The second chapter a desire and need for reinvention

"New year new you!!" the magazines and health gurus shout at the beginning of each year. In January I went back to school, cookery school. Many friends and contemporaries have questioned me as to why I am doing this when I am apparently an accomplished cook .There are several reasons. Firstly I have never had any professional training. The knowledge I have acquired has come through working my way through industrial kitchens, which can actually teach you some bad habits. My only other instruction has come from travelling, reading and close observation of others. We have had Michelin star chefs working in the kitchen here and
I have picked up ideas from watching them workApart fom acquiring some basic knowledge, knife skills, preparing/ filleting fish, butchering, it is an extra curricular activity for retirement and as the course was conducted in Portuguese a chance to buck myself up with my command of the language.
One can usually become more accomplished with a language if one knows the subject and I have fortuitously acquired a wide vocabulary of culinary terms. I can comfortably read recipes in Portuguese,do the shopping and enjoy reading cookery magazines in a foreign language, one of which I even subscribed to. I would be the first one to admit that I have made many career mistakes and suffered redundancies in my working career but I console myself with the fact that I have always been a master of reinvention .It is good to make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and I vowed that I am not going to discourage myself from making mistakes this year in the hope of some self improvement. This maybe, is one reason which stopped me from walking out on the course after the induction section. The Executive training advisor for the college was the other. She assured me once we rolled up our sleeves got in the kitchen and started cooking it would all come together because if you know your subject then visually it will make sense even without a full command of the language. How right she was.
So is it possible to reach new goals as you get older and is there more to it than just our physical health? That of course is all important, but motivation is a given, and people differ here, but the fact that mortality is nibbling at your heels, midlife restlessness has set in and with it the desire for reinvention, alongside a shift from full-time work, may contribute. Sometimes, a low-level unease gradually crystallises into a sense of urgency. The secret seems to be to start simple, be specific and most of all,    dont judge yourself. Its like surmounting the difficulties of learning to ride a bike, something I struggled with as a child. Thank goodness that I have always been  frightened of horses, thereby riding was never on the cards. Keeping oneself occupied and fit in retirement is like learning a new alphabet. If one does not have a plan and a schedule the days can pass and spell out oblivion. Travel for me is not an option under the current situation, so enrolling for a cookery course is my ( forgive the pun) break from the kitchen sink. I have already done the health programme and now learnt how to maintain a balanced weight and keep fit constantly without over exertion. It’s true, something about the language of the before and after pictures from a physical transformation – moderately overweight to less podgy cheeks – would appear familiar from thousands of adverts and magazine spreads and I only have to look at personal picture from before I started to make me vow never to return to my former unhealthy state.This slightly dramatic fitness coupled with the weight loss programme (15kg in eight months) has been transformative in ways also that don’t show in pictures. I enjoy the feeling of being able to walk upstairs and not getting out of breath, of feeling more motivated, being able to bend down comfortably to lace up my shoes. While getting fit was not the end in itself I can feel the difference now. When I started walking and sometimes running, I couldn’t climb an incline without collapsing out of breath, but you soon discover you don’t have to walk /  run fast all the time, you can just keep 
going,and consequently do more.

The effect on confidence was equally dramatic: “It changed how I think about myself. I didn’t realise how you feel about the world, how you interact with people, is so tied to your body image.” Now I am not exactly bursting with new-found confidence, but feel more relaxed in company. Getting fit after 50 is an optimistic act; a positive statement of intent for the second half of your life.Having had a waggly doctors finger pointed at me was the start, but the first lockdown brought the real motivation out in me. Staying sane rather than getting fit motivated me to start a walking regime in the first Covid-19 lockdown .I’m quite sociable and being locked in ones home, not being able to meet friends and colleagues can be really tough. At least by walking you have contact with other like minded individuals or dog walkers.I gradually went up from 5,000 steps to 10,000, then 12,000, then 15,000, occasionally 20,000. Now I do a fairly consistent 12,500 steps a day. It splits the day up too.I walk before breakfast, again mid morning, at lunchtime and more steps in the afternoon.Its also good to combine errands with exercise, ditching the car for your legs and a bundle of recycled carrier bags. Exercise can encourage exploring new areas, taking photographs and learning about wild life and nature. Apart from losing the necessary weight I´ve gone through two pairs of trainers. For my mental wellbeing, it’s been the best thing ever and I have surprised myself at my unwavering commitment.Its almost compulsion although I have to admit it often wavers at the weekend. For me its about  maintaining independent living for longer; being mobile, living a happy, independent life. But getting fit after 50 need not mean becoming a ropey-hamstringed cycling obsessive in Lycra and dont be ridiculous of course I cant do a full pliĆ© ( it´s pretty close to a squat, but much more elegant) Talking of chairrobics i used to laugh when my phone kept telling me that i hadn´t got off the sofa at 3,000 steps. Nothing wrong with a bit of digital encouragement eh? I am no Skipping Sikh nor am I a marathon man, but I have found comfortable niche for myself in between the two. I have now completed a 10 day cookery course, one day a week for 10 weeks and I am quite proud of this, especially as the course was conducted exclusively in Portuguese. So has my language improved? 
Yes i would say so.Have I learnt new cookery skills? Yes and I have most certainly expanded my knowledge of Portuguese gastronomy 100%.
A classic "bife a portuguesa"who would have known? 
and now I have to make this delicious dish at home
I have made new friends along the way, so much so that I hope we will be able to organise a reunion sometime in the near future,where we all get together in someones house and prepare a meal together just as we did in school.For now though we have set up a whatsapp group to share recipes and ideas. Can´t be bad.
Happy days everyone!

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