Thursday, September 28, 2006

If only laughing made me thinner!

Week five

I’m still the exact same weight as when I started. Not one ounce less. But four completed weeks on, I am still motivated enough to get up at 5.30am and move my behind to the Gym. Early morning is the best time for people watching and the cardio machine floor is the perfect vantage point to do this from.

Two desi guys are regulars at the Gym during the unearthly hour that I am mutilating the machines. Their swagger and general demeanor suggests that they think of themselves as dudes (in a cool way) – I think of them more as duds than dudes and for the purposes of this post I shall refer to them as Desi Dud (DD) and Bug Eyed Boy (BEB).

Desi Dud is short (by the standard of men and even short old me) and apparently prides himself on wearing nothing unbranded. His single minded motto: If you market it loudly enough I shall wear it. Reebok shorts, Nike T-shirt, K-Swiss Trainers, Puma socks, NBA headband & wristbands, Timberland cap, I-pod strapped onto his arm – on any given day you can see him in at least 6 branded things, swaggering around the gym like a walking billboard for a sports store. He does not seem to do very much except walk around, pause in front of different weight/ resistance machines, take of his cap to unattractively tousle his hair, attempt a set, give up, wipe his brow and move on to the next one. From where I walk the treadmill I can see him looking confused and slightly irritated, as if the sweat and machines are conspiring to ruin his carefully put together outfit.

Bug Eyed Boy is tall, lanky and naturally, bug-eyed. He wears sleeveless vest-like Ts to highlight the hideous tattoo of a skull and dragons that adorn his very thin left arm. His right arm is permanently attached to a water bottle from which he noisily slurps water. He walks for about five minutes on a treadmill and then stops to hang off the machine and pant as if he has just completed a marathon. He then slurps some more water and goes off to have a wander. Comes back in a bit and walks another five minutes. By the end of this ‘extremely’ strenuous workout BEB has become almost cartoon like in dimension, eyes popping out of his skull in a yo-yo like manner. Then he gives up and disappears out of view. Probably to re-adjust his eyes back in their sockets.

Oh, and his mother must be so proud of that Tattoo.

Week six

I am still the same weight as when I started. It has taken 5 weeks to get myself booked into an induction with someone from the fitness desk. For all I know everything I’ve been doing from week one to five is completely incorrect. This would explain why I have not lost one fluid ounce of weight.

Fitness Aunty (FA) is all muscle. She probably works out about 6 hours a day seeing as the other part of her job is quite boring - as standing behind a desk and looking like you are filling in forms can be. She clarified that I wanted to lose weight (Duh!) and then proceeded to give me a long lecture about food groups, carbohydrates and low GI diets. All in a very s-l-o-w monotone. Like, if I’m fat I must also be deaf.

FA then proceeded to lecture me on the ‘merits’ of working out while taking me on a tour of all the machines I have been using for five weeks. Hello, is this is why I pay an exorbitant amount each month – to be told what I already know? That too five weeks late.

Then we reached the dreaded elliptical cross trainer 95xi she makes me train for 10 straight minutes to ‘warm up’. This is just what I needed, to be trapped on a machine while being talked at by FA. She continues in her monotonous vein, all about how its not how much weight you lose but how much muscle you gain. She told me not to be disheartened by not having lost any weight yet. “All your fat is turning into muscle”, she simpers. This makes me more healthy. So instead of rolls of fat I shall now be the proud owner of rolls of muscle. Surely there is something wrong with this statement. I give up. And instead concentrate on the TV screen in front of me which is showing a beleaguered Tony Blair smiling and waving at some poor hapless crowds. Imagine. Even this is preferable. Soon this will be over and I can go home.

After demonstrating the use of various machine and some floor exercises FA tells me to come back in 6 weeks and to use a tape measure as a guide to how effecitve the gym is, not weighing scales. It completely goes over her head when I say I want to weigh less, not turn into muscle woman. Declaring that our time is over she shows me where my card (another perk of expensive gym is a drawer with alphabetized cards) with my routine written up. As I’ve already been doing this routine for five weeks, I wonder if this is for her benefit?

Saw BEB wiping his sweaty arms after just 5 minutes on the treadmill. Bug eyes popping out and victorious smile on his face (5 minutes is akin to climbing Everest for this charlie) he was dabbing his tattoo lovingly before striding off to refill his water bottle. A sight to make sore eyes.

Week seven

In the lift up to the Gym on Monday morning I was struggling to banish sleep from my eyes. DD and some Girl get into the lift right behind me. Ever the brand master, DD is carrying the world’s largest sports bag, emblazoned with Slazenger on every side. DD proceeds to ask Girl why he never saw her at the party organized by the gym. I can see Girl thinking (something like a cartoon balloon of thoughts), “because I have a life”. But she politely answers that she had another commitment. DD continues to press upon her how he flew back from a busy schedule in Tokyo to be there and it was a wonderful evening. In one fell swoop DD has attempted to tell her that he is busy, flying across the globe to the other side of the world and how cool he is for attending this party. We reach our floor and I can almost hear Girl exhale a sigh of relief. As she attempts to get out of his way he tells her she must come to the next Gym party as it was a ‘hoot’, amongst other adjectives. Girl smiles, weakly says “Yeah, cool” and disappears into the locker area. I bet you she turned around and left the gym without working out that day, just pausing to make sure she escaped unnoticed.

Tomorrow brings week seven to an end and I suspect that I have still not lost any weight. As the nights get longer and mornings get chillier it is harder to persuade myself to get out of bed. The hilarious characters that populate the Gym in the morning make it just a little easier and a lot funnier.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Everyone is learning from their mistakes

Wouldn't it be cool if this was because someone read what I wrote about their warehouse of hideousness, idiot design, rubbish customer service and 243 screws for 3 drawers?

MFI to be sold for just £1
By Elizabeth Rigby and Eoin Callan // 16th September 2006

The board of MFI is poised this weekend to approve the sale of its struggling retail business to Merchant Equity Partners, in a deal that will see the furniture chain pay its acquirer a "dowry" of about £100m. Under the terms of the unorthodox deal, the 42-year-old furniture chain is thought to have agreed to pay MEP, run by Henry Jackson, the veteran investment banker, a dowry to take the lossmaking business off its hands so it can concentrate on its profitable Howden Joinery trade business.

The deal, which is set to be signed this weekend, still has to be agreed by MFI shareholders. The generous terms being offered by MFI reflect the dramatic erosion in the retailers value over the past few years. Once priced at close to £1bn, MFI is now set to change hands for a nominal sum of £1.The UK's biggest furniture-maker has been one of the casualties of the tough recent trading period for retailers, which has seen costs rise while the prices have fallen.

Or is it I who should have known this in advance and never set foot in their store?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Building the beast

The weekend was calm and relaxed and I did less than a slug. The triumph of the weekend was all V’s as he completed assembling a chest of drawers without the help of any ‘promising’ friends. Now this may sound like nothing to expert DIYers and regular IKEA goers but please, allow me to explain.

We have built in cupboards with nothing but a rod to hang stuff off and a shelf above it. The shelf is too high for me to use on a daily basis without the aid of a step ladder. At the moment our stuff is stored neatly in baskets arranged on the floor of the cupboard. It’s inconvenient to get to anything not on the top of the basket but an achievement in my mind to be out of suitcases. So from the hanging rod to the floor there is no option but to fashion some sort of shelving system. Or else buy 300 hangers.

Intent on not trudging out of town to IKEA we hunted around a bit and decided on checking out the options at a chain of cheap-ish furniture stores. A few weekends ago, measurements in hand, we went to MFI. For those not in the know, MFI is a chain furniture store selling everything from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchens. Their slogan is ‘You dream it. We’ll make it happen’. Whoever thought that one up was either blind / dumb / had never visited a store/ never purchased something from them / been brainwashed / paid a load of cash.

So anyway, drizzly morning and a warehouse type store filled to the gills with ugly furniture. Amongst the monstrosities we found the prefect candidate. The most basic chest of drawers with a plain, neat maple finish and dimensions to fit our cupboard. Its three drawers making it the perfect height. There was the small question of whether it came assembled or would need to be magic’ed into something useable.

The very large store and huge pieces of furniture made it difficult to find the very well hidden store assistants. Once we found one, the question of assembly was swiftly answered. It was a do-it-yourself situation but, and I quote, “you will not need anything more than a screwdriver”. That is what swung the vote for us. We bought three sets.

A week later they were delivered. Flat packed. With instructions on how to join them with other bedroom furniture (into a wall of furniture) but no instructions on how to build the actual unit. Idiots. It took us three days, numerous phone calls, email exchanges with the ‘customer support team’ (who, what?) to get the correct instructions. And so it began.

V opened out the flat pack for the first set and spread it around himself. I took a mental picture at that moment. Of V, sitting amidst a forest of wood with 243 nails and screws, two types of screwdrivers and the instructions akin to building a small jet plane in the comfort of our home. Picture taken I fled the scene, never to look back again.

It’s a good thing our second bedroom has nothing but an ironing board and piles of books awaiting their shelves. In the past 3 weeks it has been the epicenter of construction. Every evening, after a long hard day at work, V has attempted some part of DIY. The initial triumphs were the making of the drawers. And here let me interject the numerous ways in which MFI is so user unfriendly. Instead of simple instructions, all the tools and wood with pre-drilled holes (like IKEA stuff) this MFI carcass came with rocket science instructions, superglue, the need for a drill and a small piece of wood. I have a good mind to go and thump the store assistant who told us otherwise.

First the drawers, which had to be nailed, glued together and left to dry. Then the outside walls needed runners fixed to them. Then the side walls, back wall and top needed to be joined together. Then runners needed to be fixed to the drawers. V refused to buy a drill and instead improvised with a 3pence nail. Ever so often I would be summoned in to hold two pieces of wood together while nails were hammered in at the appropriate spaces.

All these weeks while V has slaved away bit by bit with the drawers of wonder, I have occupied the day bed and watched endless TV. Full credit to V for tackling what I would not have even begun to take on. This Sunday evening a shout of joy indicated that the exercise was complete - all with just measurements, screwdrivers, a hammer and a good eye. Oh, and I forgot, some grouching about bl**dy MFI.

One set of drawers sits resplendently under a row of business suits, fitting perfectly in the space albeit without door handles (which are for sissies and people without perfectly smooth runners). His baskets have been banished and cufflinks have been arranged to neatness. His ironed clothes will remain ironed. His eyes gleam with the joy of accomplishment and he walks around looking like he's tamed some wild animal. I understand.

Only two more sets to go.

Meanwhile I’m still wearing the shirts from the top of my basket.

I dislike MFI more intensly than ever before. And I would not recommend them to anyone.

Take it on good authority - this will be a long autumn.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Get shorty....err

I was thin once upon a time. And tall. As a child. A bit of a beanstalk with golliwog curls and lanky limbs. All that went out the window when I turned 13; puberty met me and I met rice. Suddenly I stopped growing in height and instead started growing into what the Delhi punjabi’s call ‘halthy girl, ji’. At 5 feet and 3 AND a half inches I stopped and grew upwards no more. I was sorely disappointed because I have lovely tall parents, a tall grandmother (maternal), grandfather (paternal), uncle (maternal) and cousins (paternal). My genes (which I am assuming also decide height besides every other human characteristic) had ignored all these tall people genes and given me the genes of the short people of our family, my other grandparents and adorable aunts.

Life is just not fair.

The Nik who was always instructed to call me ‘jiji’ (which is what you call your elder sister in UP) consistently ignored the instruction and just called me ‘shorty’ or ‘moti’ or ‘fatty’ (the latter two meaning exactly the same, just in different languages) instead – both more than somewhat true. The ‘shorty’ is a far more hurtful reminder of my errant genes. The ‘fatty’ is being addressed by my saintly 6am visits to the gym. Nik, the lucky fella, got the right genes, and well within his teens overtook me to reach his present height of over 6 feet tall in his socks. So now he and said parents loom over me, walk in longer strides and sit at the tall peoples table while I languish at the shortbread table.

I won’t bore you with the details but I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday during which they wanted to check my height. And what did they find? That I’m five feet and two and a half inches. Can you bl**dy believe it? A WHOLE inch shorter than I have always thought/ been told/ measured at. I was so upset when the doctor first told me this that I rather angrily asked him if someone else could come in and check this fact as I was pretty certain of my height. A rather surly nurse came in, instructed me to ‘stand straight child’ and reconfirmed the doctors findings. By this time I was more agitated than angry and insisting that I had had my height taken a million times before and there was no way I could be only 5’2”1/2. I insisted on being checked against another height chart. So nurse, doctor and I traipsed across the hall to another office and checked my height against the chart there. Still 5’2”1/2.

Completely leaving aside why I had originally gone to the doctor I went into explanation demanding mode, demanding to know how I could have shrunk. The poor doctor had no answer except that ‘maybe in India they took your height measurement wrong”. What? My whole life, numerous times – how likely is THAT?

I came into office in the middle of the day still very upset about this change in my height. And I told anyone who would listen to my woes about this shocking shrinkage. Stood back to back with loads of colleagues who all seemed to think they were more than 5’3” and it turns out I’m taller than them. So either the doctor or his charts were wrong or everyone is living in dream world about their height.

There is no rational explanation for how this has occurred. I’ve either started shrinking naturally 20 years too early (the doctor thinks this is highly unlikely). Or I’ve always been this height and in a race to be giraffe like convinced myself that I’m taller than I am. Or I’m 5’3”1/2 and the doctor just got it wrong. I prefer the last explanation thank you very much.

This is a very upset (and apparently very short) 31 year old signing off.

And Nik, if I hear laughter, even at this distance, you are in DEEP trouble young man!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Gym Tales

Week One. Day One.

Sunday. Knowing that Monday morning is our first outing to the Gym I pack my bag in advance. A bit like a school bag run where we had to find out which lessons were on the next days timetable and pack textbooks & notebooks accordingly. My big Crumpler bag is ideal. I knew someday I would be able to justify why I spent all that money on a newspaper-delivery-looking-water-proof-bag. This is the day.

Bag has office clothes (what was the point of ironing them if they are going to be rolled into a ball?), office shoes, hairbrush, soap, shampoo, conditioner, assorted nice smelling things (deodorant and perfume) and cosmetics (which I otherwise never use) to complete the ensemble. After all there will be other women in the locker room while I get ready – I have a reputation to keep up (not so much keep up as build from scratch – this is only day 1). Bag also has handbag within it which has wallet, card holder, lip balm, Polo mints, travelcard, book and ipod for journey. Bag weighs 34 kilos.

Monday. Alarm set for 5.30am. I am up as soon as the alarm goes off. My sneakers/ trainers (depending on where you are from!) with new socks tucked in are at the end of the bed, near my already packed bag. Gym clothes – non-slogan T-shirt and tracks – are resting on the bag. Out of bed like an eager child on Christmas morning (still blissfully unaware that Santa was in fact mom and dad) followed by hurried-get-ready experience and at 5.55 we were out the door and legging it to the Gym.

Gym is full of scary, scary thin people. The kind motivated enough to get up and be at the Gym in their colour coordinated gear before the crack of dawn. V and I are motivated but not even vaguely colour coordinated – forget with each other, even just as ourselves. Ignoring the running masses we decide to diligently exercise for 45 whole minutes.

While I walk on the treadmill at the pace of a snail doing the marathon I marvel at how for someone who has often been described as a ‘slow walker’ this is an achievement. For someone who will not move an inch unless absolutely required this is inspired. As for getting up at 5.30 am to be in the gym at 6am, this is the equivalent to walking on the moon.

I go to office full of beans confident that I have already lost some weight and look better in my clothes. Excuse my delusions. I need them instead of coffee.

Week Two

Went to the Gym for four days out of five in Week One. Skipped it on the weekend because there is still so much house setting up to be done that I think that is exercise enough.

Found the class for fat people. It’s called – say it together people – “aqua aerobics”. It’s at 6.50am on a Tuesday morning. Being ‘aqua’ it is naturally in the pool. The class is great for my self-esteem. I am the thinnest person there. I swim 30 laps before the 40 minute class starts. All the roly-poly’s come to this class mainly because the water provides good resistance making the workout make your body work hard while also cushioning it from injury. It’s lovely, a coordinated whale workout if you like. The teacher is fit and energetic and has us all feeling like we’ve had a workout rather than just aimlessly splashed around in the pool. I’ve met some nice people and in just the second week of us taking this class together we are chatting after class. "Did you enjoy that? Where do you work? How many days do you come in? How long have you been a member? Do you always use this locker?" A bit like a secret club this is Gym-talk, if you like.

Besides losing weight my only aim is to get them to switch off that Brittany Spears music.

Week Three

Can you believe I am still getting up at 5.30am to use the Gym before work? I hit the snooze button almost as soon as the annoying alarm goes off. 8 minutes later I am awake and getting ready. I think the sheer cost of the Gym membership is keeping me going.

6am gym sessions are not to be laughed at. It’s that time of year when winter is closing in on us and the sun lights up the sky a few moments later each day. It’s not cold enough to need even a light jacket yet but the skies are darker when I wake up. The thought of not going is a fleeting one I have managed to overcome so far. Like the preceding two weeks, in Week Three, I managed to go to the Gym for four out of five days.

I feel lighter although the scales tell me I have not lost anything. They lie methinks.

Week Four

I’m used to the alarm now and wake up just a few moments before it's peeling begins. I like waiting in the dark for that first ring to herald this new day.

I’m still pre-packing my bag (although I have done away with handbag inside a bag and various other unnecessary items – who needs blush-on when freshly scrubbed pores show red cheeks to their best?) and being well-organised.

I feel a little bit saintly.

I wonder how long this madness will last?