Wow, what a great way to begin my West Country Holiday!
I arrived at my usual farm near Lyme Regis just before 4.00pm yesterday - in strong sunshine. It's still March, but it actually felt warm. Quite a contrast to my Sussex getaway a few hours before, when I had to contend with rain that soaked into my clothes and such a chill breeze that it my made my fingers go numb.
After set-up, it was highly pleasant to sit back inside the caravan with the sun streaming in, a steaming cup of tea to drink, sheep bleating in the field just a few yards away, and no heater on - because it just wasn't needed. Goodbye winter! Hello spring!
But by 5.30pm I could see that while it would be an almost cloudless sunset, the night ahead would be chilly. So I left the electric heater on, on its lowest setting, while I went off for a short while to Axminster. I had a local Slimming World meeting to go to.
While pursuing your personal weight-loss plan with SW, there is a weekly fee. You can pay on each visit, or (more cheaply) buy a six- or twelve-week block of weigh-in visits to your local group. I have bought two twelve-week blocks so far. But you don't necessarily have to attend the local group every week of the year. Everyone has a plastic card and a book in which their progress is recorded, and provided you take those on holiday with you, then you can go to any group in the country. This is what I am doing while on my three-week holiday. It was Axminster last night. Next week it'll be an evening group at Carnon Downs, near Truro in Cornwall. The week after that, probably an evening group in Great Torrington in North Devon - although it may ne a morning group in Northam, if my friend Jayne, who lives close by in Appledore, wants to come with me and see what it's all about. And the week after that, I'll be back again at the group in Sussex.
The Axminster group met at 6.30pm, and it was only a ten-minute journey from the farm to the town. I had time to pop into Tesco, get some more fuel for Fiona, and top-up with fruit, before parking in the town centre. A lady in the car park told me where to go.
The group met in the Masonic Hall. SW makes use of whatever suitable accommodation there might be. It might for instance be a village hall, a church hall, or (very commonly) the local rugby club. I have no idea why rugby clubs should come into it so much. Perhaps it's to attract men to these groups! Men do sign up to SW, and do attend group meetings - but only to whizz in, have a quick weigh, then push off. The social side of group meetings isn't for them. That's understandable. All the same, they still seem to get very good results. So, chaps, do not be put off!
The Axminster group served a wide area and was very well-attended indeed. At a guess, it was twice the size of my local village group. I was met on the door by a lively, very friendly, slender and fit-looking fortyish lady named Angela, who turned out to be something of a star: she had lost nine stones with SW, and was clearly keeping it off. A figure to envy! I explained that I was visiting from Sussex. That evening there were three newcomers to SW wanting to begin a weight-loss plan, but I was the only visitor from another group. That made me a bit of a star too. I loved the experience, especially as this wasn't the only thing that made me a focus for group celebration. Angela explained where to check in with my plastic card, at the desk with the lady with the card reader and laptop (Madeline); where the the lady in charge of the weighing-in process was; and she pointed out the Scottish lady who ran the group, Helen. All very helpful, and although it was a roomful of complete strangers, I felt absolutely at ease.
I joined the check-in queue and soon started chatting. Everyone was so friendly, and clearly intrigued to see a new face. I particularly chatted to Christabel, who had originally come from my part of Sussex, and knew my village well - gosh, what a small world it is! There was also Tracey, a recent incomer from Buckinghamshire, who had moved to Devon with her son two years before; and Sarah Jane, who described herself as a farmer's wife, and turned out to be just that: she was astonished when I told her where I was pitched, at Curlew Farm, because she was at Green Lane Farm just a mile away. In fact the two farms could see each other, and to cap it all, she knew Jackie and Colin at Curlew Farm well. Dear me, how small-world is that? She let on that Jackie was a local celebrity where weight-loss was concerned - her magnificent efforts having got into the local paper. Really? I had no idea. She had modestly kept quiet about it. Definitely something to ask her about!
My weigh-in was a sublime moment. Despite noshing and drinking at friend Sue's birthday lunch only the previous day, I had lost another two and a half pounds - with important consequences! One: I had now lost, since 3rd November last year, and despite Christmas and a synful record, a total of twenty-one and a half pounds - one stone seven and a half pounds - and got a certificate for losing one and a half stones!
But not only that. I got another certificate for losing 10% of my body weight!
I stayed for two hours. The larger group meant that the weight awards and celebrations were many, and the raffle prizes numerous. The two major prizes were a giant box of vegetables - Sarah Jane won that - and a heavy box of syn-free tins, fruit and vegetables. I had remembered to bring something along (a tin of chopped tomatoes), which went down well. Helen also had the bright idea of raffling off some unsold recipe booklets, so the raffle went on for some time, and at least half of us got a little prize like that. Me too.
Angela, Christabel, Sarah Jane, Tracey and myself had all sat together, and it seemed to me that, given the chance, I could easily make fast friends of all of them. They all hoped I would come to the Axminster group meeting next time I was in the area, which will be in the autumn. I promised. I shall look forward to it.
This is a 'first', publishing a post from my mobile phone that includes photos. I had them on my laptop, copied them, resized the copies to 10% of the original file size, bluetoothed them to the phone, and then inserted them into the text in the ordinary way. Well, it works on a weak 4G signal...