A 10 year story

10 years ago and now

10 years ago, I weighed approximately 18 stones, probably more. I was a size 24/26 dress size at the age of 17. I was fat. Horrendously, massively, unhappily fat. That’s me on the left.

Today, at the age of very nearly 28, I weigh 11 stones and am a size 12. I’m now smack bang average. I’m still not back flipping with joy about my weight but I’m certainly 1000% happier than I was with it 10 years ago. That’s me on the right.

I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I have learned about why I was fat and how I stopped being fat. These are just my personal findings but I hope they strike a chord with and possibly even help others.

Why was I fat?

I’d been telling myself for years that I was happy with my size. I was one of those jolly, happy, fat people. Well, I wasn’t. I was miserable. Here’s just a very short selection of things about being fat that made me miserable:

  • I hated buying three of any trousers that fitted because I would inevitably wear out the inside legs/crotch area via my flab friction.
  • I detested it taking so long for me to shave my gargantuan, elephant like legs (I know it sounds daft but when you’re legs are massive, shaving them takes ages).
  • I couldn’t take long baths because my body was so enormous, there wasn’t really much space in the bath for water so it cooled down very fast leaving me in a cycle of emptying out some water every 5 minutes to top it up with hot.
  • I got upset when I couldn’t go on rides at Alton Towers or the yearly fair that visited town because my massive bum wouldn’t fit in the harnesses.
  • No boy ever looked at me for anything more than to point and laugh.

But this is all irrelevant because I was a happy, jolly, ok with their body fat person, right? Wrong.

I do believe there are some fat people who are genuinely happy with their weight. They do exist, of that I am sure. However, I think a great percentage of fat people who claim to be ok with their bodies are lying. Lying using every single grey cell they can muster. Lying to themselves and anyone who asks because it’s just so much easier than addressing the issue(s) around why you are fat.

I didn’t know how to even begin tackling the issue(s). It was much easier to just continue the internal monologue of lies than to actually find a solution to the problems. I won’t lie, losing weight is hard work. Really, really, really hard work. Physically, emotionally and financially (replacing wardrobes every couple of dress sizes is expensive). It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but, it brings me the most joy. And don’t be fooled if you think the hard work stops once you get thin because it doesn’t. You have to spend your whole life being aware and careful because otherwise, you will just be fat again. This is because the reasons for weight problems are normally deeply, psychologically ingrained problems. Mine were as follows (and many of them still are true):

  1. I eat my feelings (I’m happy, I eat. I’m sad, I eat. I’m stressed, I eat. I’m content with life, I eat. If I feel it, I eat it).
  2. I am a greedy pig.
  3. I am forgetful (I forget I had three biscuits with my tea this morning so I have three more in the afternoon).
  4. I like a drink or twelve.
  5. I like to eat out.
  6. I have an incredibly sweet tooth (I would forego all savoury food in favour of sweet foods and this is not a lie).
  7. I am lazy like a sloth.
  8. love food

It’s a pretty sizeable list that has been tackled over 10 years and is still a work in progress. How did I get from then to now? Well that, I can tell you about.

How did I stop being fat?

Step1: Stop lying.

The first thing I did though was to stop lying to myself about some things.

Let me dispel some rumours right now. Science and Biology do not care about what you think your metabolic rate is. You might complain that you have a really slow metabolism or put some excuse forwards for why you are fat but, it boils down to a few undeniable truths:

  1. There is a finite line of how many calories your body needs to function. This is different for every person. If you consume more than this base level without burning the extra via exercise, you will gain weight. FACT.
  2. Your body needs a certain ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fats to function correctly. Skew this ratio too much, and you could make yourself quite ill e.g. diabetes.
  3. One pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories. To lose one pound of fat, you must either burn an extra 3500 calories or consume 3500 calories less over a period of time.

Until you truly believe the science behind body weight gain/loss and stop trying to deny/bend the truths, you will not lose weight effectively. Well, that’s what I think anyway. Once I stopped making excuses around these facts, things got a lot better.

This may shock some of you but no human, anywhere at all, needs to consume biscuits, chocolate, McDonald’s, pizza, sugary drinks, crisps, alcohol etc.  Sure, it’s nice to, they taste good (except for McDonald’s which is, apart from the ice cream, quite vile), but you do not need them.

If you eat things you don’t need, it is positively not necessary to consume them in vast quantities. Believe it or not, one biscuit is fine. Two biscuits are fine. The whole pack of 24 biscuits? Not fine. A slice of pizza is fine. Two slices, ok. A whole pizza? Not really fine at all. Four cubes of Dairy Milk, oh you naughty thing. Eight cubes, oh yummy! A whole 500g bar of the stuff? Never really acceptable.

I, and many others with me, have ignored these simple facts on countless occasions. We all know the obvious that I have stated above. We do, honest! It’s just about having the sheer will power to not over eat.

Step 2: Stop eating so blooming much.

What changed my perception of the food I consumed was keeping a food diary. An honest, accountable food diary. I looked back at what I had eaten in a week and was horrified. I added up the cost of what I had eaten and was even more horrified. Finally, I added up the calories and almost passed out in shock.

Most people will feel nauseous if they eat too much. I am not one of those people. I do not really, ever, feel full. I once, in a single evening (and as a solo effort) ate an entire large Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza, a complete garlic bread baguette, half a bag of oven chips, a dramatic amount of tomato ketchup, a whole bag of ‘to share’ Butterkist toffee popcorn, a bag of ‘to share’ Malteasers, three slices of chocolate cake with custard and then washed it all down with diet coke (yes, I understand the irony of the coke being diet).

This kind of eating is completely, wholly unnecessary and utterly glutinous. I see that now but, at the time, I would make out to myself that I hadn’t really eaten all that much. What can I say? I’m an excellent liar and incredibly gullible.

Step 3: Eat smart

Being calorie aware is a big part of not over eating. A good meal is about 600 calories. If your meal is more than 600 calories, it should either be a one off treat or there is too much of it/it is bad quality food.

One of the first things I stopped doing in order to get under this 600 calorie barrier was to cut out preprocessed food in general. Ready meals, jars and packets of sauces, all that kind of stuff stopped going in the shopping trolley. Why? Because, when you actually sit and look at the nutritional breakdown of this food, it is rubbish. It’s all fat and sugar. Fat and sugar hike up calories. Also, they’re expensive! I worked out that a can or chopped tomatoes, an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic costs about 60p. With that, I could make a tomato pasta sauce (add herbs salt and pepper of course) which tasted nicer and was half the calories of the jar equivalent. Sure, it was more inconvenient as you have to make the sauce yourself rather than just twisting a lid off a jar but, I was willing to make that trade off to save a few hundred calories.

This, again, is where losing weight is hard work. You have to really be actively making your own food and being very aware of what and how you cook. This normally means a complete lifestyle change for most people. Your routine for food shopping will change. You will actively spend more time comparing nutritional information labels in the isles. You’ll end up trying foods you’ve told yourself you don’t like and forcing them down your throat because they are what you need, not what you want (mine were cottage cheese, fish and pulses). You need to set aside extra time for meal preparation and change how you cook. Deep frying is out and poaching/grilling is in. Weighing ingredients is important. It really is a massive change. This is how I did it.

  • Planned my meals and had a shopping list of exactly what I needed to buy in the supermarket. I stuck to the list solidly.
  • Cooked in bulk and froze portioned meals e.g. make seven portions of sauce in one go and freeze six of them in individual portions.
  • Bought fresh fish/poultry when it was marked down in price for sell by date, prepared it all into the correct portions and froze it.
  • Did not have food in the house that I could snack on. Not a single thing.
  • Tried everything at least twice. If it didn’t make me physically vomit when I ate it, but I didn’t really like it, I ate it again. If still no vomiting, it made it into at least two meals before I would finally rule it out as a food I disliked intensely (note: jelly is the only thing on my “categorically will not eat it” food list).

Once you settle into it, it can be fun. I got to know the fellow who did the meat and fish ‘yellow stickering’ at Sainsbury’s to the point where he would save the things he knew I bought until he saw me at the same time every week. Once he saved me some of the most gorgeous, top of the range salmon steaks as a special treat. I’m sure he wasn’t allowed to really but he did.

The settling process is long. I think it was about four months before I really and truly felt it was normal to shop the way I did now compared with the way I had before. Those four months were hard. I think if I’d let myself be bad, just one week, it would have been game over. I would have tagged out of the ring and not changed my life. It’s still a challenge sometimes now but I have a secret weapon. I keep a photo of that 18 stone whale that was me on my telephone. One quick look, and I’m over it.

Then there’s snacking. I have a rule about snacking. Don’t do it. At all. It’s too easy to over indulge in snacks. If I positively have to snack, it’s on vegetables, not fruit (fruit is too high in natural sugars). Carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, green pepper sticks, lightly cooked broccoli, basically, anything low in calories and low in sugars. I snack rarely to never. I just deal with the hunger pains. Some of my top tips are:

  • Use skimmed milk.
  • Keep really well hydrated on just water, not diet drinks or squash.
  • Use sweeteners in your tea/coffee if you truly can’t kick sugar in them (like I can’t).
  • Make an actual effort to understand food labeling. There’s plenty of help out there. Many health charities have a wealth of information about it on websites and leaflets. Just ask, they’re more than happy to explain (British Heart Foundation for example).
  • Get used to what hungry actually feels like so that you know when you actually need to eat. Don’t just eat or snack from habit. If you’re not actually hungry, don’t eat!
  • Be liberal with the herbs and spices. They make even the leanest cuts of meat or the blandest food (lentils, I’m looking at you) taste fabulous.

Step 4: Active hobbies

Once my weight came down to an more acceptable level and my sheer mass was more mobile, I ceased to pant and sweat after walking up a dozen stairs. This meant it was time to start being more active.

The first thing I did was start to walk up stairs and escalators whenever the opportunity was available. I also started walking to do my food shopping. Instead of going once a week with the car, I walked twice a week and used my rucksack for two different loads on two different days.

I also started taking public transport instead of the car for some journeys. The walk to the bus stop or train station was better and cheaper than the car.

My self esteem wasn’t ready for the gym for a long time. When I finally did go to the gym, I found it torturous. I hate the gym. I really do. I’m bored, it’s full of skinny, fit people running like it’s nothing and idiots slamming weights about. I hate exercise classes. I am uncoordinated and clumsy. I have to force myself to the gym. It’s not even a case of coaxing, it’s full on brain warfare. One side of my brain is shouting at the other which is behaving like a petulant teenager because I would rather poke my own eyes out than go to the gym. I hated it then and I hate it now. However, what I hate more than the gym is swimming. This became my trade off and I had to stick to it. The deal was, if I didn’t go to the gym, I had to go swimming.

Forcing myself to the gym and into a slightly more active lifestyle got my mass even more manageable. That’s when I started cycling. I love cycling and finally stopped going to the gym. I cycled everywhere instead. I mean everywhere. To the shops, to my friends houses, to work, to the pub for a quick one. Everywhere!

Did you know, exercise gets you high (kind of)? The endorphins your body releases after exercise make for happy happy joy times. I can’t express enough how much I love exercise now. I used to be allergic to it, but now, I love it. You will too, you just have to power through the initial hate. It grows on you, slowly, like a fungus and everyone loves a bit of fungus now don’t they?!

Now I combine all of the small steps I took initially to help me maintain my weight. I still walk up stairs and escalators rather than standing still. If a journey is less than a mile or 2, I will walk (as, for short journeys, walking is far better exercise than cycling). Anything from 2-10 miles, I’ll cycle. Anything 10 miles +, and I’ll get public transport. Simple.

Who ever thought that eating the right food and exercising would actually help you lose weight?! I thought it was all propaganda from the NHS but, turns out, it works a treat.

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My attempt at a ‘Hong Kong 101’

So far, my blogs on Hong Kong haven’t been all that useful to any new comers so I am going to attempt a (very basic) Hong Kong 101 style post. First of all though, I will say that the Hong Kong Tourism Website is quite good.

Here goes….

Basic Geography

Hong Kong has 3 main bits and a couple of other islands. The three main parts are Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories.

  • Hong Kong Island is across the water to the south of the harbour.
  • Kowloon which is the coast from the north of the harbour to around Prince Edward district.
  • New Territories is North from Prince Edward(ish) to China.

Kowloon and New territories are one land mass but two separate areas if you understand what I mean. It’s like England and Wales/Scotland. The other main islands are:

  • Lantau Island
  • Lamma Island

Getting Around

Types of transport

There are six main transport types. MTR, bus, mini bus, tram, taxi &  ferry.

  • MTR – The MTR is essentially the London Underground but in Hong Kong. It covers mostly Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The East Rail Line (which is part of the MTR but not really) goes up into the New Territories. There are different lines which take you to different places. I highly suggest a bit of research on the MTR Website before you arrive.
  • Bus – They go practically everywhere but I would not try and tackle the bus system on a first visit. It’s confusing. If you’re feeling brave, check the supplier websites for details of routes and fares (Citybus & New World First Bus, KMB).
  • Mini bus – Green Roof – Government endorsed with a set route and set pick up/drop off points. I would not try and tackle the bus system on a first visit. I can’t even point you to where you could find out about the minibusses. Sorry!
  • Mini bus – Red Roof – Government endorsed but route and pick up/drop off points are determined by the driver. Normally go further than the green roofed version. I would not try and tackle the bus system on a first visit. I can’t even point you to where you could find out about the minibusses. Sorry!
  • Tram – Only operate on Hong Kong Island. Runs from Shau Kei Wan to Kennedy Town and Happy Valley
  • Star Ferry – The Star ferry goes between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central/Wan Chai.
  • Taxi – Taxis are red on Hong Kong Island and green in the New Territories.

Paying for transport

  • Cash – Cash is accepted on all forms of transport. You can pay the driver directly on busses, minibusses, taxis and trams. You can buy tickets for the MTR and ferries using cash in all stations/piers. NOTE: Drivers will NOT give change for direct cash payments. Have the right change or prepare to lose some dollars.
  • Octopus Card – A plastic card with ‘touch in’ technology. You pre load it with credit then touch it on the readers available. You can buy them in MTR stations. You can use Octopus cards on trams, busses, minibusses (GREEN roof only), ferries and the MTR. NOTE: Octopus is NOT accepted in taxis or in RED roofed minibusses. You can also use credit form your Octopus to pay for things in lots of shops e.g. 7-11 and McDonalds.

Other things that confused me/I wish I’d known

  • ‘Ts’ is pronounced ‘ch’. Tsim Sha Tsui is pronounced Chim sow Choy (kind of but it’s a lot closer than saying Sim show shoe as I stared off doing) .
  • Boil the tap water before you drink it or stick to bottled water.
  • Happy Hour is king if you want to drink.

My tiny knowledge of Cantonese (limited to 90% food)

Cantonese is a tonal language meaning that your accent of tone up or down as you speak a word influence the overall meaning. This makes it tricky for us Westerners to grasp as, apart from raising tone up at the end of a sentence to indicate a question, we rarely use tone in our language day to day. Most of the time, with Cantonese, you can get away with a flat tone when speaking the odd thing. Where tone is important, it’s really important and any teacher/Cantonese speaker will make it very clear to you that you need to accent up or down. Anyway, here’s what I can say in Cantonese.

Note: All phonetically spelled (well attempted) and quite probably not correct

  • Dung Lie Cha – Iced Milk Tea
  • Gar Lay – Curry
  • You Dan (say Dan like you are asking a question. You must accent your tone UP at the end of the word) – fish balls
  • Chung Fun (Your tone needs to be higher in the middle of the words than at the end i.e. chUng fUng) – flat white rice noodle
  • Fan – rice
  • Char Ts-oo – BBQ Pork (The T is really soft. Think of assing a slight T at the start of saying the name ‘Sue’)
  • Guy – Chicken
  • Ow Yok (very soft k) – beef
  • Mean – noodles
  • Chow Mean – fried noodles
  • Toe Mean – noodle soup
  • Bow – bun (normally steamed)
  • Sh-ow My – Shrimp dim sum (ow as in “ouch, that hurt”)
  • Har Gow – Filled dim sum
  • Jo San – Good Morning
  • M Goy – Thank you/Excuse me/I’d like your attention

You can combine these to order food. e.g. Gar Lay Guy = curry chicken. Gar Lay Guy Fan = curry chicken with rice. Char Shoo Fan – BBQ Pork and rice. Char Shoo Bow = BBQ pork steamed bun. Guy chUng fUn – chicken flat rice noodle.

I manage to feed myself on this. For everything else, there’s arm waving and googling a picture of the food you want.

2+0+1+2 = a very busy year

Oh heck, this year really has been monumental in lots of ways. There have been highs which left me feeling there was nothing left to achieve and lows when I hit the bottom and still kept going. What a year.

So, what did I actually do?

Re-affirmed my National pride

I have always been extremely proud to be British. I love Britain in spite of her faults because Britain always pulls it out of the bag. Always.

This year, Britain pulled two amazing things out of the bag. Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and the London 2012 Olympics. Lets go in chronological order and start with the Diamond Jubilee.

The Diamond Jubilee was an utter joy. Never have I seen National pride quite like it before. There were very few people being grumpy about the festivities. You could see reminders everywhere you looked. My personal favourite was the Jubilee line London Underground trains.

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The Nation got behind our Monarch and celebrated the only way we know how; Eat, drink and be merry (even when it’s raining). I was back in the home town for the Jubilee celebrations and went to several street parties. They were at schools, in fields, at leisure centres and just everywhere, really. There was food, music and general Community spirit wherever you looked. I baked some British inspired cakes for the occasion. I made mini victoria sponges, Cherry ‘fakewell’ cakes and a large union jack sponge.
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One of the parties I went to was organised by my sister and a few other families with whom they regularly holiday. You can see the very British spread here (please note the awfully 70s cheese on sticks stuck into tin foil covered cabbages prepared by me).

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The whole country really did get involved. The Thames saw record breaking numbers of ships sail along it for the flotilla, massive music concerts were staged and London, in general, was transformed into a celebration City. Truly fantastic! The vibes you got walking around, talking to people about it or just enjoying the bunting and Union Jacks everywhere really got the blood in my veins running red white and blue again.

Next, the Olympics. The first thing that I adored about the Olympics was the torch relay. What a completely amazing way to remind the Country that it’s not just the London Olympics. It was a very British Olympics. Training camps were all over the UK, the sailing and rowing events happened outside of London and the whole Country was encouraged to, and did, get involved. The torch relay was a huge part of this. 8,000 local heroes and celebrities were nominated as torch bearers and had the enviable, once in a life time opportunity, to play their role in celebrating everything that’s Great (and good) about Britain. The torch passed through over 1000 villages, towns and cities in the UK. It was brilliant, you could even watch the ‘torchcam’ for live coverage of where it was and who was carrying it. Super! I was lucky enough to meet a torch bearer in Look Mum, no hands! on Old Street in London.

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This lady is Katie Ford. She is an ultra cyclist who has epilepsy and she carried the torch. I met her whilst watching the mens road race at Look Mum, no hands!. She spent the entire time posing for photos and being a complete joy. A genuinely lovely lady who does amazing work campaigning for epilepsy. If she is a benchmark for the kinds of Britons who carried the torch up and down the Country then, I will tell you for free, we are going to be a ok Britain. We really are.

For the past few years, I had been living in the east end of London literally minutes away from the Olympic Park site. In the three years leading up to the Olympics, the areas of Stratford, Leyton and Leytonstone were dug up, re worked, re paved, re painted and generally given a very fresh faced look to them. This is obviously great for local residents when it’s finished but. I won’t lie, it was a pain in the bum whilst it was all happening. Trying to keep informed about what roads were closed and when, which busses were diverted, when the extra tube outages were going to be etc was a daily thing. And it wasn’t just the east end. Central took a hammering too. There’s no wonder that, by the time the Olympics actually arrived, Londoners were generally feeling quite grumpy about the whole thing. It was a very long and expensive inconvenience to them. However, come the opening ceremony, even the most hard nosed Londoner and cynics everywhere found their hearts warming and cynicism getting lost between the sofa cushions.

A lot of this was due to the amazingly fabulous job Danny Boyle did with the opening ceremony. It was amazingly British, utterly inspiring and gave the Country exactly what it needed and wanted. A massive reminder that Britain is Great. Despite all the rubbish we are dealing with (and have dealt with in the past), we always come out with weather as mild as our manners and a quiet ‘can do’ attitude. I adored the opening ceremony. When I said earlier I live minutes form the Olympic park, I wasn’t kidding. Here’s a snap of the fireworks of the opening ceremony as watched from my front door.

Olympic fireworks from my street

I spent a lot of the opening ceremony seeing if I could spot any of the friends I knew were participating in it. Alas, I never spotted a single one of them, but, I adored their Facebook profiles after the ceremony was done. All of the secrets they had been keeping, all of the photos they weren’t allowed to show before, all of the gossip was finally free and filling up my Facebook feed! I cannot believe how they all kept it such a secret. Them and the audiences at the two rehearsal shows. Just unbelievable  Well done you fine guys and gals for keeping it all under your hats. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but, watching the ceremony and having literally NO idea what to expect was sheer joy. Thank you, one and all.

Other moments that made my National Pride swell was seeing the purple army and athletes swarming East London. I have never seen anything like it. It was wondrous  You could barely walk 5 minutes without seeing a National tracksuit wearing sports person/coach or a purple clad Games maker. Everyone had this permanent look of ‘is this really happening’ on their faces. Just amazing. The BEST thing I saw though was this Youtube clip which reminded me of why most other nations do not get us Brits. This lady epitomises  for me, what it is to be British.

But that’s enough of me gushing about how much I believe in Britain and how Great it is. Let’s get on with what else I have been up to this year.

Continued my love affair with cycling

I have discovered that my enthusiasm for showing pictures of my bicycle, and her various components, to other people is very similar to the enthusiasm other people have about showing pictures of their children. This may seem strange but my bicycle is just a good as a child. No, better than a child. She’s quieter, does exactly as she’s told, she’s more environmentally friendly and she actually SAVES me money. That’s right, saves (just in case you were wondering, that was supposed to be tongue in cheek and not a reference at all to my lonely, childless existence).

Anyway, in 2011, I cycled the British Heart Foundation London to Brighton. It was a 54 mile ride that I considered to be a real target. I completed the 54 miles in 4 hrs 45 minutes. In 2012, I participated in three organised cycles of varying distances. The first was The London Classic.

The London Classic was a 35 mile ride across the cobbles and hills of London. I LOVED it. We started and finished at Gypsy Hill (SE19). The 35 miles was essentially a massive loop of London. It was an amazing way to see South London which, for me, had been previously uncharted territory as well as seeing the more familiar sights too. I only had to bail out and push my bike up one hill. That bad boy was the hill at Canonbie Road (SE23). The view from the top was this (also, the incline does not look too bad on this picture but I can assure you, it was horrendous):

Canonbie Road SE23

Pretty spectacular, no? Anyway, the London Classic is free to enter, the organisers simply ask that you support their chosen charity. The sign up for the 2013 ride will open in February and I suggest that, if you like cycling, are in London and can safely commit yourself to a 30+ mile ride, that you sign up. It was brilliant.

The second ride I did was for the Stroke Association’s Thames Bridges ride. It was a 50 mile ride across the iconic bridges of London. I did blog about it so I won’t bore you with more details. I will however point you at the entry which you can find here.

The final ride I completed was the Tour de Latitude. I was incredibly lucky to win a pair of tickets for the Tour de Latitude from a blog I follow (London Cyclist). This gave me and a cycling mad friend the opportunity to cycle to the Latitude music festival. We could start from Ipswich (35 miles to Latitude), Sudbury (55 miles to Latitude) or Hackney in London (113 miles to Latitude). After umming, ahhing and shrieking with excitement several times, we went for London. That’s right. 113 miles. On a bicycle. In 1 day. The blood drained from both of our faces when the enormity of it sank in but we were mostly excited.

There were several things which definitely perked us up:
1) It was sponsored by M&S. This meant that at our rest stops, we could load up on M&S food and drinks. Woo Hoo!
2) We got upgraded to VIP camping. That meant hot showers all weekend and the ability to take our own booze into the arena.
3) The tickets to not only the ride but also into the festival were completely free!
4) We knew that, if we managed it, we would be VERY proud of ourselves.
5) I could now legitimately buy the tires I’d been wanting on the premise of needing skinnier tires for the ride.

I planned meticulously, as always:

Tour de Latitude planning

We began at 7:30am in Hackney and found ourselves at Latitude festival 11 hours later. We were greeted by M&S prosecco and more Percy Pigs than anyone can reasonably consume in one sitting. We also befriended Pery and Colins helpers which ensured we continued to receive unhealthy amounts of Percy Pigs whenever the M&S people spotted us.

Colin & Percy

We also spotted multicoloured sheep, as you do in the Countryside.

sheep and us

The festival was brilliant. I had a truly amazing time. Latitude is very well organised. The food vendors had tasty offerings for you every day, the stalls weren’t just selling normal tat and they even had an Oxfam tent. brilliant! Latitude tries really hard to include all ages but still holds enough ‘cool’ for the young kids. I felt my age at Latitude this year when (during Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes) I had a nice sit down in the seating banks at the back of the main stage. The bands we saw were great (Bon Iver in particular stole my heart), the comedians were pant wettingly funny (Russell Kane in particular), the VIP camping was superb (never underestimate the joy of a hot shower at 4am whilst you are drunk and in a field) and the company was excellent. I also remember some raving and have  a vague recollection of some kind of theatre but I was very drunk…. Anyway, fun times were had by all and I feel such a sense of achievement and reward after cycling there from London. I really do.

I also love Daisy more than ever.

Daisy

Attended the most anticipated gig of my life

I finally saw Incubus play live this year. I have been a fan of Incubus since the late 90’s but, I’d never managed to see them live. This year. It happened. I will never forget it and it was entirely worth the wait. All of my pictures were rubbish apart from the picture of the ticket as you can see.

Incubus ticket

Their set consisted of 90% old stuff and 10% new stuff. Those are the kinds of splits I like. They played everything I wanted them too. I got embarrassingly excited when I recognised the opening riff to ‘Sick Sad Little World’ about half a second into the song starting and shrieked like a banshee.

Incubus were so tight technically it was obscene. I was almost offended by how good at their jobs they are. The crowd was whipped up, there were three separate mosh pits and I relished every second of it. Thank you Incubus.

There were many other fabulous gigs this year but the only other one I will mention is ‘Twas the night before Wembley’. This gig was a celebration that Frank Turner had sold out Wembley Arena. Frank Turner is signed to a fairly small record label (Xtra Mile Recordings) so for one of their artists to sell out a big venue like Wembley Arena is a big deal. Therefore, they rounded up some Xtra Mile artists and put on a teeny tiny show at the Barfly in Camden. The headline was Billy Bragg (who is a legend don’t you know) with Jim Lockley and the Solemn Sun, Crazy Arm and Ben Marwood too. It was a great gig full of atmosphere and basically a massive middle finger to huge record labels. You don’t need to be huge to be great at what you do. Xtra Mile proves it, all the freaking time. As does Fat Wreck Chords. Smaller, independent labels make my world go round. Please don’t ever quit what you’re doing guys. I’d cry if you did. A lot.

Continued to bake and bake and bake and bake and bake…….

I can’t count how many cakes and biscuits I baked in 2012 so I’m just going to add lots of photos instead:

Maggie's cakes

Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and butter cream icing. Banoffee pie.

cakeadots

‘Cakeadots’. Vanilla sponge, strawberry jam butter cream, chocolate buttons.

Bailey's cupcakes

Mini Bailey’s Cupcakes – Chocolate, whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream sponges with Bailey’s Irish Cream buttercream (recipe from the ‘Baking Cupcakes with Lola’ book).

Julie

Double layer vanilla sponge with chocolate ganache inside. Choclate fudge, baileys and vanilla butter cream outer.

Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House – Gingerbread and royal icing. Decorated with mini smarties, glace cherry window and choc chip roof detail.

Lion King Cake

Chcolate sponge inner. Vanilla buttercream outer.

99 fakes

’99 Fakes – Chocolate/Vanilla sponge baked inside the wafer. Vanilla butter cream top, small piece of 99 flake.

Reunited with the guys

I played a gig with my band for the first time in 18 months or so. It was amazing and I am truly grateful to the boys for agreeing to such a hair brained idea with such gusto.

The boys

I moved to a different Country

Yes! This year, I left Blighty for Hong Kong. My experiences, thus far, have been blogged about so I won’t repeat myself. I’ll point you to the following entries instead:

Hong Kong you say? No Problem says I!

What are the differences between Hong Kong and Blighty? My observations thus far.

Hong Kong – doings so far

Not the kind of Festival I’m used to.

Something big, bronze and better than expected.

National Day in Hong Kong

Hobbies in Honkers

Summary

I’ve been blooming busy and this is a very long entry. So I will leave it at that even though I want to also tell you about:

Music I listened to

Movies I saw

Parties I went to

And this one time, some stuff that happened at band camp……….