Late once more, which can only mean one thing…I was too busy drinking yesterday to write anything. It’s been a funny week, mostly devoid of any kind of routine, so naturally I’ve struggled, yet again, to stay on track with the diet. Weekends used to be sedate affairs for me. I’d never go near town, because of my general misanthropy and dawdler allergy, but for the past month or so, Liverpool city centre has been a bit of a social magnet.
Last Saturday, as briefly mentioned, I’d booked into the Royal Court with my actor friend James and his beautiful girlfriend, Mandy, for the last day of the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival. The matinee was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was huge fun, despite the sparse set and low key production (audio not great, some actors were very hard to hear, particularly Shaun Mason’s Yorkshire ‘Puck’). Special big-ups to Harriet Barrow for an hilarious ‘Helena’, and Jack Lord‘s ‘Bottom’ (phnar, phnar), which really did have us laughing out loud all the way through, and was perfectly complemented by Michael Ryan‘s Quince .
We were also booked in for Macbeth, in the evening, which left the dilemma ‘what to do for lunch’? I dread these questions, from a diet point of view, because there’s just nowhere outside my own fridge that caters for calorie counting. We ended up in La Tasca in Queen Square, after I’d finally decided ‘ah, bugger it, this is my day off…’. Cue numerous delicious plates of meatballs, chilli beef parcels, chicken in white wine…etc etc etc, every new arrival completely exploding the calorie calculator on a nuclear scale. Add to that the obligatory bottle of Pinot, and I was well on my way to diet oblivion.
Problem was, we still had a few hours to kill, after, before curtain up on Macbeth, so how on earth were we going to fill the time? Easy, we go back to James & Mandy’s in Old Swan, and drink lots of vodka. Naturally, the Smirnoff Time Tunnel worked its magic once more, and before we knew it, it was time to bomb back into town for the much-anticipated performance of ‘the Scottish play’. Calorie-wise, I think was on about 5670.
About Macbeth, I’ll be honest, I was disappointed. It was always going to be a challenge to cut a four-hour epic into 90 minutes – as was always the plan for this production. They did this because they wanted to attract a younger audience, and those new to Shakespeare. But the problem, in my opinion, has never been that young people won’t sit through four hours of theatre (why wouldn’t they, if they were being entertained?), but more that the language of Shakespeare is very, very difficult to understand, if you’re not familiar with it. To all intents and purposes, 17th century English, especially in verse or rhyming couplets, is a foreign tongue. The words need to be enunciated properly, lyricised, almost, which is when you realise how beautiful and powerful Shakespeare’s command of language truly was. And every word counted. He was a bawdy fella, which people don’t seem to get – read his plays, there are knob jokes everywhere. He pushed boundaries, had genteel society up in arms, and loved to be controversial. He was an Elizabethan rock star, not the fuddy duddy ‘boring’ bloke that used to haunt people in school English lessons. If he was around today, he’d be Lady Gaga.
Setting the play in modern-day Liverpool (which was very cleverly done, by the way), is all very well, but there’s no point doing that, if the lines are unintelligible – although this could have been a projection issue. It may have been an idea to modernise the language, too, to take a risk and completely rewrite the play in modern parlance (anyone remember the excellent ShakespeaRE:Told on the BBC a few years ago? Marvellous). I know the play well, but I really struggled with this compacted version. Huge chunks of the story were removed to fit it into 90 minutes, but this definitely impacted negatively on the production as a whole. One of the most important elements of any play, and something Shakespeare was a master at, is establishing characters. The impressive opening sequence of the play, promised much, but it was downhill from there. So many characters were dressed too similarly to know who was who, and much of the dialogue was delivered just too fast (Scouse accents and Shakespeare don’t always mix, I’m afraid). Shakespeare was a sublime poet, but the power and majesty of the way he used language, was often completely lost, here.
Michael Ryan and Zoe Lister were stand-outs, acting-wise, though; Lister’s Lady Macbeth was deliciously wicked, and Ryan did a truly sterling job with a difficult remit, as the tormented Macbeth. But less isn’t always more, and out of the two plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was by far the better one, but maybe that’s because it’s difficult to mess up. Just one question that’s been bugging me on this, though – who was the guy on the promo poster? It’s not Michael Ryan, that’s for sure…
We indulged in several drink-ettes in the theatre bar later (James and Michael are friends, so it was all very luvvie), then we headed, absurdly, towards the one part of town you’d usually have to pay me to go anywhere near – Concert Square. Yes, Concert Square, on a Saturday night. Naturally, it was carnage. The target destination was The Shipping Forecast, which is very amiable during the day or on a weeknight. Saturday nights – hell on earth. Luckily (but not for her), Ms Lister was refused entry because she didn’t have any ID. The bouncers were letting in dozens of pissed up 16-year olds, no problem, but Lady Macbeth herself? Nope. Utterly bizarre, but typical of Dickhead Bouncerdom. Fortunately, that meant I didn’t have to squeeze myself into a sardine tin and spend an hour trying to get a drink from the bar. Oh joy. Instead, we bounded off to The Peacock, which we knew would probably be marginally emptier, and wouldn’t charge us a million pounds for a pipette of vodka. By then, though, I was knackered (I’m officially middle-aged, after all), so by 1am I needed my bed.
Battling one’s way through the Ropewalks in the early hours, is not fun. I lost count of the number of fights I had to dodge, as I made my way up Seel Street, hungry as hell, trying to find a cab that didn’t have a naked woman vomiting over the windscreen. I was at Lime Street, by the time I managed to convince a passing taxi that I did actually want to go home, and not start a riot.
Sunday morning, then, very hungover, but very happy with myself that I’d managed to swerve the chip shop. The actual calories totted up from Saturday was around 2400, so a major fail, but as is now the norm, I tell myself I have six days to recoup those sins. What I forget, though, is that my mum’s cousin Linda is over from New Zealand to visit her son, Robert, in Brighton, and will be coming up to see us for a week, starting Monday.
On Tuesday, then, I found myself on a mini-pub crawl of the city with Beatles-nut, Linda. We took in The Grapes, Ye Cracke and The Philharmonic, interspersed with a quick look-see in the ‘opposition’ Cathedral. As with most cities you live in, you never actually see what’s right in front of you. I’ve been in the Cathedral loads of times, for dos and the like, but I’ve never actually looked at it. If you ever get a chance, do it, because it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Just thinking about the amount of time it took to erect, the breathtaking intricacies of the architecture, the majesty of the stained glass windows…it makes me wish I was religious.
Four VDCs later, and with every intention of going home to enjoy – yes -another chicken stir fry, Dad had somehow convinced me to go back to South Liverpool with them, and drink two bottles of wine in the The John Brodie, instead. I did get home to my stir fry, eventually, but not before Diet Yoda had beaten me over the head with the calorie calculator. Wednesday, I was well behaved, but only because I didn’t leave the flat. Thursday, it was Linda’s last night before heading back down to Brighton, and Mum had decided that there was only one way to send her off with a bang – a Chinese takeaway. And the only way to decide what to have from the menu, was to sit in The John Brodie again with two more bottles of wine, as we perused it. I was as good as I could possibly be, and went for a Chicken Szechuan, but obviously I knew it would be swimming in oil and fluorescent MSG, but I didn’t want to incur Dad’s wrath by saying I’d just make a salad at home, instead. But it’s not so much the food choices that are my evil, it’s the bloody alcohol. Why I can’t just say “I’ll have a diet Coke, please.”, without saying ‘double vodka’ in front of it, is beyond me. It’s like I have some kind of Tourette’s. I can honestly say I have stood at a bar many a time and fully intended to order a soft drink, but something happens between the barman saying “yes, love?” and me opening my mouth, that makes the naughty pixie appear, who forces me to order alcohol.
So, Friday, I wake up and I feel like there’s a lead weight in my stomach. Not eating crap for so long means that, when I do eat crap, it feels crap. Let’s just say I had to drink a lot of coffee to get the mechanics working again, but I think I was fully purged by Friday night. Amazing, then, that yesterday’s weigh-in showed another full pound lost. I have no idea how that happened.
Things I Learned This Week
1. I need to divorce my parents
They’re bad for my health. It’s impossible to stick to a diet when your Mum cooks gorgeous food that you can’t insult her by saying no too. It’s impossible to lose weight when they tell me to say yes to Chinese takeaways. And it’s impossible to feel in control of my own destiny, when Mum rings up and says “I’m going to get my pension, shall I see you in the pub in an hour?” I’m hoping ChildLine is still on 0800 1111, because I think I need them.
2. I quite like walking
Usually, I have to have my ‘tunes’ on, as I’m striding about, but this week I slowed it down a bit as Linda, Dad and I roamed the Georgian quarter, and I actually took the time to notice the gorgeous buildings all around me, instead of just running from pub to pub, like I usually do.
3. Ryvita isn’t as disgusting as I remember it
I tried the sunflower seed variety this week, as I was having a carb craving mid-week. It doesn’t fill you up, like fruit and yoghurt does, but it was just a nice change, and surprisingly tasty. In many previous failed diets of mine, Ryvita was always just like eating cardboard, but not as delicious. They’ve obviously changed the recipe. And I put cheese on it. Lots.
4. I do not miss junk food
Pre-diet, I’d have happily wolfed down the chip shop chips, the Singapore fried rice, and the beef curry. This week, I just didn’t want it, and when I had it, I didn’t enjoy it. My belly felt heavy, my energy disappeared, and I felt sluggish and enormous an hour after eating it. I didn’t sleep well, either. Thank God coffee is a natural laxative.
5. Someone needs to lock me in for my own good
I’m amazed I lost any weight this week, but I’m riding my luck right now, and I know it. One day soon, my body is going to realise I’ve been conning it, with pretend walks to the shops and sneaky little bus rides everywhere, plus the dumper trucks full of Smirnoff, and the tapas and takeaways. This week, I expect revenge.
Things I’m Dreading This Week
1. The said revenge
I predict I will put on half a stone by Wednesday, once my body wakes up to my deception.
2. Liverpool v Anzhi, UEFA Cup, Thursday
All day pub. Say no more…
Two missed mortgage payments, final demands everywhere, death threats from the council…someone’s going to come knocking. And, for the last time, Mr TV Licence Person – I don’t have a frigging telly!
The stats bit:
Week 1: 3.25lbs
Week 2: 4lbs
Week 3: 0.75lbs
Week 4: 0.75lbs
Week 5: 0.50lbs
Week 6: 1.75lbs
Week 7: 1lb
Total after 49 days: 12lbs