Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Just not tall enough!

I went for my routine diabetes check-up this morning, and had confirmed what I have long suspected: I'm just not tall enough.

My sugar levels are pretty much under control, my blood pressure is (as always) too high, and the little stick they dip in your pot of urine turned the right colour, but there remains this height problem.

I have always realised that this was an issue, but hadn't suspected quite how short I am. I thought perhaps an extra 7 inches or so would be ideal. But no.

It turns out that to sustain the Body Mass Index I have, I need to grow by no less than an extra foot, taking me from my average 5ft 10ins to a fairly unlikely 6ft 10 ins.

The other day, I stepped on my daughter's bathroom scales. I 'did the math' as we have learned from American TV to say, to convert the reading into stones and pounds, smiled to myself, and made a mental note to tell my daughter her scales were way out and that she perhaps needed to change the batteries.

Imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scales at the surgery to find that they were showing the same erroneous figure. Sandra, my fantastic diabetes nurse, assured me that the scales were in fact not lying and that I am what the medical profession like to call a fat bastard. Of course she didn't say that: she actually said I was obese.

This did not make me feel good. I've always struggled with my height - I suppose I mean weight - but I genuinely thought I was about two stones lighter than I now have to accept is the reality.

So I came home and signed up for Weightwatchers on-line. My initial target is to lose a modest - but still daunting - 6kg.

Why am I sharing this with you, dear reader? In the hope that by 'going public' I will feel more motivated, and more ridden with guilt if I fall by the wayside.

I'll let you know how my weight - or height, if that turns out to be a practical solution - progresses.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

A neighbour has asked you to call round for a New Year drink. His cousin is visiting, and you are introduced. The conversation goes like this:

You: Nice to meet you. Where do you live? Well, you've got to say something
Him: Paris
You: What area?   He could say absolutely anything at this point, it would meaning nothing to you, but you will say...
You: Oh yes, I know, do you like it there?
Him: Yes, it's lovely.  Uncomfortable pause. What do you do?

And in the answer to that one question he seeks to sum you up. From the one or two sentences that follow, and the accent in which they are spoken, he will make an instant assessment, right or wrong, of your:

  • Personality
  • Value to society
  • Social status and class
  • Education
  • Income
  • Political views

and whether he sees you as his equal, superior or inferior. Older readers think Two Ronnies and John Cleese. Younger readers click here to find out what I'm talking about.

For the reality is that that question - what do you do? - is really code for who are you?. We are, in so many ways, defined by what we do for a living.

And it's not only others who define us in this way; for many of us it's how we define ourselves. When we're asked that fateful question, how often do we respond with "Well, I'm a great Dad" or "I'm a socialist", "I love cycling" ? Never mind 'you are what you eat", the truth is "you are what you do for a living".

And there's my problem. Until July 2010, I had had a moderately successful career in local government, and my answer to THE question always began "Oh, I'm Head of ... whatever it was at the time... with the local council." Those two words - Head of - instantly positioned me as a senior local government manager with all that that is perceived to entail.

Then I was made redundant, took my pension, and retired. As most readers know, I care for my wife who has dementia. I hope I'm also still a great Dad, a sort of socialist, and I lied about the cycling. The point is, I don't have an easy answer to the 'What do you do' question. None of those activities describes me properly. So I often describe myself as a retired local government manager - what I did rather than what I do. If I'm being honest, it's because what I do doesn't sound as interesting or, truthfully, as important, as what I used to do.

This is an aspect of retirement that I haven't seen discussed anywhere. I'm fortunate enough not to have financial worries, my health is good, I have a loving family. My problem is, I don't have a ready answer - to others or more importantly to myself - to the question  "Who do you think you are?"

Suggestions on a postcard please ...