Anti-aging secret:but which is it?

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20121222_170401An age spot on my left cheek has completely disappeared, and the seborrhoeic keratosis (benign warty growth) on my back, which the doctor said was due to age, has fallen off. On top of that the form of arthritis I have suffered from since childhood, ankylosing spondylitis, which necessitates taking Voltoral daily, seems to have put itself in remission. I haven’t taken a painkiller for over two months, and have not once woken with back pain or stiffness.

What the hell is going on?

Two major changes took place in August at around about the same time. My wonderful, energetic, annoying, make-up and clothes borrowing (stealing), daughter, left home and is currently living and working in Honduras. And…

I started the 5:2 diet. Which means I eat normally five days a week, and fast on two days (one 500 calorie meal).

So which is it that has led to the turning back of time?

Well, the daughter is back in August 2013, and I intend to keep fasting twice a week for the long term, so I guess this time next year, I will have my answer. If the age spot is back; I am out of energy; have a back covered in warty growths; and am popping pills for pain, then the only option will be to kick the daughter out for good.

Anyone else tried the 5:2 diet? If so what changes, aside from weight loss, have you noticed?

Four for writers: How I write a novel (and for anyone who wants to know what I look like without make-up on)

I admit this is a bit of a lazy post this week, but only because I have been spending every spare minute of the day completing the second draft of my novel (the one the agent wants to see). And in penance, I am letting you see me without make-up on, and believe me, it is not pretty.

Sorry you had to see this
Sorry you had to see this

The first draft is rough (see picture). I just write, without censoring my thoughts, or worrying about POV. I write 2000 words a day, every day, until around six weeks later I have 100,000 words. I show no-one this draft.

Amazing what a bit (lot) of foundation can do
Amazing what a bit (lot) of foundation can do

I then begin all over again. Using bits of the first draft, but often rewriting scenes from a different POV to the one I originally chose, and getting rid of the ‘tell’ – usually backstory, so vital to the writer when constructing the novel from scratch, but boring to the reader. It is only once I have a second draft that I can see the full shape of the story. Or using the make-up analogy, foundation is on and the worst cracks and crevices are smoothed away.

The second draft is the first time I show anyone the story (I would never leave the house without at least foundation on). Time to call in all those favours from review groups and writer friends.

Getting there.
Getting there.

Once I have all the feedback in, comes draft three. Strengthening character motivations and themes. It might also involve writing ‘out’ or ‘in’ a character, and even changing the plot. Back to the make-up analogy, still very much reconstructive – creating cheekbones I don’t have and eyelashes I can only dream about.

I feel like me again.
I feel like me again.

Draft four. Close reading of every sentence, often starting from the back and working forward, as it is easier to see each sentence on its own this way. The important thing to do here, is get rid of any lingering cliches or stupid phrasing, and check dialogue sounds natural. Or in make-up terminology, applying eye-shadow, eyeliner and filling in my pale eyebrows, which almost disappear on the outer edge.


And finally, draft five – Now I can focus on the little things, like typos or missing words and checking the whole thing reads smoothly, and there aren’t any continuity errors. I use a text to speech software programme (this one is free), correcting as I go. Time for lipstick and hair.

Ta da!
Ta da!

Now I am ready to submit! Or in make-up terms; this is as good as it is going get.

Luckily my writing can improve further, even if I can’t!

How do you do it? Write a novel I mean, not apply your make-up. Please share.

On Family: holidays

I have a confession. I am not normal.

Who is? I hear you say.

No really, I am not normal.

I hate holidays. Not having time off work – I’m not that abnormal. No, I mean going away on holiday. I hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

i hate holidays

It doesn’t matter where it is, or for how long. As soon as I get there I immediately start pining for home and suffer from terrible homesickness (not a vague depression, but an acute physical reaction, with vomiting and stomach cramps). I always used to put it down to a tummy bug, but it happens when I holiday in the UK, and without fail, as soon as I start the journey home, I begin to feel better. Once I cross the threshold, I am completely cured.

I’ve given up worrying about it or pretending otherwise. I am a homebody, and luckily I married a man as equally averse to travelling as I am.

The only thing I love more than being at home is being at home with both my children tucked up in bed, which at nearly 19 and 17 is rare occurrence these days; even more so since our daughter left for Honduras in August for a year’s volunteering and travelling.

She, as you’ve probably gathered, does not take after me, or her father. Her rucksack, covered in badges from places like Cambodia and Nepal, India and Thailand, belonged to my sister. My adventurous and determined sister, who filled her niece’s head with tales of exotic palaces and fragrant bustling markets, when she came to live with us in the last few months of her short, but drama packed life.

Ever since then (five years ago) our daughter has been adamant she would take a gap year after her A-levels. And ever since then, I have been trying to convince our daughter that 18 was far too young to go travelling and wouldn’t it be better all-round if she waited until after university.

Of course, my adventurous and determined daughter listened to her aunt, who, as she is dead (with all the glamour of dying young and beautiful) held an unfair advantage over me. Thanks sis. Not.

honduras_mapsSo with a heavy, heavy heart, I said goodbye to her in Heathrow terminal 5, four months ago. And of course she loves it there (for the most part), which is obvious by her lack of contact, unless she needs something.

But the other day she skyped me, not because she needed money or was feeling poorly, but because she wanted to ask if we would like to come out to visit. She wants us to meet the family she is staying with and the project she is working on.

My stomach flipped over, not in nervous dread, but in actual excitement. I miss my daughter. Her laugh. Her scent. Her jingly jewellery. Her funny songs. Her nicknames for us. Her energy. Her soul.

And unbelievably, one week later, everything is booked, even down to the airport parking (you may have gathered I am not one for spontaneity). Despite the fact Honduras is not what you would call a tourist friendly country – San Pedro Sula (which we fly into) has the dubious honour of being the murder capital of the world (though to be fair, this relates to the drug trade, fueled by the usage of cocaine in the US and of course UK) – I am still excited.

I finally get what all the fuss is about. I can genuinely join in the conversations at work (rather than feigning excitement). Except, for me, going to Honduras is a cure for chronic homesickness, brought on not by location this time, but by separation from a little bit of home. My daughter.

On a trip to Italy with her aunty Andrea (my sis) in 2006
On a trip to Italy with her aunty Andrea (my sis) in 2006

I know she will never live at home again, properly, as a child. But wherever she is, I know that is where I will want to be.

Maybe I am not such a homebody after all. And just maybe my sister is laughing at me.

If you weren’t dead already, darling sister, I think I might just murder you. But also thank you for giving my daughter the confidence to experience the world without fear, and in doing so, give me the incentive to see a little bit more of this wondrous planet that you weren’t ready to leave and would have loved to have visited with me.

Honduras here we come! Adios!

Anyone else hate going away as much as me? Or maybe there is something else that everyone, except you, seems to love? Share your quirks here. I won’t judge, much (unless it’s really freaky).