I love to laugh!

How often do you laugh? I mean, seriously laugh? It’s one of my favourite things in the whole world – and, as the song goes – “I love to laugh, long and loud and clear; the more I laugh, the more I fill with glee, and the more the glee, the more I’m a merrier me”!

My husband and I have never stopped being able to make each other laugh. The other day, we laughed till the tears rolled down our cheeks. And our stomachs ached. And our faces hurt. I have no idea what we were laughing at but boy, does that do my heart good! So I thought I’d share a few things with you that make me laugh. Or just smile.

A few days ago, I tried out a new gym class: chi ball. I’d heard – from the instructor – just how amazing it was, and he told me, as he flapped his hand forward, that I’d “simply love it! It’s divine.”

So I booked to do a chi ball class before my usual Pilates class. I arrived to a studio “filled” with three other people. We all got out our mats, sat on them and waited for the instructor, who is notoriously late for everything. The door flew open and in rushed the instructor, three limbs flapping at a rate of knots; the fourth one dragging behind in melodramatic tardiness.

He was already speaking – in broad Glaswegian – before he came in the door. To us, I mean. “Yes, you do see me limping I banged my knee on the fridge because they’re doing some work in our flat and everything in the kitchen is all over the flat and the fridge is in the passage so I walked into it because it’s just in the way and my knee’s so sore I can hardly move it and on the tube I was trying to avoid anyone bumping me and so I stood like this and I couldn’t bring the chi balls because they’re too heavy and they would weigh me down and put pressure on my knee because it’s so sore how are you?”

After the second word, two of the three other women in the room stopped listening and started giggling. They looked at each other, and giggled behind their hands, and slapped each other and giggled. I thought the performance was amusing, but not so giggle-worthy. When the words stopped, one of the women said to the instructor, “Ah, is this not yoga?” He told them yoga was in the studio next door, so they up and went next door, leaving the two of us to enjoy a chi ball class with no chi balls and an injured instructor. A chi ball class not.

Our instructor – who is a lovely man – then suggested we do a mixture of tai chi, chi gong, yoga and pilates, so the two of us set up shop next to each other and launched into a musical mystery tour of ancient truths and butterfly arms. A few minutes into the routine, we all looked hopefully across the room as two more people entered. Turned out they were just there to take the extra mats.

We touched the sun, we posed like warriors and we reached around the world. All the time with butterfly arms. It was a hilarious class when I reflect back on it – it was flipping hard work trying to change the world with butterfly arms. I’ll give it a bash again next week. Let’s hope the fridge has moved by then.

I’ve told you quite a lot about the fun I have commuting to central London by bus. I have discovered that the earlier I leave, the more likely I am to share the bus with a truckload, sorry a busload, of schoolchildren. They are an interesting breed. The boys and girls sit separately, totally separately, and they get off at separate stops even though they go to the same school. I guess early adolescence is the time to avoid the opposite sex, even though all they want to do, really, is spend time together.

One day last week, as the boys headed off down the stairs at their designated stop, one of them looked around at the top of the stairs and, surveying the mass of commuter heads in his view, shouted, “Bye bye all you funny bus people!” I guess he must have lost a bet.

We had a successful outing – thank the Lord! – to our favourite comedy club recently. Stephen Merchant, who co-wrote The Office and Extras with Ricky Gervais and who appeared in both series, headlined at our local comedy club. Stephen is off on a tour of the UK later this year, followed by one or two tester dates in the USA. He wanted to try out his new material, and what better place to do that than a small, intimate comedy club in south London?

We found seats just behind the band, who play between the acts. They were a great buffer until the acts came on stage, and then they all disappeared, leaving us, well, exposed. Thank goodness no-one picked on us!

Stephen Merchant is very very funny. His tour is called “Hello Ladies” as, he explained, he is looking for a “Mrs”. He’s on the search for someone who wants a little of “this”, he says, as he points up and down his body. He looked at a woman in the front row and said, “I know what you’re thinking. Six foot seven. That’s a lot of Stephen.”

His humour is delightfully self-deprecating, and he wove his stories around the sorry tale of his singleness and his inept attempts at romance. Despite the fact that he has two Baftas. He also talked – with many many hilarious diversions – of how he once came to being kicked out of a wedding reception. He told us how great it was to be on tour as a solo stand-up comedian: “Yes, best that way. Don’t have to pay any royalties to [air speech marks] you-know-who!”

Stephen Merchant is a delightful and very funny man. If you get the chance to see him perform, jump at it; you won’t be sorry you did. He is one half of The Office genius and he’s certainly a very talented half. I can imagine the energy that flowed between him and “you-know-who”, both when they worked at BBC Radio together and then when they worked on all their killer series together.

My blog will be silent for the next few weeks as we fly home to be with our family for a couple of major big birthday celebrations. To say that I’m sick with excitement would be a major understatement. I look forward to sharing the adventures with you on our return but, for now, I’m smiling and waving you all au revoir. With butterfly arms. Always with butterfly arms.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Happy Feet

Next to laughter, dance is the best therapy. Every week I spend an hour dancing my troubles away. For that hour my stresses and disappointments and fears and anxieties disappear in the sweat and the swirl of the salsa and the cumbia and the bachata. The Zumba instructor tells us what to do. We just move.

I couldn’t wait for last night’s dance class. I got to the gym early in anticipation of the therapy session ahead. I wasn’t disappointed.

Our instructor taught us some new dances and used some new music. One song made my heart sing and the tears fly out from my eyes. In the stomping and shimmying, I heard the roar of the crowds, I felt the joy of victory and the sweet warmth of sunshine on my shoulder, the colour of the world in flags and smiles and hope and expectation and togetherness and the healing of a nation united. As I twirled I breathed in the excitement of the game and the despair of hopes dashed. And as my hips swayed to a familiar drumbeat, my heart leapt with imagining what it was like to be in my home country during the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010.

We danced to this:

“Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn.”
Terri Guillemets

Sunshine signing off for today!

Waving and a-Shaking

You know those awkward moments when someone across the room waves at you? Well, at least you think it’s you. You wave back tentatively only to discover they were waving at the person behind you. They haven’t even noticed you. Probably because they don’t even know you.

I’ve blushed through plenty of those kinds of moments. Like the awkward “should I, shouldn’t I” moments when you meet someone and you’re not sure whether or not to shake hands with them.

The other day, I went to have coffee with the pastors and team at our church. I arrived at the offices, greeted the various people I saw and then one of the elders came over to greet me. He extended his right hand towards me and, while I thought a handshake to be slightly formal, I did the same. As I extended mine towards his, he lifted his hand and scratched his head. And then he laughed like a drain.

I blushed, but then my phone rang and I answered it. I told the elder it was 1968 calling and they wanted that joke back.

A few weeks ago, I arrived at my gym to do a Pilates class. Our instructor was away, and a “cover girl” took the class in her stead. As I walked into the class, ticket in hand, the instructor started walking towards me. She told me she was covering the class and told me her name, and extended her hand towards me. I told her my name, and duly shook her hand.

She giggled a little and then asked me for my ticket. Clearly she had put her hand out for me to give her my ticket. She got a handshake in its place. Awkward.

And now to the joys of adolescent sons and their over-communicative mother. (Although that’s not how my sons would have described this moment.)

Some years ago, I went to watch my younger son play in a mid-week rugby match at a local school. I had arranged for my older son to be dropped off at said school after he had finished his day’s activities and, as I watched my younger son play, I kept an eye open for the arrival of my other son.

I spotted my older son as he arrived on the far side of the field. He was about 14 at the time. This is important.

I waved at him, and he didn’t wave back. I thought he wasn’t looking in my direction, so I kept watching him and waving at him. I thought he didn’t know where I was. He continued walking towards me, but I still wasn’t sure he’d seen me.

After wave number four hundred, I focused my gaze back on the rugby game in front of me. My younger son was directly in my sight, play had stopped momentarily for a penalty, and he was waving at me. Coyly, barely lifting his hand above hip height, and agonisingly hoping no-one else could see him, he was waving at his mom from the middle of a rugby match. He was twelve.

I realised immediately what had happened.

My older son arrived at my side, and he said to me, “Mo-o-o-m, I saw you as soon as I arrived. You didn’t need to keep waving at me; I was walking towards you.”

After the match, I asked my younger son if he thought I was waving at him. He said he did, and he wondered why I kept waving at him in the middle of his match. He was so embarrassed and thought if he waved back, I might stop.

So next time you want to wave at someone or shake their hand, think about it carefully before you do anything foolish. It’s a jungle out there, I tell you, a jungle.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Zumba Your Cares Away

There was something of a scramble to stand at the front of our Zumba class last night. I put my towel down near the front and got elbowed out of the way. I took myself and my towel to the back of the class and soon discovered the cause of the cougar-fest: a cover guy instructor.

Tattooed and bandannaed, the substitute instructor had the class eating out of his hand. Which was at the end of a very sculpted bicep. He brought lightness and so much more fun into a class that is already fabulous – we mamboed and rumbaed through song after song; we jumped and we posed and we crossed and we hopped and we minced and we pouted. All to the Latin beat of the most remarkable songs. Have you ever heard the theme tune to The Pink Panther, with a Latin beat? Or the Latin version of Kenny Rogers’ Lady? I tell you, it’ll have your foot tapping in an instant.

Towards the end of the class Mr Cover Guy had us make a huge circle around the edge of the studio. He started, and one by one – if we wanted to – we were invited to go into the centre of the circle and share our moves, like we were really partying! That was such fun, although I wasn’t sure I really wanted to copy that one woman’s pole dancing moves … that’s a different dance class all together, I think.

We ended the class with a few, slow moves and, as the music ended, Mr Cover Guy was surrounded by women needing to “ask” him something. As for me, I bounced out of the studio and skipped home feeling light as air. For an hour, I had danced like no-one was watching, I had twirled and swayed and felt the rhythm of the music, and I totally shimmied my stress away.  I can’t imagine there to be a better cure.

Sunshine signing off for today!

A question of laughter

I have always been both teased and extolled by my family for being observant. Not to put too fine a point on it, my family members have said that when I’m around, they cannot get away with anything. I notice everything. Partly true; I notice everything that makes me laugh.

This morning I went to gym to do two classes: a Pilates class followed by a Swiss ball (exercise ball) class. We have a fabulous instructor and she puts on two kick-ass classes, providing excellent instruction along with a good workout.

The Pilates class had just finished, and preparations began for the Swiss ball class. Not everyone who does Pilates does the Swiss ball class, and vice versa. People leave and people arrive. Those of us who stayed, got our big blue balls, took them to our spots and sat and bounced on them as we waited for the class to begin. There were a good ten people sitting, bouncing on their balls when a new face appeared at the door. She half-opened the door, looked at all of us, looked at all of us again and then said, “Is this the Swiss ball class?”

Given that there is no other class offered at the entire gym at that time, that question struck me as, well, kind of obvious. “Duh,” was the kindest response that sprung silently to my mind. The more gracious among us said, “Yes.”

Some years ago, I travelled up to Harare, in Zimbabwe, from my home in Bulawayo, to spend a weekend with my sister. We had a fabulous weekend together, and bid a tearful, hugging farewell at Harare airport, from where I was to take the 40 minute flight home.

I checked in, got my boarding card and made my way on to the aircraft as soon as boarding opened. I took my window seat and settled down to read the in-flight magazine and reflect on my weekend fun. A guy came to sit next to me. He fiddled and fidgeted around a bit before settling down next to me. I was then aware of him having a bit of a long look at me and then he asked, “Are you going to Bulawayo?”

“No, I’ve asked the pilot to let me jump over Gweru,” was the answer I would have given, but my bemusement left me with, “Yes.” It also occurred to me that he could brush up on his pick-up lines.

My favourite stating-the-obvious moment happened when my husband and I were on our honeymoon. We stayed in a small cottage on the coast in northern KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. It was a small, simple, fishing cottage, owned by a friend’s father. The cottage had a small lawn in front of it, and in front of that was sand and sea for as far as the eye could see. A romantic hideaway indeed. We were entirely alone. (Apart from an unexpected and surprising visit from a Jehovah’s Witness on a Sunday morning!)

One day, we returned from a lovely walk on the beach and made ourselves a light lunch to enjoy outside with a good bottle of chilled, white wine. We languished on loungers and soaked in the warm, sea breeze and the joy of being newly-weds.

I leaned over to pour myself another drop of wine. I saw that my husband’s glass was also empty, so I looked adoringly into his eyes, and said, “Would you like some more wine?”

I have never let him forget his response: “Who, me?”

I guess my family members have a point when they say they can’t get away with anything when I’m around. But heck, it keeps the fun memories alive and isn’t it just great to laugh?

Sunshine signing off for today!

The Office moves

So yesterday evening I went to my wonderful Zumba class at the gym. I had my blinkers firmly in place, because I thought, “I-can’t-blog-about-this-class-again-I-can’t-blog-about-this-class-again.” And then it happened.

Who would have guessed that there would be someone in my Zumba class who had the moves of The Office’s David Brent? More than this, I will not say. Big Blogger’s watching me.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Are we having fun yet?

It is freezing cold in London today. The sky is sometimes a beautiful blue, the sun shines weakly and the tawny trees are shivering so much their leaves are falling off. My words freeze like stalactites as they leave my mouth and my fingers and toes feel numb. But at least my leaves haven’t fallen off.

I braved the freezing weather to go to my Pilates class last night. I figured it was worth the walk and the frostbite on my ears because I love my Pilates classes. However, when I got to the gym, settled myself and my mat in my usual spot near the front of the class, I discovered that our lovely Pilates instructor couldn’t make it to the class. So we had a cover girl. Not that kind of cover girl, but a young woman who was sent to cover the class. Small problem – she was not a Pilates instructor. So she said she would give us a core strength workout…

Expecting a Pilates class and being offered a core strength workout? We all kind of looked at each other, bemused, and decided, unhappily, to get on with it. I thought I might as well get warm, if nothing else, to brave the frozen walk back to my flat. But I was not happy. It was like ordering a double thick chocolate milkshake and being given a glass of lukewarm tap water. Oh the disappointment.

So our Russian taskmaster instructor proceeded to torture us with work her way through floor exercises that could make you weep. We would groan our way through, like, a hundred leg raises, followed by two thousand leg crunches and then a gazillion pulses of the same thing. She would then say, “Okay, let’s repeat all of that. Set yourselves up. And we’ll start in one, two, three, four …”

A guy near me started to giggle because he was straining his oats so much he nearly burst. Giggling was the next best thing. Our unmoved instructor said, “What’s wrong? I can’t feel anything.” I guess that happens when they remove your heart and replace it with a metronome.

We moved from leg exercises to ab exercises and then she made us do the plank*. The first time we did it, we had to move our feet outwards, then inwards, then outwards, then inwards, then do the same with our hands. And then we had to hold the plank for an hour. She then said we’d repeat all of that and, I swear, she made us hold the plank for a month. It was November by the time she said, “relax”, and the clocks had gone back and everything.

So I muttered into the frozen air all the way home, and my muscles are reminding me today that I had a bootcamp session instead of Pilates. And it’s nearly Christmas. mutter mutter mutter

Sunshine, stiff-muscled and frilly-lipped, signing off for today!

*The plank: for those who don’t know, you start by lying flat on your stomach bent elbows under your chest. Lift yourself up by propping yourself up on toes and forearms. Stay like that until the summer. Oh, and pull in your abs and keep your back flat.