Fitness, General hilarity, Health


I’ve done it! I’ve signed up to the Body Coach 90 day SSS plan!

That’s shift, shape and sustain to you and me.

Divided into three, thirty day cycles, each focussing on a different S, it couldn’t be easier really, could it?

Could it?

I’ve been following the Body Coach, aka the beautiful Joe Wicks, for about a year after being introduced to him and his principles by my good friend, Miss Barnett. Like most non-fit normos, I dipped my toe into the BC pool gently by purchasing his first Lean in 15 book last year. Delighted with my fitness progress, I immediately took a lie down followed by a cream egg.

Naturally, as a non-fit normo, the book remained on the cookery bookshelf (yes I have that many cooking books as to warrant a separate cookery bookcase) until quite recently when I decided that my time for super human fitness was NOW. Right now. And not a minute later.

And so I took the next logical step: purchasing protein powder. Well one can’t make protein pancakes and overnight oats a la the BC without protein powder!

And so it was that the protein pancake took me by the hand and led me gently towards the glowing halo surrounding Joe’s super toned body. And straight past him to his website where I signed up for the SSS plan. After the obligatory week of deliberation and discussion with just about every one of my friends who would listen and feign interest, obviously. One is not a snap decision maker.

The first stage (after paying, obvs) was to fill in a detailed questionnaire. Sounded simple enough. Just a few details about me, my measurements, my food and fitness habits and a simple, seven day food diary. Simple.

If you’ve ever tried to retrospectively do a food diary, you will know that it is not quite as simple as first glance would have you believe. What on earth had I been eating? I had literally no idea. I took the approach of trying to average it out across the last month. Mainly because I have been a health food god over the last week, living almost exclusively on protein pancakes since the protein powder landed.

Three days and two emergency meetings with Queen Vic and Princess Scarlet later and I manage to submit my questionnaire, complete with food diary and front, back and side photos of me in a bikini. The horror. Oh the sheer horror.

As a not massive person I have been happily telling myself that I am in great shape for my age for years. The photos were my first step in agreeing that ‘great shape’ was something of an overstatement.

They say acceptance is the first step. My name is Lady Jane and I have back fat.

There. I said it.

You don’t see yourself from the back very often and I’m now delighted that that has been the case for so long. That back photo, in particular, sticks in my mind as I press send on the questionnaire.

I make a silent agreement with myself: I will be happy with my back photo again.

Follow my adventures on Twitter @ladyjanehardwic and Facebook

General hilarity, Travel

Bonjour Bretagne!

We disembark Brittany Ferries’ largest offering, the Armorique, without fuss and, in less than two hours, are pulling up to our home from home for the next twelve days: Chevrefeuille Gite, Le Boterff, Saint Mayeux.
We are early.

Check-in to our property is at 4pm and we have rocked up at 9:30am.

No matter! We are on holiday!

We merrily wave off again to Kevin, the extremely cheery but rather flustered looking gite looker-afterer (“two groups are leaving and two groups have turned up early!”), and go in search of our friends. Our comrades in arms. They will not be far away.

Back on the road again we admire the countryside as though we have not just left extremely similar countryside in England.

But this is different. This is French countryside.

French countryside that Queen Vic and I have not seen for fifteen years and which Princess Scarlett has never laid eyes on.

Despite being the most recent visitor of our little party to this area, Maman is the most excited to be here and is practically giddy with joy. Bless her. And bless Barker the bear, who never misses a trip to France and has been coming here these 23 years.

Barker has seen it all; The fall of the Berlin wall, the end of the apartheid, he’s drunk and sang with us in France, sailed ferries, been involved in orgies and, once, even hung himself from Auntie L’s window frame when it all became too much for him. Barker had been hastily given the psychiatric help that he clearly needed after a fortnight in France with The Hardwick entourage and was now looking good for his 34 years, albeit a little down in the mouth. A quick application of sellotape prior to setting off from England had fixed both his smile and his spirits though and he was now eager to reconnect with his friends and begin holidaying in earnest.

This is a nostalgic trip and we rightly commemorate the mood with that which will be burned into the very souls of all who were here fifteen years ago: the evocative sounds of Now 28!

We drive gaily, singing our little heads off, through Merleac and on towards Uzel. We pull up to what had used to be our home from home in France, all those years ago, and find that it’s owners, Auntie L and Uncle S, are nowhere to be found.

Undeterred, we continue our search for our family-in-all-but-blood and find them having arrived safely at their caravanning site at Lac du Bosmeleac.

“Damn it”, I mutter as we round the bend to find the caravan parked up and all manner of kit strewn across the grass, “we’re going to have to help them set up!”

Follow my adventures on Twitter @ladyjanehardwic and Facebook

General hilarity


I meet up with little miss Barnett for Sunday lunch on a beautiful, sunny day at the plough at huddlesford. Along with a just stepped out of a catalogue summer outfit (Barnett is one of my most stylish and wardrobe focussed friends), she is also sporting the most glorious, rich, golden tan. 
I must know where she got it. 

“It’s a combo of a couple of sessions on the sunbed and a fake bake spray on” she advises. 

After tutting for several minutes about the use of sunbeds, we move on to the most important thing: that spray. 

I need it in my life. 

I’m not sure how I’ve lived without it up until now. 

I stop at Barnett’s for the weekend and talk comes back to ‘that’ tan. 

She offers to spray me, an offer I am so eager to accept that I have stripped off before she’s even finished asking the question. 

The process seems impossibly simple: I stand on a towel while she sprays my arms in long, flowing movements leaving a beautifully fine coat of rich, golden tan. I waft my arms around to dry them and the process is repeated. 

It is perfect. 


I think I am Gisele. 

Three weeks and six shops later, I give up hope of ever finding the tan myself and Barnett gets me some. 

I skip to the bathroom, place the obligatory towel on the floor and prop a full length mirror up on the toilet. 

I begin to spray. 

Despite my best imitation of the long, flowing movements that Barnett used, I appear to be covered in patches of tan. Beautifully coloured patches, yes. But patches all the same. 

I grab a tanning mitt and buff it in. Sorted. I go for another coat. And achieve more patches. I diligently buff. I turn around in the mirror and spray on more patches to cover up the white patches that I missed. Then buff. 

It is a patch-and-buff-athon of epic proportions. 

Exhausted and a little traumatised from what I had expected to be a simple and painless process, I glance around the room. 

It is covered in tan. 

Each and every surface in my bathroom is coated in a fine layer of pinkish spray. 

Not patchy. 

No buffing required. 

Just a full and comprehensive clean of every inch of the bathroom and every item in it. 

Later that evening I attend my newest and most favourite gym class: boxercise. Elegantly dressed in a skin tight, bright white sports top, I thoroughly enjoy beating the living hell out of my opponents’ mitts along with having my own human punchbag experience when it is their turn to be Rocky. 

Feeling elated with the immeasurable levels of serotonin flooding through my brain, I glance in the mirror at the boxercise machine that I have become. 

Looking back at me is a profoundly sweaty woman. 

Wearing a skin tight, bright white sports top covered in sweaty lines of bright orange tan that have melted through her top from her freshly bronzed skin. 

I bet Gisele doesn’t have these problems. 
Follow me on Twitter @ladyjanehardwic and Facebook


It’s very French 

Posh as I am, being a lady and all, and in keeping with the standard which one expects, I booked valet parking at the airport. 

I have set off in style and my hair is looking fantastic, really very shiny. 

The admiral and I set off merrily (and early) to drop off the car and, with only three trips around the south terminal ‘ring road’, find the valet parking section eventually and bin off the car. 

After a nice, speedy check into the flight, I skip excitedly into the shopping extravaganza that is gatwick airport. It has a harrods and everything. Glancing briefly at the departures board, I notice a typo suggesting that information about our gate number is due forty minutes after the flight is due to take off.  

Naturally, I ignore it, assuming it has been written by an idiot. 

Three and a half hours later, we board our rather delayed flight. Taking it all in my stride and, of course, in the style of a lady, I have delicately sipped but one glass of prosecco and am feeling very jolly cheerful. The flight takes off and I immediately power down and fall asleep. 

France greets us and is unmistakably, unavoidably and uninvitingly French. Semi dilapidated, graffitied to within an inch of its concrete ugliness and a season behind balmy Blighty. 

Here it is most decidedly winter. Bare trees, sitting water and ugly, churned up fields with ramshackle, crumbling farm buildings fly past the windows of our coach. 

We eventually arrive in val d’isere at 20:30, and I am astonished and very pleasantly surprised to find that val is utterly gorgeous. A veritable winter wonderland. 

The snow is falling thick and fast (a dump of 78cm is forecast overnight), the trees are lit with twinkling lights and the buildings are a beautiful combination of creamy wood and stone. 

We check into our chalet which is similarly delightful and settle down to a wonderful meal and wine in front of the fire with riveting conversation with our ski comrades. 

And, most importantly, my hair still looks fabulous. 


Val d’isere with Lady Jane

Val d’isere here I come!!

But first, there is gatwick. 

The admiral and I check into the delightful crown plaza, just two and a half miles from the airport, and settle down to a well deserved drink and lovely meal. We are, after all, on holiday now. 

I am reliably informed by hawkwood that Crawley, our present location, is affectionately known as creepy Crawley by Brighton folk. 

Despite being only twenty miles away, he declines my invite to join us for a drink. 

Miserable sod. 

I eat too much and elect to take the stairs back up to the room in an effort to walk off some of the calories. 

“Isn’t this carpet well vacuumed?” I exclaim to the Admiral. “Not a bit of fluff in sight”.

This is surely going to be a raucous trip. 


The sip test

Those around at the height of Pepsi’s fame will, no doubt, remember the infamous ‘sip test’: the Pepsi challenge. Recently reinvigorated and used to great success by aldi, the sip test is a wonderful piece of marketing in which two or more items are directly compared in a blind taste test. The fantastic thing about this as a marketing technique is that it demonstrates, fairly and squarely, which product tastes best leaving the consumer in absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to which product they should be spending their hard earned cash on forever more. 

Being quite a fan of both repetition, research and eating, I have, over the last month, been conducting a similar comparison survey of quiche. 

Not just any quiche, oh no. Quiche Lorraine. 

I must confess that this is not my first quiche survey. A similar study of supermarket quiches in 2008 yielded a incomparable front runner for the quiche Lorraine of the year champion which was awarded to the co-op. 

Unsurprisingly, following the survey, I had no desire to eat another quiche for what could possibly have amounted to the rest of my life and avoided it at all costs thereafter. 

I had no reason to believe that I would ever feel the way that I did during that short couple of months in 2008 again. All of my repetition tolerance and penchant for creamy, egg and cheese based fillings were believed to have evaporated, or else exploded in the microwave as a quiche does when heated for anything over sixty seconds. 

So the autumn of 2015 took me by surprise when, quite out of nowhere, Queen Vic offered me a slice of egg and bacon quiche, and I accepted. 

I felt as I had during that short spell in 2008 again: utterly enamoured and delighted with quiche. The heady scent, the rich, cheesy flavour, the blancmange like texture. I was hooked. Again. 

I don’t start out looking for things to survey. I do not believe myself one of the imaginary Klump family from Take a Break magazine, considering it my duty to inform the world as to the best tasting anything. It is the inevitable draw of the alternative and therefore it’s comparison which seizes upon me, forcing me to continue on and test all available options. 

I have now re-tested not only all of the supermarket options with the additions of posh places like waitrose and marks and Spencer’s but also one purchased in a butchers. I even went as far as making one myself (yes, pastry and everything) which reminded me just how lucky we all are not to have to make everything ourselves any more and how easy we have it being able to pop to asda at three in the morning if we so desire to retrieve a midnight quiche snack. 

This all got me thinking about the sip test genius that was Pepsi. You see, the Pepsi challenge was incredibly successful and raised Pepsi up to the dizzying heights reserved only for Coca Cola. Coca Cola did not like this. They did not like it one bit. One can only imagine the tantrums and chairs being thrown in the CC boardroom during Pepsi’s heyday which, amazingly, prompted CC to adjust their much prized recipe in an attempt to compete with Pepsi. 

However, gentle reader, CC had made a grave mistake in altering their recipe to match the sweeter, sip test winning flavour of Pepsi. And the mistake was thus: a sweeter flavour may taste better in sip format, but not over a whole can. Devoted CC fans were outraged at the change and sales dropped amidst riots in the streets (one imagines) until the original CC recipe was restored, people accepted that Pepsi tastes like shit and everyone could get on with their lives. 

The sip test may rock the equilibrium but it will never reinvent it. 

And so I found, on a grey November evening when I tasted the much anticipated M&S quiche Lorraine with free range eggs (quite rightly) maple smoked bacon, mature cheddar and Gruyere cheese that it is still so: utterly delightful and outrageously tasty at first bite, I struggled to get through a quarter of the posh offering, let alone the half that had set the variable for the other contestants.

So herein lies the lesson: what at first sip may seem sweet, delicious, moreish may not turn out to be so after more rigorous and lengthy tasting. And if you’re looking for the ultimate quiche Lorraine, you still cannot do better than the co-op. 


Something for the lady? 

My day starts in a more vexing style than I would like. 

Mid ‘snooze’ I hear the faint hum of machinery. The high pitched screech and whirring cuts through my semi-consciousness and reality pours in. 

It is bin day. 

Consciousness begins to take a hold of me and quickly informs me that my bin is not out.

I spring from my bed and to the landing window to assess the severity of the situation. It is as I feared; the bin lorry has just passed my house and is successfully emptying next door’s bin from the roadside position required for a bin to be emptied. 

I sigh to myself, cursing last night’s me who convinced me, loyally, that she would put the bin out this morning. Stupid cow. “Won’t listen to her again” I vow. 

I roll into the Marriott after another peaceful and relaxing day where everything has gone to plan and not a single problem has arisen to find that they are experiencing some kind of power cut. Feeling my way through the dim entrance I find the reception desk and enquire as to the lack of lighting in the reception area. 

“Oh it’s to create an ‘armbiarnce'” the receptionist informs me, rolling his eyes. He seems to have a similar opinion to me of the new ‘lighting plan’. 

Exhausted and disgruntled, I consider getting room service and jumping straight into bed. I wander over to the window to close the curtains when something catches my eye. An ethereal, blue glow right below my window. The hotel pool. 

The impossible happens. The unbelievable. The inconceivable. I go for a swim. 

After six months of carrying my swimming kit around with me, I actually go to the swimming pool and swim in it. And let me tell you, I enjoy it! I enjoyed it all the way up until a group of lads who, presumably, have never been to a swimming pool before, descend upon the pool area, forcing the rest of us civilised pool goers to retire from our magical haven and return to the real world. 

The swim has done wonders for my mood and fatigue and I decide to push the boat out even further and eat outside of my room, where other people are. 

Feeling as benevolent as a lad who has just discovered a pool, if slightly quieter, I order a glass of prosecco and boeuf bourguignon and settle into a comfy looking sofa for a delectable evening of talking amongst myself. 

But something is remiss. 

This comfy looking sofa is not comfy. It is too long in the seat and my posture is all out of whack. I glance around for a cushion. There aren’t any on my sofa. I cast my gaze further afield but, to my surprise, there are no cushions on any of the sofas. 

I flick back through my mental files. This bar definitely normally has cushions. I flash back to a late night vault over the sofa across from me and the casting of cushions hither and thither in my wake. The new, no cushions policy may actually be for good reason. 

My favourite bar staff member appears and offers me his usual hotel charm, “How are you this evening madam? Is there anything I can get for the lady?”

Puzzled, The lady enquires after the missing cushions. He also looks around and seems similarly puzzled by the cushion drought. The lady discusses the possibility of cushion abduction and asks if they had to be removed because of too many pillow fights breaking out in the bar. Ever the consummate professional, he smiles politely and makes a sympathetic comment about how poor the sofa is for the lady’s posture sans cushions and potters off to remedy the situation “immediately”. 

Suitably placated with a selection of cushions and priding herself on bringing this important omission to the attention of someone clearly enrolled on the management training programme, the lady enjoys her dinner and retires. 

Bounding up the stairs to my room, I indulge myself in a nice, big, noisy yawn. I round the corner, mid yawn, and notice a pair of high heeled shoes on the floor. Looking up I find their owner stood, eating biscuits and looking at my still rather large, yawny face. 

Ever the lady.