a quick update!

Hello, good afternoon, good luck, good riddance!

Perhaps you thought we had died – but no, just dieted, though I can understand why you might have been mistaken. It’s been altogether too long since we last updated, and for that, our profuse apologies. But life found a way, and we forgot, and then it felt that we had been away too long.

So just some very quick news and updates, and then an important message / warning to share.

Firstly, our fourth book is out! And the reviews have been utterly incredible – over 1,150 5* reviews in a month, and that is beyond glorious to see. The book is focused on the one thing we’re known for: delicious meals! It’s called Full On Flavour because that’s what the recipes are: bursting with flavour, with no rubbish ingredients or diet swaps. All under 500 calories, including all the puddings and breakfasts. Plus, some lovely photos of Paul and I to put you off your dinner. What more could you want? And for today only (Sunday 4 February) it’s only 99p on Kindle – you don’t need a Kindle, just download the app. If you prefer the hard copy, that’s only £10.50 on Amazon. Either way, you can get both offers by clicking on the book below!

Next, you can find us on our usual social media channels:

  • on our Instagram channel, where we are posting regular recipe videos and food pictures;
  • on our Facebook page, where those same recipe videos are posted, plus lots of little extras
  • via our Facebook group, which has become a brilliant little group of people posting their food pictures and helping each other out – it’s really quite brilliant

We used to update Twitter but I’d sooner staple my tongue to a moving train than give that human laxative any traffic.

Then, our final bit of news – we’re going to (after ten years!) give twochubbycubs a makeover to make our recipes searchable and more user-friendly. Once that is done, we’ll be updating on the regular (I know, I know, but updating the site in its current form is a ballache beyond compare, so we need to make it easier!) – this will involve taking the site offline for a bit. Not entirely sure when, and we will give a heads-up before it happens, but a plea: if there’s a regular recipe you use from here, take a copy of it – all the recipes will return, but we don’t want you missing out!

And that’s all I have to say on the matter. Hope everyone is keeping well 🙂


OK, so it’s been a while, we admit…

Look, I know we said we wouldn’t contact each other. We realised that things hadn’t been the same since the accident and that indeed, the loss of your thumb was an unfortunate one. That holiday idea of yours where you hitchhiked around Europe? Completely ruined. My fault, I know, but I told you to exercise caution with the turkey trimmer. We can’t turn the clock back.

However, it’s Christmas, and if Love Actually taught me anything other than the fact you call tell the US President to fuck off and there’ll be no major consequences other than Tiffany from Eastenders giving you chocolate biscuits and come-to-bed eyes, it’s that Christmas is a time for reconnecting. It’s a time for giving, which is exactly why I’ll be giving Paul all the space he needs in the kitchen to make me a delicious dinner whilst I sit feeding the dog illicit Lidl crisps. I’m buoyed up with the bravado afforded by three large bottles of Hoegaarden (other beers are available, but this reminds me of when I was 20 and in a sparkling four-way love-square) and so, this is me saying: hello! I hope you’re keeping well.

Now I shan’t keep you, because there’s gooses to pluck and Celebration Bounties to be rightfully ignored. But see we have something to give away: a short recipe booklet of eight recipes taken straight from our books – including two from our newest wonder, Full On Flavour, which comes out on December 28th. We’ve included a lovely long blog post with it too, so you’ve got something to read whilst you get rid of your Christmas Yule log. It’s been designed entirely by me so I apologise in advance. But we hope you enjoy it! If not, boo-shucks to you. But whatever you do, enjoy Christmas! We’ll be back (properly) ever so soon! Simply click the below gift box to download your PDF! Until we speak again, then…

new book announcement: Full-on Flavour, coming December 2023!

You know how Cindy Beale just returned from the dead in Eastenders with a new name and a brassy attitude? Well, we’ve Rose from the grave too and whilst we haven’t clobbered anyone with a music box or shagged the landlord of the Queen Vic, we HAVE been busy. With this: our NEWEST cookbook. No gimmicks, no silly ideas – just what we’ve become known for. Excellent recipes, using fresh, simple ingredients, which takes very little effort to put together…and all sprinkled with our usual sassiness. It’s the most colourful, brightest book we’ve ever done and we hope you love it. You can pre-order it by clicking on the picture below! As for the blog, we’re coming back. Soon!

writing: it Disney need to be like this

WORST TITLE EVER. Anyway, as we inch closer to Disney, let me start by talking about holidays of old.

You know, I just realised something. This blog entry was about to start this entry with ‘When I was younger’ and I deleted those words and replaced them with ‘When I was young…’ and if that doesn’t indicate to me how I’ve subconsciously come to terms with my advancing years, I don’t know what will. It was my 38th birthday a couple of weeks ago and boy do I feel ever aware that I’m more than likely halfway through my time sat on this rock. Good grief.

Anyway, where were we. When I was young, Disney was always a place I wanted to visit but knew I’d never get there. It was just far too expensive and we didn’t have much money, plus to use the unquestionable logic of my parents, why visit Florida for thrills and spills when you can be playing 10p bingo above a chip-shop in Seahouses? That sounds like I’m throwing shade against my childhood holidays but that couldn’t be further from the truth: my parents, although poor in money, were rich in experience, and we were always being bundled into the car and whisked away for a weekend of camping or touring the extremities of Scotland whilst being slowly hotboxed in a cherry-red Ford Escort.

Once I sashayed past puberty (a process which only seemed to take a week – I had one afternoon of squeaky voice and then everything seemed to settle, with my beard growing in as my balls dropped as though linked symbiotically in some biological mirror of a Playdoh spaghetti factory) those family holidays became few and far between. For some explicable reason the appeal of staying at home without supervision had risen in parallel to the increased speed of our Internet access and suddenly tramping around Albufeira with my parents didn’t seem quite so attractive.

On our final family holiday my sister was swapped out for a good friend which turned out to be an utter disaster: my parents didn’t care for him, and I soon realised that someone who was fun for a couple of hours a day at school may not necessarily be as convivial over a fortnight. It was like he’d forgotten to pack his ability to laugh. Perhaps he had known that he was actually my second choice of companion: I had wanted my proper best friend to join us but his family were rich (pretend rich, at least) and were off to Disneyworld. In retrospect it was probably for the best that he didn’t come along: he would later become a ‘very special’ friend indeed and judging by the fact neither of us saw much sunlight in the summer of 1999 when he stayed over at mine for weeks at a time, Portugal with my parents could have been super awkward. Of all the friends from my teenage years that growing old has pulled me away from, he’s perhaps the one I wonder about the most, and certainly, even to this day, he remains the person who made the biggest impression on me. Lee, wherever you are, I know you’ll be making a size queen very happy indeed.

Anyway, back to my family holiday with my sour-faced companion. The favour was returned by his family taking me to a remote Scottish island to look at moss and ride bikes in daylight that never troubled itself to wash fully out. To say I was bored was an understatement: a 13-year-old should never have to spend his summer wondering exactly how much it would hurt to pitch off a cliff and dash himself against the rocks below just to relieve the tedium. Happily, I’d discovered masturbation by this point, so it wasn’t all bad.

But with that, our family holidays were no more: my parents would jet off to sunnier climes and I’d stay at home to ‘look after the house’. As we lived in the middle of nowhere, I don’t think my parents were especially concerned about any big house parties – nothing says raucous night in like having to get the last 685 bus back to Newcastle at 7.48pm, after all. Plus I was a socially awkward teenager with Enya hair who bought his trousers from BHS, so, you know, there’s that.

I mention all the above as an introduction to say I always wanted to go to Disney, but never got the chance. Paul was much the same, aside from the detail of his own holidays. His were slightly more exotic, although I suspect the destinations were chosen based on how many cigarettes his mother would be allowed to bring back through duty free on her return. He too longed to go to Disney – most children do – but it was forever a pipe dream. Until we met each other, that is.

It was only two years into our relationship that I grew tired of being responsible with money and booked us a ten-day trip to Florida, deciding to pay for the flights and hotel on the gamble that somehow we’d save enough money to get by in the few months beforehand. We stayed at The Metropolitan Express on i-Drive, where the delight over the cheap rates were tempered by the very real risk you’d be shot in the carpark. We went with £1,000 which turned into $2,000 with the marvellously positive exchange rate back in the day and we felt like kings. We had such an amazing time that we repeated our trip the next year, ‘forgetting’ to pay our council tax for a few months to buy us a bit of leeway on the finances since the exchange rate wasn’t so grand. On that trip I proposed to Paul, and our next trip would be our honeymoon, which became a full-on four-week Florida pilgrimage.

So to say Disney holds a lot of happy memories to us is an understatement. They call it the Happiest Place on Earth for a good reason. However, over a decade had passed between our last visit and this upcoming return, and we were anxious. See, Disney has made a lot of changes over the last few years, and not a lot of them have been well-received. I’ll touch on them as I write the rest of this blog post but I mention the negativity as a warning: we almost cancelled our trip entirely because, if you were to go on the online feedback alone, the magic has entirely gone. Everything is super expensive, cuts have been made to previously free services, the crowds are awful, the customer service has disappeared. I’m an avid reader of online reviews and judging by some of the vitriol and hysteria in people’s accounts, you’d think they’d come back from four months holidaying in the trenches at Gallipoli as opposed to a few days being haw-hawed at by a teenager in a giant mouse costume.

Surely if everyone is complaining, there must be something rotten at the castle core? Well, yes, there are certainly faults and flaws, but it really isn’t that bad. Perhaps if you’re a regular visitor it is worse – when you stop sniffing the pixie dust, you see the cracks in the magic, but for us regular folks who visit once in a blue moon? All good. Bear that in mind when you’re reading the avalanche of woe online about Disney and don’t be like us, one step away from cancelling our holiday because we decided to listen to all the endless negativities. Go and make up your own mind – it’s not like you’ll be forced to go back if you hate it. By the way, if you’re here for more of the anecdotal writing rather than the ‘how Disney currently is’ writing, skip the next few paragraphs.

Before we get to the (fried) meat-and-potatoes of this Disney post, perhaps a little on the two very distinct people you’ll find in the park: those that plan to the tiniest degree and those that wing it. Paul and I used to be the former, but these days I can think of nothing worse than turning your holiday into a by-the-minute affair where a good day would be ruined by a bus delay. We’re far, far more laid back and I think that worked in our favour because although we managed to see everything we wanted, we never felt stressed. But then that’s an easy state of mind when you have the luxury of time on your side, like we did. Our plans consisted of nothing more than picking a park a couple of days before and choosing a couple of ‘big’ things that we would definitely do, with everything else being played by Mickey-ear.

That ‘picking a park’ bit is new (and the way Disney is, probably gone by the time you’re reading this) and the source of some of the online ire. Previously you could walk into any park you chose to visit without any action needed by you beforehand, but now you need to think ahead and reserve a park in advance. To be totally honest this didn’t affect us one bit, save for being a slightly annoying extra thing to remember to do, but I can see why local residents especially hate it: if I lived anywhere near a theme park I’d be there all the time on a whim and this removes that element of spontaneity. But as I say, it didn’t bother us, so we cracked on.

The other big addition to the Disney Experience is the introduction of GeniePlus, which replaces the old free Fastpass system they used to have and replaces it with a paid alternative. Back on our previous visits you used to be able to mince up to the ride entrance and get a little paper ticket which would allow you to return at a set time and jump most of the queue. It was great and, more importantly, fair. Things are different now: now you have to pay a varying amount (between $15 and, so far, $35) a day, per person, to access GeniePlus, which gives you access to a booking system on the app which allows you to pre-select a ‘Lightning Lane’ admission for a ride once every two hours. On top of that, each park has one or two ‘big ticket’ attractions (usually the newest ride in the park) where Disney allow you to pay a further fee ($10 a person, from memory) on top of the GeniePlus to get yourself a ride slot. If you don’t want to pay for the ‘Individual Lightning Lane’, you simply need to make sure you’re up and on the app at 7am to try and bag a free slot, but I kid you not when I say those slots sell out in under ten seconds. As someone who wouldn’t get out of bed at 7am even if his house was on fire, again, this hurt.

Of course, you don’t need to buy GeniePlus, you can wait in the normal standby queues, but they were killer when we were there, and January is traditionally the quietest time to go. We regularly saw lines of over 240 minutes for a two-minute ride and listen, I wouldn’t stand in a queue for four hours if there was a promise of having my bumhole pummelled by the entirety of the Scottish rugby team at the end of it, nevermind a virtual flight around Avatarland. Paul is equally as impatient and of the same mindset that nothing in a theme park is ever worth waiting that long for. We can’t imagine what it must be like to wait with screaming children – hats off to all the parents who do it, honestly.

I’ve made the whole thing sound way, way more complicated than it actually is: in reality the process runs very smoothly indeed and we never had a single problem with it. We managed to get on every single ride we wanted to do, including several goes on the newest ride at Epcot (more on that later) and never felt like we missed out. But see, without wanting to sound like a knobhead, we’re comfortable moneywise and so could afford to pay these little extras that Disney wanted for things that were previously free. I think of families like my parents who if they had managed to take us, would have had to be watching every last penny – this would have killed them off.

If you take the cost of a fourteen-day park ticket for a family of two adults and two of their most charming hump-dumplings, you’re looking at £2,100 straight off. Then add GeniePlus on top of that at £15 each, a day, that’s an extra £840, just to ride attractions in an expedited manner that used to be free to Fastpass. Throw in a few Individual Lightning Lane bookings and that’s another £120. That’s not a kick off the arse off an extra grand of expense. And listen, it’s not as though Disney is a cheap place to visit once you’re in the parks: food and drink is expensive (but, with me having the sophisticated palate of someone raised on Netto crisps, delicious) and the souvenirs and all that even more so. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time: it’s just strongly encouraged. I love Disney to bits but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if they required you to tap your credit card on the ride car to make the restraints come down. There’s an American term for this called ‘nickel and diming’ which seems especially germane here: essentially the practice of charging for every small little service which may otherwise have been free: that’s Disney.

But good lord, I’ve succumbed to the same online negativity as everyone else! If you were to read only the last few paragraphs you’d be rightfully clicking your purse shut and saying hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s-off-to-Malaga we go, and then I’d ask you who you were calling a ho, then we’d fall into bed and make love. But see it’s hard to explain the changes at Disney without sounding like Grumpy because they’re all so inherently dreadful. With all of the above in mind, I’m going to do my darndest to get across how actually wonderful our time at Disney really was: and what better place to start than at the Magic Kingdom?

Which we will do…next week. Oh I know, I’m a terror. But it is what it is.


update: eye-eye and worried sick

I was desperately trying to think of a pun involving either my eye or my health anxiety but couldn’t think of a good one, although worried sick is a banger if I ever choose to do a mini book on all of this crap. I’m a writer, ladies and gentlemen.

Just a quick post to update on my fizzy brain and how things are in terms of my bout of health anxiety and how I am getting through. I’m going to keep it fairly short because I’ve made a point of not indulging my anxieties for as far as I can, and writing about it can tip into that indulgence. You know the thing where someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant and all you can think of is a pink elephant – well imagine one wearing a t-shirt perhaps one size too small and pawing at his eye and you’ve got me.

But that’s doing my recovery a disservice, because, touch wood, my eye is getting better. That’s right: after weeks of telling myself that this was the end (and, if I’m honest, reassuring myself that it actually wasn’t) whatever the fuck was wrong with my eye has calmed down. Still twinges quite a lot but if that doesn’t underscore what I’ve been saying about if I just accept it’s nothing, I’ll relax, and in turn it’ll go away, what does? I’m almost convinced it was what I said it was: a pulled muscle that took forever to heal because I spent three months frowning like a chimpanzee doing a jigsaw. That and I remembered to put my glasses on of a morning instead of treating them as a fashion accessory and somewhere to rest my eyebrows.

So progress is always good news and it shows you that even with health anxiety, once you choose to accept that the sky isn’t about to fall in, things can and will get better.

But it does lead me to mentioning something else which is a total knacker with health anxiety – transference. That is, the removal of one worry and the replacement of it with another. For me, I’ve gone from fixating on the eye pain onto worrying about the fact I’m twitching and (LOL) jerking all over the place. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. I feel a bit like Tweek from South Park, massively over-stimulated and very bouncy, but that’s an easy enough one to deal with because frankly, who fidgets themselves to death? And it’s a funny one because I’m not sure I’m fidgeting anymore than normal, but rather just being very aware of it. Paul is forever telling me to stop bouncing my legs or clacking my fingers or breathing unnecessarily and I often find myself tensing my hands or feet or whatever and I’ve never really given it thought, but of course now it’s all I can notice. I went through a phase a few years ago where I was convinced that the muscles in my leg twitching away were a precursor to MS, and what is this if not an extension of that? Only I’m not so arsed this time around. But I can live with some fidgeting, if anything, think of the extra calories burned. Indeed, the only way to get over transference of symptoms is to treat it as just another thing to rationalise and get on with – and that’s what I’m doing.

So all in all, progress, and good progress at that, and if you’re reading and going through a bad spell of anxiety yourself, hopefully you can take some comfort in how quickly things can turn around.

I will say one other thing, because well I’m a writer see and I want to hit my word count. This has, in all honesty, been the worst period of health anxiety I’ve gone through in probably a decade. And not just health anxiety, but the resulting general anxiety and feeling down. It happened fast and it happened hard and for quite a bit of it, I couldn’t see a way out of it. I still feel a very long way from myself – but I’m getting better. And in a perverse way it’s provided me with a kick up the arse to realise this is something I’ll always have and that I can’t be complacent about it – it can and will bite me if I don’t pay attention to how I’m feeling at the time.

But you know what really made a difference? Being open and honest about it all. Writing everything down, whether unpublished or otherwise, and talking about it with family and friends and folks online. There’s always the worry of feeling like a burden and for all that I have plastered all manner of detail about our lives on here, I’m actually a very private person when it comes to discussing how I’m feeling, so it was a hard habit to break. I tried a different tack this time around and spoke openly (when asked) and it absolutely helps – I mean, I still feel like a loon when I’m rattling off my symptoms, but it’s good to talk. Remember that, whether you’re the one struggling or you know someone who is.

I’m luckier still in one respect: I have Paul, who god love him, has had to deal with all manner of nonsense these last few months. The best one was when I had to wake him at 4am because I was panicking that I’m having auditory hallucinations through lack of sleep. Nope he explained, that’s just the gas meter door creaking outside, and cuddled me back off to sleep. He’ll also cheerfully explain why I haven’t got disease X or illness Y or Jay-Z. Everyone needs a Paul, but you can’t have mine. Seat’s taken.

Keep going!



writing: between a Hard Rock and up Shingle Creek

Howdo! The next chapter on our Florida tales involves two more hotel reviews, and what a time we had. Next chapter will be our Disney tales and listen, at some point, I promise to start posting food again. Maaaybe. I’m enjoying just writing, if I’m honest. Aaaaanyway, here we go!

Hard Rock Hotel

The third part of our holiday saw us returning back to an old favourite of ours, The Hard Rock Hotel. This hotel holds happy memories for us: we spent the second half of our honeymoon here, we had an ice-cream the size of our heads (which you must remember, in my case, is the size of three normal heads) and we ‘christened’ the butterfly garden on our way back from a drunken night on City Walk. Speckled wood? Well yes, but we were young and reckless with the portable douche. That joke only works if you’re enough of a lepidopterist to realise Speckled Wood is a type of butterfly, but you know what, I believe in you enough not to dumb this blog down. And you should be thankful I didn’t write a joke involving a brown hairstreak. Of course there was no such lewdness this time, but it’s always a pleasure to return back to somewhere familiar.

We turned up nice and early in the hope of being upgraded to the elusive Club 7, my fingers crossed so much that I could barely sign the check-in slip, but no such luck. The lady breezily checking us in poured salt into the wound by saying we’d have been upgraded if only we had been staying just a couple of days, but for this trip, it wasn’t to be. We’ll always be what could’ve been, Paul and I. With the chance of free tiny sandwiches and warm bottles of Heineken dashed from our hearts, we at least enjoyed our room, themed as it was on rock music and musical paraphernalia. Our mirror had little etchings to show you how tall you were in comparison to music stars – turns out I’m as tall as Nick Cave, whereas Paul is the same height as Nick Cave’s plectrum.

Where this hotel loses marks is the pool – it’s so bloody shallow! I don’t understand why American pools all seem to be just deep enough to get your ankles wet and nothing more, and I’m sure there’s a very good explanation that I could find if I google, but it needs to stop. When Paul walks into the deep end and doesn’t so much get his nipples wet – and remember, they’re usually found somewhere just below his knees at this point – it’s not good enough. We tried swimming until we realised we could lie on the bottom of the pool and still fart without blowing bubbles, so that was the only time in the pool. I did google by the way: it’s to make it easier for the lifeguards, water deeper than a certain amount means more intense lifeguarding training to stop the kids drowning. Well don’t I feel bad. No, and I didn’t feel wet either.

But that’s the only negative I can say because the hotel itself is wonderful – full of curios and knick-knacks to keep my own curious little Nick-Nack happy. We’d be making our way to dinner and he’d point out that a dress Cher wore once was hanging in the lobby. At a total loss for what to do with this information I was spectacularly unable to come up with a witty reply – if only I could turn back time. Special mention goes to the Emack & Bolio shop on the ground floor which was ostensibly there for snacks but also served pizza the size of a ship’s wheel. It was proper American pizza too – gooey and cheesy and with more topping than an after-hours Eurovision party. We ordered one for the evening and in a first in our relationship, still had some leftover, so we stuck it in the fridge to enjoy the next day. The next day saw us at Busch Gardens and to my delight, Paul turned to me on the coach trip back to the hotel and confirmed that he too had been thinking about this pizza all day. Great minds think alike.

In our defence, the pizza was magnificent

One of my favourite nights of the holiday was at the Hard Rock actually. For all the days filled with rollercoasters and thrills, the quiet days where we spent a day wandering around the shops or the grounds of the various hotels were equally as fun. We decided, after watching Wheel of Fortune (I ended up _ T T _ R L _  O _ S _ S S _ D with this show), to have a walk down to the other hotels and see what was what. All of the ‘fancy’ hotels are linked by well-manicured walkways or a short boat ride and we ended up at the Portofino Bay hotel, just down the path. We’ve considered staying here a couple of times but it looks a bit too fancy for our tastes, so we’ve always swerved. But we found a little bar by the water and settled in for the night, ordering three starter platters and all manner of exciting cocktails and just people watching. There’s so much to be said for this: a theme park holiday can be so full-on that it’s nice to sit and smell the roses. Well, not that Paul could, I was busy smoking a cigar the size of a draught excluder like a budget Magnum PI(e). He didn’t complain: I never do when he serves contemporary Californian cuisine in my lungs, after all. We made our way back to our hotel room past midnight, drunk and happy. I sometimes wonder what it is we actually talk about and how we haven’t ran out of things to mention to the other – how it is that with a stranger I’ll be stuck for words, or I’ll bite my tongue, or I’ll struggle for a conversation hook but with him there’s none of that, it comes effortlessly. You’d think we’d be conversationally bankrupt at this point, and admittedly most of our discourse is Wife Swap quotes or one suggesting to the other that we eat, but even so. An amazing night in a constellation of wonderful days.

I love this picture, despite looking like a sudoric strawberry – I think it’s Paul regenerating in the background that makes it

Rosen Shingle Creek

Our last hotel was perhaps the most unexpected of them all – a wildcard visit because we’ve never heard of the Rosen brand and Shingle Creek sounds like something you’d rub a cream into and hope it cleared up so you could go back to wearing tight jeans. We only picked it because an eight night stay meant 80,000 extra Avios via rocketmiles and as the taxi swept us up the half-mile long drive into the biggest hotel I think I’ve ever seen, our interest was piqued.

Naturally we didn’t bother with any of that

Turns out it’s another ‘convention’ hotel – lots of rooms, one of the best golf courses in the state and almost endlessly hosting seminars and meet-ups for various industries. When we arrived they were hosting a convention for ‘Luxury Products’ (me neither) which meant all sorts of braying hoohahs wandering around with giant lips clacking away on their phones and speaking in that atrocious manner of elongating every vowel and ending each sentence in a questioning tone. As we aren’t ones for spending the day in the hotel this didn’t phase us too much, not least because we happened across a quiet pool away from the marketers. Strictly speaking the pool was only to be used for lane swimming but as there was rarely anyone there, it was perfect for splashing about in.

On one of the rare moments we were enjoying the sun and swimming, we were joined by a lady who came to get a few lengths in. I apologised for being in the pool and not lane swimming and for some ungodly reason, possibly because I didn’t want to be told off by someone with a lanyard on it extolling her Sapphire status, explained that I couldn’t swim and I was just practising. I can swim just fine, by the way. You would have hoped she would leave it at that but no, she was one of those very sweet people who see a problem and needs to fix it, so she started helping me learn to swim. Half a bloody hour I was in that pool with her coaching me on my technique – you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to strike a balance between pretending you can’t swim to keep up a pretence and swimming just enough to stop actually drowning. I tried to catch Paul’s eye in the hope he might fake us going back to the room but the rotter just laughed and waved his hand airily at me. I gave myself a reprieve by pretending I had a cramp in my leg but even this involved more schtick as I had to ‘hobble’ all the way to the sunbed, get dressed and walk back to the room like I had rickets just in case she saw.

Luckily the ‘Luxury Products’ symposium shuttled off halfway through the holiday and a convention of plumbers turned up in replacement. Now in all honesty I can’t imagine what plumbers have to talk about for three solid days – exciting developments in the world of washers perhaps, or thirty different ways to unblock a u-bend, but there must have been something captivating because suddenly our hotel was full of fit trade walking around the pool with their beer bellies on show. Imagine our distress.

The only issue with this hotel was the fact it was quite far away from anywhere, necessitating a lengthy walk to get back onto International Drive or jumping in an Uber. You can guess which of these we did most often, although we did have an exciting walk back from Publix one evening. We were just about to cross the road with our groceries when a car took the corner far too fast (showing off in their fancy hire), hit the kerb and popped their front tyres and took the bumper off. A very boorish British family climbed out to survey the damage to their car and we were treated to the sight of five very rah-rah wankers all arguing with each other. It was glorious! I almost put my neck out craning to listen. We found all manner of reasons to stand and eavesdrop – checking our phones, taking photos of each other, that sort of thing, until they all climbed back into the car and limped off. We’d see them again a few minutes later as they pulled into the car park of our hotel, still shouting, and then got the courtesy bus to the lobby, all the while still screaming at each other. You know in old cartoons when you’d get a giant ball of smoke and fists flying out? Imagine that but with whatever the FM World knock-off of Creed Aventus is. This continued into the lobby. Now did we both walk past with smug ‘at least I can drive’ faces? You best believe it.

The other joy of this hotel (and perhaps a result of it being a little cut off from anywhere else) was the sheer amount of dining options – it was like having a food court onsite without the risk of someone shouting SAMPLE SAMPLE in your face and throwing a tub of chicken teriyaki at you. We ate extravagantly and often and without any care towards the final bill at the end – that’s the peril of sticking a card behind the counter when you check in. We had burgers, sushi, sandwiches, salads, grilled cheese and so many fried pickles that when I went for a piss I thought I had an STI, then when we had finished all of that, we moved onto our mains. Special mention must go to the Mexican place, Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, which promised big drinks and bold flavours and delivered in spades, with one of their margaritas served in a glass that would normally be reserved for serving woo-woos to a hen party in a city centre Wetherspoons. We ordered some freshly made guacamole without realising that a) some poor chap actually came to the table and made it in front of you (which was awkward) and b) you were given enough to comfortably skim an Artex ceiling, should you be so inclined. Now see I love guacamole but Paul isn’t a huge fan, but I couldn’t bear the thought of this chap coming back to collect the bowl and seeing we’d left most of it after his dexterous turn with the limes and the avocado, so I, somewhat grimly, ploughed my way through almost on my own. Paul deigned to help by dipping a tortilla chip in and scooping up about a fingernail’s worth then crinkled his nose and said he was full. He’s HELF now, remember.

Tell you what though, brave little sausage that I am , I put away nearly all of it, and when the chap came to collect the bowl he saw it was almost empty and gave us a big thumbs up. I smiled as much as someone can manage when they’ve got avocado pressing into every single square inch of their already quite large body and he went away happy. We had to call it a night at this point because I needed to spend a good three hours rubbing my belly and making ‘poor me’ faces to Paul until he tired of my schtick, put his headphones in and pretended to go to sleep. He can be quite the callous lover, you know.

There’s no case too big, no case too small
When you need help, just call
Ch-ch-ch-Chips ‘n Pale

And that was that. The Rosen Shingle was our final hotel on this wonderful holiday and it was a pleasure to stay there. Breaking the holiday up into four loose quarters and staying at four different venues was the perfect way to do it – it meant on ‘quiet’ days you had somewhere new to explore and you didn’t sicken yourself with the same foods each day. We were both given an opportunity to do what we love doing at home four times over – Paul ironing all the clothes, me packing them away diligently, and that’s always fun. I’m not one of these sorts who can live out of a suitcase, I find it altogether too stressful if I can’t see all of the 456 Fred Perry tops I’ve packed at any given time. We’d happily recommend all four hotels if you’re looking to go away, with the Contemporary and Hard Rock winning out on sheer convenience, the Hilton a close third and Rosen Shingle in fourth, but in no way indicative of the enjoyment of our stay at any of them.

Now we just need to plan the next round…


urgent: cancel your black veil order right away

Because you won’t be needing them just yet – in a marvellous bit of efficiency, I’ve had my CT scan results back and everything looks normal. I’ve taken a look myself and I am assuming the ‘Unremarkable Head’ in the notes is a medical term and not someone critiquing my blowjob skills because they would be absolutely wrong. I could suck a golf-ball through a 40m garden hose without breaking a sweat.

What an opener! I was trying to be very good and sensible by not checking my NHS app to see if the results were in, and don’t get me wrong I was very proud of myself for those four minutes, but I cracked and checked on the off-chance. There’s nothing quite like that fear of clicking the link to look at your results and wondering exactly how long you’ve got left to live and how quickly Paul could order me a piano box. There’s also the very real danger of misinterpretation (which is why, if you’re anxious, you shouldn’t do this) and I know this from previous experience where I spent a good two days panicking about my heart only to realise I’d totally misread the detail and given myself a rough time for no reason. Exercise caution and if you’re unsure, leave it to the professionals. In fact, no, nevermind caution: always leave it to the professionals. I had a follow-up chat with the doctor who has reassured me that my bloods and my scan paint a pretty healthy picture and although I could stand to lose a couple of stone, I was actually doing bloody well. In the absence of him giving me a lollipop for being a brave boy, I made myself a certificate for the fridge:

So, how does someone suffering with health anxiety deal with getting an all-clear result? Interesting question, even if I say so myself. Which I’m obviously doing, as I’m writing this blog. You might expect that the relief is overwhelming, and of course it is after spending weeks telling yourself you’re on your way out and you’ve wasted your life, but this is where the fun of health anxiety comes in. See the next step of the trap is doubting the doctors. What if they missed something? What if they spilled some kahlúa on the results? What if every time they looked at the scan they popped their thumb over the exact place where something fizzy and nasty was growing? What if they ran out of oblique Simpsons references? What if what if what if.

Certainly, in darker times, I’ve gone down the route of assuming the worst and demanding second opinions and retests and wanting to look at their medical degree to assume they didn’t pluck it out of a crane-grab machine in a bowling alley (got one more in!). Let me tell you: it’s fucking exhausting. Not least because that level of narcissism, thinking you know better than someone who has trained for years and who doesn’t have an ulterior motive in seeing you shuffle off the Earth, takes some serious ego-upkeep. If we pop back in time a good ten years ago, and once you’re over the shock of seeing what a beautiful young man I was, you’d find me absolutely adamant that I was dying and everyone was wrong and why wasn’t anyone listening. My legs were going full Riverdance, my body felt like I’d been plugged into the National Grid, my balls were hurting, my brain was aching, my heart was clearly about to burst like a child’s balloon filled with butter. I was ill, and no-one was paying any attention, and any tests they did were lip-service at best. Honestly, I cringe with how arrogant I was, but that’s the indulgence of health anxiety: you’re simultaneously the cleverest and sickest person in the room.

Whaddya know though, here I am ten years later. I was ill, no doubt about that, but it was an illness my brain had created and then, because I was on edge for months, my body created physical symptoms not of some scary life-threatening disease but rather anxiety. You know when you get a fright – say you open your electricity bill and they’ve printed it on A3 to make sure all the numbers fit on – and you’re shaky and all-to-cock afterwards? It’s exactly the same with health anxiety – you spend so long worked up in a tizz that your body doesn’t properly shut down and relax. Like the cleaning of a house, it never ends. That’s another!

So you – or rather I – have a choice. You can choose to take steps to accept you’re not about to die and maybe this is a chaos of your own control, or you can keep distrusting the medical professionals and carry on sending yourself back into the storm. If you choose the former, you’ll recover, and if you choose the latter, you’ll worsen. At this point of the story it’s as binary as that. It’s how I beat health anxiety before: I decided enough was enough with fretting about every little twitch, every little shake and every little hiccup and just got on with things. And that is exactly what I am doing now.

I don’t doubt for a second that the next few weeks, maybe months, are going to be difficult at times: I am trying to come up with a good analogy for what it’s like at the moment and the best I can do is a river with a load of chemicals poured in. The balance of me is all over the shop and it’s going to take time to right it by de-stressing, being a bit more mindful of my reactions to things and, more importantly, not sitting on my fat arse and not doing anything about it. When I twitch I’ll accept it for what it is – the by-product of an overworked body. My eye will heal and stop being so much of a nuisance if I stop focussing on it all the time. The on-the-cusp-of-a-panic-attack moments will re-record, not fade away. And in time, just like the many, many times before, the ship will right itself. Because what’s the alternative? I retreat further into myself and waste my life worrying about what could be? No fucking chance: I’ve got books to write and a dog to play with.

And, at the end of all of this, if it turns out I do have something terrible, I can at least turn around and say to him, as I gasp my last in the best damn hospital room that an eighth-book royalties cheque can buy, that I was right all along.


Oh, before I go, actually: as I was writing the previous entry, I remembered a passage in one of my favourite books, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (so good they named him twice) where he recounts his own experience with a flush of health anxiety. If you ever wanted to hear what health anxiety is like as described by someone who can actually write a joke, now’s your chance. I’ve copied it out below.

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into – some fearful, devastating scourge, I know – and, before I had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus’s Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too, – began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically – read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.

I swear, if it was Jerome K Jerome who got me onto health anxiety (and men smoking pipes in boats), I’ll be blaming my English teacher for time evermore. Damn you Ms Westgarth!

Oh and another final, final point – I’ve had so many wonderfully kind messages both on here and our various social media streams. I have tried to reply to them all, and I’ve certainly read each one, but the difficulty becomes I spend too much time talking about this so it never leaves my head. I will always try and reply at some point, but if I don’t, please do not take offence. I’m writing these blogs for myself, so that I may look back in the future and realise what a silly goose I am. I’m publishing them because I know others find them helpful, and that’s just fine. But if I don’t correspond, that’s not a reflection on the quality of your discourse or an apathy towards your predicament, but rather me taking steps not to overindulge my silly, fussy, always over-thinking, brain.


round and round and round we go – update

So ahead of getting started with twochubbycubs stuff, and partly because I want an excuse to write, I thought I’d update on last week’s post because I received so many lovely comments and questions from people about it. I can’t decide if it comes across as too naval-gazing or self-indulgent to temporarily use a food blog to discuss mental health issues, but fuck it, let’s roll the dice. I can always stick a scrambled eggs recipe on next week to take the edge off things. Social media, blogs, reels, updates – they all present these perfect little glimpses into us living our best lives. Nobody ever writes a blog post about a time they want to forget, after all. Such curated happiness is all well and good, but if you’re suffering with your mental health it can seem a bit like you’re the only one out there who can’t quite get their ducks in a row. Whilst I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on the matter, and lord knows we don’t currently need yet more armchair-experts online, I hope that by writing about the bad times and how I’m getting through, it can hold a mirror up. It also helps me on a personal note, because having a catalogue of my thoughts that I can refer back to at a later point when things have settled down and I’m not totally doolally is a comfort. Of course, I could do that privately (and I do – there’s as much blog unpublished than there is published), but well, got to keep the wheel spinning.

So yep, please do forgive the (hopefully temporary) change of pace here.

In truth, I’m actually feeling a bit better. To recap: started having eye-pain back in December (and yes, I’ve been to the opticians twice over now – was a bit remiss of me to miss that key part out in my last post) and since then, have been in a cycle of expecting it to go away, being disappointed it hasn’t, worrying about it, trying to stop that worry swelling up and triggering my health anxiety and now full-blown anxiety about the fact it is clearly a brain tumour. Or MS. Or Parkinsons. Or CJD. Or a brain bleed because I saw that on a reddit post. Or any number of exciting and terrifying cancers.

When I’m feeling rational, this is what I think it is: I strained my eye muscles watching TV whilst lying down, and rather like when you sprain your ankle, it took a while to heal. Because it wasn’t immediate, my brain took issue with the fact that it hadn’t disappeared and started fretting. When you’re anxious, you tense up, and that means more strain on the muscle – and that makes it worse. Plus, I’m hyper-aware of my body at the moment, so every little pain or twinge that I’d normally dismiss is a CLEAR SIGN OF THINGS GETTING WORSE.

But because I’m anxious, I’m over-analysing everything, and this constant state of feeling anxious and worried is keeping me in this little vicious cycle. When you are anxious, your body is in a heightened state of alertness and adrenaline is pumping all over the place – it’s why the heart races, it’s what a panic attack is: a fear response. Because I’ve had two months of living like this, my body is worn out. My newest symptom is jerky legs and arms which has been fun, but totally normal when you think of what’s going on in my body. My body is like a spring that someone has been tightening ever so slowly for the last few weeks, and all that built up energy needs to come out. Essentially, I need to relax, and take a few weeks to calm the body back down. Which sounds incredible when you think I’ve just been away for five weeks, I know, but it was still always at the back of my mind.

But I said I was feeling better, and I am. Remember I said I was going for a CT scan? The lovely folks at my local hospital moved my appointment forward from late March to this morning – brilliant. I should say they didn’t ring me up with a grave voice advising me to come in as soon as possible – the CT scan remains ‘routine’ not ‘fuck me, don’t make any weekend plans’, I had called up on the off-chance of a cancellation and the sun of good luck shone on me. Naturally being me I turned up an entire hour early which gave me an opportunity to fret about things before going in. I was distracted by a cleaner who seemed in remarkably good cheer considering it was 7.40am and I had (accidentally) kicked her cleaning bucket and then sat in the chair she was trying to clean. I did apologise profusely and offer to help but she was having none of it, possibly guessing how distracted I was and fearful I’d start a fire with her bottle of Flash or knock a wall down in my haste to assist. You know though, I’ve poured countless words into this blog over the years about how amazing the NHS is, but today was another good example: from the receptionist who pointed out I was in the wrong department, to the cleaner who was whistling and cheerful at such an early hour, to the kind nurse who answered my questions about the scan with patience and good humour and who didn’t laugh when I stopped being brave and shut my eyes during the scan – we’re still on a perfect hot streak with wonderfully kind and patient NHS staff. You’ll miss it when it’s gone, I promise, and for the love of God think about that next year when it comes to putting an X in a box.

But the scan itself was nothing – lie on a table, try not to move. I’ve had a number of MRIs over the years (surprise!) and this was nothing compared to those. If anything, I missed the chance to try and doze whilst the world’s worst techno played. I did have a little seatbelt put over my skull to keep my head still, something which didn’t pass without snark from my mate who enquired whether they needed to get one of those bright orange extenders like they do on aeroplanes for those of us carrying significant extra baggage. Luckily I’m used to being restrained and told to keep still – indeed, it made a change not to have a pair of boots perched on my back during.

I’m now facing seven to ten days before someone takes a look at the results and lets my doctor know. Whilst I am fully expecting this week to be a rough one – for all the time I spend telling myself it’ll be nothing, another scan I’ve had done which shows I’m alright really, I spend an equal time trying to block out the ‘what if it is this’ and ‘what if they find that’. I’ll be fine – as I said, feeling better – but it’s still exhausting. Weirdly, if they do find something – chances vanishingly small, remember – I’ll cope. I didn’t think I would, but the same chap who made the seatbelt gag also pointed out that when I’ve previously had a genuine medical issue, I’ve been remarkably stoic about it and got through it with minimal fuss. Well no, lots of fuss, but not as much as you’d expect from someone with a brain capable of turning an ingrown toe into advanced sepsis or diagnosing himself with weeks to live when his hayfever was bad. I cope so much better with absolute than abstraction: that’s why health anxiety is such a fucking knobhead. If someone tells me my ear will fall off tomorrow, I can plan and deal with it accordingly, but if I read somewhere there’s a chance my ear could fall off, I’ll spend weeks worrying about it until I kick myself mentally up the arse and get on with things.

So that’s where I am right now. I am hopeful that the scan will come back with nothing to report and once that happens, I can work on calming my anxiety back down. As that happens, the adrenaline and stress rolling around in my body will abate and the symptoms will ease off. That means I won’t have so many ‘triggers’ and I can begin the climb back to feeling normal. I’m going to try and keep busy this week and keep my fingers crossed (that’ll be my stenosing tenosynovitis getting worse) that the report comes back as soon as possible, though. I want to get started, whatever that means.

Before I go, a final thought. I’ve touched on it a few times as the reason I’m writing these blogs, but it bears repeating: it really does help to talk to people about this. I’ve made the mistake way back when of keeping this bottled up, and trust me, it’s the worst thing you can do. It’s like getting a bottle of fizzy pop and shaking it up – at some point that lid is coming off and it’s going to be messy. I’ve made a point this time of letting people know what I am going through. When people ask how I am, I’m not replying on autopilot and pretending everything is fine, because lord knows it isn’t. And it helps so damn much. Sometimes you need to just pour your thoughts out and have someone listen. If you’re on the other side – if you have someone confiding in you – listen. You don’t need to provide answers and solutions, just an ear. I’m lucky to have a pretty damn good circle of people I can trust and talk to, and doubly so for having this space to get it all down, and if you’re in the same boat I encourage you to try and find the same.

That’s enough from me, anyway. Thanks for reading!


*taps mic* this thing still on?

I feel we are long overdue an update, aren’t we?

Firstly, we’re both fine, thank you so much for asking. You didn’t ask? I see.

We actually managed to sneak away on holiday in January – returning (finally) to Florida for a few weeks of rollercoasters, waterslides and as much culture as one might find on a bleached petri dish. Listen, nobody goes to Disney to stroke their chins and exclaim ‘but what can one feel from such a representation’* or other such bollocks. You go to make sure your vestibular system knows who’s really in charge and to spend money so fast you get scorch marks on the tips of your fingers.

* I mention this because we did actually meet someone like this in the queue for Tower of Terror – a walking haircut who held up the queue to inform everyone around her, very loudly, of how wrong the ‘period’ theming of the hotel was. Ma’am, you’re in a theme park, no-one is impressed. Save it for Twitter. To add insult to injury, she stepped on Paul’s foot and blankly refused to apologise – luckily she was wearing some god-awful shoes knitted from llama-hair or suchlike, so it barely registered.

I’ll say only this, with an eye to some future blog posts that’ll cover it in more detail: we had the most amazing, incredible time. I’d go so far to say it was the best holiday we’ve ever had and listen, if that doesn’t impress you, know that we once did a three day coach holiday to Birmingham.

Urgh, get a room, right.

Because of this, the holiday blues that I usually feel after some time away were absolutely off-the-charts. Now I know there’s nothing more self-indulgent than feeling sorry for yourself when you’ve been lucky enough to get away from the relentless misery that is the UK, and for that I apologise only a shade. You must realise that I am an emotional being at the best of times, I just hide it behind a well-groomed façade of indifference. As a result, the last couple of weeks have been emotionally hard-going.

This has been compounded yet further by my own health anxiety conspiring against me in its most vicious form. In my last entry on here I wrote of some ongoing eye pain (like someone pressing a thumb in the back of my left eye) and how I was being stoic and using all my previous coping mechanisms to get through it. I felt as though I was doing well. But see, that was back in December and I was banking on the eye nonsense sorting itself out and buggering off by now. Alas, no. So although the last few weeks have been tremendous, they’ve been tempered with the utter exhaustion of having to manage my own health anxiety and what feels like an almost permanent headache. On holiday you can distract yourself with amazing things, but this isn’t the same at home, and as a result I’ve been pondering more than I should.

Without doubt, this has been the hardest period of prolonged mental health difficulties I have faced in many years and whilst I know it will clear, I am really bloody tired of it. I only write this now because I have been very frank about my anxiety through the nine years of this blog and have written at length about how I successfully manage my anxiety – it is important then to show the other side of the coin and write about the bad times too. I’ll be fine, though.

The inevitable result of this ongoing malaise is my demotivation to do all the usual things with twochubbycubs. A good example: would you want to sit in front of a computer typing out a blog post or editing videos if the screen made your eyes hurt? Of course not. But I love doing this, and so when I find myself wanting to write but unable to motivate myself to do so, it magnifies the shitty feelings still further. The less I do, the more I miss.

This leaks out still further into other aspects of my life: I feel disinclined to do other things – gym, running, going out, cooking, eating healthily, making an effort because I am tired and stressed as a result of the eye issue and the subsequent health anxiety tussle. But those things are what bring comfort and happiness and without them, the vicious circle continues and grows. I think of my health anxiety like putting a glass of diesel into a petrol car – I’m still going to motor along, but it’s going to be strained and the journey bumpier as a result. Listen, I don’t know if that analogy quite works because my mechanical knowledge extends only to what colour boxers our local Kwik Fit bloke wears, but you get the drift.

But: enough is enough. As cathartic as typing all of the above was, I’m painfully aware of how self-pitying it comes across. This blog entry is more me trying to put a full stop on the last few weeks of moping and listening to my theatrical and dramatic brain and instead, choosing to be more proactive about fixing the various things I’ve let slide.

So. I’ve been back to the doctors (for only the second time since all of this kicked off, a vast improvement on previous episodes where I saw the doctor so often his wife grew jealous) and explained the eye-pain was still there. He asked that I stop masturbating – not because it was affecting my vision, he just couldn’t get the blood pressure cuff on my jostling arm. Ayoo. I spoke very honestly about how I am sure it is nothing but how the ongoing pain was causing me more mental distress than anything else, and he was ever so lovely.

That’s a point worth mentioning, especially to those who suffer with health anxiety. Mention it to your doctor when you see them: don’t go in demanding every test you can think of, but do explain that you’re prone to catastrophising and ask the questions that are bothering you. For example, my main worry about all of this is that I have some dark tumour billowing in my brain that may reach a critical mass at any point and remove my inability to sing along to any Pet Shop Boys song. He took the time to explain why it is very, very unlikely to be anything of that nature – I’d have more symptoms, they’d be far more permanent, I’ve got a head so big he’s surprised the USA haven’t shot it down and so I could comfortably grow a tumour in there with room to spare, that sort of thing. He was – always is – very patient and kind, and I imagine most doctors will be the same if you have concerns.

With my worries somewhat abated, we agreed that I would go for a CT scan (purely precautionary) next month to have a look in my head. It’ll be like the space-docking scene in Interstellar but with a fraction more Geordie. They’re also taking bloods to make sure I’m still o-HAAAAY positive. So we shall see where that goes. I am hopeful that they’ll find nothing more than stalactites and snot up in there, and I can stop worrying, and in turn, my health anxiety will fuck off. It’s certainly how I managed to beat all my other previous life-ending conditions that I diagnosed myself with.

On a more personal note, I’ve created a little bucket list of self-improvement, and I’ll be working towards that over the year. It’s like I’m revising for my GCSEs, only I’m not sacking it off to play Max Payne instead. This bucket list isn’t because I think I’m dying, I should say, but rather I work so much better when I have things to aim for than I do when I allow myself to procrastinate. Again, we’ll see how that pans out.

Which brings me neatly to you lot and twochubbycubs. I know I’m a terror for false promises about content, but I am going to make a concerted effort from March 1 to update more often, create new recipes and write more. I bloody love writing and you best believe that five weeks in Florida has provided me with stories and views I want to share. There’s also the small matter of refreshing the older recipes. Hell, I might even get around to adding a functioning search button and a website refresh, but let us not get giddy. I do promise to try harder, though.

Finally then – a thank you. This may sound a little over-the-top but when my mood is low, seeing people cooking our recipes or reading the reviews for our books or just being decent in our facebook group is a genuine tonic. As are the Instagram messages from folks saying they’re cooking for the first time or a blog post has made them laugh or they’ve seen us in ASDA or just wanting a chat. We’re terrible at replying because we get so many, but we do read them and enjoy them. Keep doing that, please. For those that have subscribed to the blog, thank you, you’re why I keep writing these.

Onwards, then.


goodbye to 2022, no, not 22022, but 2022 – I couldn’t be clearer on this matter

Hello there: I’d apologise for the next few paragraphs, but you know what you’re getting with us by now.

I write this entry not by way of update, but by means of a goodbye. See, I have been poorly for three whole days now and events are now hastening me to the end. As someone who enjoys the giddy thrills of health anxiety, and an occasional dabbler in Eastenders spoilers, I have diagnosed myself with a brain tumour. Plus, for good measure: bum cancer, gastroenteritis, pneumonia (double pneumonia mind you, it is Christmas after all), encephalitis, fuch eye disease (genuine thing, and don’t google it) (you googled it, and see it wasn’t actually so bad) (but do what you’re told), parentheses-overuse strain and, for a brief yet terrifying moment, the worry that I’d been forgetting to take my contact lenses out of an evening and had built up an entirely functional second eye facing into my mind. Imagine being able to see inside myself: I’m 97% cherry cola Elf Bar and the rest piss and vinegar, no-one needs that.

Of course the reality of my situation is that I have the sickness and Does It Always Run Really Horribly Over Each Ankle (you’re welcome) bug that everyone else has both had and seemingly taken the time to make sure they wipe their shitty fingers on every conceivable surface I would later go on on touch. I wouldn’t mind so much – I love a good sit down at the best of times – but it’s become a source of mystery to me exactly where all of this effluence coming from. Simple maths would suggest that if there’s only a plain sandwich and a cup of tea going in then a similar volume should come back out, but goodness no – going to the toilet at the moment is like playing the world’s worst slot machine. Sometimes you get three bells and a few dinky coins drop out and you feel grateful for a good time, sometimes the sevens roll in and it’s like someone crashed a plane into Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin.

The constant use of the bathroom means we are saving money though: the heat produced from the simultaneous whirring of both the electricity and water meter wheels mean we’re officially off-grid. I’ve oft-mocked Paul on this very blog for his urgent need to defecate the second he steps off a plane, enters a new hotel room, clears his throat or blinks, and now here I am hurtling out of the room at any given moment shrieking as though the chair I was sitting on had suddenly electrified. Worse, I return from the bathroom looking like Matt Smith when they put the old-man make-up on him in The Time Of The Doctor. It’s no life, but Paul does have the good grace (and inherent sensibility) not to look smug, I’ll give him that.

On top of my arsehole looking like the map from the Bonanza opening credits (one for the oldies there), I’ve also had a terrible headache behind my left eye for the last few weeks. I say terrible because it’s me and I can’t go a single moment without hyperbole otherwise I’ll die, and naturally that ‘constant’ headache has actually been intermittent and only mildly painful, but even so – I’ve been mentally preparing my funeral wishes. In the spirit of over-sharing and just in case for the first time in my life I’ve actually managed to correctly pre-empt my own quietus, my wishes are simple:

  • please burn rather than bury me: yes, it’ll be like when they burned all the cows during the foot and mouth crisis, but I eat well and the smell will be delicious – plus it’ll be good to choke someone on my smoke one last time
  • I’d like Abide with Me played at the funeral, and not just because Eastenders did it (beautifully) when Dot died, but because it’s the best hymn in the world
    • well, after ‘Were You There’, that is, but if we had that at my funeral, half of the North East’s plumbers, tradesmen and passing lorry drivers would have to pause, dab their eyes and nod solemnly when the line ‘I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?‘ came about)
    • that said, circling back to Eastenders, if you wanted to play the duff-duff when the curtain fell across my coffin, I’d be absolutely game, doubly so if you could finagle Sonia into doing it on the trumpet
  • be sure there’s the most terrific buffet you’ve ever seen put on at the wake – and double whatever the amount you were planning on putting on because it’s rare I associate with anyone whose belt doesn’t come from the back of the rack;
  • scatter my ashes somewhere wonderful and plant a tree somewhere I’d love, though I imagine you’ll have a fight on your hands getting Moto to agree to the planting of a sapling in the gents at any services along the A1

Either way, it’ll be fun. Just be sure to look after Paul: he needs three square meals and eighteen opportunities to tell people he’s lost weight a day otherwise he gets fussy.

The eye thing isn’t really anything to be concerned about: a few weeks ago Paul was away for a couple of days and I spent 24 hours watching 24, with the remaining six hours staring at my phone and doing indiscreet things to myself, resulting in eye strain and wrists that sound like corn popping in a microwave. In a way, it is fuch-eye disease, but not in the way google suggests. As I’m forever wearing my glasses for a moment and setting them aside for an exciting treasure hunt four days later, the eye strain is taking a while to wear off, and as I am focused (well, barely) on it, I’m exacerbating the situation, and it’s all very tiresome. I have had an optician look deep into my eyes and reassure me via the faint whiff of their breakfast breath that everything is fine, so mustn’t worry. Plus I used my own health anxiety against myself and examined my own medical notes from 2017, which revealed the exact same issue and a similar timescale of recovery. I knew having my medical notes printed and bound over sixteen luxurious editions would pay for itself in the long run.

Oh! Those notes did spit out something curious though: in 2018, there’s a note in there for ‘removal of a foreign body’ at my doctor’s surgery. I can say now with absolute sincerity that I have zero idea what this refers to, and nothing either side of this mysterious entry sheds any light. It’s not even as though I can ask for elaboration – the doctor has long since gone – but that is going to itch away at me for the next few weeks until I shoot upright in bed with my epiphany. Will keep you posted.

Anyway, I mention all of the above as a somewhat jokey goodbye, but of course it isn’t goodbye (just yet). But this will be the final post of 2022, and I thought it would be good to finish it the way we started it – 1200 words about nonsense and no food recipe. But 2023 will bring change and good things four all, I promise. The gentlest reminder that our cookbooks make wonderful Christmas presents and it isn’t too late to get them ordered for those you are stuck for. They’re on Amazon and bookshops but I won’t sully this by spamming you with links.

Assuming Paul and I don’t shit our arses off, we’ll see you in 2023, and until then, have the most amazing Christmas, lord knows you’ve earned it.

James x

PS: Christmas Goomba says hi.