Chris's blog posts

Quidditch, Charleston, Elections, Reflexology and more!



Week one is over. The fruit bowl in our office has never been so full, brimming with grapes and easy peelers (which are invariably anything but). Because of this, I’ve never felt so guilty about having a packet of prawn cocktail crisps today. I felt so ashamed I smuggled it into our shared kitchen and scoffed the lot, before burying the evidence like a particularly shamed cat in a litter tray.

The Widening Participation team is running a points tally system, with ten points available per day. Point worthy behaviour includes drinking two litres of water, partaking in thirty minutes of activity and trying something new, amongst others. However, having stayed up until 5am this morning to watch the General Election unfold miserably, like a broken Christmas hat from a crap cracker, I deserved my 30 grams of Golden Wonder, even though it cost me a point. Having marched to the polls in my Lewes constituency and voted Labour nine times (one MP, two district councillors, six town councillors), which is more pointless than the Pope’s sex swing, I needed some saturated fat.

Nevertheless… The first week of Commit To Get Fit has been a resounding success, with even Zoe, our erstwhile token Essex gal who looks a mixture of perplexed and appalled when I return from an Insanity class, putting her best bee-mask forward to try fencing. Apparently, a pig was seen flying over the Falmer area. Sam is giving Cerri a Reflexology massage as we speak, turning her office into a relaxing paradise. Although instead of a massage table we’ve got a camping deckchair. It’s desperate times under the Tories!

My new sport of the week is Quidditch and what a game it was! Fast-paced, tactical, skilful. Like handball with an extra dimension. As a signed up Harry Potter geek (I would be Hufflepuff because I’m not brave enough to be Gryffindor, not clever enough to be Ravenclaw, and not sneaker enough to be Slytherin – basically, I’m an also ran) I wondered whether the magical game could be transferred to Muggle reality. And it really could! Chris D had an altercation or two with one of our opposing numbers, prompting a word of caution from the excellent Active US co-ordinator Doron. There were trips, dives and aggression not seen since the Russians looked on Ukraine and fancied a new conservatory. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Paul, Sam, Cerri, Anne-Marie and Chris D did their best jazz-hands for a Charleston session, a fast-paced dance more mentally challenging then physical due to the complicated rhythms and movements. Sam came out so red I wondered whether she’d been at the sunbeds. Laura did Zumba while we played Quidditch and came to the balcony to laugh at our shared endeavours, taking the chance to get back into her Zumba ways.

Mindfulness was also on the agenda this week, with many attendees struggling not to laugh when the group were asked to perform tasks with a grape in the Meeting House. You see, there are points for relaxation, mindfulness and/or wellbeing activities as well. Stephen, who is more sceptical than Richard Dawkins at a Nativity play, failed to get all the fuss and spent a nice half hour sitting, doing nothing. According to my YouGov poll, however, he is currently in the lead within our team, although he has been deducted points for counting an onion bhaji as one of his five a day. That reminds me of a mother in Iceland telling her son to pick up a packet of Solero – she said it counts towards one’s fruit tally.

Karen had her birthday this week and many points were lost as a gorgeous cake was passed around to general murmurs of “Oh, isn’t it naughty”, like we were in some camp 70s sitcom, before hastily shovelling the marzipan calories down our gullets with carefree abandon. Cerri even had a Hen Do in Amsterdam to contend with. “I didn't score many points” she said, sheepishly on her return. “But I did try a Prosecco bike ride” she said, hoping for points remuneration that were sadly not forthcoming.

Overall we are in fine fettle and limbering up for week two with highlights for me including fencing, handball and bouldering.

Commit To Get Fit 2015



Commit To Get Fit... Possibly the most exciting work-based initiative since my colleague Sam proposed some guerrilla gardening to sort out the patch of grass outside our office. It's a jungle out there - I half expect to come across a confused-looking orang-utan or a new species of fruit bat.

I work in Widening Participation, tucked away in a corner of Essex House, a place where you're either basking in sub-tropical temperatures (usually in December) or shivering with chattering teeth (sometime in July). It's an old building - only nine years ago when I visited the university as a sprightly, spotty adolescent the exact spot where I am typing this was a canteen, albeit one that couldn't serve 50 hungry Year 9s in the allotted one hour lunch slot.

My personal journey is mildly interesting, and will take up the next paragraph or so. If you can't be bothered to read a load of self-regarding twaddle, feel free to cast your eyes further down. I was a particularly unfit teenager - overweight, un-coordinated, risk-averse. I looked like that character off Noddy that rolls about on a beach ball. I was so incredibly useless that during a cricket match in which we only had eight players, I was made umpire. I'm not bitter. But over the last few years I have started doing regular classes, watching my diet and attempted to get in shape. I wouldn't say I'm there yet. I'm too addicted to Co-Op Chicken & Bacon sandwich meal deals. But there have been noticeable improvements and I feel better for it.

My colleagues, who now number fifteen, in an expansion that makes the annexing of Poland look like a trip to the local garden centre, have varying levels of engagement with sport and activity. Many have young children - it's like a bloody crèche here some days, although I still manage to have the most childish sense of humour in the office - so in between the full nappies and screaming toddlers, they struggle to sweat buckets on a cross-trainer. Time is precious for them. Every stolen second is like a glimmering jewel on a game of Super Mario. I'm 23 years old and far too selfish to have a young'un. Don't get me wrong, having a proper relationship would help... but enough about my romantic woes.

However, there is a sense of things coming to a head with Commit To Get Fit. Claire, who previously could not have been less enthusiastic about fitness activity unless it also involved throwing puppies off bridges, has joined Sussex Sport and does regular classes. She is also one of two team captains, me being the other. While she writes long, charming emails, I have given short shrift to my half of the team. Claire also has the better team name - 'Misfits'. For reasons unknown, we are called 'Thin White Duke'. It's not for white supremacist reasons or that we all want to end up strung out on heroin, making albums in Berlin with Iggy Pop. But I mentioned Bowie in a group email and it sort of stuck.

My colleague Jacqui, who requested a lengthy chat about the rigours of Commit To Get Fit, making notes like I was giving a lecture on thermodynamics, says "I came from a physically active job to a predominantly desk bound one and was concerned about maintaining my ease of movement. I walk the boundary usually a couple of times a week and cycle at weekends, but have always had a bit of an irrational fear of classes so feel this would be a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone to try some".

I also have the other Chris on our team (young Chris and old Chris as we're better known, which I'm sure goes against Age Discrimination legislation) who is one of the most competitive people I know. Watching him play football is like watching a heat-seeking missile, except for the fact he goes searching for the tender bit on the back of people's legs.

Janet, who runs the Summer Schools, has been in training for the month ahead, and promised a badminton masterclass. She says "Having experienced a period of personal distress after my father’s death, which meant that I rather dropped any exercise out of my life, CTGF has come at a good time for me to re-engage. I have spent most of April re-starting a daily 30 minute walk before breakfast, in an attempt to improve fitness to be able to CTGF! I intend to carry that, and my weekly badminton session, through May, as well as cutting down on the wine intake, and trying some new things. I was a university netball blue (a long time ago), so will have a go again!"

Cerri already does plenty of classes at a rival gym (sssshhh!!). She does sessions with alarming sounding names like 'Attack' and has also signed up for the Charleston dance sessions. She needs all the practise she can get with her penchant for dancing on the tables in The Mash Tun.

Laura and Carole have both signalled their desire to join us on boundary walks and go to as many events as possible, while Zoe has been somewhat reluctant to take part, more swept along with everybody else in the tidal wave of enthusiasm. She has promised to give up chocolate for the month, which considering she is well known for having Malteasers for breakfast, may prove more problematic than giving up oxygen.

Over the next few weeks, through this blog, I will aim to detail our collective trials and tribulations as we make those small changes which hopefully make a lasting difference.

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