Saturday, 30 May 2009

One In A Million!

I mentioned in my last entry that I hadn’t taken part in the Great Gazebo Drag of 2009 and that I’d get round to mentioning the reason for that, so here goes...

I’d always thought that if someone told me I was ‘One in a Million’ I’d walk around all day with a great feeling and a big smile on my face, but last year I was told just that and I can tell you, the last thing I felt like doing was smiling.

You see, around one in a million people get a carcinoid tumour in their lung and I had just been told that I was that one. Nestled in my right lung was a tumour about the size of a squash ball.

My Dad had died at the age of 39 from cancer, and here I was at the same age wondering if fate had a very similar end in store for me. I know that might sound a little melodramatic, but fear and the thought of maybe not reaching 40 does that to you.

Just two weeks later, I was coming round from my anaesthetic in the High Dependency Unit of the Royal Jubilee Hospital with half a lung less than I arrived with. The operation is called a lobectomy - friends and family who previously told me I needed a lobotomy to curb my shopaholic tendencies find this hilarious - and I admit I laughed a little myself when the pain eventually started to wear off.

It’s taken me quite a while to get over the operation - I’ve only recently managed to get back to work full time and it’ll be a while yet before I can participate in lugging gazebos around with Mother.

But I have made it to 40 and I don’t intend to stop there.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

It's not a garden without a Gazebo

Three weeks ago Mother popped over from her island home to see the fabulous ‘In The Loop’ and somehow - in between Malcolm Tucker’s magnificent expletives - managed to buy a gazebo.

Now Mother isn’t the most patient person, so instead of getting it delivered or waiting until we could take it across to her by car ferry, this 66 year old woman insisted I drive her to the harbour where she single handedly dragged the 36kg box up the ramp and onto the boat. It was like watching a caveman with a mammoth.

Please don’t think I’m a dreadful person for not assisting in the dragging - there is a very good reason for that which I’ll cover in another entry, but suffice to say that as she paused now and again from her exertions to wave lovingly to me and yet another person passed me tutting and shaking their head, I did wish the ground would open and swallow me up.

So, when we went to visit this weekend, we were hopeful of making amends by helping her assemble the new purchase, but as it seems to have rained non stop since she bought the damn thing, it remains still boxed in the porch, where she peeks in and gazes wistfully at it every now and again. Hence the picture above of her gazebo-less garden...

Here are 5 facts about Mother that might help you to get to know her a little better:

1. Her real name is Sandra but most people call her Bear

2. If she’s really angry, she purses her mouth so tight that we tell her she has ‘cat’s arse lips’ and that usually makes her laugh

3. When I told her what an idiot I’d been and how much debt I’d run up, she said only two words - ‘Jesus Christ!’

4. When I was just a few weeks old, she and the dog walked to the shops with me in my pram. Mother, the dog and the shopping all returned home - I was still in my pram outside the bank (and she wonders why I’m a neurotic adult?!)

5. Her favourite past-time is making bonfires in the garden. In the past she has managed to burn almost her entire collection of clothes (after I stupidly said that what she was wearing made her look like a bag lady) and the phone cable to the house (badly judged bonfire positioning and a very cross BT engineer). But my all time favourite fire-starter incident was when she almost blew up the old orchard area with some over enthusiastic petrol dousing in an attempt to clear the dead trees. On lighting it and hearing the low rumble of something very scary about to happen, she took off up the garden like an Olympic runner. The look of surprise on the dog’s face as she sprinted past him in her wellingtons will never leave me...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Boys, bicycles and barking!

I thought this might be a good time to introduce you to the two men in my life who have supported me through my 'stopping shopping' exploits - Kevin and Hobbs.

I could babble on for a paragraph or two about how well balanced and relatively sane they appear to be, despite sharing their lives with me, but nothing quite reveals the hidden depths of a person like a questionnaire and here are their answers...

Kevin - 43
Hobbs - 6


Kevin - 6’2”
Hobbs - 18”

Hair colour:
Kevin - Silver fox
Hobbs - Natural blonde

Star sign:
Kevin - Taurus
Hobbs - Virgo

Celebrity Lookalike:
Kevin - George Clooney (he gave me £10 to write that)

Hobbs - Nicky Clarke (although in Hobbs’ world, he’s Nicky Barke)

Dream woman:
Kevin - Anne Hathaway who has only recently replaced Kylie after a decade long reign

Hobbs - Fifi the neighbouring Westie a.k.a Fifi L’amour

Favourite author:
Kevin - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hobbs - Dogstoyevsky

Favourite film:
Kevin - ‘The Quiet Man’
Hobbs - ‘Cujo’

Favourite smell:
Kevin - Freshly oiled mountain bike chain
Hobbs - Other dogs’ bottoms

Most likely to say:
Kevin - "Honestly, I didn’t want to go mountain biking with the boys in Chamonix, but it would have been rude to turn them down..."

Hobbs - "I know it was yours and it was expensive but now I’ve chewed it, so it’s mine and you’ll just have to get over it!"

Least likely to say:
Kevin - "I really don’t think I want to golf this weekend.”
Hobbs - "Oh goody - a trip to the vet! I hope the
y’ll take my temperature."

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Live From New York - For One Night Only!

There aren't many things I'm prepared to stay up until the early hours of the morning for, but a live online interview with April Lane Benson, Ph.D (pictured right) is definitely one of them.

April is one of America's top psychologists specialising in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder and is the author of two books on the subject. What she doesn't know isn't worth knowing, so I was thrilled when she asked me to take part in the hour long programme.

With April based in New York, we were clearly going to be working across different time zones, so on Friday 15th May at half past one in the morning with me pyjama clad and tucked up under a cashmere blanket with my terrier, Hobbs, we set about tackling the serious subject of shopping.

Having gone an entire year without shopping, it was fascinating to talk to other people about it, to hear their stories, how they tackled their compulsive behaviour and to take questions from those listening online about my previous 'excess all areas' lifestyle. I think the most important thing we all agreed on was that support was the key to success, either from your own network of friends and family, or through a specially organised group.

I'd advise anyone - shopaholic or otherwise - to have a look at April's site ( and to read her books - after you've read mine, of course!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time there was a rather greedy girl who thought that all the joy in life came from shopping. Try as she might, she just couldn’t go a whole day without buying something shiny and new; it didn’t even matter what it was or if she even needed it. If she had to have it then she would simply flash her pretty, plastic cards, bag it and go. But when she got home from the shops, realised that she had added to the scary debt on her pretty, plastic cards and would have to hide her shiny, new purchase to avoid seeing that disappointed look on her partner’s face, all the joy of buying it would disappear and the guilt would creep in. So, to cheer herself up again she would go shopping!

Many wardrobes and many years were filled in this way until the rather greedy (and let’s face it, rather stupid girl) eventually added up all the debt from her shiny plastic cards and saw to her horror that it amounted to a brand new BMW Z4 Coupe - that’s nearly £32,000 to you and me.

It seems she must have passed out and suffered a bump to the head, because when she came round and hauled herself back up onto her teetering Gina heels, she promised herself that she would never behave so greedily or stupidly again. With her hand on her Jaeger clad heart she swore that for one whole year, she would buy nothing but the bare essentials! And so ‘In The Red - The Diary of a Recovering Shopaholic’ was born.

That rather greedy girl was me - Alexis - and to mark the anniversary of the day when I decided to change my life, I’m starting this blog and hoping you’ll join me on the next phase of my ‘recovery’.