History seemed to be repeating itself yesterday – and (for those readers with a long memory) I found myself once again really rather ill when I should have simply been enjoying the Slimming World ball.
Last year after the ball I ended up with vestibular labyrinthitis (link) and to say it was a terrible experience was a vast understatement because frankly when it hit with debilitating ferocity on the way home I have never been so scared.
When Saturday morning rolled around this year I was already at the tail end of a week where I’d barely left the house thanks to the onset of an awful head cold/flu which had slowly migrated to my chest.
I was also sure I’d put weight on rather than lose it – mostly because I’d barely moved and had been eating way too much in a fruitless attempt to cheer myself up. By Friday evening I felt like absolute crap and wasn’t feeling even mildly sociable.
Consequently my tuxedo trousers felt uncomfortably tight, meaning that my ever patient partner had to mollycoddle me as I moped about with an (even greater than usual) mess of paranoia and self deprecating thoughts.
People often say I’m way too hard on myself (they admittedly have a point most of the time) but despite deep down knowing this is true I can never stop the onset of impostor syndrome when I know people are likely to compliment me or call me inspiring.
I just don’t feel like I measure up to mine or Slimming World’s ideals lately (did I ever?) and rather than going out on ‘a low’ I’d wanted the whole event to feel like a triumph where I felt both comfortable and in target (which I’m not).
After practically no sleep on Friday night (as I tried to breathe through the phlegm on my chest and ignore the swollen feeling in my throbbing sinuses) I had given up trying to nod off and instead migrated downstairs to sit upright in my armchair. Time moves slowly in the dark when you can’t sleep and you know you have a long day ahead.
You think too much, and you rarely think positive thoughts.
My head hurt.
My eyes ached.
I felt fat.
The clock was still ticking though the time to leave the house was slowly approaching. My partner (aware that I was ill and stressed) was now sipping a cup of tea on the sofa nearby looking at me with concern.
I weakly smiled, passed her as her hand grazed mine and moved to the bathroom to trim my hair and beard.
It was at this point (half way through turning and trimming the left hand side of my head) that I noticed at least part of the reason why a painful sensation behind my eye had suddenly subsided when I had sneezed moments before.
It looks worse than it is – but it looks absolutely horrible.
Of all the days when I needed to feel confident about my appearance (where photos and selfies would be taken left right and centre) I suddenly felt that I looked my absolute worst.
My eye was filled with blood and my (usually dormant) eczema felt like it was in full swing.
I’m not going to lie. Standing in the bathroom, feeling ill with a half shaved head and looking like I was an extra from The Walking Dead the very last thing I wanted to do was be sociable.
I actually just wanted to cry.
Would I call someone and make my excuses?
I really really wanted to, and talked it through as my partner peered with concern into my eye.
However, much of the last few weeks has in some way or another been about both of us working toward a gradual ‘ball readiness‘ – so to just discard all of our preparation for the evening seemed like a major anti climax.
It had been an extremely enjoyable time doing this together (despite our often shaky self images) and one where we’ve demonstrated yet again how well we work together.When one is struggling the other effortlessly seems to notice and pick up the slack.
When we’ve been in and out and town we’ve been collaborating to find little bits and pieces for eachther that match our outfits and complement our personal styles. Often we spot things that the other one hasn’t – or even suggest a way around a problem that the other hadn’t considered.
Up until I fell ill this meant that (for the most part) it’s worked out really well – like this lucky spot of a delightful (and cheap!) sparkly necklace!
We’ve both relished the task of finding things like this in charity shops and reducing costs wherever possible. Some things we haven’t been able to find very easily though – and when we’ve met brick walls we purchased brand new things to fill gaps.
In most cases we’ve been lucky enough to find pre-loved bits and pieces but getting ball ready still hasn’t been what either of us would call cheap.
It had still been a blast though and I’d been hoping we’d enjoy the night purely because of the joint effort that we’d put in and how much pleasure it had brought us. Then the flu unceremoniously stepped in and when we set out for the Hyatt hotel in Birmingham (mercifully she agreed to be taxi driver for the occasion) on a rainy grey Saturday spirits were slightly deflated.
This is one of those instances however where we lift eachother up.
We ended up talked and laughed along the route into town, nattered about silly things and generally tried to look on the brighter side of life.
Soon after setting out (it was a relatively uneventful drive with no traffic) we had arrived, checked in and done our best to look smart (but casual) for a photo and cuddle with Alan Carr.
This particular part of the day was mercifully brief.
My interaction with people (despite my tiredness and somewhat downbeat mood) was actually rather painless.
For some unknown reason I finally moved from being largely monosyllabic to verbal diarrhoea when I entered the photo booth (no selfies allowed sadly) putting my arm around Margaret & simultaneously pointing out to Alan Carr (nestling in my other arm) that he had embarrassed himself by wearing the same blue felt jacket and denim combo as me.
He took it well but I’m sure his confidence was crushed – because despite my walking dead-esque eyeball horrors I think I edged ahead with my tie.
Alan went with open neck and casual.
The truth will be in the official photos, which I’ll hopefully get a copy of in a week or so – and then we’ll see how wasted or surprisingly alive I look.
After this we headed back to the hotel, got changed into some slightly more casual attire and headed to Wetherspoons nearby for a spot of lunch. Shortly after this (both dog tired) we plodded back to the hotel room and within moments could be found snoring away on the bed with the drapes closed and the lights off.
Thank goodness for blackout curtains and quiet daytime guests is all I can say.
After a fitfull snooze (which was no-where near long enough to make up for the awful kip I’d had two nights in a row) we hopped out of bed, had a shower and started to apply our respective war paint and clothes for the evening event.
I think it’s fair to say that anyone would be proud to stand next to my better half.
I know I certainly was – and as we made our way across the skybridge from the hotel to Hall 3 of the ICC a lady (who I realised later the top target consultant winner Kathryn Cooke with her husband) asked us to take their photo – and in return she took one of us.
The event was massive – and compared to last year an extra 1/5th bigger than 2018. As Margaret began her speech she told the room that there were another 500 guests in a third hall watching the event on a huge video monitor.
In my case I was literally right at the front of the stage.
When the winning contestants (in this case the finalists for the 2019 woman of the year) were introduced by Margaret and led out to speak to Alan Carr there was absolutely nothing in the way to spoil my view!
The whole event seemed to pass by much quicker than last year (Alan Carr was very funny indeed) and before long there on stage was my replacement.
Ben Muscroft – the 2019 Man of the Year.
For those of you that remember the event in November 2018, my consultant Angie announced on stage after I received my award that I was ‘single and ready to mingle’.
It provoked a well meaning storm of hugs and later kisses that night (I even got a hug from Rylan!) and although being majorly embarrassing at the time (I never know how to accept compliments) was in its own way a big turning point – marking a shift in my emphasis from weight loss to the search for someone with which to share my life.
Unknown to me I’d already met that person and she was quietly reading my blog whilst making her own gradual decisions about whether she liked me. Consequently events directly related to that evening brought us together and because of that the 2018 ball is very significant to me.
You can imagine therefore how I felt then when Ben (someone who I’ve periodically been in contact with since the event in July) announced on stage that he had become engaged to his partner, having also found love and happiness with a fellow member of his local Slimming World group.
Alan called her up onto stage, and in a wonderfully life affirming moment they stood together looking as happy as it’s possible to be on a stage in front of 2500 screaming consultants and guests.
As you might imagine with so many inspiring stories there were many moments during the evening that put a lump in my throat, but this was one of the two that meant the most.
I went over afterwards to tell them both how great they looked and how much happiness I wished them both.
‘To me it’s personal.’ I said.
‘I never thought that this was the way that my life would go. I thought it would end – and now I’m in love because of all of this – so I wish you all the best. Enjoy it because you deserve it.’
If they invite me to the wedding then I’m going.
The second poingnant moment came before the couple of the year 2019 were announced. I already knew what was coming because Angie had let me know some weeks before. The ABSOLUTELY LOVELY 2018 couple we’d met backstage at last year’s awards had suffered a tragedy.
Glyn was on my table, but his wife Gillian was not – having died a month prior from a sudden and unexpected illness.
He was there (I found out later whilst talking to him and holding his hand because I wasn’t sure how else to convey how I felt) that in the middle of the numerous and unexplained ‘events’ (I will not go into detail) she had suffered before she died she had told him that she wanted him to be happy, to live the life they’d both fought so hard for, to not be lonely and to go to the ball without her.
I honestly don’t know how to process how hard that must have been for Glyn, but there he was, smiling and getting on with things when deep down, with every hug and well wisher that came over to talk to him he must have felt like he was being pulled apart.
I had and still have a lot of respect for him. They deserved better – but I’m glad he and his wife got to win the award and have some really happy times before she passed away.
In happier news I also got to speak to the 2019 winners (Katie and Tony Viney) and pass on my congratulations – despite Tony completely upstaging me in the most wonderful tuxedo jacket (and golden irregular choice shoes) I’d seen during the entire evening!
Once all of the awards had finished and the massive tickertape parade after the 2019 Woman of the Year had exploded onto the stage we all headed up for one final moment facing the audience.
Once that was gone, I and all the others stepped off and breathed a sigh of relief. That was it for me. No more events. The MOTY 2018 experience was at an end – and what an experience it had been. Now it was time to enjoy the evening – and enjoy we did, because the rather delicious food arrived soon after!
By this time (around 8.30pm in a room full of people who love food) I think it’s fair to say that we were all hungry – and the masses quickly set about the business of eating and drinking. All around me those who had noticed a serious over abundance of blood in their alcohol streams developing began to set about returning Prosecco and Rosé wine to required levels.
In other news its nearly four years now since I touched a drop of booze – and despite what many may think I don’t miss it one bit!
Once all was done the live music started – which turned out to be Scouting for Girls – a band who I’m familiar with but don’t really know any of their songs.
My partner on the other hand sang along throughout and was absolutely in her element!
They were on stage for around an hour and did a quite varied set – although nothing that I felt I could bop along to.
I’ve always struggled with live music as an accompaniment to movement – but I can’t help myself when the DJ drops the right track at just the right moment on an old school set of decks.
The honest truth was that I never thought that I was the kind that could dance without some form of enhancement – but the fact of the matter is that it was just another thing I was scared of doing.
Now I don’t care what people think of me.
When the beats dropped (Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson was the rallying cry) I certainly stepped up – and with all said and done I must have been on the dancefloor (despite being filled with sudafed, ibuprofen and sucking strepsils) for around two hours.
In between this I also ended up having absolutely shedloads of selfies taken and people asking me for hugs – which was really really lovely!
Quite unexpectedly I bumped into a fellow blogger’s consultant – Amanda Bartlett Hill from Slimming World in Essex (Instagram link) after being asked to keep an eye out for her and grabbed hold of her to prove to my friend that we’d met and send her a pic!
So – here it is! Proof – and a reminder of the promises made that evening 😉
Not all of the selfies were quite so flattering however – but none were more amusing than this one which I had to include just because…
Although the last dance was something I’d planned to have with my partner, when it came down to it we were so tired that we left before the song came on, walking back slowly and somewhat gingerly with ringing ears from the noise feeling more than a little elderly, but very very happy.
I said it to her that day and I meant it.
My partner was not only the main reason I ended up attended the ball (I don’t think I’d have made my own way on the train in the rain feeling as crappy as I did) but she was also the punctuation mark at the ‘end’ (nothing ever really ends) of this particular part of my journey.
I’ve gone from a shut in recluse, drinking and eating my life away in an 8XL hoodie to dancing the night away with the focus of my world felling blissfully happy and complete even though I felt (and still feel) really ill.
We helped each other get ball ready – but ever since I met her she’s made me life ready.