Saturday, 21 February 2015

Tentatively thinking about gardening

As long time readers will know, last year was a disaster in the garden.  The sudden death of my mother, my father's deterioration with Motor Neurone Disease and the decline and subsequent death of my father in law all conspired to produce a year which was entirely overtaken by family and family responsibilities.  The garden disappeared under a tide of weeds and unchecked growth and the state of it depressed me so much that I could only manage by not looking at it, not spending time in it, not thinking about it.  Wandering around left me desperately aware of everything that needed attention and attention was the one thing it could not have.  I shut myself off from the garden as much as I could and when I did think about it I was assailed by a sense of failure.  Even what I had done in creating some parts of the garden from a field felt hopelessly inadequate.  My vision of what I was trying to do slid away like water down a drain.  I hardly felt like myself without my garden obsession but then I hardly felt like myself anyway, without my mother, watching my father being slowly rubbed out like a pencil drawing.  Ian kept the grass cut.  That was about it.

But now maybe there are shoots.  Is it somehow part of the process of adjusting to what life is like now?  Is it something to do with the way life goes on?


There are snowdrops and crocuses and the early beginnings of primroses.




There are hellebores, the whites and creams and purples and speckled creams of hellebore orientalis in quantities and the acid green of hellebore foetidus against the dark narrow foliage.


There is the foliage of cyclamen.


The white stemmed birches are growing slowly but are now just about large enough to shed the brown and orange bark of their immaturity and reveal the whiteness shining in the sun.  There are seven of these.  "How long will it be before they are a real presence?" I find myself thinking.


Ian has moved a little black mulberry into the bottom garden and planted a line of beech hedge to increase the sense of enclosure down here.  This bottom third of the field is the only part of the field garden which does not look out across the valley and up to the hills.  The bottom boundary is enclosed by trees and down here you can for the first time look inwards rather than away to the skyline.  The mulberry could be the contemplative centre of that, spreading gently when it reaches maturity.  That might be ten years away but suddenly I found that I was thinking about the garden again, tentatively, slighly warily.  I walked around again, looking again, sometimes really looking but mainly glancing sideways.    I stopped and looked out again towards the hills.



I almost don't dare to fall in love with the garden again.  It is too painful when it doesn't work and who knows what this year will hold.  Perhaps I will simply do a little, take my time, one step at a time.  In a month or so there will an awful lot of daffodils.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Driving, stretching, knitting, baking, being alive

Did I tell you we bought a Landrover?  There is a justification for a four by four vehicle up here on our hill and we also need something from time that will tow the trailer.  I test drove one (not a new one, an oldish one!) to establish that I was happy to drive it, we bought it and then very conspicuously I did not drive it at all.  I am not generally a driving wimp.  I happily drive on motorways and up and down the country and in all sorts of weather conditions.  So why wasn't I driving it?  I think I was just a little bit nervous that I would meet someone coming up our single track steep hill and, instead of merrily reversing up hill, down hill or around the corners,  as I do in the cars, I would make an idiot of myself.  But Ian is away working at our son's house in Manchester today so I had the Landy and, without anyone to watch me, it was time to have a go.  And it was totally fine, although I did not have to reverse downhill around a corner so perhaps it was not a true test.  It is good to be so high as you drive, peering over hedges and seeing our world from a different angle, fields full of sheep waiting to lamb.

First of all to yoga class where the wonderful Patti smooths us out and calms us down and makes my shoulders a little less like a block of wood.  I imagine that all the driving we are doing up and down to see my father is not helping my shoulders but as I can't do much about that I can make a big effort to stretch out my shoulder muscles.  I try to tell myself I will do the exercises at home by myself but it is surprisingly difficult to discipline oneself to do it and impossible to do any yoga exercise at home half as well as I do it under Patti's careful and sympathetic eye.

Then shopping, baking and a little wander about in the gently lengthening day.


Trees and hedges are still bare and stark but there is something about the quality of the light which says it is not too far from spring.  The sheep will be out in the fields in a little while but for now they are lower down closer to the farms.


I sit on my newly covered window seat to check my phone.  How long have I been planning a proper seat here?  Oh just the nine years or so.  No idea what took me so long.


A message comes through from my daughter in law thanking me for a little jacket I have just knitted for youngest grandson.  He is so round and smiley, like a baby from a picture book.


Outside the snowdrops are out.  It must be nearly time for the annual and anal snowdrop count.  Every year it proves to me that my snowdrops are indeed spreading and running their rivers of snow out across the garden.  I don't feel anal enough today and the wind has a keen, cold edge to it that sends me scuttling inside.

In the kitchen it is warm and full of the glorious smell of baking lemon cake.  There are tulips on the table, a gift from some lovely friends who came to see us earlier in the week.


At the moment Ian is reading "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande, a Christmas present from me.  You may feel this is something of a morbid present but I don't.  I heard the author give one of the Reith lectures and admired his honesty, intelligence and compassion.  Here is a review if you want to know more.  The book examines our attitudes to ageing and death and looks at how the ending of life matters.  Is it the awareness of our own mortality that sharpens our perceptions?  It is a truism I suppose.  But somehow today, despite the losses of the last year or so as both my mother and Ian's father have died and despite the ongoing difficulty of my father's illness and decline, sitting on the window seat I found myself suddenly profoundly content, feeling the pale winter sun coming through the window, the tulips bright in the vase, the scent of the cake filling the room.   Life is good.

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”


― William Morris


Friday, 30 January 2015

My love affair with the woodburning stove




Today I have a heavy head cold.  I woke this morning to light snow on the hills and in the garden.  I had a hammering headache and streaming nose and eyes.  This was not a day for venturing out.  It was a day for sitting by the stove, snoozing, doing a little comfort reading.  I couldn't even find the concentration to knit.  But the day has passed away in a warm and comforting way because of our woodburning stove.


We have been using this stove for three seasons a year for nine years now and I could light the fire in my sleep. I start with quite a bit of scrumpled paper.  We use a broadsheet newspaper and I use about eight sheets.  I am pretty sure Ian uses fewer than that but that is what works for me!  Then kindling.  The kindling here was bought chopped during the period when Ian was languishing in bed with flu.  Normally he chops all ours.  How much kindling to use depends very much on how dry the logs are that we are burning.  If the logs are seasoned and dry they will burn with not too much kindling, perhaps half a dozen pieces.  If the logs are a bit wet you might need quite a bit more than that.  We don't buy seasoned logs as we are lucky enough to have a generous and kind neighbour who is a tree surgeon and who often lets us have wood.  We store it as huge pieces in a log store for a few months before it is chainsawed and split into logs the rightsize for the stove.   Then it goes into one of the old stone pigsties in a tidy stack against the wall.  Our wood burns fine but it is perhaps not quite as quick to light as the best kiln dried seasoned wood which you would buy from a dealer.  Mind you, you would pay a lot more for the privilege!


Ian made the kindling basket a couple of years ago on a course at our excellent and very local Woodland Skills Centre led by renowned basket maker Mandy Coates.  I love baskets and home made baskets in particular.  There is something so satisfying about the shape and texture.


Logs live in two galvanised buckets which sit in another basket made by Ian.  A couple of small logs go on the stove to start with and the larger ones are saved for when the fire is well established.  You get very used to a fire and you know that in the first half hour or so you need to give it some attention.  Once the fire is going strongly it only needs a bit of feeding but until it gets going properly you can find that getting distracted for forty minutes means that it has gone out while your back is turned.  Keeping an eye on it becomes as second nature as keeping an eye out for the baby when a fire is part of your life.


And there we go.  The fire is burning, the baskets are charged and the heat from the stove radiates out through the room.  Now it is time for a cup of lemon and ginger tea and the high indulgence (restricted to times when I am not well) of the rereading of one of the books from my childhood.  I am torn between "The Children of Green Knowe" by L.M.Boston and Elizabeth Goudge's "The Little White Horse".  How do you comfort yourself on those days when you are under the weather?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Seven years of January days

When I was a child I longed to live in New England.  I had a beloved aunt who lived in Rye in New Hampshire who visited us every year, bearing books and telling stories of snowy winters and hot summers.  I loved the idea of such different seasons.  They sang out for me vividly in comparison with the grey green summers and the grey black winters of home.  But one thing that we do have in the United Kingdom, and very much so here in Wales, is a real variety.  Summer can be hot, or not.  Winter can be snowy, or mild.  I have come to love that unpredictability so I thought I would look back on seven Januaries to see what it has been like up here.


Here is January 2009, the hills white and the snow drifted up against the hawthorn hedge in the kitchen garden.


More snow in 2010 with the outdoor furniture under the yew tree cushioned in snow.  Ian usually puts it away but the snow must have beaten him to it!  I love the dome of snow on the table.


No snow in 2011 but bright skies and a hard frost.  We often avoid frost here as it rolls down into the valley, leaving us sitting above it.  This must have been something special to have lingered in the shadows in such bright sunshine.


A cold and beautiful dawn in January 2012 with frost on the hillsides.


In January 2013 we had serious snow and were snowed in for a couple of days.  We don't mind that too much these days when we don't have to get out for work!  We hunker down by the stove with books and knitting although it does make life much harder work whenever we need to go outside to feed the hens or replenish the log baskets.


January 2014 was much milder with the faintest dusting of snow right on the top of the Clwydian hills.


And here we are in January 2015 with the hills still green.  There is plenty of time for hard winter to strike.  The deepest snow we have ever had was in March of 2013 when farmers all over North Wales lost thousands of lambs in drifts.  So there is still some winter to come, but today the sun shines and the snowdrops are up.  How is it where you are?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The pleasures and pains of intermittent fasting

Well I promised to let you know how I am getting on with my decision to lighten up by following the 5:2 diet.   So here after my first week is my first bulletin from the front.  I have lost a couple of pounds which I am pleased with.  Of course it would be great to lose weight really quickly but it didn't come on quickly so losing it steadily and slowly is all right by me.  I haven't found the fasting days, where I am restricting myself to 500 calories, too bad.  I have done three now, spaced apart by two to three days, and I am beginning to see a pattern emerging as to how to do it.

The morning after the first fast day I had a powerful headache, very unusual for me, and I am pretty sure I was dehydrated.  Since then I have made a big effort both to drink lots on fasting days and also to continue to take in a lot of liquid on the following day.  That seems to have done the trick as I haven't had any problem at all following the two subsequent days.  Fasting days themselves are fine.  I start with a couple of hard boiled eggs which I find fill me up for the morning.   That is not too much different from my normal breakfast.  Lunch might be another egg or a light homemade soup and this keeps me going through to around five o' clock.  This is about when it starts to get harder.  I find I need to have a cup of bouillon and some celery or cherry tomatoes before I start to prepare the evening meal or I am just so hungry the urge is to pick at anything and everything takes over.  Having a pause with the intention of taking in something to ward that off seems to work well.  For the evening meal I have a piece of fish or lean chicken with tomatoes and peppers.

All is then well until about half past eight when the munchies strike!  I need to keep myself busy until bedtime and to take in lots to drink in the way of sparkling water or fruit teas and to keep a few calories in reserve for celery sticks and tomatoes when I just need to have the sensation of eating!  I don't feel in any way unwell.  On the contrary I feel light and energetic, just with occasional bursts of hunger.  I think we have forgotten (or I certainly had) what it is like to feel hungry in our overfed world in the West.  I quite like the sense that I can feel a bit hungry and can get over it and carry on doing normal things and having a normal evening.  I admit as well that it is a huge help to know that this is only for a day at a time.  If I really fancy something I can always tell myself that I will be able to have it the next day.   I sleep well and wake up the following morning feeling pretty good.  It looked when I was researching this as though many people fell into one of the other of quite polarised camps: those who found fasting relatively easy for a twenty four period like this and felt well on it, and those who felt very unwell and gave up because they suffered from headaches and exhaustion and quite unmanageable hunger on fast days.  I think now I have realised quite how much I need to drink I will be ok and might even fall into the first camp of people who find that fasting suits them well enough.

On non fast days I am eating round about 1500 calories.  The Horizon programme on dieting which kicked off all this talked about eating normally on non fast days and not needing to calorie count.  There was also talk of "eating healthily" and "not bingeing" but I was more persuaded by the idea that even on non fast days you needed to be sure you were not taking in more calories than you could sensibly use up.  1500 doesn't feel like much restriction, in fact if I don't eat as much butter and cheese and drink as much wine as my normal diet contains I can do 1500 calories without altering the way I cook or the food that we normally eat.  I don't feel I am on a diet at all on those days and I know that if I really want something like a cheese scone or a bar of  chocolate I can have it.  Somehow that sense that nothing is actually off limits seems to have protected me from eating way too much on non fast days.  I have cut down on bread, which I love, mainly because I love bread and butter and if I am not eating much butter there is not much temptation to eat much bread!

And the important waist measurement?  The thing that really made me think I was ignoring  my health and my genes?  Well that has come down by half an inch so that is good too.

I think I will stick to this for a month or so and take stock again then.  I have a friend who lost a bit of weight on this diet a year or so ago and who tells me she continues to have  fast day a week and hasn't put any of that back on again.  It feels, she says, more like a way of life now.  So we will see how we go.  So far, so good!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

One of my longrunning favourite blogs is Croftgarden, the story of a garden sometimes battered by winds and storms and sometimes bathed in sunshine on the coast of South Uist in the Hebrides.  I was lucky enough to go a couple of years ago.  It's an amazing place and a testament to the extraordinary energy and commitment of Christine and her husband that there is a garden where the land meets the sea. Christine has just blogged her answers to eleven questions on her garden and has nominated another five blogs to respond to her own questions as part of the Liebster awards.  I am honoured to be asked.  Here are her questions and my answers:

1. How would you describe your gardening style?

Naturalistic would be kind.  Unkempt would be another way of putting it.  I am trying to garden in a high site surrounded by farmland and open moorland and to produce something which fits the place.


2. Who or what has influenced the design of your garden?

I hope that the strongest influence is the place itself.  In terms of people, there are gardeners I greatly admire such as Tom Stuart Smith and Anne Wareham but I don't think I would say they have influenced the design.  Actually that is not true.  Anne made a comment about the way some of the boundary trees cut off the view in a certain part of the garden and I have responded to that by reducing the height of some hollies and taking some branches off some of the larger trees.

3. Is this your first garden or just the latest in a long line?

This is the latest in a long line which has included small city gardens and medium sized suburban gardens.  I began being interested in gardens when my children were young so I have been gardening with varying degrees of intensity for about thirty years, depending on how much time I could spare from family and working.  This is the first garden I have attempted to make from scratch and very difficult it is too!

4. Do you fall into temptation every time a gardening catalogue lands on the mat?

No, I am not much affected by gardening catalogues these days.  Sadly I can't ascribe that to virtue or extraordinary willpower.   It is simply that a lot of things won't grow up here so there is little point in bringing in a lot of new and exotic plants and seeing them die!

5. Are you seduced by the glossy pictures in magazines or books and then despair at your own efforts?

I do sometimes despair and long for a garden with soil instead of stones,  less wind and some respite from the ravages of perennial weeds!  When I see gardens in magazines in the south and the south west it sometimes feels that I inhabit another gardening world altogether.   In fact I think that is probably true.  There is no point in comparing our garden to gardens in glossy magazines.  Until very recently it was a field and it is still a sloping site with a strong resemblance to a field although I hope the sense of a wildish, country garden is beginning to emerge.

6. Do you wear gardening gloves, carry a trug or wear designer wellies?

I always begin any time in the garden wearing gardening gloves and usually take them off at some stage and get my hands filthy.  I have a very beautiful trug which is sometimes used to bring in vegetables and otherwise lives on a shelf in the greenhouse.  I have two pairs of wellies, a cheap pair for gardening in and a less cheap pair for walking in.  Neither could be called designer.

7. What is your favourite gardening task, apart from sitting on the bench with a cuppa?

I love cutting back and the satisfying sense of letting things breathe.  Even though everything here is wild and often overgrown I love the things that bring some order - cut hedges, stacked wood, cut paths through long grass.



8. Do you have a “wish list” of plants  or just get carried away when you see something new?

I used to be much more susceptible to buying something new and beautiful when I had my last garden which had very good shelter and good soil.  Nowadays I don't buy anything without establishing that it won't mind my fastdraining, stony soil and even then I can do all the right research, think I have cracked it and find the plant turns up its toes anyway.

9. Do you propagate your own plants?

I do a lot of splitting up plants and taking cuttings.  This is partly because there is a lot of space to fill and partly because anything that is happy to grow here is worth having a lot of!  I am also much more taken by the repeated use of the same plant in large numbers than by lots of different plants so propagating to achieve that makes sense and is satisfying.

10. Do you try to grow something new each year?

Not really, I just try to keep things alive.

11. Why do you read gardening blogs?
I read lots of blogs, not just gardening ones, in fact the ones I enjoy most tend to range more widely than gardening alone.  I like to see what other people are doing, and I love people talking honestly about their successes and failures and explaining their ambitions.  That is something that is rarely done in gardening magazines which tend towards simple admiration.  A good gardening blog is like a good conversation.

I think that the idea of this award is to nominate others and ask your own questions.  I do hope that it is ok to answer without passing it on.  Many of my favourite blogs have already done this and some of my favourites are not blogging right now.  I have enjoyed answering Christine's questions and urge you to go and have a look at the other blogs she nominated and at her own, Croftgarden.

These are the others nominated by Christine:

The Hopeful Herbalist
The Garden Deli
Edinburgh Garden Diary
Beangenie

There are some great blogs out there and some great gardeners.  I am deep in winter hibernation here and, as those who read regularly will know, last year was not a gardening year as so much of our time went into family things.  Thinking about the questions and looking back at my photographs and diaries has almost made me feel like gardening again!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Lightening the load

If to feel more free is the aspiration, and getting rid of some of the accumulation of stuff is already underway, what else could I be thinking about shedding?  We come round again to weight, fat, excess.  I am not hugely overweight, probably about a stone or so (fourteen pounds to my American readers) but I have been carrying this extra weight for about eight years.  I have never been one of these people who are rake thin and can eat anything but for most of my adult life my weight has hovered between nine stone and nine stone seven, not slender for my height of five foot four but not heavy either.  I would only ever be able to eat what I liked if I was exercising a lot and I cheerfully accepted a sort of discipline which meant that when my weight started to approach nine and a half stone I would exercise more, eat a bit less until it nudged back down again.

All that changed when I became seriously ill with an ovarian growth nine years ago.  I lost a huge amount of weight, down to seven stone, and for the first time ever you could see my ribs, the bony edge of the clavicle, the curve of my hip bones.  I hated it.  It was part of the frailty and physical weakness of being ill.  I was off work for six months and most of that time , perhaps four months or so, was a slow and gentle recuperation and a return to myself.  During that time I ate quite deliberately to regain my weight.  It was great to watch the scales gently edging upward.  I got to nine stone, and then nine and a half and still kept on going with the extra portion, the lavishly buttered bread, the extra slice of cheese.  I seemed to settle at about ten stone five, heavier than I had ever been but not so heavy as to feel uncomfortable with myself.  And there I let it stay.  I was alive.  I was healthy again.  What did it matter?  It was a relief not to think about weight.  I was in my fifties and if I needed a size fourteen that didn't seem to me (still doesn't) anything unusual or excessive.

About eighteen months ago I decided that perhaps I would do something about my weight, noticing that things were edging up again and thinking that I didn't want to find myself very much heavier.  I lost about half a stone, using the calorie counting app on MyFitnesspal, and felt much better for it.  Then, out of the blue, my mother died.  I don't think I have ever been a comfort eater but I put all that weight back on.  I knew as I was doing it that the sad, emptiness I felt would not be filled by eating but we have always loved food in our family and somehow I found myself eating the extra sandwich, hearing my mother's voice from far away in my childhood saying "You will feel better for something to eat".  I didn't.  Only the slow passage of time does that.

And so we come to this year, 2015.  I can tell by my clothes that I have put a little bit more weight on and I begin to wonder whether I should try to lose it.  Things that were comfortable are not quite so comfortable.  A couple of skirts which were a bit tight are now so tight that I take them off again.  We were watching the recent Horizon programme which has been looking at the scientific evidence which indicates that different diets might suit different groups.  One group of guinea pigs was put on a diet involving intermittent fasting, where for two days a week you eat very few calories and for the rest of the week you eat normally.  "You could do that" said Ian.  "You're a self disciplined type."  Now I should make it clear that Ian has never commented on my extra weight other than to tell me jokingly that he doesn't like skinny birds.  I was interested in what we were watching and wondering aloud about whether any of these diets were of any use to me.

After the programme I went and weighed and measured myself.  And here was the shock, not so much the weight which was three pounds or so above the level it was last time I weighed myself but the measurements.  I knew I carried weight about my middle because I always have.  I know that the "apple" shape which that produces is associated with a number of health risks, particularly with regard to heart attack and stroke, but when I saw my waist measurement was thirty seven inches I could not believe it.  I don't look like a beer barrel, honestly, but a thirty seven inch waist means I barely go in at the waist at all.  My mother died of a heart attack.  My brother had a huge stroke four years ago which has left him seriously disabled.  It was not a vanity thing.  I was messing about with my health.

So time to do something about it.  I spent Monday evening researching intermittent fasting, or the five:two diet as it is often called to reflect the pattern of two days fasting and five days normal eating.  I found a website which supports it and ploughed my way through information and forums.  I found a waist to hip ratio calculator which told me my ratio was "extreme" and associated with increased health risks.  I read about fasting for two days a week and thought I could and would do it.  So yesterday was my first fasting day.

Fasting suggests no food at all and the 5:2 diet doesn't demand that.  Instead it suggests that you should restrict yourself to 500 calories and day for women and 600 for men on your fasting days.  The website offers you a way to calculate the calories you should consume on the non fasting days, based on your age, gender, height and levels of physical activity.  This is based on something called Total Daily Energy Expenditure.  It all seemed quite straightforward.  The forums were full of a whole range of responses to fasting from "I feel terrible, I can't do this, I can't sleep" to "I feel wonderful.  I feel so great on my fasting days that I look forward to them".  How would I find it?  There was only one way to find out.

Yesterday was my first fasting day.  I started with a breakfast of two hard boiled eggs.  That is an easy one for me.  I love eggs and usually have them for breakfast, generally a poached egg on toast.  My reading had suggested that protein kept you feeling fuller for longer than carbohydrate so I thought two eggs might work better than my usual egg on toast.  It seemed to be true.  I wasn't at all hungry over the course of the morning and arrived at lunchtime feeling I wanted a little bit of something but not even as hungry as I normally am.  I did drink quite a lot of fruit and herbal tea, having had two cups of my normal tea with milk to start the day.  For lunch I had a cup of Marigold Bouillon stock and another hard boiled egg.  That felt fine.  I was much less hungry than usual, had no headache or any of the downsides of fasting which I read about.  So far, so good.

I calculated I had used about two hundred and ten of my calories for the day.  It depends on how you categorise our home laid eggs!  For dinner I reckoned I could have a salmon fillet with tomatoes and peppers and that should be it.

By late afternoon I was starting to feel decidedly peckish, not starving or uncomfortable, just ready for something to eat.  I raided the fridge for a couple of cherry tomatoes and had another cup of bouillon.  There is something about the salty, savoury taste which makes you feel you are having something more substantial than it really is!  I had a bit of a wobble before dinner when Ian was eating black olives and bread cubes but I held out and made it through to meal time feeling quite proud of myself.  I cooked the salmon in the oven on a bed of tomatoes and chopped yellow pepper with some capers for sharpness and a little oil and black pepper.  It was delicious and Ian had the same but with roasted new potatoes as well.

I always knew that the evening would be the hardest time as this is when I normally get to around nine o' clock and have a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers.  No more calories left for this.  Strangely I was aware that I wasn't really hungry, it was more that I have a habit of rounding off the evening this way.  I had a couple of glasses of slimline tonic with ice and, without the wine to set off the munchies, didn't feel the need for anything else.  So I reached bedtime having achieved my aim of no more than five hundred calories and feeling pretty good.  I thought I might struggle to go to sleep which is a problem many people have complained of, particularly on their second fasting day of the week.  Perhaps because this was my first day I had no difficulty going off to sleep.  I woke this morning with a dry mouth but otherwise feeling fine.

Today I am keeping to 1500 calories, again using MyFitnesspal to track them.  I will decide tonight whether to fast again tomorrow or on Friday.  At the moment I am feeling hugely motivated.  Somehow deciding that the driver is my health rather than anything else has been very freeing.  It would be nice to fit into a size twelve again and to look slimmer but to be honest if that was that important to me it would have made me act about my weight before now.  I hope to look better out of my clothes and in them but what I really want to do is to achieve a waist measurement which is no more than half my height in inches.  That seems to be the rule of thumb which indicates that you are not carrying unhealthy levels of abdominal fat.  So we shall see.  I will give it a month of really having a serious go at intermittent fasting and keeping an eye on the calories on non fasting days.  I think this will have a by product of reducing my wine consumption which can't be a bad thing.  When Ian is completely recovered I will go back to walking our hills again.  And I will report back.  I hope this is not too personal and too boring but having the discipline of writing about what has happened when I have done my first week seems like a good idea.  Wish me luck!