Monday, December 30, 2013

Not Just Any Old Shoes

I gave these shoes away the other day. To a group who was going to hand them on to runners who couldn't afford to buy their own shoes. And even though I hadn't worn them for a while, I found it hard to see them go.

I'm not the sort of runner who likes to horde their shoes. Yes, I have a few pairs on the go but once I start waking up with my feet aching, walking around the house like an eight year old, I retire them - generally to the bin. I'd held onto these ones because of a previous shoe collection but really wasn't prepared for how I'd feel giving them away.

I'd bought them right at the beginning of 2013. Just a few weeks after being diagnosed with low testosterone levels. Just a few weeks after starting treatment. These shoes weren't just any old shoes. They represented an ending and a new beginning - an end to feeling sick and tired all the time without anyone being able to tell me why and a beginning of a stronger, healthier, happier me.

They represented hope.

So when I went into my wardrobe to find them I was hit by a sudden urge to put a little note in each pair for the new owners.

I didn't end up doing it - Christmas shopping, finishing work for the year, last minute catch-ups with friends, excuses, excuses, excuses - but if I had it would have gone something like this.

Dear New Owner,

I'm so excited that my beloved shoes have found a new home. I hope they give you as much joy as they've given me.

They've seen me safely through long runs, short runs, fast runs, slow runs. They've done some races - a couple of short ones and a half marathon. They've run on roads, on paths, on grass, in the rain, in the dust, in the light and in the dark. They've run with friends and they've run when the only sounds were that of the birds and the  noise that they made when they hit the ground.

They've run me from unhealthy back to healthy again. They've run away all the stress and frustration and anxiety that comes from living and run me to a place of happiness and calm. They've helped me be a better and nicer wife and mother.

I have to apologise for the smell. But just know that the smell of sweat can be a satisfying one - the satisfaction of knowing that it was hard but you did it, the satisfaction in having had the courage to give it a go, the satisfaction that you're looking after your body, mind and soul by putting one foot in front of the other.

I hope that these shoes are the start of a life-long love affair with running or the continuation of an obsession. And I hope that your dreams are envisioned and realised in these shoes.

Happy running.


A Runner

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Of Puppies And Naps

I didn't do it in the end.

I didn't buy a puppy. Even though everything in me had said to go ahead and do it. That a puppy would fill the human-shaped hole in my heart caused by my son's departure.

And I was able to resist even though there were plenty of volunteers to become part of our family.

Plenty of waggy tails.

Plenty of ears that needed scratching.

Plenty of doggy hearts that were willing to pledge undying love.

Not sure how this photo got here. It'll ruin my reputation as a crazy dog lady.
Two dogs is enough at the moment. Especially when we go out walking together and both dogs want to go in different directions. And it'd be hard to fit a third on the bed when it's nap time.

Talking about nap time, there was a little article in the paper the other day that I posted up on my Facebook site. I've been amazed by the reaction it's had.

Here's the Reader's Digest version for those of you who can't (or can't be bothered to) read it. Basically it says that a study has found that women need more sleep because our brains need to recover from doing more thinking and more multi-tasking every day than men. It also said that if we women don't get enough sleep it can cause us physical pain due to inflammation and that men don't have these issues. 

I don't know if this experiment has been able to be replicated and I don't know if it's been peer-reviewed but I now know that there's a lot of women out there who must like naps as much as me - judging by the size of the reaction and the number of times the post has been shared. And that, like me, they're kinda pleased to find scientific evidence which will justify this luxury as a necessity.

I don't want to be inflammatory but personally, I'd always assumed that the statement that women think and multi-task more than men was a self-evident fact - it certainly is in my relationship. I can plan a meal while talking on the phone and checking Facebook (which will explain those conversations where I vague out for a second. Or a minute. Or for the entire conversation if I'm really not that interested). Or work out how I can convince Iven that buying another puppy (yeah, I still haven't totally put that idea to rest) was really his idea and a good idea at that, while I'm decorating a wedding cake.

And for all the men out there who called 'bull$%!t' on the article I'd like to point out that nowhere does it state that the thinking is profound, erudite or even interesting so there's no need to get so snippy about it. Just accept that your life will be happier and way more peaceful if you let the female in it have her nap.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some Days You Just Need to Run.

I went for a run this morning.

It wasn't on my program but I'm pretty sure Coach Chris will forgive me this one.

You see I had to run. I had to get out of the house and do something normal (and yes, I know that running isn't considered that normal for a huge percentage of the population but it is normal for me). And I needed to do something normal because from this morning I have get used to a new normal in my life.

My eldest left on a road trip to start his new life in Melbourne.

His Dad's keeping him company on the way down then flying home.

I'm excited for him. 

It's a big adventure. It's starting a life together with his girlfriend and they've been apart for way, way too long while she's been studying in Sydney. It's starting a new career in something he's always wanted to do and something he's worked really hard to achieve. But it means that he'll be living two states south so I'm allowed to be a little bit sad today.

So that's why I needed to run. 

It needed to be challenging so I chose a hilly trail run. I figured that the pain in my legs would outweigh that little pain in my heart. Plus it's hard to cry when you need all your breath to keep you moving forward and upward. And it's hard to think about anything else when you have to concentrate on keeping your footing over the rocks. 

And there's just something special about being amongst all those trees and bushes and birds that helps fill empty spaces inside and sooth bits that are aching. Even if it's just for a little while. 

I stopped at the top and took a photo of the city and sent it to him so he won't forget what his home city looks like.

It was hot and humid and sweaty and hard. And I came home feeling so much better than I left. 

At peace.

And with an idea ... 

I think I need to buy a puppy. I'm sure Iven won't mind. And besides, he's going to be away for the next few days and won't be able to do anything to stop me!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Doggy Advent Calender.

Dec 1 - Christmas is coming

Dec 2 - Maybe I'll get a special gift if Santa sees how talented I am.

Dec 3 - The anticipation is killing me.

Dec 4 - Lying on the couch isn't naughty if no one sees.

Dec 5 - I keep thinking someone's looking at me. Paranoia? Or just reflective Christmas baubles?

Dec 6 - It's jaunty. It's fun. It just screams Christmas.

Dec 7 - A little girly maybe but, hey, I'm missing some of those important boy bits so I figure I can pull it off.

Dec 8 - Just not feeling it today. Maybe yesterday's hat left me with pseudo-PMS. Or maybe it's just that the bells get SO annoying!

Dec 9 - The star of David shone above the stable where Baby Jesus lay. Kind of apt considering which piece of the nativity scene I ate.

Dec 10 - Not sure why I keep thinking with an Irish accent and wondering what a leprechaun would taste like and why I'm thinking about leprechauns at Christmas. To be sure. To be sure.

Dec 11 - I can stash this one aside for Melbourne Cup next year.

Dec 12 - Two turtle doves. And a doggy under the tree

Dec 13 - Dear Santa. Stayed up all night waiting for you. Apparently I was 12 days early. Dogs aren't good at reading calendars.

Dec 14 - Realised today that I matched the Christmas tree. I'm thinking that my owner is taking some sadistic pleasure in making me look a little stupid
Dec 15 - Not sure I'll ever get over the humiliation.

Dec 16 - I'm over it. All it took was a promise from she-who-must-be-obeyed that I wouldn't have to wear any more silly hats.
Dec 17 - She lied!
Dec 18 - This is the first seasonally appropriate hat I've gotten to wear. Slip, slop, slap and Santa.
Dec 20 - I'm pretty sure that it's getting close now. I'd keep a close eye out for the fat man in the red suit if only I knew what red looked like. Why, oh why, do dogs have to be colour-blind?
Dec 21 - We were just playing and it kinda got a little out of hand.

Dec 22 - Spotted something under the Christmas tree.

Dec 23 - Tried not to be caught looking at it. Desperately hoping it's mine.

Dec 24 - It fell on the floor by itself, honestly! But now I've got it can I keep it???
Merry Christmas everyone. And I hope, like Toby, you get what your heart desires the most.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Finding My Christmas Spirit

I've spent this week looking for something that I'd lost a while ago.

I had it when I was a child and locked it away when I was about ten only to rediscover it a couple of years after I'd had my first-born. Then I brought it out yearly to fill our house with its wonder and mystery and magic. But as the kids got older I forgot that I still had it. The wonder, the mystery and the magic just got lost in the whirlwind of duty and expectation - not least my own expectation that if I didn't get exactly the right present for every single person on my list their Christmas would be ruined and it would be all my fault.

So this week I've been on a mission to find the spirit of Christmas again.

You'd think that finishing work for the year would give me a little more time to go hunting for it.

Not so. I swear that I've been busier since finishing up at 6:37pm on Monday night than I've been for the last couple of weeks. Probably because I've been putting off Christmas jobs till 'when I've finished work'. Yes, that's right I use work as a way to avoid Christmas shopping and to sustain my inner Christmas Grinch. I even took on more work at the very last minute (like on Thursday when I'd been planning to finish up on Friday) so I could have the joy of working all weekend rather than shop.

And why did I do this? (And believe me, this is not the first time so I haven't learnt from bitter experience).

Because it's so much fun to go to the shopping centres and fight for car parks then hang out with thousands of other frantic and deluded people who've pretended that they still have plenty of time?
Yeah, that's been awesome! (Please note strong undercurrent of sarcasm - and the use of sarcasm around Christmas time is like killing one of Santa's elves).

Or is it because cutting it so close to the wire helps bring clarity and makes me more decisive? Well, considering that I still have one son that I've bought absolutely nothing for and am still struggling for ideas, the answer to that question would be negative.

Having the "OMG it's less than a week to Christmas and I still have so much to do and if they suddenly decide to change the date without me knowing I'm so screwed" feeling was not helping to find me my Christmas spirit. I spent all Tuesday in a mental fluster trying to sort through the logistics of the next week and a bit. Wednesday morning wasn't much better - until I got to catch up with a friend over coffee to exchange gifts. Finally I felt the first shiver of anticipation. That feeling that something nice was about to happen.

Thursday's events were the catalyst to finding my long-lost Christmas spirit. I can't say that they were earth-shakingly exciting or even that they'd work for everyone but they certainly worked for me. It was the simple act of donning aprons, cranking up the oven and the electric mixer and filling the kitchen with the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and chocolate. And, most importantly, doing it with a friend.

Spending three hours chatting, chopping, measuring and mixing was fun and exhausting and made me remember how wonderful Christmas can be.

So this morning I put on my Christmas shirt and headed back to the shops to tackle the last of my to-do list.

Feeling the joy of the season made the expedition a happy one. I felt relaxed. I smiled. I watched children high-five Santa. I smiled. I nearly walked into someone who'd changed direction suddenly and, surprisingly, I smiled.

And just to set the record straight, I have not taken any mood-altering drugs - legal or otherwise - to produce this feeling.

It must be a Christmas miracle.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Hate setting the alarm for 4:45am for the second morning in a row. A Sunday morning, for crying out loud! When you know that the rest of the world will be sleeping in.

Hate waking up at 3:10 and not being able to get back to sleep because you know that the alarm is going to go soon anyway and you don't actually want it to go and wake your sleeping partner even though he says he doesn't mind and always gets back to sleep.

Hate choosing what to wear. Should I go a little understated so I have a decent chance of blending in with the scenery in case of the very likely bush toilet stop? Or do I go as bright as I can and just cope with the sniggering cyclists when they see me emerge from the bushes but have a good shot at being found on the trails in case I break a leg up on the mountain. I choose life over dignity - bright it is!

Love being the first car in the car park at Slaughter Falls. Love that it's quiet and peaceful and it's like being in the country even though you're only a few kilometres from the city.

Love that the first kilometre's flat. It lulls me into a false sense of what's about to happen. 

Hate that the first kilometre is over so soon. Hate that I'm breathing heavy so quickly. Hate that the path is so rocky under-foot. Big enough rocks that you have to be careful every step to place your feet so you don't roll an ankle. Hate the rock steps and having to lift up my leg a lot higher than my normal shuffle. Hate feeling so unfit.

Love the little downhills and catching my breath for just a moment. Love knowing that I'm the first human that's been on this trail today. 

Hate that I'm not the first living creature here today. Hate that having to watch the ground all the time means that I run full on into a face-high spider's web. Complete with rather large spider.

Hate the feeling of spider's web over my face and neck and shoulders and arms. Hate trying to peel it off. Hate wondering if the spider's going to come along for the rest of the run. Hate that the feeling of sweat trickling down your neck is not dissimilar to the feeling of a spider crawling.

Love that the web-removal stop helped me catch my breath just a little but I don't have to count it as a stop because every runner on the face of the earth allows web-removal as a legitimate reason to pause the watch.

Love smelling the bush. That dusty, eucalyptus scent that takes me back to walking along dirt roads with my Grandma as a child looking for those weeds that grew the round seed pods that we'd pop like the balloons and marvelling at the colours in the tiny wrens that flitted past us as we walked. Looking in creeks for tadpoles and trying to skim flat rocks and see how many times they could skip.

Love listening to the sounds of the of the lorikeets, cockatoos, whipbirds, bellbirds and that other bird that I can't identify. 

Hate that I've forgotten the name of those plants and don't know what made that other bird call. Hate that Grandma could have told me both of them. Really hate that she's no longer here to tell me about the bush that was her home. But love that being here, running through the bush has made me think of her. Has, just for a moment, brought her back to me again.

Love making it to the top of the mountain without stopping!! (Except for the spider incident and we all agreed that that wasn't a real stop). Love knowing that I can run the rest of the hills fairly comfortably (I say fairly because hills will never be easy for me).

Love that there's frequent downhills now. Love feeling like I'm running fast with so little effort. Love that the momentum carries me up some of the next hill. Love that it's cool (ish). Love that my stomach's behaving and I won't have to do the walk of shame into and out of the bushes. 

Love that there's still hardly anyone around. Love feeling like I own the mountain. Love the view from the top. The light streaming from the clouds. Glorious!!

Love the last couple of kilometres. That view. Feeling strong. Running at paces that I normally only hit at the beginning of a speed session but I'm at the end of a hill run and feeling like I'm flying. 

Love that I've finished and it's only 6 am.

Love knowing that even if I do nothing else all day, today's been a good day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Running Naked

This is what my Garmin screen looked like yesterday when I went to put it on for speed session.

Yes, I had charged it just the day before so it shouldn't have been flat. And I only went to put it on just before leaving so there was no time to charge it. I was going to have to go naked!! But just on my wrist because the world's not ready for the alternative.

I know that that wouldn't be a biggie for a lot of you but I like my numbers. I like seeing if I'm hitting my goal, which is to try to maintain even splits while running faster than I normally would on a regular run. I can feel great all day if I've had a good session. And how can I know if I've had a good session if I don't have any empirical data? And if I have no empirical data did I even run the session?

I'd had a good session last week. My watch had told me so. We'd started with a 3k which I did at 4:45 pace. Then it was a 2k and two 1ks and those three reps I'd done at 4:49 pace. Magically consistent! And I say magically because this almost never happens and certainly hadn't happened since I'd run Melbourne.

Despite my instinct, of just calling it quits and going back to bed before I even started, I decided to venture into this whole new world of running old-school. It wasn't an act of bravery or defiance, though. It was an act of duty. I had a birthday cake to deliver.

I asked him what flavour and he said chocolate. Too much?

It was weird not to press start when we began our warm up. And it was weird not to press the lap button every time I started and finished a rep. And it was really weird to not look down at my arm so I could work out how to feel. Should I feel happy because I'm running fast (for me)? Should I feel sad because I'm running slow but it feels hard?

I ended up settling for feeling slightly frustrated and pretty tired. Speed sessions always make me tired.
But I was strangely satisfied with it too because I went on to finish an extra kilometre even though I'd been given the option to stop. I may have gone a little bit over-time but no amount of encouragement from Coach Barry was going to get me to run that last 400m in 1:08.

Once the speed session was over you'd have thought the frustration would have been too but no - it followed me around for the rest of the day. I'd thought that I could at least record the distance I'd run in my log. Well I could have if I'd been able to remember how many reps I'd done. Lack of oxygen to the brain does strange things to my memory.

But the worst thing about this whole incident was not being able to look at how many calories I'd burned so I could eat some of the left-over chocolates from Ian's cake. Don't get me wrong - I still ate them. I just wasn't happy about the accompanying guilt which I wouldn't have had if my watch had been working.

I think I've worked out what the problem with the watch was now so hopefully I'll be fine for next week's session. And if not I may just have to ask Santa for an extra gift. I really hope my nice outweighs my naughty or that he's got a very short memory.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Congratulations And Pass Me the Tissues.

Once upon a time there was a little boy. This little boy liked school well enough but mostly for his friends and being able to kick a football around. The school work stuff  was just a necessary evil. One day he asked his Mum how many more years he'd have to go to school and he was horrified to learn that after he finished the seven at primary school there was still five to go at high school. When she mentioned university he was quick to announce that there was absolutely no way that he'd go there.

That little boy graduated from university for the second time on Saturday. The first was a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movements. The second was a Masters in Physiotherapy.

At his first graduation ceremony I was a little overwhelmed. I was so proud of him and there was very emotional music playing in the background and I got quite teary. Not to the embarrassing sobbing out loud stage - just having to bite the inside of my cheek and swallow a lot to hold it all in.

The same thing happened at Josh's graduation ceremony. He'd overcome such a lot to finish his degree and again I was a very proud mumma. And again they played that soppy music that's designed to wring a tear out of the hardest of hearts. So again I walked away with a very sore inner cheek.

I was determined to hold it all together on Saturday. 

So I started the day with a 16k long run (my longest since Melbourne). Running usually mellows me out so it was a great plan. But I hadn't counted on feeling quite so tired after it (a combination of it being the end of a long year, needing a holiday, having extra things on AND did I mention it was my longest run since Melbourne). Tired plus emotional is a recipe for disaster so my next plan was to get a nap in before the ceremony at 1pm.

It's hard to nap when you're trying to keep your hair from getting that squashed-on-one-side-sticking-up-on-the-other look. And it's also hard to nap when people are coming into the room to ask you questions. In the end I resigned myself to be happy to just put my feet up and have a snuggle with Toby for a while. 

We made it to the university in good time and entered the hall to the same music that had been my undoing last time. This was where the second part of my plan came into play. Whenever I started to feel myself being swept away I was going to distract myself.

The graduands filed in. All dressed in their gown and mortar boards. All having worked so hard to achieve their goals. Oh crap, I was starting to feel those familiar tears welling and my throat swelling as I saw my boy walk in. Now was not the time to think about that little boy who'd thought that 12 years of school were way too much. Now was the time to change the soundtrack in my head to the Baby Elephant Walk followed by some circus music. It's hard to feel sad when you're expecting clowns to appear.

And as soon as the students were seated the clowns DID appear. All wearing their silly hats. Oh I know it's a solemn occasion and these are some of the most respected academic minds in the country but why are they forced to wear such silly hats? And what's with the person carrying the mace? Is it to poke people who are sniggering at the silly hats?

Once they'd arrived I knew I'd be fine. Any time that I started to lose it I'd only have to look up at them to pull myself together. Or entertain myself by trying to guess which girls would be wearing ridiculously high heels and which girls would be wearing flats - I was getting pretty good at this by the time the two hundredth girl walked across the stage.

It was all over in just over an hour and then it felt like another hour before we found Sam outside in the teeming throng of students and families and friends. Time for photos.

With Hannah

With most of the family (Sam was only given 4 tickets so Luke couldn't come)

Then with the whole family
So that's it. Two hard years of study completed. An exciting world of possibilities ahead - starting in Melbourne in just a few short weeks.

Someone pass me the tissues.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Husband - The Thrill-seeker

Iven is a bit of a thrill-seeker. He likes to live dangerously, walk that tightrope between life and death.

Surprised, aren't you? I've been writing this blog since 2010 and this has never once been mentioned before, but he did something yesterday that reminded me just how much of an adrenalin-junkie he is.

He went Christmas shopping with me! Me, who occasionally has homicidal fantasies where he's the star attraction, and who was PMSing my heart out on Monday and who treats Christmas shopping as only a small step up from visiting the dentist to have wisdom teeth removed. It was a little like walking into a lion's cage with a piece of raw meat and a big stick and hoping that the kitty would play nice.

Spoiler alert - he did live to be able to go to work wearing a silly Christmas hat today as modelled below by Toby. And, yes, Iven looked just as excited as Toby did to wear that hat.

Iven may be a bit of a thrill-seeker but he isn't entirely stupid. He did a risk analysis before heading out on such a dangerous mission. He made sure that I'd had my run and I was good and tired, but not too tired that I'd be totally snarky. And he plied me with coffee to make sure there would be no withdrawal symptoms. And he promised to help with dinner - or was that a threat? Sometimes when I'm coming off a caffeine high I misinterpret motivations.

I'd had a fleeting thought one day, when Iven asked for the umpteenth time what I'd like for Christmas, that maybe a curling iron might be useful for those millions of occasions when I have to go out looking like I care about my appearance. (PS - that last sentence would have been written in Sarcastica if such a font existed.)

Iven took that thought and ran with it. Desperation will make a man do strange things - like go into the hair care section of department stores. Delusion will make him do so thinking that he'd be able to find what he was looking for easily. Devastation is how he feels when he realises that there are more than one type of electrical hair appliance and the decision is actually going to take some careful thinking. Discretion is what made him drag me back with him after the initial reconnaissance mission.

I personally didn't think it was too complicated but I didn't realise that the concept of crimping versus curling was such a difficult one to grasp - especially for a man blessed with a head-full of curls. Or three-quarters of a head-full if I'm being totally honest. And then there were the straighteners which can also be used to create curls. And hot rollers. 

I could tell from the pain in his eyes that it was a baffling and confusing new world that he hadn't known existed. But he was determined to learn its language and at the end of the twenty minute lesson which only involved a few eye-rolls and one major sigh he could tell me a crimp from a curl from five metres away without his glasses on. He's my star pupil.

He chose not to buy anything then and there because he wants to surprise me. But I think he's the one who's going to be surprised when he realises why I really want it. I've been dying to play hairdresser with Toby and I'm pretty sure his tail will look magnificent in ringlets but he never leaves the rollers in long enough for me to find out.

Anyone else asking for an out-of-character gift from Santa?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Naughty or Nice?

I have done something very wrong.

I'm feeling guilty and ashamed and I'm finding it hard to write about. So I'll just show you what I've done.

The picture is the inside of my handbag. Full of dirty tissues and receipts and movie ticket stubs. My guilt isn't over the feral state of my bag, though. It's over the thing that's nestled on my spotty umbrella.

Yes, to all intents and purposes it looks like a dandelion seed. But that's just what it wants you to think. My Grandma told me what it really was when I was a little kid. It's a Santa Claus! Or more precisely, a little spy that Santa sends out just before Christmas to see if we're being naughty or nice. And on the day it arrived I was being a little less than nice.

OK, I was being a lot less than nice. I was in the throes of PMS - irrational, moody, cranky, emotional.

Having periods is a bitch!! Or, more accurately, having periods makes me act like a bitch! I can't tell you how many drivers received a verbal tongue-lashing from the safe interior of my car. And I'm sure there were quite a few slow-walking shoppers who felt the heat of my glare as I tried to make them speed up with my telekinetic skills.

This depicts the effects of crazy female hormones perfectly.

And my mood wasn't any better once I started work. Too much to do and too many interruptions! I work for myself but I was almost prepared to give myself a written warning about my poor attitude - but that would have been extra work and would have made me even crankier. Chocolate for lunch didn't help even though it tasted good going down.

And then Iven arrived home with the news that he was taking the next three days off for his birthday.

Not sure why he didn't consult my menstrual calendar when he made that decision but I quickly made him aware that it was a poor one. How dare he have time off when I'm so busy! How dare he have a birthday so close to Christmas - having to buy two lots of presents for him so close together is no easy task! How dare he ask me to make him a special meal for his birthday dinner when takeaway would have been so much easier for me! How dare his parents have unprotected sex in March way back in 1952 - they should have realised how much extra work that was going to be for me in the future. I even went so far as to declare that it should be illegal for any person to have unprotected sex any time in that March-April window. (BTW - just thinking about my in-laws and sex didn't make my pissy mood any better. It just added a whole new dimension of 'disturbed' to how I was feeling.)

He wisely left me alone with a soothing cup of tea (decaffeinated, of course) after that. Which allowed me to spend the next hour fluctuating wildly between feeling guilty for being the biggest bitch in the world to being angry at Iven because it was his birthday that was making me feel so guilty.

Gotta love raging hormones. I have a feeling that menopause is going to mimic The Hunger Games and the odds will only ever be in my favour.

It was about then that I saw the Santa Claus in my handbag. That sneaky son-of-a-red-suited-stalker had borne witness to my entire day. There was only one thing to be done if I was going to get anything apart from a piece of coal in my Santa sack. I zipped him up in a side pocket of my handbag and he'll remain there until Boxing Day. Then I'll have a whole year to make sure I'm super-nice to get back into the 'nice' column for 2014.