoyance that someone had cocked it up was mixed with considerable relief that my waist hadn't in fact gone in the wrong direction.

Getting a replacement pair of trousers sorted? A small inconvenience.

Realising your waist hasn't actually ballooned? Priceless.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Things snowball

More and more people are showing an interest in all this. Which is gratifying, and, I have to say, really useful. I'm currently not being allowed to forget what I'm doing, which tends to focus the mind a little bit, I can tell you. But it manifests itself in a number of ways.

The contents of my lunchbox are becoming a talking-point at the office. That's not a nice image for you or me, I know, but bear with me. As I'm pretty much off bread at the moment, my past sandwich-and-fried-potato-snackathon of a lunch is but a distant memory. Katie is doing great things with rice, cous-cous (I thought that was a sort of bird, like a warbler), fish, the occasional lean meat and loads of green leaf salads. This last bit actually is rocket science, I guess. Sorry.

Here's a secret. Don't tell anyone. But it's actually quite nice. However I like to play the 'grumpy fat bloke being disallowed pies' routine from time to time. I think it's expected of me; people would be disappointed if I didn't pout about it all from time to time.

The photo of my start weight got put around a whole load of people - it went on the homepage of our corporate intranet site. Someone told me, completely straight-faced, that this was a very brave thing to do. I thought that a little odd.

Brave? Saving a puppy from a burning house, that's brave. Standing up to bullies, that's brave. Telling my wife she's not having another handbag - that's valour in extremis. But letting everyone know your weight? No, that's not particularly brave to me. A tad embarrassing, perhaps, but not something I'm going to lose any sleep over.

I actually got asked for some nutrition advice by someone today. That's a little like asking King Herod for child-minding tips, so I politely made my excuses and left.

And more and more people tell me they're reading this blog, too. Good to know I'm sitting on my sofa with a cup of Roobois tea and an overheating laptop singing my thighs for a reason, at least.

Hmm. Unpleasant image no. 2 for this posting. Think I'll leave it there.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Two weeks in

It's that time of the week again.

I must admit, I wasn't looking forwards to this weigh-in. Perhaps the indulgences of last week would catch up with me. Plus I was on stage one of Mike's stag night on Friday, in which a certain degree of ale was involved. And we still haven't started doing any exercise yet.

In fact, this has 'potential disaster' written all over it.

So have a look at this:

Yes. 17 stone 6! That's another three pounds lost since last week. So I've so far lost half-a-flippin' stone! That's one cheap silver sticker if I was doing this on Weightwatchers.

I'm pretty chuffed (and somewhat amazed) by my progress so far. Must try to stop being complacent, as there's every chance I'll have slower weeks (or even worse) in the future. Apparently it's not unusual for the early weeks of a weight-loss programme to be more impressive, so I shouldn't get carried away. Lots of chances to fall off the wagon are coming up (more about these later).

(PS - to the colleague who commented on my 'choice of hosiery' in the previous weigh-in photos, I hope these socks are more satisfactory).

Saturday, 14 July 2007


There really was no way of avoiding a whole bunch of social events when I started the weight loss. Unless I was going to live a hermit-like existence, I couldn't ignore the fact that real life wasn't going to hold on for three months whilst I sat chewing lettuce leaves and drinking herbal tea. I actually do have to go out every now and again.

And so we come to Mike's stag night. Well, stag weekend, actually. This is the corresponding event to the hen night Katie experienced several weeks ago. The plan is to go out on Friday night, then again on Sunday afternoon. We're all of a certain age now, though. We're all respectable. What could possibly go wrong?

I write this in-between the two halves. There is a degree of pain.

We met us at a pub on Broad Street. To those people not aware of Birmingham, that last sentence is like a red flag. A warning signal, if you like. Beer was consumed.

We then went up the road to Jongleurs comedy club. Some grown-up comedy ensued. And beer was consumed.

After the comedy show, the club transforms into a nightclub. There was music. I may have danced. Erm. Some beer was consumed.

Memories of the evening are flashing back as I type. A whole bunch of people dressed as horror movie extras showing up at the club. Girls going round selling really scary drinks in test tubes. I found one in my coat pocket this morning.

At about 2am I thought, "This might start to wind up soon, as long as the music remains chilled."

Oh sweet Jesus.

'Jump Around' by House of Pain. I don't even like this sort of music. I'm 37. Yet I'm jumping around having a right old time. Oh blimey, now it's 'The One and Only' by Chesney Hawkes. I believe we may have consumed beer. There might be photos.

I did leave soon afterwards, passing through the detritus of Broad St to get a cab. A stunning girl, wearing a basque, stockings and not much else, sashays drunkenly down the street. I must be getting old, I say to myself. My first thought is "She'll catch her death of cold without a sturdy coat on."

I got home at about 2.30am, to find the house empty. Katie was still out, getting on the wrong side of a certain amount of wine at Emma's house. It's a full service we offer, we'll get drunk both with bride and groom.

Never again. Well, until tomorrow, anyway.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Got to get in to get out

When I started this blog I decided not to just talk about the weight-loss attempt. After all, it would be a pretty dull affair for you, dear reader, if that was all it covered. And to be honest, I'd find it a bit of a bore too, from a writing perspective. So I will from time to time talk about other things of note here.

There will be some rules, though. I won't blog for the sake of it, so no posts about 'amusing things my cat did today'. And there are some subjects I'll avoid, like direct references to my work. Not because I'm ashamed of it; quite the contrary, but I'm damned if I'm going to spend my leisure time thinking about it.

So, this weekend Katie and I went to London with some friends to see Genesis playing at Twickenham on Sunday. We had a very pleasant time, and I tried my best to be sensible about what I ate. Can't say the same about the drinking, but there you go.

I'll not make any apologies about my taste in music here. It's said that the music you started listening to at key times in your life - typically 16 to 20 - often stays with you afterwards. I actually like a lot of more 'modern' stuff, but Genesis still occupy an important place in my record collection. And despite the years (I first saw them 20 years ago, and they were thought to be in the autumn of their careers then) they can still deliver live.

What do you mean, "dinosaurs playing irrelevant music". Yes, and your point was what, exactly?

It was a perfect night - there was light rainfall early during the show but it didn't detract from the atmosphere. Without a new album to promote they played a varied setlist that went down with the pop fans and prog-heads alike (like me). There was emotion, there was bombast. It was wilfully unfashionable. I loved every second and sang along like a thing possessed. They did play Ripples, which was wonderful, but I managed to keep myself sensible, you'll be pleased to know.

I didn't take any pictures, so I am indebted to several other concert-goers for the following examples. They don't really do it justice, but might give you some idea:

During their final encore ('Carpet Crawlers', another song of almost hypnotic beauty), it occurred to me that this might be the last time I would see them live. After all, it has to be said they're not getting any younger, and unfortunately the UK and its music press don't really support aging progressive rock bands. It was a bittersweet moment for me as I've followed them for most of my adult life. This might be the end.

Katie quietly remarked that perhaps the rain had returned, as there appeared to be a dampness around my eyes at that point. She can be very perceptive.

Monday, 9 July 2007

One week in

There's no getting away from it, I suppose. It's time to update this blog with the latest weigh-in. I'll do the other stuff in another post.

I did this on Saturday morning, but as I was jumping in the car to go down to London a few minutes later I didn't have time to upload it.

So here it is, for better or worse:

17 stone 9 pounds - a loss of 4 pounds since I started this. Given I haven't yet begun any proper exercise, this is solely down to a change in diet so I think this is a reasonable start. In the months to come, I think I'll be glad to lose this amount in a week.

And before anyone asks, yes I do have more than one pair of sports socks that are the same. And, yes, I'm aware of the irony implicit in me owning any 'sports socks', thank you.

Friday, 6 July 2007

I can't dance, don't ask me

Not going to be posting until next week now as we're off to London tomorrow morning.

I will get weighed beforehand, of course, and update this blog on Monday if I can. Bit nervous about it, but what are you going to do? If you live by the scales, you die by the sc... no, that doesn't work, but you get the gist.

I'm going to see one of the finest bands ever to come from these shores, at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday. I'm five rows from the front. And if they play "Ripples" (one of the most beautiful pieces of music, from their 1976 album "Trick of the Tail"), I won't be held responsible for my actions, I can tell you.

Sorry. Anorak off now. Have a good weekend, all.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Shock and awe

Blimey. A meal without meat. And it's very nice too.

Red lentil and aubergine curry, in fact. This is a big thing for me. In the past, I've always said this about a vegetarian diet:

  • Salad is not food. It is food for food.

  • I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to start regressing now.

  • If we weren't supposed to eat animals, why make them out of meat?

(Hmm. Some of these may find their way to the Guru Sooty on the desk opposite me. Locals will understand).

Anyway, whilst I haven't exactly seen the Linda McCartney light yet, perhaps this eating healthy lark needn't be absolute perjury.

Making my way

I was going to use the word 'movement' in the title of this post, but then I found the image to head it up with and had second thoughts.

So, progress seems to be good at the moment, and the interest my plan has generated seems to still be high. Everyone I talk to (well, in the building, at least) wants to know how I'm getting on.

There's questions about how I'm eating (pretty well, actually - I can't actually eat everything set out for me), am I exercising (erm, not yet - the lunchtime walks couldn't happen without a wetsuit and snorkel at the moment), even whether I've lost any weight yet. I'm not answering that last one until the next weekly weigh-in this weekend.

Listen up, kids - weighing yourself every day is a Very Bad Thing, for the following reasons:

  1. Apparently your weight fluctuates naturally anyway, so it's not an accurate measure;
  2. Your weight could be lower than you expected. "Great," you think, "it's pie time." Bad move;
  3. Your weight could be higher than you expected and you either give up or go too hardcore on the whole dieting thing; and
  4. I have a life, and (whisper this bit) my weight is only a part of it. An unsightly, flabby part, perhaps, but a part nevertheless.

So the weigh-in is a weekly thing only, folks. I'll do a poster, or something.

Plus two people told me they were following this blog. Blimey. Hello - you know who you are. I'll try to be good, ladies. And that's not the first time I've said that, either.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The official weigh-in!

Oh. My. God.

That's me told, then. I knew I was more than a little lardy. That this whole losing weight malarkey was long overdue.

But then I dusted off the scales and stood on them.

Take a look:

Your eyes aren't deceiving you - that's 17 stone and 13 pounds. Just shy of 18 stone! That's a whole lot of pies, then.

Katie (who was annoyingly lively this morning) was there to witness this momentous event - she'll be my official referee in all of this.

Keep tuned for updates, folks...

Last blow-out

It will become clear as this post proceeds why I'm writing it 'the afternoon afterwards'.

With three months of relative sensibility and abstinence on the cards and about to hit us, 30th June was never going to be a normal Saturday in the Sawyer household. Having said that, I didn't want to pump my weight up artificially, either, so a degree of moderation was in order.

Katie was out in the afternoon and evening; our friends Mike and Emma get married later this month and the hen afternoon/night was happening in Birmingham. I made myself useful, running a few errands and such, then lounged around the house. I ate a little, mainly things I'm not going to be allowed to eat from tomorrow onwards.

I got a couple of texts from Katie as the day progressed. This is normal Katie behaviour when beer is involved. The first few were reasonably sensible, in as much as they were written in English.

Then I got this one:

I have no idea

I'll freely admit, I'd had a beer myself by this point. But even I was struggling to make this out. So I texted her back something along the lines of "Pardon?". This was the reply I got:

Nope, still no clearer, is it?

A good point, almost Wildean in its brevity, I thought. It was then followed by:

Doesn't get any easier, does it?

Shortly after that a minicab delivered a pile of wreckage, vaguely resembling the sweet, innocent girl I married, to my door. Although she had eaten throughout the afternoon in a valiant attempt to soak up the alcohol, clearly more stodge was necessary so we raided the 'crap box', which is where we keep the crisps, Pringles, etc.

It's infallible logic like this that keeps 99% of kebab shops in business. I mean, would you really go for one if your hunger wasn't hop-fuelled?

I must admit that I was in no way completely blameless in all this, having gotten myself on the outside of some very nice Bavarian wheat beer and a good quantity of red wine by this point (followed up by some single malt, too, I think).

The next thing I remember and it's 6.00 in the morning. I'd fallen asleep around about midnight, but the problem is I'm still on the sofa, having a serious attack of something or other. My darling bride has left me to it several hours earlier, so I go upstairs to find her in the grip of Morpheus.

It's fair to say that the 'cutting down on the booze' aspect of the weight loss plan is not going to be too taxing right at this moment in time. Well, at least not considering the way we're both feeling at the moment. Another problem is that my traditional fatboy breakfast cure isn't a option any more.

I will shortly be doing the official weigh-in, once I can stand upright on the scales for long enough.


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