Friday, October 25, 2013

Dan the Man - Dream Invader

Back in the 80s I had a fling with Dan the Man (as he described himself). Dan was a Canuck, a French Canadian guy I'd met on a holiday in Europe. I thought the fling was the real thing, he viewed it as a holiday romance. Naturally, it ended in tears - mine - but that's another story and too turgid to go into. I'll digress if I do.

Anyway, last night I dreamed about Dan the Man. I was in Montreal on holiday, with Mum. I was the age I am now but Mum was younger and fitter. We'd gone to Montreal but were hoping we wouldn't bump into Dan.

So we spent our holiday peeking around corners and of course, found ourselves in the same building as Dan the Man. I think it was a hotel. I don't always remember my dreams terribly well once I'm awake but I remember hissing at Mum, "Don't tell him I'm here!" and hiding under something. Bedcovers? Cushions? Something soft.

Dan, naturally, peered around a corner and found me, and we had an argument about something. Nothing obviously had changed in the many years since we'd last met. I should add here that we'd met up for holidays twice more after the initial one - 1991 in the US and 1996 in Canada, with the clear understanding that any sex involved was fling-like rather than the indication of a lasting relationship. We used to argue. It was an unhealthy relationship in many ways and around ten years ago we lost touch altogether.

My vague recollection of my dream is about me and Mum trying to move away from Dan the Man, with him pursuing and finding us, and finally he was being very pleasant and friendly, offering to show us around town. By the way, I've never been to Montreal so the Montreal I saw in my dreams probably bears no relation to anywhere on Earth.

I woke up wondering why the hell I'd dreamed about Dan the Man. Then I twigged. I'd watched an excellent show last night on ABC1, Redesign My Brain with Todd Sampson. Todd is also Canadian, and a thin and wiry/muscly build like Dan the Man. The physical similarities must have lodged in my brain - which clearly needs redesigning in that case - and lo! a dream was duly delivered.

Over the years I've wondered about Dan the Man. Whether he's still single, and I suspect he is, as he's too fussy about women's looks. He's a very intelligent guy and a perpetual student; I suspect he has at least two degrees by now.

I've tried to find him on the internet - little ole stalker me - and he's curiously invisible. No Facebook or Twitter. Not on LinkedIn. He's in the phone book and still living at the same address I've always known for him. I'd love to know what he looks like these days. Still skinny, I bet, and still bespectacled.  Whether he's kept the wild mop of curls is another thing; I suspect he's rather thin on top these days. In my dream the curls were still there but a bit grey. The lush curls, I may add, were part of the attraction; I've always liked good hair on men. (Doesn't explain why I'm married to someone who's quite bald on top - I guess he has other attractions :-) ).

I wonder which old flame will pop up in my dreams next?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poison, sweet poison

Show me a weight loss plan or book and I'll sniff with interest. Enough interest and I'll buy it. Such as, it says I can have a glass of wine with dinner. Or enjoy the occasional serve of hot chips. Guess what I found at our local bookshop last week, in that case!

G and I are both on a weight loss kick. In his case, it's on doctor's orders as doc has said G's 'bad' cholesterol is too high. G was then sent to a nutritionist who recommended using margarine instead of butter and other ideas that the medical profession believes are better for you, mostly related to using 'fake' food instead of real food.

I have a real beef with that. Pun intended.

We humans didn't evolve for hundreds of thousands of years to eat artificial preservatives and oils bleached to pale yellowness to resemble butter. We ate meat with fat on it. We made butter from cream. We were relatively healthy - aside from the plague and other baddies - until the last few hundred years and particularly the 20th century.

I've just finished reading two books: Sweet Poison and Toxic Oil by Aussie author David Gillespie. These are real eye-openers.

David Gillespie isn't a doctor. His background is as a lawyer. As such, he's an investigator. He hunts down facts, and what he's found out from sifting through layers and centuries of data is that it's the fructose in refined sugar and food that contains it that's making us fat. Killing us, in fact, as sugar is also the culprit behind rising bad cholesterol.

Sugar didn't exist in our diet to the degree it does now, 200 years ago. It was simply too expensive to buy. Yer average Aussie these days eats about 1kg of the stuff a week. Pick up a kilogram bag of sugar and hold it in your hand just to cement the idea. It's no wonder 1 in 5 Australians are obese. Sugar creeps insidiously into just about everything, particularly the 'fat-free' products, which use sugar to enhance the taste in lieu of fat.

And guess what - those little Heart Foundation ticks of approval on food containing vegetable/seed oils should be crosses. The way these oils are produced affects their molecular structure, and not in a good way. Couple that with data produced in the 1950s by a respected scientist, which was taken as gospel by the US government (and later the Aussies), showing that animal fat apparently leads to heart disease, and suddenly we're all being told to eat polyunsaturated oils which can have some pretty nasty side effects. I knew polyunsatured oils can cause macular disease - ie blindness - so have banned them from my kitchen, and if I have to buy packaged food I read the labels very carefully indeed. Animal fat isn't the bad guy it's made out to be, in a nutshell.

These books were written by a man who lost 40kg after cutting out sugar - and still eating animal fat products. Without sugar his health has improved immensely, weight loss irregardless.

As you can surmise by now Sweet Poison tells you all the reasons you should cut out refined sugar from your life. You can eat whole fruit (but not juice it... you're just getting fructose without the fibre if you do). You can even have a glass of dry white or red wine with dinner, as the sugar in wine doesn't break down into fructose. But forget the cakes and sweet biscuits, jams, and - regretfully! - chocolate.

This is going to be rather hard to achieve. Harder for G to achieve that I, as he has a Scotman's sweet tooth and adores his marmalade. And chocolate. And biscuits. He can hoover up three biscuits with one cup of coffee if they're put in front of him.

Since I cut out sugar in my coffee last year, I have less sugar cravings. I don't long for a couple of squares of chocolate after dinner any more. I eat marmalade on my toast maybe twice a year, as I find it too sweet. I prefer a handful of nuts to a sweet biscuit. I do love a good cake though, and as David points out, if party food such as cakes is only eaten at parties or as a rare treat, and you don't have the urge afterwards to get back on the chocolate, biscuits, meringues and other sweet goodies, that's acceptable.

Toxic Oil says eggs are just fine, hunt out grass-fed beef or choose lamb instead, choose free-range chooks who aren't fed on grains heavy on Omega-6, and if you must have chips, fry them in olive oil, or an animal fat such as Supafry. (Don't buy fast food chips, whatever you do.) The book features several handy tables showing the sugar and polyunsaturated oil content of many common supermarket items, so I know what to buy and what to avoid.

Over the last couple of months G has lost five kilograms after a stern talking-to by the nutritionist, and me pointing out he doesn't need two slices of toast laden with marmalade after a breakfast of eggs, spinach, mushrooms and half a grapefruit. He's down to one spoon of sugar in tea and coffee too. I've surreptitiously cut down his portion sizes at other meals, and we don't have carbs every night at dinner, only a couple of times a week, getting carbs from vegetables instead. He's delighted at his weight loss and I'm going to urge him to read these books so we can work together on getting him down to a good weight for his height. In my case I only have about 4kg to lose.

My next task is clearing the food cupboard and fridge of the worst sugar and polyunsaturated oil offenders. I think tucked under the packets of quinoa, couscous, chia seeds and curry powders are some jars of curry paste, possibly bought when G still lived in Adelaide. As I typically make my own curry paste from scratch they're undoubtedly out of date anyway. This will be cathartic. And that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What was he thinking?

My husband G is a lovely bloke. Thoughtful. Generous. Kind. I am very lucky.

He likes to buy me presents, particularly if he's sent overseas on business, and most of the time they hit the mark pretty well.

Earlier this year he travelled to India, and asked me if I'd like him to bring back a sari. Delighted, I said. Cotton, preferably, and with sequins. Something a bit over the top I can turn into an evening dress. Aqua colour. Bless him, he came back with an apple green polyester sari with no sequins. Not what I envisaged for an evening dress so one of my Indian neighbours will have to show me how to wear a sari. We have many Indian neighbours. There'll probably be an occasion to wear one. It's a very pretty sari.

Happy that he'd bought a sari, G then thought he'd buy me something else. Silk clothes are pretty cheap in India, so he bought me a silk top.

I think he probably went into the fashion boutique, as he said it was quite a fashionable little shop, and told the salesgirl, "My wife likes wearing bright colours. What have you got in silk?"

She was undoubtedly overjoyed to offload a safety vest green coloured top, the cut of which is designed to turn anyone with boobs bigger than 32" into an elephant.

I am talking BRIGHT green. Eye-piercing, blinding green. Yes, the glow in the dark colour favoured by all health-and-safety-conscious manual workers everywhere. This photo doesn't do it justice. It makes it look tame.

I am thinking the shop didn't sell many of these; G told me proudly he'd got it on special.

Being a polite person, I thanked him generously and said it was lovely, and tried it on. Because of those pleats at the top and the subsequent flow of fabric it immediately made me look 10kgs heavier. I hoiked it in with a wide turquoise coloured belt, which helped. 

Apart from the fit, or lack of fit, the problem is the colour. What the hell do you match blinding green with so you don't look like a roadworker? I guess I can tone it down with aqua and turquoise, and wear it with white capri pants. I could probably wear it under the apple green sari, come to that.

Because it's a present and G was so proud of his shopping capabilities, I am honour bound to wear the top and not give it away. I am too kind a person to let it meet with an accident. I can't even dye it another colour or he'll suspect he made a major error with the fuck-me-that's-green green, and feel bad about it. 

So I have to grin and bear it - or in this case, wear it. But... what was he thinking when he went through the decision process on this top?

Has anyone else been giving a present they don't like but have to wear lest the giver get insulted?

Friday, October 4, 2013

The romance of rail

Occasionally I'm stuck in traffic on a railway bridge near my home. I don't like being stuck on bridges; that makes me twitchy. So I divert my attention from potential bridge collapses and imminent death by looking at the train lines below.

They snake off into the distance and around the bend, and I want to sniff the air and jump on a train. To anywhere. Just for the hell of it. Just to see where those silvery lines lead. To go to a place I wouldn't have any reason to go to; a place I haven't been before. The smell of the electricity, the mild rocking motion, and a sense of adventure, of zipping past all those cars trundling slowly down the roads, lifts my mood.

There's something about trains that appeals, despite my hatred of packed peak-hour public transport. Maybe it's the relaxation element (outside peak hour) where you can sit down with a book and let someone else drive. I can't read in cars but I can read in trains.

If I'm not reading, there's scenery. Well, in my case it's usually a troll through western Sydney, much of which ain't pretty, but it's interesting. The demographics change. The Indian woman sitting on her apartment balcony near Parramatta will be an Asian woman by the time you get to Strathfield. The houses on their quarter acre blocks - often fibro, often untidy - which back onto the train line give way to apartments around Parramatta and Westmead, then more houses on smaller blocks - brick, typically - until we hit the inner west and the lovely Italianate homes around Summer Hill and Petersham, and rows of terraces. Then it's into the funkiness of Newtown and Redfern before darkness envelopes us and we pull into Central.

A train ride is a sense of escape. It's still an adventure for me, as I don't ride the train every day. Train rides mean a journey into town for pleasure, or occasionally a client meeting. Earlier this week I had to go to St Leonards, so I took the train and gazed happily out at Sydney harbour as we crossed it on the coat hanger. Blissfully bluesky day, shimmering blue water; heartlifting. You can't always see that if you drive your car across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

So I find there is still a romance about travelling by train, even in suburban Sydney.

On my trip earlier this week there was real romance in the air, and I wondered what the relationship was. A guy sat opposite me; he was on the train when I alighted, munching McDonald's. He was in his thirties, unremarkable. At Parramatta a Chinese girl in her twenties or thirties got on and sat next to him, snuggling up. He put his arm around her, and for several stops they stayed like that, her head on his shoulder, his face turned towards hers, intensely talking. I was busy looking out the window on my side and only noticed the girl get off several stations later. I assumed the guy got off too, but no, he was still sitting there and got off at Town Hall. I wondered if they were having an affair, grabbing each opportunity to see each other, even if it was only travelling on the train for twenty minutes together. It brings a whole new dimension to the romance of rail.