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Sunday, 22 January 2012

High Heels and Treadmills

It's official - I'm disappearing, fading away, shrinking from view. Not, alas, from dramatic weight loss (1 pound in two weeks definitely not worth shouting about), but from the scales at the gym's disturbing proclamation that I've shrunk an inch over the past seven days. I calculate that if my diminuation continues at such a rapid rate then by January 2017 I will have completely vanished, nothing left but a pair of shoes and some contact lenses. As I'd be beyond the help of even the highest of heels, any acquaintances or indeed passers by with size 3 and a half feet would be welcome to help themselves to my admittedly vast collection.

It could, on the other hand, just be that this morning my posture was abysmal. Hard as I try my default condition on a Sunday morning is to reluctantly drag myself onto the treadmill, making sideways glances to the neighbouring machines where I view with suspicion the army of super-charged gym bunnies for whom 300 press ups before 9am are as vital a routine as my morning cup of tea. I may not be enthusiastic, but hey, at least I'm there.

One of the best things about going to the gym is the opportunity for people watching. My destination of choice is the local council leisure centre, not only a mecca for those wishing to get a bit sweaty but also home to a cafe where you can undo all of your good work with a pint of bitter and a plate piled high with cheesey chips. You really do get people from all walks of life there, from boys barely in their teens trying desperately to bulk up; to senior citizens with dozens of marathons to their name. Stick thin girls in cropped t-shirts moan to their equally skinny mates about muffin tops and love handles that my naked eye certainly can't see. Overly enthusiastic newbies with all the gear and no idea jostle for equipment alongside frankly scary looking muscle men with weightlifting belts and arms that would give Popeye a run for his money. 

For each hardcore exercise nut there are probably three gym-goers just like me (ok, maybe not quite as unfit as me); those for whom exercise is something they begrudgingly do through a sense of duty; a desire to keep the body ticking over; or to atone for all those sneaky mid-week glasses of wine and crisps. Is it worth it? Hard to tell - on one hand, I haven't disappeared yet; but on the other - well, I haven't disappeared yet. Like most women I would love to drop a dress size or two, but if I were given a choice between being the size I am today or invisible - well, all those shoes need someone to wear them, and the joy of footwear is that it doesn't give a **** about a fat day.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Short Story - Preparing for the Worst

As promised; here's the short story that I wrote for this week's Leeds Savages writing group meeting...


Preparation is key; no, scrap that; preparation is everything. Be prepared for the worst of situations, the website said; and without fail things will only turn out for the best. I’ve always gone in for the mantra that a pessimist is never disappointed, and on the whole it’s served me alright. This time however I fear that things are going to go well beyond the realm of mere disappointment; based on what I’ve heard about what some of our guys across the pond have been put through recently I am, apologies for being crude, quite literally crapping my pants. Grown men reduced to tears; bodies shaking as these eternal control freaks for the first time ever learn what it’s like to lose their grip on a life previously diarised to the nth degree. No way was that going to be me; not if there was anything on this godless earth that I could do to help it.  

Hence my foray into the labyrinth of online advice so usefully available at ones fingertips these days, and hence why I’m currently tied to a cold table wearing only my boxers with a gag in my mouth and genuine terror painted across my sweat covered face. Her platform boots pound on the floorboards, each heavy thud like a punch to the chest. Shiny, thigh high; certainly footwear created with fetish in mind rather than engineered for running for the bus, doing the weekly shop or taking the kids to school.


She hovers above my shackled body, her face just beyond my gaze, eyes instead drawn to slightly mottled thighs, a blotchy artificial tan unsuccessfully trying to disguise the excess flab. A tiny skirt constructed from the same mock leather as the boots barely covers her dignity, underneath which I can see red knickers; not the flim flam, frilly and lacy sweet nothings of fantasy, but big, sturdy, practical garments. Like the ones in that film, you know, the one where that skinny blonde American plied herself with pies in order to portray the typical bloaty neurotic British bird. Bridget Jones, that’s the one. Bridget Jones pants.


She cracks her whip on the floor, its path spiralling mere millimetres from my ear.

“You’ve been a bad boy, Michael. And what do bad boys deserve?”

I try to reply, but given my current situation this is a rhetorical question; my mouth clearly otherwise engaged.

“Bad boys get punished, Michael. They get what they deserve.”

As the whip cracks again just a whisper away from my incapacitated jaw, I try to refocus my mind.

The Boy Scouts may have worn dreadful outfits and engaged in far too much wholesome, worthy activity for my liking, but they did have a pretty great motto. ‘Semper Paratus’. Be Prepared. Preparation, that’s what it’s all about. Preparation, physical and mental, is the path to success.

She turns and picks up one of the candles that provide the only light in this dark chamber. She holds the flickering flame over my naked torso, then slowly tips it until hot wax hits my chest and I writhe with exquisite pain.

“Enjoy that, do you, you sick, pathetic bitch? Well let’s see if you enjoy this.”

Putting the candle aside, she grabs my smarting wax encrusted nipple and twists hard. This is really not my scene at all, and I’m certainly not planning any repeat visits, but I’m determined to see this through. Michael Porter is not a quitter, never has been, never will be.

“You should be ashamed of yourself, you dirty little banker. Lowest of the low, that’s what you are.”

With her free hand she loosens the straps holding the gag in my mouth and I gratefully inhale a lung full of incense-laden air.

“Tell me, slave boy. Tell mistress exactly what you are.”

With a spluttering cough I clear my throat.

“I’m a bad boy, mistress. I’m a bad boy and a dirty little banker and I deserve all the punishment that I get.”

With a agonising flick she releases my nipple from her grasp.

“That’s correct; you’re the scum of the earth, you bankers; and don’t you know it.” She spits on the floor in emphasis of her disgust then starts to loosen the straps that are holding my arms in place.  “Yes, that’s why so many of you come here for mistress to put you in your place.” She slides down to the foot of the ankles and opens the clasps that have been securing my ankles. “Now then, before we send you on your merry way, I think it’s time that we turn you over and introduce you to mistress’s paddle. I hope you’re prepared for the spanking of your life.”

Preparation, bittersweet preparation; the very reason why I’m here. Fearing the potentially even more agonising consequences of non-compliance, I manoeuvre myself onto all fours and grit my teeth as I await the inevitable.

Fifteen minutes later, with red raw stinging buttocks hiding beneath my made to measure suit, I emerge from the dungeon into the bright light of the waiting area. Sat thumbing through magazines are a couple of guys just like me; one of whom I’m sure that I vaguely recognise from the trading floor. Deliberately avoiding eye contact I hurry from the building and make my way back to the office; the Rolex I treated myself to with last year’s bonus informing me that I don’t even have the time to grab a coffee before the dreaded appointment.

When I arrive, slightly out of breath and pumped with adrenaline, the door is closed and his personal assistant indicates for me to take a seat. Slowly I lower myself down, lips pursed, knuckles white, every fibre of my body trying not to wince as my stinging flesh makes contact with the chair. The next five or so minutes seem to pass inordinately slowly, and I begin to fear that the fire rushing through my veins will subside too quickly, will not achieve the desired effect. Just when I start to feel concern that all that preparation was for nothing, the dragon behind the desk calls my name. “Mr Porter? Mr Lancashire is ready to see you now.”

With a deep breath, I deliberately graze my buttocks against the arm of the chair, igniting a fresh surge of pain to carry me through. I’ve put myself through the most intense pain in order to numb myself to whatever agonies I’m about to face. Has all the preparation been worthwhile, and will it achieve the desired effect? Ask me again in a hour, once my appraisal is through, and I’ll let you know.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Less wobble - more productivity....

Decent start to the year - I've just managed to be disciplined enough to sit myself down and write a short story for this week's Leeds Savages Writing Group meeting. I'll publish it on here after debuting it at Wednesday's meet - it's a little 'adult' in nature (might be a bit much for your granny but no worse than that!) and a bit different from most of my writing but hopefully it'll get a decent reception.

Weekends seem to go so fast, it's nearly always impossible to fit in everything that you'd hoped. I'd hoped to get two trips to the gym in, but have settled with one long session plus some time chasing a friend's toddler around Golden Acre Park, which surely must burn off more than a few calories. Today marks the start of my efforts to get a bit more healthy - in a deliberate avoidance of the inevitably unsuccessful new year resolution I hereby declare 8th January the point at which I A: Start eating less rubbish and B: Make a concerted effort to move a lot more. My biggest stumbling block will surely be the fact that in my workplace barely a day goes past without some form of temptation, be it samples of tasty new products to 'test' (do calories consumed in the cause of research somehow not count?) or colleagues bringing in yummy treats (working alongside @Cupcakeleeds is always a pleasure, never a chore!). I've just got to try and stay focused on the goal and hopefully, a couple of months down the line, there will be 10% less Heather in volume terms, and 10% more Heather productivity.

Anyhow, check out my blog on Thursday if you want to read 'Preparing for the worst' - its only 1,000 words long so a quick read - though I won't guarantee that it'll be a 'painless' one.....

Sunday, 1 January 2012

On New Years Resolutions

Congratulations! Give yourself a well deserved pat on the back, crack open the champagne - or at least that dusty supermarket perry that's been mouldering at the back of the cupboard since the nineties – it’s time to celebrate. The very fact that you’re reading this means that you've achieved something that was beyond Kim Jong-Il, Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi - you've survived 2011. Good job!

At present it is virtually impossible to turn on the TV or radio or meander through the twitterverse without hearing those three ominous words; 'New Years Resolution'. Be it the shock of an alien date on the calendar, a reaction to the excess fest of Christmas or simply the expectations of modern culture that inspire the desire to publicly declare good intentions, in nine out of ten cases failure will be inevitable. Waking on January 1st with the headache from hell and somewhat hazy memories of the previous night's antics it can seem like a great idea to commit to giving up the demon drink. Grand plans are drawn up whereby those nights previously passed down the boozer will now be spent at an eye wateringly expensive gym where you will force your ill-equipped body to participate in activity well behind its physical capabilities. Such self flagellation can be masochistically pleasurable for a while, but a couple of weeks down the line the lure of a new glass of red whilst curled up on the sofa will  outweigh the questionable appeal of Boxercise and continued sobriety.

Setting and sharing personal goals can certainly be a worthwhile exercise, articulating your intentions to others potentially leading to support which will help you realise dreams that may never have been achieved if they’d remained confined to the back of the mind. The best intended resolutions can however also lead to disappointment; grand plans which never come to fruition resulting in a sense of failure which drags you down rather than propelling you to make the most out of life. In 2013 I'll turn 30 and at present it looks highly unlikely that by then I'll have achieved any of the things that I'd always imagined myself to have ticked off before I entered my fourth decade. What I've recently come to realise however, the knowledge of which would have saved the younger me a great deal of agony, is that it really doesn't matter. Sh*t happens – deal with it. Life is littered with highs and lows, and whilst the best laid plans may go awry sometimes the most rewarding experiences are those which are completely unexpected. Even the hardest times can, in retrospect, serve to strengthen us as individuals – if every life consisted purely of one perfectly choreographed rite of passage after another then the world would surely be a far duller place; our libraries empty, radios silent, tv screens blank.

So as you wave goodbye to 2011, don’t waste valuable hours trying to compose a mental script of the year ahead. If you want to quit smoking, lose weight or learn a foreign language by all means make the effort, but treat it as a continually evolving day by day challenge rather than making some goal plucked out of thin air the be all and end all without which the year will be doomed. Throughout our education and careers we are all subject to more than enough targets and performance evaluation – why make your personal life just another benchmarking exercise? Take pride in being you, and going forward see every day as worthy of celebration (champagne of course optional).