It ain’t over till the fat lady swims…

Sometime in the murky depths of February I saw a sponsored post from Diabetes UK on Facebook. Swim the Channel, it proclaimed. In the comfort of your local pool! Raise money! Being a Type 2 diabetic myself, and with my daughter Zoe a Type 1 since she was 9, I was sufficiently curious to click on the link. I scrolled through the page and something inside me was ignited. At the same time the nasty little imp inside my head started laughing. “Swim the channel?” he asked “You? Hahahahaha!” For once I found enough courage to drown him out with positivity and carried on reading.

Before the imp could recover and start harassing me again, I signed up, just for half the distance. I could manage 11 miles I told myself. Swimming is easy, I will lose weight, my blood sugar will stabilize, and I will raise £200 for the charity. It will be wonderful, I need to exercise, I can do this!

Further spurred on by a conversation and a donation from Chris Evans on Virgin Radio I upped my game.

Celebrating 11 miles, half way!

Fast forward about 3 months. On Sunday I swam into Calais and stumbled up the beach to reward myself with a croissant. 22 miles and over £1000 raised for the charity that is so close to my heart.

Am I proud of myself? You bet I am. I can honestly say that this is both the worst and the best thing that I have EVER done.

I knew that physically this would be hard. I am 60 years old, overweight, diabetic, totally unfit with little or no core strength in my body. I had some major expectations of my marathon swim. I believed I would lose a lot of weight. I believed that my diabetic blood sugar readings would drop to a healthier level. I believed it would get easier. In reality, I did drop a dress size, but I didn’t lose weight. My blood sugar readings were all over the place, not helped by the fact that I was really hungry most of the time! I think that perhaps my body was somewhat confused by a regular and consistent exercise routine and it just could not figure out when I needed glucose to keep my muscles going! I also hurt. At every point one of those muscles ached. My back, my knees, even my elbows! My skin shriveled and I broke out in spots. My feet were dry and cracked. A whiff of chlorine followed me wherever I went. As for my hair…where did I put my wig?

But at the end of the challenge I do feel better. I can walk further and faster than before I started, and I don’t get breathless.

What I was not prepared for was the effect of the challenge on my mental and emotional health.

The first day that I got into the pool I aimed for swimming 10 lengths. I managed 20 with several rest stops. At that point I figured out how many lengths I would have to swim to reach 11 miles if I only swam 20 lengths each swim. Just about doable I thought.

By the end of the swim I was routinely swimming a minimum of 34 lengths (1/2 mile) per session with only one or two short pauses. A couple of times I managed a whole mile!

I discovered a determination and a resilience that I really did not know I had in me. Even on the days when I just did not want to get in the water, I dragged my sorry arse to the pool and got in. I persevered despite several incidents of swimming snobbery. On one occasion I was told that I was too slow for the slow lane! She was probably right.

But. I showed up, gritted my teeth and just did it. Kept doing it.

I also reconnected mentally with my body. It likes to be exercised. My physical wellbeing connects with my mental wellbeing. It feels good (apart from the chlorine!)

My husband Nigel came with me every Sunday and I was so grateful, but the rest of the time I was pretty much alone with my thoughts and there were days when I just knew that I did not have a hope in hell of ever reaching France. Those days were the hardest and I remember one day just crying all the way and getting out of the pool with barely enough energy to dry myself. But I dug deep, learned to focus and just kept going.

Time and again I convinced myself that I would not finish the challenge. That I was not strong enough, or good enough to finish. But I was spurred on by my team of cheerleaders on Facebook who responded to every Facebook Live with words of encouragement and who sponsored me and kept me going. There was also an incredibly supportive Facebook group where people cheered each other on and shared their up and downs. I also had the support of a couple of lifeguards at the pool who cheered me on when they were working.

Thank you to EVERYONE who helped me reach my goals. I could not have done it without you all.

To wrap up, here are some of the things I have learned from this grand adventure.

  • Start with one length, one step, one breath
  • If you think you can’t, you won’t
  • If you need support, ask for it, there is always someone willing to help
  • Remember your underwear
  • Moisturise, and stay hydrated!
  • Laugh at yourself…often
  • Never underestimate yourself, you are amazing!
  • Enjoy the croissant!

This challenge has made me stronger, braver, happier. The lessons I have learned have changed me. They will make me a better human being. A better coach.

Will I do it again? Well, once I have taken a brief break from the chlorine, I will continue swimming a couple of times a week, and I am planning some other exercise. But swimming the channel? I’m not sure. Ask me next February!

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to donate, the fundraising page is open until 22 June 2019

Penny is a life coach living in Morecambe in Lancashire. Her business is Corner House Coaching.

She works with clients right across the UK. If you would like to know more, or simply stay in touch here are her details



She would love to hear how you enjoyed this blog so please leave a comment

Thank you for reading x

The Naked Truth…

This morning I had a brave moment. I stood naked in front of a mirror and looked at my body.

As a 60-year-old fat woman with poor hair and Type 2 diabetes, currently spending a minimum of 3-4 hours a week in a chlorinated swimming pool, this is not something I do very often. I prefer to avert my eyes, getting dressed quickly out of mirror view, only sitting at my dressing table to take care of my face and appalling hair. To apply the bare minimum of makeup. And even that is something that I get through as quickly as I can. A quick check of my clothed body before venturing out into the world is the most examination that I usually do.

When I embarked on my swimming challenge (for Diabetes UK – swimming the channel in my local pool over 3 months for those of you that do not know) it was for 3 reasons.

  • I needed to something to improve my fitness levels
  • I wanted to raise money for this charity on behalf of my Type 1 daughter
  • I thought it would make me accountable – if I went public, I would have to stick at it, particularly if people were sponsoring me!

I have tried the public thing before with varying degrees of success, but sponsorship is extremely motivating!

Healthwise I really thought that I would see weight loss and an improvement in my blood sugars.

What has actually happened, is that I have gained 5lb and my blood sugar is all over the place! I am also hungry. All the time. And not for salad! I also ache. A lot. Pushing myself to do 30-40 lengths each swim from a standing start of no real exercise is a push.

However, my clothes are a little looser, I don’t get out of breath so much and I do feel proud of myself. So, I decided to brave the mirror.

Its not a pretty sight. Don’t worry, I know I overshare, but there are no photographs to scare the children! I can see that my body has changed shape. Its never going to be that “acceptable” sight that adorns our magazines, newspapers and social media. There are lumps and bumps, drooping and scars. The last two of course are connected with Zoe, my daughter. A caesarian scar and droopy boobs after breastfeeding are a reminder of something wonderful. Creating another human being. Someone who I love and am so proud of. I do not regret them. But the rest are testament to years in sedentary jobs, a total lack of self-esteem which resulted in eating too much, and a lack of interest in exercise for exercise’s sake.

I grew up in the generation that played outside. There were only 3 television channels and none of them broadcast all day. I read books, built dens, rode my bicycle. We did PE at school on our lovely field and it was competitive. My mum cooked everything from scratch and once a week we got pocket money for sweets. Sixpence I believe. And I didn’t spend it on chocolate – my joy was a jamboree bag!

I was always a little chunky, although back then I had good hair! In beach pictures I looked long-legged and healthy. But I was the fat one in the class. And it did affect me, I felt somehow less. Not pretty, unattractive and that stayed with me for a long time.

Now I could continue and talk about all the bad stuff that happened in my life and made things worse. My parents divorce when I was 16. Someone I loved very dearly dying when I was 21. Being a doormat for numerous partners and believing that was normal. My first marriage that ended in drunken violence when my daughter was 6. Piles of crap! We all have them.

I could blame my weight problems on all of that. When my marriage broke up, I topped the scales at over 26 stone. At the same time my job became unbearably stressful and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. There is no doubt that all the stress played its part in my diagnosis, which was discovered at a routine work medical. But my life choices were all unhealthy ones.

When I met Nigel in 2003 I was still over 22 stone. He is a Labrador and loved/loves food. So I fed us. It’s what I do. We got a grip in 2008 when we decided to get married and we both lost a lot of weight.

By the time we moved to Morecambe, 21 months ago, my weight had settled at just over 18 stone, give or take 5lbs. Last summer I embarked on healthy habits – better eating, more walking. I felt better but then for six months from August I had a spell of really bad health, including my fall downstairs at the end of November. That fall was really a turning point for me. I have never felt so physically frail, so immobile. It scared me.

Since I started swimming various bunches of muscles have taken it in turns to hurt. It started with my biceps. Although I have not lost the bingo wings I have much improved strength in my arms. Next my calf muscles. Useful in a 3-storey house! This week it is my stomach muscles and my quadriceps (yes I googled!).

My stomach is a really weird shape. Where the muscles are contracting. I have an umbilical hernia that is more pronounced (too small to warrant an operation apparently), with great hollows either side below my waist. The tops of my thighs are like rocks!

Sorry for the visuals. What I am trying to say is that nothing stays the same. With a bit of effort and determination you can change your landscape. It might take a while, and it may never look exactly how you want it but what is more important is the hidden landscape.

Yesterday in the pool I was completely overwhelmed and tearful. Note to self: No-one notices if you cry in a swimming pool. This challenge has become about so much more than me getting a bit fitter, or raising some money for a good cause. It is about changing my beliefs, pushing myself. Stretching my limits.

I have realised that for a long time I have avoided things that might stretch me, physically and mentally. My opening thoughts are often about how difficult something might be. I make elaborate plans to avoid challenging physical or mental situations. To the point where I avoid going to places where I cannot park close by. Where I don’t speak out loud when I believe something strongly. My default thought has been “I can’t”.

Every time I go swimming, I feel fear. Fear of not being able to finish the challenge. Fear of looking awful in my swim suit. Fear of being in the way of faster swimmers. Every time I get past 30 lengths, I feel better. I feel triumph. I am exhausted but I do have a sense of achievement. I feel the fear and do it anyway.

In the end it does not matter what I think. It does not matter what other people think. It is just thoughts. And I can choose to pay attention to them or not. I can choose to love this body that I see in the mirror with all its lumps and bumps. I am choosing to work on making it fitter so it can last longer. Its not easy, and it is not always enjoyable. But I will persevere. And when I get to Calais – bugger the blood sugar! There is a chocolate croissant with my name on waiting for me!

P.S. Its Sunday now and we were back in the pool this morning for an hour. 34 lengths more to add to my tracker. I am at 7.7 miles now and got a new badge!

And the other thing? When I read this blog to my lovely husband before publishing – he told me that he thinks I am gorgeous! Whilst I know that he includes this battered overweight body in his definition of gorgeous he also knows my inner landscape really well. I am blessed to have him in my life!

If you would like to know more about my coaching or my swimming please get in touch!

  • Phone – 07771 896670
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This seems an appropriate song, and a great way to live – looking through the eyes of love!

Don’t stop me now…

Back in February this overweight, diabetic, slightly averse to exercise, other than walking the dogs, woman decided to swim the channel! Well, figuratively speaking. 22 miles in my local pool in 12 weeks.

The SWIM22 challenge from Diabetes UK appeared on my Facebook feed at the beginning of February. I kicked the idea around in my head for a few days. Then I asked my greatest fan, my husband, if he thought I could do it. Now Nigel believes I could conquer the world in my pajamas if I want to. I signed up. For 11 miles.

3 weeks in and I have swum 4.18 miles. I feel a little fitter and I have toned up. The first day I set out to swim 10 lengths of our 33m pool but managed 20. On Friday I swam 36 and today another 30. It’s not all plain sailing. I have aches and I am hungry all the time. I am a Type 2 diabetic and my blood sugar has been all over the place (apparently my liver is working hard to cope with the extra exercise and pumping extra glucose to my muscles). And annoyingly, I have actually gained a few pounds, which I did not expect!

But. The exhilaration and sense of achievement is amazing. I am so proud of myself. That in itself is an achievement for me. I am having fun!

My swim time is also giving me think time. Time to mull over lots of things. And because I am doing something right out of my comfort zone it has helped me look at other areas of my life where I have not been as brave as I should be.

Deciding to become a coach was all about me wanting to help people. Coaching set me back on my feet after a tough couple of years. We all hit those bumps in the road, whether its redundancy, bereavement, ill health or simply a feeling that we are lost or out of our depth. Or if we are just plain scared.

Much like my swimming adventure, my coaching journey started as the germ of an idea. My thought process was along these lines.

“Could I”




 “Yes I could…”

“I can try…”

“Why don’t I just give it a go?”

That’s the abbreviated script of the head chatter that goes on every time I need to make a choice or a decision. Back in the day I listened to the chatter far more than I do now. Back then the chatter always convinced me that it would be better if I didn’t take a risk or step out of my comfy but often unsatisfactory situation.

When I made the decision to try coaching, I bought books, studied, signed up for a course, learned tried and tested techniques and methods. Got a couple of bits of paper that said that I was qualified to do this “job”.

But alongside that training I discovered something else. A spiritual understanding that changed my world and helps me deal with that head chatter. It still barges its way into my brain, but I can recognize it now and deal with it better. I know how to quiet my mind and settle my anxiety about any new situation. This is what I teach my clients to do too.

The thing is although I do share what I know to be true, there is a bit of me that still holds back. Is still a bit frightened to be “out there”. To be spouting what people might consider to be slightly “woo-woo” – for want of a better description!

Let’s dive back into the pool. Well, in my case, step gingerly down the steps into the tepid water!

My swimming is not fast and its not pretty. I plough up and down the pool like a stately galleon, doing my version of breast stroke, keeping my head above water but totally determined to do my best. A bit like my new attitude to life and my coaching. I have encountered a couple of unpleasant “swim-snobs” while doing my swimming and at first it knocked my confidence. Some people seem to believe that our local leisure centre pool is their own personal domain and refuse to give way to anyone else. I started out feeling intimidated and insecure when I ran across these people. But not any more.

We all have self-limiting beliefs. But you know what? There is always a way around them. And often take taking one step, one small action. you can stop the head chatter in its tracks. Drown it out with a small success. The first 10 lengths that I swam planted a small seed of belief in my heart and look at me now. Wrinkly and smelling slightly of chlorine…but almost half way to my first target and believing that I can do more.

Every one of us does the best we can with the tools we have available at any given moment. I have a tool that might help other people in the same way that it helped me. But to help people I need to get out of my own way, be brave in deep water and speak out.

My last blog talked about me releasing the hidden Penny. After I wrote it I realised that I felt a bit uncomfortable about it. It seemed to come from the wrong place. All about me. When I am really all about other people. But I think that what I was trying to say was that I recognize that everyone hides stuff away for all kinds of reasons. I understand that.

This morning I found this picture on my Facebook feed. I think this says it better than I said it before.

And then I read my horoscope

It’s a sign!

If you would like to know more about my coaching or my swimming please get in touch!

  • Phone – 07771 896670
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The Wildness…

Those of you who have faithfully followed What Penny Did Next know that over the last couple of years I have experienced a significant spiritual shift, marked by several major insights, usually involving a sharp intake of breath and some tears.

You may also have noticed that of late I have been quieter than usual, with my blogs becoming less frequent and somewhat shorter in length.

I think I am ready to share why. Settle in, this is a longer one!

It has been a challenging few months. A time of ill health, with constant infections and a bad fall which laid me out for a couple of months. But as always, I think that these challenges were presented to me by the Universe for a reason. It was time for some reflection on the meaning of life!

If only it was this simple…

This time out brought on another insight. But rather than the sharp intensity of a moment of recognition, this insight has been like riding a wave across a turbulent sea.

It is 5 years now, since I was gifted the opportunity to rediscover myself and start the process of creating a new, less stressful, and better, life. Its been quite a ride. Our relocation to Morecambe was both incredible and inevitable. Both of us feel that we are exactly where we need to be and have a sense of belonging that we have never felt anywhere else. Last summer we welcomed friends and family to The Corner House and celebrated our first year here, and 10 years of marriage, in the sunshine outside our new home.

And then we sat back, to start getting on with our lives.

It was time for me to sculpt my new life, both personally and professionally. I spent time studying, reading, networking and all the other things that small business owners need to do. New opportunities presented themselves. But I felt a little displaced. As if there was something just over my left shoulder that I needed to pay attention to, but couldn’t quite see, or get a hold on.

My poor physical health left me feeling vulnerable and although not depressed, sad and a little lost. There were financial challenges too, and they are always unsettling.

Christmas came and went. It was gentle and quiet. Then it was January.

To be honest, my natural inclination is to hibernate in January and February! Conserve energy, sleep, wait for the spring flowers to poke through the cold soil. I was intensely irritated by all the New Year New You crap on social media. All the endless energy of people flogging the latest nutrition plan, or exercise routine. Pledging to be a better person, lose weight, making resolutions to do things that they should be doing anyway. Boy, was I ever in a blue funk! The wave I was riding threatened to drown me.

I had an idea. I created a Facebook group called Find your Fabulous in February. I wanted to help people feel better, have some fun, step into Spring early. It wasn’t about me, although I admit it was also a way to promote my businesses.

It was amazing. We created a tribe. My wave picked up momentum and rose gently with the tide. There were a few wobbles and the wave dipped but the collective positivity soon had me back in balance and kept me moving forward.

Suddenly I knew what was hovering over my left shoulder.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. Here is the point of this blog.

I was feeling disconnected from myself.

Exploring that feeling further I realised that there are only two places where I ALWAYS feel like the Penny that I want, need and deserve to be. The Penny that is totally, authentically and undeniably who she is meant to be. Who is totally at home in her own skin. Who does not care what people think about her as long she knows that she is the kindest, most loving person she can be to everyone she meets. Who does not judge anyone. Nor expects to be judged.

The first place is my Greek home, in Poros. I have always felt different from the moment I step off the ferry onto the soil of this place that I love. Even when I was there with someone who judged me for just breathing, I always felt more peaceful, more in touch with my soul and that has never changed.

The second place, and slightly surprising, is at CarFest, the annual festival organized by Chris Evans. From our first visit in 2012 until last year in July. There is something about the anonymity of being in a field with thousands of other people simply enjoying the moment that frees you from conformity and allows you to be anything you want.

In both these places I allow my wildness to surface and run free.

Why does my wildness stay concealed for the rest of the time? It’s fear. Fear that I will be judged. As a person, a business owner, a fat woman, with terrible thin hair and a bald patch, a type 2 diabetic, a 60-year-old…you name it, I am afraid. Terrified of being judged.

In my heart I know that none of those things make me, me. I am a good, kind and loving, empathic person who wants to help people and needs to make a living. I discovered something 2 years ago that changed my life and I want to share that because I know it is true and can help other people. Its why I chose coaching.

I made a decision. I am letting her out. She is going to step out bravely and share what she knows, honestly. Without fear of judgement. Speaking her truth. Starting on Sunday when I am giving a talk at an event.

She is going to stand up and stand out. In bright colours and her trademark red lipstick!

Something else. A couple of people shared with me a little of how they see Penny. It was surprising. Perhaps we all need to see how other people see us. It is very enlightening.

The final realisation came when I heard this song last week. I have heard it before but as so often happens with music, this popped up and resonated so strongly with my thinking it almost broke me. There were tears. It reminded me of being young, with everything ahead of me, and there was so much hope. On Friday night, on Monday morning, every day, every journey brought the promise of something amazing. Just because I am 60 does not mean that I am giving up hope. There is always a road leading somewhere wonderful. Or a wave to ride to the beach.

I just need to let the Wildness have its way.

The Other Side…

It’s been quite a week. One of those weeks that moves you forward, usually by knocking you flat on your behind, before scooping you up and setting you gently on your feet a few more miles down the road. Yeah. That!

Last Wednesday I attended a free event, a training day with a gentleman called David Key. I had heard of this man through my networking groups. By all accounts he was a great speaker. A good coach. A lovely man. Due to circumstances beyond my control I had missing hearing him speak on two previous occasions. Don’t you love how the Universe conspires to put you in the right place at the right moment?

Just over an hour or so into David’s presentation I was mentally knocked over. Someone threw a switch in my head and turned on the lights. I couldn’t tell you now exactly what he said. I have tried to explain to a few people and literally could not find the words. But I saw a direction, a belief, a future that I had not seen before.

It was like standing at the start of a runway, and watching the lights illuminate ready for take-off.

Many of you know that I worked in aviation for over 20 years. In the early days of that company life was so exciting. It was the early 90s, I was newly married, excited to have found a job I loved in a company that embraced everything good about team work, was growing fast, paid well and promised a bright future. Working on an airport was so exciting! I met amazing people and worked alongside an amazing lady that I am now proud to call one of my best friends. We were passionate, driven, often exhausted and stressed and we worked very long hours. But it was fabulous!

We were a small company, growing quickly but it was definitely all-hands-on deck at all times. I was employed as the Accounts Manager, but was often called on to assist with the main work of the company, handling aircraft.

I have one really outstanding memory of that time. It was a summer evening, just in the moments before dusk. It had been a really hot day, and there was a warm breeze. We were expecting two large aircraft to arrive, important middle-eastern clients, with lots of passengers. The whole team was waiting on stand with all the equipment needed to look after every need of the arrivals.

We watched the planes land, and stood on the stand waiting for them to taxi to their parking stands. Amazingly it was really quiet out on the airfield. And I remember this amazing sense of anticipation, excitement, enhanced by the sounds of the engines as the planes approached us. Growing from a distant hum to a deafening roar as they manoeuvred the massive machines onto the stands, followed by a sudden silence when they shut off the engines and we sprang into action.

The sense of wonder was a physical thing. My breath caught in my chest. At that moment, everything was right in the world. It was moments like that that kept me with that company for 24 years. Even when things deteriorated into a stressful, miserable and unhappy existence, I held on to the memories of the good times until the Universe once again intervened, and gave me a shove.

That shove, 3 years ago, propelled me into the next bit of my journey.

This was my recent Facebook status:

I have been viewing our life-changing decision to move 250 miles to Morecambe as the opportunity to start afresh, wipe the slate, reinvent myself. Create a new version of Penny that takes all the good stuff I have learned, and drops all the crap that I carry around with me from the past.

But in reality, Penny is made up of all those things, good and bad. As we all are. What I need is a different perspective. I need to set the bags down in the corner, or maybe in our new cellar, out of the way but there as the foundations to my new life.

Listening to David last week was the moment when I finally closed the last suitcase and chose a new destination! And I am not just talking about Morecambe. It feels like I am back, standing out on that airfield, with the warm breeze ruffling my hair, and a sense of anticipation wedged in my stomach.

One of the things I learned this year is how most of my motivation comes from helping people. I knew that I would need to “re-train” when we move and we have budgeted for that. I have been considering teaching, but I am now looking at moving into coaching. I have booked onto a course with David in September to explore this option. Many things seem to be falling into place and along with the excitement and anticipation I have described is a sense of calm. Of clarity. A spiritual sense of peace.

It won’t all be plain sailing. Part of the process will be taking a broom to some of the dusty corners of my own psyche. That could be painful! But healing too.

This week I finally got around to selling off the huge amounts of Pampered Chef stock that I have had in my house for years! I have been talking about this for ages. I think I was simply just not ready to part with those memories. Totally ridiculous – the things I am selling are all still brand new and in boxes. The products that I use all the time will more than fill my new extra-large kitchen! But I had some curious sense of attachment to all those items. There are EIGHT boxes that I think I have now reduced to one. It is a logistical nightmare to get them all packed up and shipped out. But it is time. Time to create space for new stuff (Lakeland is beckoning!). To de-clutter.

Over the last year, I have de-cluttered many areas of my life. It created space and in the last six months or so I have made new friends, discovered a new confidence, made scary and brave decisions and acted on them. I am quite proud of myself. But there was a missing link. Could not quite put my finger on it. I think I might have found it. Or at least a way of finding it! I am impatient though. The legal wheels of conveyancing are turning more slowly than we would like. But I suspect the Universe is intervening there too. There are so many other boxes that we need to unpack or pack before moving.

At the start of my day with David, he asked us all to write down two metaphors. One for where we are now, and one for where we want to be in the future. Anyone who reads my blogs knows I love metaphors! But I did have to really think about it. Here is what I wrote.

Where I am now?

“Standing on one side of a chasm about to leap and waiting for the net to appear.”

Where do I want to be?

“Gathered safely in”

I don’t think that that scary chasm is anywhere near as wide as I once thought it was!




Bad hair day!

Back in November 2011 I embarked on an epic “journey” with a local network magazine called Project Penny. It was a brave and challenging step and I know that many of you have stuck with me through my ups and downs since then. I was very lucky to be introduced to many wonderful people, some of whom are still very much in my life. With lovely Dawn, the editor holding my hand, I lost 2 stone which I have kept off, got some amazing life coaching with the fabulous Jo Painter, which really helped me sort my head out somewhat. I met another Jo, my amazing nail technician who has become a good friend who supports me at every twist of the road. Lovely Jo and Tracey at The Toning Rooms. And many others, too many to mention here.

The other lady I met was the amazing Ann Fegan. More of her in a moment.

The interesting, and possibly slightly sad thing about Project Penny (PP) was that for the first time I developed a negative body image. My struggles with my weight are well documented. I am currently around 7 stone lighter than I was at my heaviest in 2000. Some of that has been lost with hard work, some of it disappeared when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2001. But even at my heaviest I did not hide behind big cardigans and shapeless clothes. I flaunted my cleavage, wore figure hugging clothes and generally was not bothered how I looked. Now, when I look back at pictures of that time I am horrified. I was a 30 something working mum, struggling in a difficult marriage that ended in violence but on the surface I was blissfully unaware of how awful I looked. Project Penny changed that forever.

The worst thing for me at that time was how awful my hair was. When I was a teenager I had very long, very thick hair. But over the years of bleaching, perming, backcombing it had become a shadow of its former self. My hair has always been fine, but by the time of PP the volume had reduced significantly. My shiny pate shone through the fine wisps blinding the locals! And I was horribly aware of it.

Back to Ann Fegan. Ann is a hairdresser, a brilliant hairdresser. She works with many ladies who have problems with hair, including those who lose their hair after treatment for cancer. She took me under her wing and we began trying different things. We used a laser, we tried extensions, some other topical applications and then finally in early 2012 she introduced me to something called a volumiser.

This is a hair piece that fits over your own hair and is held in place by tape. Once it is in place it looks like your own hair. You can wash it, swim in it, style it. It is an amazing invention. It is refitted every few weeks. It changed my life.

For nearly 5 years I have felt confident, brave and yes pretty, however vain that sounds. I have had 3 volumisers in that time and each one has been better than the last. It has become part of Penny.

OK, so that is the preamble. Why am I writing this blog? Well as you know we have made a major life decision to relocate to the North West next year. It is unlikely that I will be able to get my piece refitted up there. Also, it was time for a new one and it is a pretty major investment. And finally, after all this time I think I need to give my scalp a rest and see if my hair can recover. So I made another major lifestyle decision….drum roll….I decided to try a wig.

Yesterday I went to the hairdressers and had my volumizer removed. My plan was to try on a couple of wigs, have the volumizer put back on, and think about it. But my current piece has really reached the end of its life and it would have been difficult to put it back on, not impossible, but I knew that it was looking sparse and didn’t feel right.

At this point brave, confident Penny deserted me completely. I was in tears with a full chin wobble. Trying hard to conceal my complete distress. The lovely girls tried to comfort me but I was totally traumatised.

We tried the first wig on. It felt terrible! Like wearing a hat and all I could think was of it blowing off if I went out in the wind! (I am smiling now, but yesterday it felt like the end of the world). The second wig felt better but also felt more “wiggy” – hard to describe but not brilliant. I was so devastated that I rang Nigel and he came over to see me. I experienced such a sense of desolation, a sense of loss of Penny. I was really not prepared for how awful it felt.

I took a deep breath and tried again. We discovered that the first wig could be adjusted. The second wig was fun. They were less expensive than I expected. I walked out with two wigs.

But. I am a mess. I feel bald. It is stressful and traumatic. I am avoiding mirrors. I find it hard to imagine wearing a wig all day in the house. I am looking forward to being able to wash my hair and feeling the water on my scalp. I am sure that my body thermostat is going to enjoy me sleeping with nothing on my head. I hope that my hair may recover now that I am out of my stressful job and tackling my health issues.

This is all so weird because I have spent 4 years gleefully telling everyone I meet that I have a hair piece, wiggling it to prove it, telling the story with confidence. Sharing in the hope that it might help someone else. So why am I so agonized about wearing a wig?

I have woken up this morning feeling dreadful. Figured I would “write it out”! My sensible bald head tells me that I am being stupid. It’s just hair after all. I am still Penny, whatever is on my head. But I feel ugly and unfeminine. I did not expect to feel this way.

I am going to sit and play with the wigs, hoping that my confidence will grow. We are going to Morecambe for a fleeting visit this weekend, to look at the area and some houses. I will be anonymous and perhaps that will give me confidence too. Maybe at the end of this I will have several wigs and can be a different Penny each day of the week! I hope so. My split personalities are quite excited!

I just looked for some wig quotes and found this lovely quote from Dolly!

If wigs are good enough for her, they must be good enough for me!



Wig 2, the fun one!





Wig 1, the sophisticated one

Watch this space. 2017 is going to be an interesting year.


Make your mark…



I am sitting in my living room on my laptop on a damp, miserable Thursday morning. There are limp England flags plastered to the walls of houses down my street, looking rather dismal despite our success so far in the Euros. My dogs are miserable and damp, and quite frankly I could live without the odour of wet Labrador while I write. Across the country people are visiting their polling stations, voting on whether or not the UK should remain within the EU or strike out on its own and leave.

In the last week I have been pilloried by people from both sides of the argument when I dared to publically state on Facebook that I was struggling to decide how I would vote. I was looking for more input to make up my mind, and as I value the opinions of my friends and family it seemed a sensible thing to do. Find out what they were thinking, browse more facts and figures, share some questions. This little exercise has resulted in a culling of my Facebook “friends” since I do believe in free speech and I believe that everyone has a right to an opinion. What they don’t have a right to do is to privately and publicly attack me on Social Media, I can choose not to be “friends” any more, so I exercised my right to eject them from my life! Felt quite liberating too!

However, some of my other friend’s comments did lead me to me questioning some long held beliefs that I have held. Asking myself what I meant by one of two sweeping statements I have made during the long months of campaigning. I have wrestled with my conscience and thought long and hard about the pros and cons of MY vote, from MY point of view.

I went through a stage of thinking that I would not even go and vote because I was simply unable to choose. But then I thought about how hard we fought for the right to vote, and how there are still places in the world where women are fighting to have a voice, and I realized that not voting was not an option.

I did not actually 100% make up my mind until I was there, standing in the booth with the voting paper in my hand. I looked at it, in black and white, and listened to my heart and my head before placing my cross in one box, posting it in the ballot box and heading back out into the rain.

It was actually a huge relief that, for me at least, it was done.

So much rhetoric, and warnings of dire consequences whichever way we voted, and the truth is NOBODY actually knows what will definitely happen, and whatever the result, we will never really know how it would have turned out if the vote had gone the other way!

I am not going to share which way I eventually voted. It’s between me and my conscience. No one else’s business, and whichever way it goes we will simply cope with the circumstances like we always do, and always have done.

Life goes on. My family and friends love me. The rain is still raining. The sun will shine again. (Actually as I proof-read this, the sun burst into my living room through the window!) People will continue to post cute pictures of puppies and kittens on Facebook, and tweet meaningless….erm I mean meaningful things on Twitter in 140 words or less, the world will continue to spin on its axis.

I have realized this week that whatever I am “going through” and sharing in my blog, it is nothing compared to some people. Trying to get my head around a lack of self-esteem, a struggle with my health and weight, learning to deal with my “issues” is a very small thing. There are people out there struggling with so much worse. I am really working on “living in the moment”, appreciating every small thing in my life that is good, and there is a lot! And those things will not be affected by a vote on whether to remain in the EU or not. They are the important things and will transcend whatever economic reality we find ourselves in.

Appreciate the good stuff! But don’t forget to vote!

Here are my damp, and smelly, dogs, Barney and Ben 🙂

dogs voting

Food, glorious food!

It’s been a while since I put pen to paper, well, fingers to keyboard. Last time I wrote anything was just after my mum-in-law’s death. It has been a very emotional couple of weeks, more so than I expected. And it has brought me face to face with some uncomfortable facts that I think I have previously been able to ignore.

We all know that most people have an emotional response to food. Food is at the centre of celebration, friendship, family events and yes, even funerals. For me too, cooking is an emotional thing. When I feel happy I love to cook, when I am uncomfortable I like to retreat to my kitchen to hide behind recipes and ingredients. I am confident in a kitchen, its somewhere I know I can shine. Food is sharing, loving, joyous.

As you know Nigel and I had embarked on the Blood Sugar Diet – an 8 week, 800 calories a day, plan to stabilise blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics, or pre-diabetics. It requires some dedication and much enthusiasm but the results are spectacular. Nigel lost over a stone in the first week and I lost 6lb. We both felt great, full of energy and keen to continue.

But in between when Mum died and her funeral last Thursday we both felt like we were wading through glue. Everything felt like a huge effort, and time ran so slowly. To be honest all I really wanted to do was to sleep or sit on the sofa and watch mindless TV. Those of you who know me well know that this is not my default mode! I have been so miserable.

People often talk about comfort eating. It conjures up pictures of people stuffing their faces with cake, chocolate, takeaways, and all the things we think of as “comfort food”.  There have been times in my life when I have done this, but what usually happens to me is that I completely lose interest in food and cooking. Again, not my default mode!

The problem with this is that when I do eat it is usually simple carbs that I want. Toast. Cream crackers. Potatoes. All of which are as bad for me as the cake and chocolate. Suffice it to say that with a few exceptions I have not eaten properly or sensibly for nearly 3 weeks. And I feel terrible! Lethargic, with joint pain, bloat and so, so tired.

I did not consume massive amounts of food, but I did eat the wrong things, I didn’t plan meals, didn’t pay attention.

This complete contrast to how I was feeling on the low calorie eating plan, has prompted me to take a brutally honest look at my relationship with food.

Having Type 2 diabetes does not help with my emotional response to food. At times it is as though everything I eat is poison to me. Even though my sensible head tells me that I can eat perfectly well with a little thought and planning.

We all know the feeling of wanting to eat everything in sight the moment that we hear the word “diet” – for a long time I have substituted “eating plan” for the d-word. We also all know that to sustain health, well-being and weight loss, we need to be in it for the long term. The minute that you return to old habits the benefits of a period of healthy eating are undone. My emotional response to stress or unhappiness is always to pull the covers over my head and sleep, or read. I get lazy and introverted. I take no pleasure in food – simply eating because I have to, cooking if I must, taking the easy option with no creativity or joy. This in turn makes me more miserable and tired.  A vicious circle, and raised blood sugar.

So, the funeral was on Thursday. It was a beautiful service. Mum’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were there. The weather was miserable but there was sunshine in our hearts. We shared memories of both Mum and Dad, the flowers were beautiful, there was poetry, music and laughter.

Good Friday was spent mainly huddled on the sofa, in front of the TV, although sunlight was pouring through the windows. It was what we needed. And gradually over the Easter weekend we came back to life, ready to get back to normal, still grieving, but still breathing.

And here is where it gets corny! Although I am not “religious” per se, Easter always seems to me to be about renewal, new opportunities, new futures. So on Easter Monday we went right back to our carb-free regime. Back on track and newly determined! And I think I have a new awareness of my complicated relationship with food. Let’s see how it goes….


I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the amazing Julia Child

Julia child steak quote