UK Winters and How to Avoid Them!

This short-ish essay was going to be about bread.

Specifically, flat-bread and how just recently I have had fun learning how to make my own at home, plus a few other tasty complimentary recipes to accompany it and make it extra special.

However, as a standalone story, it would be about as dull as an intimate study of a bale of straw. So, to make the narrative enjoyable, I have to include the: what, when, why, where and how which makes the read a more compelling insight into one aspect of an old fat guy’s life.

So, let me begin by applying a little paint to the canvas?

Things Change

When I was younger, in fact, right from when I was a child, I enjoyed the winters.

I particularly enjoyed the bright colours of the autumn time and the crisp and chilly mornings which gradually turned the silver dew standing proudly on grass stems, into deep frosts and the white clouds that appeared when I breathed. I loved the deep blue winter skies and below zero temperatures and the promise of snow which followed.

However, then I was extremely physical and active, and I rarely stood still for very long. I was always on the move and would have made the energiser-bunny look slow by comparison.

Since my teens, I have slowly been changing professions, and with every advancing year, I have altered a little more. My body has slowed down, and my mind began to speed up. Until one day, the transformation was complete. I had become a writer and captivated by the composition of the written word. At first, this new interest in written communication was a mild affliction. In the beginning, I confined my excitement to composing journal entries and short essays, but quickly these grew into sales letters and web pages for myself and others. However, like every virulent affliction or virus, mine promptly spread and soon almost totally consumed my life.

Now, and in my early retirement and for at least a few hours every day, I sit and write or scribble notes, it’s become my passion. What’s this got to do with winter I almost hear you think? The answer is quite simple but less obvious. Unfortunately, without movement, I become cold or chilled far more quickly, which dramatically dilutes my enthusiasm to put pen to paper and words on a screen with the colder I become.

As a result, I have a distaste for the cooler, darker, and what I see as the less productive months of the year, which I seem to survive rather than live. This past winter, although not unusually cold, seemed to have lingered on forever. Christmas took what seemed like an eternity to arrive. Every day after the winter solstice I watched in almost obsession observance just how many minutes longer that day had become, I was almost willing that special time of the year and the returning sun to manifest.

An Ongoing Problem

Heaters and radiators are a quick fix and only a partial solution to this ongoing problem!

I find artificial heat challenging to control, mainly because I have a lovely wife who hails from South East Asia and likes the room she’s occupying to be as warm as her home island. I like my office to be cordial and comfortable, but still a little fresh and never so warm that my brain losses focus or that I want to go to sleep.

Maintaining this temperature was not a problem until my office ceased to be my solo retreat. Presumably, so my wife could persist in her particular line of husband harassment and torment, my wife decided to move in and occupy my extremely tidy small purpose-built man haven, and take over my laptop. From that point forward, her half has always presented a good impression that a small tornado has just passed through the office, and when she is in residence, it’s ALWAYS too warm.

Natural heat is very different and enjoyable. Right now, it’s 29c in the office as I write this, and the fan is swooning an oscillating and refreshing breeze across me, and I’m sharp, alert and loving it.

Too much artificial heat, unlike a natural source, makes me want to sleep. I reduce the heat and open the office window, and my wife complains. As a result, I am always either adding or removing layers of clothing until sometimes I’m sitting in just my underpants, and still, I’m too hot. My wife then moans and complains about the clothing lying on the back of my chair. The dragon lady is an expert at rock and hard place scenarios.

As a result, I have now relocated my office to our conservatory, which can be nice in the summer months. However, with a little sun, this becomes far too hot and almost unbearable. In the winter, and even on a sunny day, it’s always far too cold. This presents me with quite a dilemma, do I work in the office and become too warm and henpecked. Or do I write in the conservatory and run the risk of contracting severe hypothermia or bloody freezing to death.

The problem with the winter is that the temperature is rarely just right for me; generally, it’s either too hot or too cold.

It can also be too Grey and dark.

Here in the UK winter some days it doesn’t get properly light till well past nine in the morning, and by three in the afternoon it’s already going dark again. Such days can be SO depressing and unproductive. There was an occasion last December when it didn’t get properly light for three consecutive days. I was becoming seriously concerned and almost looking for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to appear.

The sun changes everything.

All of my family have been sun worshipers, and I’m no exception. In the winter a little sun and natural intake of vitamin D will improve your mood and the way you feel, it certainly does me anyway. I have lived in hot climates and am quite happy to see the sun and blue skies every day.

An Obvious Solution

My wife has never been one for letting the grass grow under her feet and generally moves quickly.

Apparently, the five months of annual moaning from her husband (ME) have been slowly driving her mad, or so I have been told by my children and her friends. So, as she had the land available, last year she started building a lovely new house for us just a few feet from the sea. Located in her hometown of Oslob on the sunny island of Cebu, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Tess, being a lot younger than me, is not quite ready to retire just yet, but the house is nearly complete and I’m being banished there for the winter months of the UK year. I feel so fortunate, it’s now mid-July, and I’m getting quite excited as my plane leaves on the thirty-first of October, and returns in mid-April 2021. I suddenly feel like a teenager who’s about to leave home for the first time.

It’s going to be quite an adventure, no cold weather, a new way of life, and best of all, no nagging. I will, however, miss my wife and children, but there is a very workable solution. A few years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible, but now, every day, my wife, project manages the completion of our home via video call, it’s almost like being there. With the advancement of Facebook messenger, and Skype, etc., communication in this way continues and improves our lives on an almost daily basis, and the world has become such a small place.

I love living in the warmth, and more than that, I enjoy the Philippines and the Filipino people. They are both warm and hospitable as well as very welcoming and extremely entertaining.

Her home town is not much larger than the village we live in here in the UK, and it sits on the South-Eastern edge of Cebu. It’s one of the world top locations for watching wale-sharks, but for saying that, there is not much to boast of in the way of shops or restaurants. If I want to eat well, then I have to learn to prepare it for myself at home.

Poor Fat Guy

If you’re starting to feel sorry for me or think that I’m going to be here all on my own, I won’t be. My happy and smiling Philippine family surrounds me. There’ll always be someone to keep tabs on me, which is very reassuring.

In fact, I’m sure anyone of my many sister-in-law’s nieces or nephews would be happy to come and cook, fetch, look after, or be my constant companion. It’s not needed. I will get out a lot and chat with the locals every day. It’s almost an experiment as much as an adventure. I already know I’ll be happiest alone while sitting on our roof-top garden watching the waves lapping onto the palm tree-shaded beach below. In the company of my laptop, notebook and of course armed with a creative mind, I’m always a happy bunny and never become bored or fall out with myself. In writer mode, I reside in the greatest nation of all, which is the imagination, and it’s exactly what I decide to make it that day, I’m in constant conversation with myself, how could I ever be alone.

But sorry, I digress.

The Essential for Life

This brings me a little closer to discussing my original objective of bread, particularly flat-bread, and very specifically chapatis.

After many years of experiencing it, I’m as confident today as I was twenty-five years ago that Philippine food is delicious. Most of it anyway, although they have a few local delicacies which words find difficult to describe. The big problem is all their food is extremely fattening, and I’m already fat.

I have sat comfortably between fat and obese all of my adult life simply because I don’t move enough. I also have the appetite of four fully grown goats. It may also have a lot to do with my metabolism, but not to worry as I have the solution, and flat-breads are just part of it!

I know how to get slim; I have the answer. I started it once already and got fantastic results. It took me years to come to this realisation, but one day I realised that food makes me hungry. Not long after I’ve eaten, I start to get hungry again. So, I know that food makes me hungry. I also discovered eating carbohydrates makes me even hungrier!

The solution

I found it relatively easy and more productive not to eat at all until the late afternoon or the early evening. My body and routine soon adapted. In the beginning, I was hungry, although that focus lessened as time went on, and I never got any hungrier. I soon began to enjoy the lean and mean feeling, and suddenly I was so much more awake and alert.

OMAD (one meal a day)

About this time, I learned about fasting, or just having one meal a day and decided to give it a go. I soon overcame the hunger pains and started to feel far healthier in myself than I had done for years. I felt as if I was doing something good for my body; I was.

Improved health.

The exciting part is that two days after starting OMAD my sugar levels went back to normal, and as a result, I stopped injecting insulin altogether. Arthritis in my hands, wrists and elbows ceased to be a problem and soon became history, and I had more energy and focus than I had enjoyed since I was eighteen years old.

Experimenting is good

I stopped enjoying eating meat a long time ago; it digests so slowly and makes me schlumpy, so I stopped eating it altogether, and my health noticeably improved. I stopped drinking milk or consuming any kind of dairy products, and I felt DRAMATICALLY healthier.

It’s true; you are what you eat.

So why aren’t I as thin as a rake I hear you ask?

The answer is quite simple. Getting started with the one meal a day lifestyle takes discipline, which I never re-found, although I will shortly, I know I will.

This year I have learned to give up traditional bread and eat salad and vegetables in simple wraps. I add a little spicy sauce, bell peppers, tomatoes and avocados which I top off with mixed salad and spicy salsa before wrapping it conveniently in a taco.

This spicy meal is both delicious and very filling, and by eating this way, my weight noticeably reduced. So, my plan is simple, combine this with eating one meal a day and when I returned from the Philippines next April, I should be so slim that when I turn sideward, I’ll almost disappear.

So, what does all this have to do with flat-bread?

As I’ve already mentioned, Oslob is short in well-stocked stores and supermarkets. Small stalls offering a HUGE range of fresh vegetables and wonderful exotic fruits are abundant, they appear at regular intervals along the road towards Oslob. So frequently, in fact, that care must be taken to avoid tripping over one.

In the supermarkets, I’ll be able to buy all kinds of staple ingredients and supplies including flour, and even wholemeal and chick-pea flour. However, the chances of purchasing ready-made flat or pita bread, or even tortilla rolls, are about as likely as bumping into Pope Francis on my walk home.

So, this is why I have been experimenting with making my own chapatis flat-breads, and I’m starting to get good at it. Sometimes, when I get them just right, they go beautifully browned and blow up like a small balloon, precisely the result I want to achieve.

It’s all about being self-reliant and living the good life in my own style. This concludes my verbose reasoning for making my own flatbreads and chapaties.

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