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Lost for Words

Words I fear, are dearly departing.

Not permanently in a sinister, deeply sad early-onset Alzheimer’s sort of way. I mean temporarily. Going AWOL for a few minutes then reappearing with wanton abandon, casually, as though they hadn’t disappeared in the first place.

Their nonchalant “Gotcha!” reappearance can be while I’m in the shower, driving or performing some random task. They’ve been known to pop up while eating chocolate or while seeking out another word entirely. It’s that random – a game of hide and seek where they’re always doing the hiding.

It hasn’t always been like this. Words would momentarily disappear for long enough to say, “Ummm …” and back they’d pop. With dependable regularity. But now? They get lost in transit. They worm their way to the back of my brain and have a fat party before deciding to return.

In the writing game, this does not bode well. It’s not as though any old word will do. Sometimes it’s the elusive one that I want, not a stand-in imposter. So I increasingly turn to my online thesaurus which, while very sensible, is less dependable when I want something a little less mainstream. Maybe even a word in another language. Is that too much to ask?

Slightly encouraging is that there does seem to be some benefit in eating copious amounts of brain food. A quick Google search revealed that if I ate more fish, legumes, grains, low-fat dairy and fruit, I could be in with a chance. The Western diet, often high in fat, sugar and with way too much meat is a recipe for disaster. I’m assuming then that Paleo’s bone broth, high fat and carnivorous approach isn’t going to cut it. Personally, I would find it rather difficult choosing mind over cheese platter.

Heartening again, however, is that many experts simply put the odd touch of forgetfulness down to a tad too much happening in our brains. Too much to remember. Too many passwords and emails. Too many meetings, appointments and a tugging of our time. Too much work and not enough play.

By far the most comforting discovery, however, is that I’m not alone. I visited a friend recently who had a shrub of pink rose-like flowers in her garden. I told her how much I loved “magnolias … gardenias …” their actual name escaped me. They weren’t magnolias or gardenias. And they weren’t ‘pink flower things’ either (her offering).

It was a day later while driving in a completely different neck of the woods that it came to me. Suddenly, with no prompting; Camellias. They were camellias! Back home I texted the friend: “They were camellias! “, I said, adding a light bulb emoji for good measure.

“What???” she texted back, adding a confused emoji for good measure. The truth is, she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about.

Love us.


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I telephoned his clients and relayed their personal stories. In addition, I captured how Mark had assisted them to achieve a good outcome.

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A Bone to Pick with Paleo

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — The beleaguered Pete Evans of paleo persuasion might just have an ally on the far-flung side of the world. His name is Professor Tim Noakes and I truly believe he and Pete should chew the cud, so to speak.

The renowned Cape Town based professor you see, is also under public scrutiny for his dietary views. He is a great protagonist of the Banting diet (very similar to Paleo but says yes to a little dairy). Sugar is pure evil. He’s also the author of The Real Meal Revolution. His original notoriety, however, was gained from a heavyweight book he once wrote, The Lore of Running.

Noakes’ recent media scrutiny stems from his complete backflip when it comes to his former high carb teachings. He’s been pretty vocal about his new high fat, low carb diet. He, like Pete has been publicly bashed by dieticians and worse, fellow Cape Town University academics. The public is also fed up, judging by a reliable source of scandal, Facebook.

Years ago, every running enthusiast I knew loaded with pasta pre-race because the professor told them to. They devoured his heavy tome and in pursuit of running excellence, ensured they followed his diet plan to the last pasta shell.

I was one such devotee, particularly when it came to pre-race diets and training plans. If Professor Noakes said it was true, so it was. He was a renowned sports scientist after all – not to mention a participant of 70 marathons and ultra-marathons. And now, all these years later, he has come out and said sorry, I was wrong. You know that bit where I said: let them eat pasta? Well, they should have eaten steak instead.

But really, is that enough? Just sorry? Sorry doesn’t quite cut it for the thousands of well-meaning runners who hosted hundreds of pre-race pasta parties.

Most deserving of a special apology, however, is the old man of the road, Wally Hayward. A former Olympian, he won the infamous Comrades Marathon five times (a gruelling 90 kilometres).

He completed his last Comrades just shy of eighty-one. His secret? Legend had it that he consumed a rather generous pre-race steak. Everyone thought he was slightly unhinged at the time. What would an old man know about diet anyway? What about carbs? How the tables turned. A decade or so later, steak became hero and carbs were unceremoniously dumped.

Coming back to Pete, while he and family did look marvelously healthy on their recent Current Affair plug, I couldn’t help thinking what sort of food recollections his sweet children will have.

My nostalgic food memories include ravenously devouring freshly baked white bread sandwiches oozing with butter and marmite. Will beetroot cake evoke the same warm and fuzzies?

The bone I have to pick with both Pete and the venerable professor, I might add, is that both diets are ever so slightly self-absorbed. Not to mention time-consuming. Pete’s bone broth, for example, not only involves a commitment to drink, but it requires pure fortitude to make. A health nut friend tried it for a while and seemed to spend her life shopping for organic chicken carcasses and bones. Note, organic. Sustainably farmed. Not any old chicken and beef bones would do. And they had to simmer for hours before the real goodness could be flushed from said bones.

Anyone who can keep this ritual up forever deserves a medal. More importantly, they must be well-heeled. To truly follow the diets, one must preferably buy organic. My dear husband who is slightly on the gullible side with the odd food fad, is currently dabbling in Paleo. By dabbling I mean he’s cut out sugar and is drinking sludge. It started when told by a friend that berry and kale breakfast smoothies kept him alert and super-charged. Not any old berries, mind you, they had to be organic because ordinary blueberries were ‘doused with pesticides’.

Turns out organic berries are exactly double the price of their non-organic cousins.

The same applies to anything given the ‘organic’ blessing.

The real good news to emerge from all of this is that finally, my chocolate stash is quite safe. For now, it seems I can indulge in my daily fix all by myself. It may be short-lived. If history repeats itself, I give Kale Man two weeks max.

And as for Paleo Pete et al, I would take them with a hearty pinch of salt. Just make it Himalayan.

© Copyright Lois Nicholls 2016

Drop ‘organic’ for one Elle of a 50th

THERE’S BEEN been a lot written lately about Elle turning 50 next year.
I take an interest because I am almost the same vintage and so, share a particular affinity with the magnificently proportioned and ageless model known as The Body. In case you’re wondering, the tag mentioned above justifiably stuck after her five cover appearances on the iconic Sports Illustrated magazine.

I was born in July ‘63 – my friend Elle in March ’64 – which makes us a mere eight months apart. We both finished school in ‘81 so could, theoretically, have been classmates. We could have enjoyed the same movies – For Your Eyes Only, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Raiders of the Lost Ark … remember those? We probably listened to the same music, boogied on the disco floor to Blondie’s Call Me and went through a phase of schoolgirl anarchy with Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. We could well have slow-danced to Captain and Tennille’s Do That to Me One More Time … aah, the memories. The similarity, I am sad to say, ends there.

I recently mentioned to my teens that: “Did you know Elle is turning 50 next year? We’re almost the same vintage,” after showing them an especially fetching newspaper shot of her sporting surfboard and trademark bikini at Bondi. “No ways! I can’t believe it!” My daughter gushed with a tad more enthusiasm than entirely necessary, followed by a telling look at the apparition next to her – me, basking unashamedly in a state of early morning glory – a bra-less wonder in sleep shorts and faded T-shirt.

Yes, I concede, Elle is drop-dead gorgeous. She also looks a decade or two younger than her age, but I fear that through her sheer air of perfection, she has made herself untouchable. Perhaps it is time to let go a bit. For example, just yesterday I read yet another article about her impending 50th birthday and yet another boring interviewer asking how she managed to retain such eternal youthfulness.

I didn’t have to know what she said – I knew exactly what the publicity machine would pontificate. “Organic food, exercise and three litres of water a day.” And, of course, seven hours of sleep a night. Personally, the bit that fascinated me most was the three litres of water. I would be up all night.

I happened to mention this tiresome interview to a friend who is also on the slippery cusp of turning 50. She too was skeptical. “Pullllease … organic? This is organic,“ she said, outlining her comfortably rounded figure. I’m with her. Just once, I wish Elle would own up. Her popularity would not wane if she casually suggested that: “Actually, sometimes I polish off a whole slab of chocolate, and I’m more than a little partial to the odd drop.”

Just once, I wish she would let loose and say something vaguely outrageous like: “Pass me the chips, I’m almost 50 for goodness sake, not 20. And, by the way, all that stuff about organic food is codswallop – I have had a teeny weeny bit of work done. And, yes, my knees occasionally ache when I jog.”

In fact, I would dare suggest she practices embracing her 50’s with a new sense of honesty. There is still an entire year to become the people’s person. There’s plenty of opportunity for a career change and how less stressful that would be – for the rest of her contemporaries too.

One totally plausible possibility is the role of talk show host – a replacement for Oprah, perhaps. I would call it ‘Elle Talks … at last’. I predict soaring popularity when she spills the beans on how hard it was to keep up the pretence and pressure of being The Body. Oh, the relief of revealing she is human, after all. I predict a swarm of ageing actresses lining up to tell their story – of publicly renouncing Botox, body sculpting and buckwheat.

But I fear this revelation won’t happen anytime soon. Elle is the face of Brand Elle – of sun, surf and eternally fresh-faced, lithe-bodied beauty. But Oh Elle, what pressure! Maintaining that whippet body, perfect skin, hair and make-up must be immense. I would suggest fifty will be a timely age to finally hang up the string bikini and tell the world to find themselves another Body – that this one is tired. And at times, rather sore.

And so, Elle, I beseech you, drop your guard. We will love you even more, I promise. And all the millions of women facing a scarily imminent fifty will breathe a sigh of relief and reach, guilt-free for the double chocolate cheesecake and full cream latte.

We, your presumptuous peers wait with bated breath. And we’re here for you, glass of cheeky Riesling in hand (or perhaps you would prefer a full-bodied Cab Sav?) if you need us.

© Lois Nicholls

An edited version of this article appeared in The Sunday Mail, 3rd March 2013 – Click to view.

Let us grow old without the guilt

IN MY MOTHER’S ERA, middle-aged women were content to be middle-aged women. They wouldn’t dream of trying to fit into their teenage daughter’s jeans or befriend their friends on Facebook, if there was such a thing back then.

I remember whispered concern about a particular woman who would walk miles to maintain a stick-like figure but, mostly, women had a healthy approach to life. Manic walker aside, I don’t remember anyone looking like a whippet unless born that way and there was no power walking with weights or hiring a personal trainer to work on “abs”. Cross-fit? That would be exercising with a bad attitude.

There were no gym junkies because there were no gyms and a weekly game of tennis was the sociable exercise of choice. My mother had a friend called Lorna Jane but she wasn’t a gym clothing icon, her surname was Smith, not Clarkson.

The more adventurous souls took up yoga when the fad hit my little country town and I recall my nicely rounded mum proudly showing us how she could balance on her head on the lounge room carpet. She and her peers settled into middle-age with an accepting sigh and laughed off a couple of gained kilos or a midriff that bore testimony to three children and the odd cream scone.

These women occasionally went on a diet “on Monday” after a particularly “naughty” weekend of too much Chicken a la King and Rhubarb Fool at Dorothy’s (such a good cook) but, generally, everyone embraced their age without much fanfare.

Interestingly, they’ve mostly all reached a ripe old age of 80 and beyond.

Now that I’m middle-aged myself, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Some of my peers are buying into the idea that middle age is the new 30-something. Here’s the thing, it’s not.

When you’re 30 your perfect Cindy-esque moles don’t start propagating and your eyebrows don’t gain a life of their own.

One of the blessings in disguise about growing older is the eyes grow dim just at a time when every minute detail needs attention before leaving the house. I say blessing because soft focus is what I get when I peer in the mirror sans reading glasses.

It’s not that I am against the middle-aged embracing health, I just don’t like them sharing their fads with me. By all means, limit your intake of processed carbs and sugar. Feel free to partake in age-defying potions or even take up triathlons, just don’t let us lesser mortals know about it particularly since we’ve just discovered macaroons.

And, anyhow, fresh from watching the French movie, A Lady in Paris, I am certain it’s the character, not the body we need to be working on. The embittered, lonely, acerbic, wealthy, glamorous and once-feted old woman at the heart of the story was reason enough to forget the body and hone the character.

And while this grumpy middle-aged woman is at it, please don’t do selfies on Facebook. Leave that to teens. And don’t change your profile pic every week. Enough said. Oh, one more thing, I’m not advocating letting it all hang out, I walk regularly and eat healthily, I promise. All I’m saying is please give the rest of us middle-aged women a break. Let us eat, drink and be merry should we choose to do so. And let us grow old gracefully, graciously but, most of all, guilt-free. We’ve earned it.

This article was published in The Courier Mail, 8th August 2013

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