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Archive for the tag “resolutions”

Aim high and don’t worry if you fall short

My resolve is totally soluble. The minute I make a resolution my stamina evaporates and my willpower collapses. If I decide to lose weight I am drawn moth-like to all things tooth-decaying and girth-expanding.

Which is why, this year, I decided to set aims for 2015 rather than make Resolutions. Four aims to be precise. This means that by 22nd January – the day when, apparently, the majority of us have given up on our diet, exercise, or whatever health-giving regime we adopted on Jan 1st – I was still within the boundaries of my aims, although far from fulfilling them.

It is a mystery to me why it is so hard to do things that one believes one really wants to do. Three weeks is not long in the overall scheme of things: 21 days to break or make a habit, so some say, is all you need. Well, not in my world. It took me 100 years to give up smoking. It was Allen Carr’s “Easyway to Stop Smoking” (this was pre vapes and patches), that finally helped me beat the nicotine. Hurrah!

The first of my 2015 aims was to have at least two alcohol-free days a week. I had written ‘three days’ in my notebook but, bearing in mind that goals need to be achievable, I scratched that ‘three’ out before the last midnight chime on 31st December. For me it is easy to slip into the prototypical role of middle-aged women with an evening wine habit. And I’m not alone. A recent study in Australia found that 13% of women aged 45 to 59 average more than two drinks a day – maybe a glass with the evening meal followed by a TV tipple – massively increasing our risk of alcohol-related illnesses. The thought is that our regular snifters easily sink binge drinkers under the table. Sobering. What have I discovered so far? Not having a bevvy in the evening is easy as long as there are: 1. No stressful occurrences. 2. No joyful occurrences. 3. No visitors. 4. No going out. Oh, look, it’s not easy – but I’m hanging in with one lapsed week so far.


Just a glass of water for me with that delicious piece of cod.

No chilled wine for me today. Just a glass of water with that delicious piece of cod.

Eating no meat or fish for two days a week has proved surprisingly family friendly despite the fact that we’re all rabid carnivores. I’ve often written about my discomfort with the ways we produce and dispatch animals, so this was a logical extension. Eat less meat but know its provenance etc. Actually, we’ve been so delighted with lentil curries, bean stews, spinach and feta pies (if you’ve never piped spinach and ricotta into cannelloni, erm, just do it!), that we’ve surpassed the aim most weeks. Although I have been a tad naughty with a splash of chicken stock in soups and the occasional stray anchovy on a salad, I’ve become quite the carrot hugger.

I've become quite the carrot hugger.

I’ve become quite the carrot hugger.

Exercise five days a week – even if it’s just a turn around the walls of Berwick. The Husband and I wildly and optimistically committed to a coastal challenge walk in May. It’s 26.2 miles from Budle Bay to Alnmouth – you’re supposed to complete it in 11 hours. Today we thought we’d managed three miles but it turned out to be 2.5. We may need an extension.

Getting out and about is proving quite a challenge for us.

Getting out and about is proving quite a challenge for us.

Finally, to rise at 6am on two days a week. I know that’s not early for many people, but it’s an hour before I usually see the sky. The three times I have managed it, I’ve got an enormous amount done in that precious hour. And, yes, you read correctly. Three times. But this, I think, is the thing about aims: unlike resolutions, aims don’t crash and burn when you slip. They sit there, waiting for you to edge towards them – even if, like Alnmouth in relation to Budle Bay, they seem more elusive mirage than attainable goal.

One week in = fun. But surely there aren’t enough vegetables for 51 more weeks?

Rather unexpectedly, the most difficult of my aims for 2015 during this first week, proved to be number two below. The residual exhaustion of the festive season and the fact that school term only started today may have something to do with my inability to rise early (oh and the fact that I set the alarm for the wrong day!). However, the morning I did manage to rise at 6am, I was rewarded by a glorious nearly full moon lighting up our still night-cloaked garden, the pleasure of making myself a warming fire, a cup of fresh coffee and the relief of ticking off two hours of Open University coursework. All before even a mouse so much as sneezed in the house. Result. I hope I can do it a few times more before the year’s out!

1. Eat at least two meat/fish free meals a week

2. Rise earlier (aim 6am) two days a week

3. Take exercise on at least five days a week

4. Drink no alcohol on at least two days a week

Both the Husband and the 13-year-old have announced they are joining me in my folly (the veggie eating for both, plus the exercise and booze-free days for him). Though delightful to have company, it is perhaps a tad more challenging. Whilst I might choose a bowl of Tyrrells cheese crisps as my vegetarian supper, this just won’t wash as a healthy or sustaining repast for the family. Post-supper bolt-on, yes. But full-blown meal? No way. Plus, cooking vegetarian for a teenager who’s not totally over-the-moon about vegetables may prove tricky – although she was surprisingly positive about my veg crumble this evening (the Husband declared it ‘virtuous’ with it’s wholemeal & chopped almond topping and 10 different veg). There’s also the on-going debate about how pedantic to be about the vegetarian thing – is it so very wrong to have chicken stock in parsnip soup? According to some Twitterers it most certainly is, others are a wee bit more laid back…and, yes, we did have the chicken stock. But 52 weeks of being inventive with pulses and veg? I think I’m going to need substantially more recipes!

Vegetarian supper for one (perhaps with a glass of wine?)

Vegetarian supper for one (perhaps with a glass of wine?)

Another area of on-going debate is what constitutes exercise. Does walking to the shop for instance? Or is that just part of daily life? What about sex (just kidding – of course it’s exercise!). The Husband was resistant to going out in the rain for a morning constitutional – but if we’re going to fit in five days of exercise…well, I’m going to have to be strict. Plus on that wet day we were rewarded by the most amazing rainbow spanning Berwick not dissimilar to the one here that I captured late last year. It’s great to reconnect with walks round Berwick and along the river and coast that were such highlights when we first moved here and that we have perhaps neglected more recently. This morning we even saw an otter eating a fishy breakfast on the lip of the river Tweed – it’s our first otter sighting in four and half years of living here. Brilliant. And it’s lovely to be enjoying some of the recently revamped park spaces.

The refurbed lily pond and shelter near Berwick Station

The refurbed lily pond and shelter near Berwick Station – no time for a rest for us on our punishing exercise regimen!

Finally, I haven’t really nailed down the keeping track of it all. Do I have specific days for each aim – you know: No wine Mondays and Tuesdays; no meat or fish Wednesdays and Thursdays; exercise Monday through Friday; up early Tuesday and Thursdays? Or do I leave it to chance and risk the end of the week arriving before I’ve managed to squeeze in my free-from, early rise, active days?

One week in it’s all quite entertaining. I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t last. Only time will tell.


Resolutions for 2015 – you’re having a laugh!

What can I say? I laugh in the face of resolutions. If I do make them, I keep them a secret. The sort of things I’d like to be – more organised, less tense and stressy, more focused – are simply not possible to achieve through resolutions. Overall, I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to do something the only way to do it is to get on with it. Waiting for the beginning of a New Year to commit to something is simply a form of procrastination – a way to let yourself off the hook. So, having already written my own get-out-of-resolutions-for-free card, here goes.

New for 2015 in Jackie Kaines world:

– Get up earlier on at least three days a week (aim = 6am)

If I’m going to fit all that exercise in (see below) and maintain normal life, this is a must. I’d also like to reinstigate something that has slipped of late: a time of peaceful personal and spiritual reflection.

– Eat no meat or fish on two days a week

If I had the time (and the ingredients) to create  Yotam Ottolenghi recipes every day, this would be easy. Realistically, we may be facing a bowl of warmed up lentils twice a week. However, I have expressed my reservations about how our society grows, feeds and produces meat (and fish) on a number of occasions and am determined to edge towards putting my eating where my principles are. I’m hoping I’ll discover some new and exciting ways with veg and dairy.

– Exercise on at least five days a week – even if it’s just a turn round the historic walls of Berwick

The Husband & I are aiming to do a 26.2 mile coastal walk with Shepherds Walks in May – so this is an absolute must.

– Drink no alcohol on at least two days a week

This could be the hardest to achieve. I am not a one-glass-of-wine kind of girl. I also find it increasingly difficult not to have a drink every evening. It’s the 8pm crumble that gets me every time. The ‘oh, why not? I won’t have one tomorrow.’ Fact is, I enjoy a drink with friends and I don’t want to drink myself into a situation where the only thing left is to give the wine up altogether.

I shall keep you posted on how it all goes. Meanwhile I’m popping downstairs to let the Husband and 13-year-old know. I wonder how they’ll take it?

Training to walk: a blueprint for life

Sometimes I wish there were a route finder for life. Something small and neat that you could whip out of your pocket at key moments. It would be so much easier to make choices if you knew where they would lead, how they would work out, and how long the ramifications would last.

Perhaps that’s why giving and taking things up at New Year is so popular. After all, how dangerous or hard could it be to commit to regular exercise, or lowering your alcohol intake, or phoning your mum weekly for 365/6 days? I read somewhere that almost half Americans make New Year’s resolutions but only 10% keep them. Hats off to the 10% – I don’t think I’ve ever made it through February.

With my lack of persistence in mind, I decided to set two goals for the year, one of which will take me through the first six months and then, hopefully, continue in some form for the remaining six. I’ve signed up for the Edinburgh MoonWalk in June. It’s organised by Walk the Walk, a charity raising awareness and funds for breast cancer. London Daughter and I did the London version eight years ago (we had a little reunion to enjoy the night walk supporting Hospice Care Northumberland in Berwick in 2010). The MoonWalk is a gruelling 26.2 miles starting at midnight and finishing as soon as your little legs can carry you round the circuit. The hallmark is that everyone wears decorated bras as they power–walk. That, and people’s stories – perhaps a date and name on a bare midriff remembering a loved one, or a simple one word status, ‘clear’ or ‘survived’ – marks this event out for me.

Entering the  MoonWalk is not entirely altruistic on my part. You need to train for it. Since we moved up to the great outdoors from London, I have found it harder to exercise. It’s a funny thing but, now we have walks and walking on our doorstep, we do less of it. In London walks of reasonable length were more easily incorporated into everyday life. Walks to the bus stop, tube, shops or park. When we first moved to Berwick, each day was an opportunity to walk the town’s walls, or the shore, or along the river. Taking time out to walk and enjoy our beautiful surroundings was justifiable as part of our moving process.

Swans – the only wildlife I was quick enough to capture on camera on a recent walk in Paxton – the oyster catchers and yellow hammers eluded me.

Walking is a time consuming pursuit and, 18 months on, it seems self–indulgent to simply ‘go for a walk’. Several people have suggested a dog. Well, The 10–Year–Old would burst with joy and The Husband would leave. Anyhow, isn’t it daft to feel one has to justify an activity by creating a new one? And there’s the poo. So, moving swiftly on…

Paxton Friend’s dog. I still don’t want one!

Since fast walking is my exercise of choice, my prevarication about ‘going for a walk’ has proved fatal to my waistline and general wellbeing. So I figured that walking a marathon would galvanise me to action. My new Paxton Friend and I are quartering Berwick and Paxton, chatting as we go.  We try to push ourselves a bit more each time – faster and further.We both walk alone too (Paxton Friend has a dog) – and agree that we feel perfectly safe doing so. Although walking at night is a different matter and one we will have to address if we’re to continue to train effectively. Funnily enough, lone London night walking feels less exposed if you pick your circuit well.

Paxton Friend and dog

And that’s one of a number of things I’ve discovered about resolutions and ambitions through my training so far. A realistic plan and good support are key to making progress and keeping engaged. And plotting and planning routes is fundamental to not getting lost – confirmed by a Saturday morning spent roaming around the cliff tops looking for the coastal path between Berwick and Beal. Of course there’s a map. And next time – I’ll take it with me!

View from Canty’s Brig, Paxton

Do take a look at The Barn at Beal.

(A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on Thursday March 1st 2012)

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