I am constantly being told that, the longer you persevere with something, the easier it becomes. All the ‘experts’ reckon that changing anything in your life is all about the mindset. Think it, and it shall happen. Which is all well and good, when you’re not craving a toasted Primula sandwich at midnight on a Sunday, after a day on the vodka, watching the match through your hands.
This was last weekend, of course. On the Saturday, I’d had a lovely day in London and, yes, the Tuna Nicoise did materialise, as planned, which I was very proud of. I even resisted the basket of mixed Italian breads that the girls had cunningly ordered, and which sat in front of me for nearly an hour, whispering to me how delicious they were, especially smothered in lashings of flavoured olive oil. I also ended up back home with one vodka tonic still unopened in my bag. For the first day of Week 4, then, I did go over my allowance (Diet Yoda whipped another load off me…), but nothing I wouldn’t be able to claw back in the week ahead.
Then Sunday happened.
As planned, I met up with Chrissy and her husband, Karl, and we decamped to the King Charles for the usual pre-match aperitif. I gave my ticket to Karl, who works away and doesn’t get chance to go the game, and Chrissy and I stayed at the KC to watch on the telly. This was always going to be a tense day. Playing United is my favourite fixture, always has been, but I really wasn’t relishing this particular encounter. The emotional events of the previous couple of weeks, with the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, and the ramifications of their findings, meant that Liverpool had, quite rightly, been in the media spotlight ever since. Knowing our next home game after the report’s publication, would be against (in my opinion) our bitterest rivals, had put us all on edge, and the same questions were coming from everyone’s lips. Would there be trouble? Would the travelling Mancs, who have sung sick chants about “96 not being enough”, for the last 23 years, actually going to do the same this time, too? Every club has idiots, and God knows we have our fair share, but sometimes you really have to question what goes on in people’s heads. Football is tribal, that’s not news, but there’s a heap of difference between goading the opposition, and singing songs about dead children.
Seeing the Justice mosaic held aloft all around the ground for the first minute of the game, was a true lump-in-the-throat moment. Pleasing, too, was the reaction of the vast majority of those travelling Mancs – the grown ups – who of course had no problem joining in the tribute, and applauded both the mosaic and the release of the 96 red balloons (the Charlton/Rush roses handover, though, didn’t sit easily with me, it was crass PR, nothing more).
Obviously, the law of averages dictates there were still some vile individuals who thought it necessary to chant “Murderers” at the end of the game, so don’t believe those members of the press who told you it didn’t happen, because it did. You’ll never change people like that, because their only reason to get up in the morning, is to spread hate, with no idea of why. They have nothing else in their lives – no love, no dreams, no nothing. And the same goes for any so-called Liverpool fan who’s ever sung about Munich, or made the childish, frankly pathetic aeroplane gestures towards United fans. You’re not fans, you’re an embarrassment. Just grow the f**k up, why don’t you? Rant over.
We got beat, 1-2. That was painful, just agony. Because we deserved to win, absolutely. I always laugh at my friend Andy, because he’s obsessed with referees, convinced they’re all corrupt and on Fergie’s payroll. This time, I reckon he was right. Mark Halsey had a shocker, and didn’t seem to be in any control of what was always going to be a difficult game. Consistency is key, for any ref. Halsey needs to look it up.
Obviously, the result was the main reason why I saw fit to sink 21 vodkas. Granted, the KC’s spectacular ‘locals’ measures, accounted for the vast majority of units drunk, so it’s not like I actually went to the bar 21 times. Thing is, this overindulgence (and stratospheric explosion on the Calorie-o-Meter), didn’t need to happen. Chrissy wasn’t even drinking, as she and Karl had to drive straight back to Cardiff after the game. And, with most of the usual gang in Barcelona on a jolly, there was only myself, Andy, Larry and Sami Beard left to cry over the result. My place is only down the road so, once the post-match gridlock had subsided, there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t have simply finished my drink (which was only at unit no.10, by that point), and buggered off home. Locked in by 6pm, further temptation averted. Not that gridlock is even an excuse – I could easily have walked.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself in town four hours later, at the Rose & Crown Karry-Cokey, listening to Andy trying to make us all feel better by hammering “That’s Life” in front of a bunch of not-arsed stag and hen parties. Stumbling out of there at around half ten, I’d fallen for the oldest trick in the ‘How Not To Diet’ book. I’d not had anything to eat. And, when you’re drunk, and depressed, you can’t just go home and rustle up a salad or even a chicken stir fry. You need stodge, and lots of it. The carb craving kicks in so violently, you can literally feel your insides punching your ribcage, begging to be filled with cheeseburgers and kebabs.
Luckily, I’d still managed to hang on to a tiny bit of self-control, and was able to dodge Dale Street’s plethora of MSG dens, in favour of the late Spar on the corner of Castle Street. Determined to atone for my vodka transgressions, I must have spent at least 15 minutes examining every label of every product of every fridge and freezer in the shop, just trying to find something, anything, that wasn’t going to fill me with self-loathing in the morning. The guilt of soaking up 21 vodkas, I can handle. Stuffing down a Rustler’s hot dog, pepper steak slice and four Dairylea Dunkers? Not so much.
By now, I was being watched very closely by the cashier, who was convinced I was a shoplifter, just waiting for my ‘moment’. After all, what kind of insane person actually stands in front of an open freezer, in a Spar, talking to herself about the evils of battered cod? And the store was closing, like now, so I had 30 seconds to pick my tea. I went for the healthiest thing I could find. Two floury cobs and a tube of Primula. Really. It’s a Spar.
I got home, and held my luxury purchases in my hands, like a crack addict holding a lighter and a rusty spoon. Then I fired up the laptop and was completely honest with Diet Yoda about the size of the wagon I’d just fallen off. He told me that, for Sunday, I was already 750 calories over my allowance. If I went ahead and injected the bread and Primula, I would be 1150 over. In for a calorie, in for a pound, right?
Monday – obviously I’m f**ked. But there was still a faint light at the end of this Fat Tunnel. I had five whole days to recoup the debauched weekend – 1300 calories, which equals one day (kind of). With simple arithmetic, I was able to just swap grapes for strawberries, houmous for salsa, Greek yoghurt for fat free stuff, and my favourite sweet chilli and ginger stir fry sauce, for soy and sesame. Et voila, 1300 calories clawed back by Thursday.
This was Prowsey ‘Cross the Mersey time. Part of the Riverboat Shuffle Music Festival, to raise much needed funds to save Mersey Ferries, it promised to be a great night of toe-tapping and seasickness, with guests The Hummingbirds and Ian Prowse. I wandered down to the Pier Head to meet Will and Jon, both just back from Barcelona. The rain had stayed away, and by 7.15pm the sky had taken on that violet glow which, as a backdrop to the Liverpool waterfront, is truly one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in your life. I never get tired of it.
Once on board the ferry, I felt sick within minutes. We hadn’t even left our moorings yet, but just the gentle bobbing was enough to make me a bit queasy. My main concern, though, was whether I’d be able to get through the evening without drinking. The good omens were there. Jon was now “off it” for 7 weeks, on one of his twice-yearly detoxes. Will is not a huge drinker anyway, and certainly not on a school night, so there was really no reason for me to drink, either. Except for the bar, and the music, and the general air of “wahey!”, that was hard not to get mixed up in, once The Hummingbirds got going. They were great, if brief. Later, Prowsey was his usual nutter self, getting the whole ferry literally rocking with classics like “You’re A Phoney”, “Raid The Palace” and, of course, “Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?”, which was especially poignant, that night.
The seasickness subsided with the help of two VDCs. Yes, only two. Because the price was about fifty quid a pop. Or it may as well have been. Here’s a tip for Mersey Ferries, if they want to stay afloat. Lower the bar prices, more people will come on board.
Back on dry land, the boys and I took our time wandering along the waterfront, then headed across the Strand, up by St Nick’s and to the Lion, Jon’s local. This was a big test for him, having just hopped on the wagon. When he ordered an orange squash and lemo, the barman nearly fainted, and I think Jon felt a slight sense of shame. These were his guys, the fellas he sat and moaned with on a regular basis. And he’d just ordered a tart’s drink. I did feel for him. Will had a couple of pints, and I had a couple more VDCs, as we deconstructed the evening’s entertainment (“Hummingbirds should have had longer…”, “that bird on the fiddle was really thin…”, “a can of Red Stripe and a voddie, h-h-how much??”).
Adding in my walk from home to the Pier Head, earlier, which ‘earned’ me
two drinks 110 calories, I remained under my allowance for the day, so job done. You see, things are getting easier. Friday, I holed myself up and got cracking on some long overdue short stories that’ll soon be up on Smashwords. I’d had a bit of a spiritual moment on that walk from the Pier Head to the Lion, which had somehow released the huge mental block I’d been experiencing on this particular project. Maybe I need to go streetwalking at night more often…
Things I’ve Learned This Week:
1. I can no longer blame my friends for how much I drink
The power was in my hands, last Sunday, to just leave the pub an hour after the game had finished. I didn’t even have traffic as an excuse – I could have walked, I’m only half a mile from Anfield. Neither Chrissy nor Karl were drinking, and they even offered me a lift home. I didn’t get swept along, or persuaded, or talked into anything I didn’t want to do. I got drunk, and it was entirely my own doing. Did I despise myself the day after? Absolutely, and all the more because I lost a day that should have been spent working on stuff. That’s on me, no-one else.
2. Chicken still rocks
I meant to go onto salmon, this week, really I did. Mum does a fantastic roast salmon, marinated in soy sauce and ginger, with roasted vegetables, which is just delicious, and insanely healthy. Even I can cook it. But finding good salmon is quite hard, whereas you can get chicken fillets anywhere. Week 5, I am determined, shall be the Week of Fish.
3. Rotten weather plays serious mind games with dieters
We never had a summer, but it’s over anyway. Autumn obviously doesn’t think it’s worth coming here, either, so we’ve gone straight to Winter. When the sun’s out, or at least when there’s a bit of brightness, it’s a lot easier to think positive about things. This last week, with it lashing down relentlessly, it’s made me feel a bit down and a bit miserable. The flat is chilly (I don’t normally feel the cold, but I have this week), and the only heating I have is via electric wall heaters which really do cost a million pounds for about 10 seconds of warmth. Food-wise, being cold makes you hungrier. But I’m not feeling satisfied with a bowl of strawberries and yoghurt. I’m craving hot jacket potatoes oozing with butter, or a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie. Winter is going to be a massive, massive test to stay on track. I’m dreading it. Talking of which…
Things I’m Dreading This Week
1. Watching the match in a pub…again.
Once again, it’s straight into a challenging weekend, diet-wise. We’re away to Norwich this week. Peewee did offer me a ticket and a seat on the FunBus, but I’m just feeling too old for those shenanigans, these days. No disrespect to a beautiful city, but Norwich really is at the other end of the world. Even when I lived in Nottingham, it still took a week to get there. And seriously, what are the chances of me spending 6 hours, each way, on a coach with 50 Scousers and 100 crates of lager, and not being off my face by the time we reach the M6?
So, I’ll be meeting up with The Olds instead, in either the Storrsdale in Allerton, or the Victoria Cross in town. Sammy Lee will doubtless be in the former, and probably Rustie Lee in the latter. Either way, I’ll be drinking.
2. Sunday dinner
Seems strange to be ‘dreading’ the most delicious meal ever invented, but I am. I know everybody says this, but my mum really does cook the best Sunday dinner in the world. And it’s my first one since starting the diet. Her roast potatoes (must be Maris Pipers) melt in the mouth, thanks to the way she scores them with the fork to make them crispy, and the copious amounts of oil and meat juices they get basted in at regular intervals during the cooking process (always roast the potatoes with the meat…).
The joint will be succulent and tender, and the gravy is the real deal, made from scratch in the roasting tin, with cornflour, meat juices and potato water. There will also be a ‘guest vegetable’, which could be anything from cauliflower cheese or eggy cabbage with pancetta, to garlic-buttered carrots. Whatever’s on the menu Chez Deane Elders tomorrow lunchtime, I reckon just two of those roasties and a few peas are going to blow my allowance out of the water. And that’s before mum even opens the (first bottle of) Pinot.
The sensible thing to do, would be for me to prepare my own separate meal. That roast salmon, perhaps, or some light pasta. If I were to even attempt to do this, however, my dad would make me eat it in another room. Or another house. Because he hates the very mention of the word ‘diet’. He cannot abide it when mum and I begin talking calories, and I can actually see the repulsion in his face, when we do. He is a traditional man, who eats and drinks what he likes and believes, utterly and completely, that nothing he ingests or imbibes has any effect on the general state of his health.
I know that if I eat 10 Big Macs a day, every day for a month, I may put on a few pounds. Dad will say “it’s all in your head”. And Sunday dinner has always been a big deal in our family. It’s Dad’s favourite meal, too. Growing up, it was the one ritual we all looked forward to. Dad at the head of the table, mum always in the chair nearest the kitchen, and us three kids sat round listening to him put the world to rights, and us keeping him and mum abreast of everything we’d been up to that week, and all we hoped to achieve in the days that followed. We ate our tea at the kitchen table, together, as a family, Monday to Friday. Saturdays would be French bread, cheese and pate, in front of Robin of Sherwood or Knight Rider, and Sundays would always, always, be up at the big dining table with all the best plates and the expensive Spanish lace tablecloth, and even a thimbleful of wine for us kids. I adored it.
Today, I’m the only one still ‘local’ – my sister lives in Singapore (where mum is from), and my brother is in Nottingham. Sunday dinners don’t happen every week anymore, especially in the summer months. But now that things are getting cooler, their regularity will increase, even if there’re only three of us around the table. Dad still sits at the head, his crystal wine glass brimming with Campo Viejo, and we still won’t move for hours, as we all talk utter nonsense and pick at the leftovers. Sunday dinner is sacred. Me sitting down with a WeightWatchers pasta arrabiata, would be like telling Dad I’ve fallen in love with an Evertonian. In short, it is never going to happen.
As ever, watch this space…
To Business – The stats bit:
Week 1: 3.25lbs
Week 2: 4lbs
Week 3: 0.75lbs
Week 4: 0.75lbs
Total after 28 days: 8.75lbs