The wedding shirt

‘What a difference a day makes’. 

As well as being a lovely song it’s often something I think about a lot – how you can wake up 24 hours after a significant event and feel completely different – or that your circumstances have changed dramatically. 

It can be very poignant sometimes – but today it doesn’t ring true at all. In my case it should read a bit more like ‘What a difference three months of effort makes!’


The photo posted here is significant for a number of reasons. 

In December 2014 my wonderful friend of many years got married and I had nothing to wear. 

I looked online for some smart clothes (men like me can rarely walk into shops on the high street) to wear and bought a pair of trousers and a nice shirt. 

When they arrived very close to the date of the event I was mortified. Neither fitted, despite what the label said. The shirt was a whole size smaller than my others and the trousers looked like Lycra leggings. 

Eventually I went to the wedding in dark jeans and a shirt I wore all the time. It was a real low point. 

It’s not the only time I’ve had cause to feel weight related guilt about a significant event like this –  but that’s a story for another blog entirely. 

This morning I woke up early and went for a walk around the park. Two laps this time, and only two benches. This is definite progress. The time it takes me to do two laps now is almost the same time it used to take me to do one. 

It still tires me out though so I came home and had a short snooze in my armchair.

(Zzzzzzzz)

When I awoke I felt like I needed a new horizon, and it’s been many years since I tried to stroll around Leamington with no purpose. 

Just walking for the fun of it. What a novel idea. 

I parked in the same place as I did the last time I came into town (that time with a purpose) 12 weeks ago and started to meander to a whole different range of coffee shops. 

The last time was NOT easy at all – and back in May I wrote about the experience of meeting my brother at the Fat Birds cafe. 

It wasn’t a pleasant walk. I urge you to follow the link and re-aquatint yourself with how I was doing back then. 

This morning I thought ‘why not just give it a go?’ Often the fear associated with things like this in my head is very different to the reality. Honestly I never know what it’s going to feel like until I try it. 

After a quick shower I started to get dressed and reached for one of my usual shirts in the wardrobe. Then stopped. 

What if… What IF the wedding shirt fits?

I took it off the hangar, pulled it on and buttoned it up. It fitted!!! Furthermore it felt nice and loose! The material was comfy too. It wasn’t cheap when I bought it. 

I went into the spare room and uncovered my mirror. It’s hidden for a reason. I hate the ****ing thing. 

Mentally I punched the air. It looked goooood! 

This is the shirt JUST before my next size range. In a few weeks I can begin to burn my bridges and THROW AWAY ALL OF THE SHIRTS AND JEANS I WILL NEVER EVER EVER WEAR AGAIN. 

(Ahem)

So – now you know why that pic is important to me. So important in fact that I immediately sent it to my awesome friend, telling her it should officially be considered a wedding photo. 

I’m not sure it will make the album, but y’know – better late than never!

Anyway. I’m now in a coffee shop. 

The walk to here is relatively easy now compared to my previous blog. No sitting on the way, no burning legs, no fear of dropping dead – just a walk into town. 

On top of two and a half miles around the park

Sure – I still get out of breath a bit, and my legs tire still making me pause occasionally – but it’s a nice excuse to stop and look at shop windows and street signs, which today seems to have been placed in front of me with great serendipity. 


Internet – I can’t help feeling that this is a perfect motto to end on. 

Whatever you are or want to be – be a good one. 

A day may make a difference but a victory won with sustained effort is infinitely sweeter when it arrives. Here’s to all the other shirts on the horizon and the next hard won milestone!

Davey

Club 10 award – NAILED it!

It’s a warm sunny day, and as I promised myself last week I am again walking to Slimming World.

On the way there’s a house with a hedge that’s insanely neat. So neat in fact that it’s an absolute marvel. There’s barely a leaf out of place. The owner has even trimmed it so that it’s grown around (but not obscured) the street sign on the side of his property. I think I’m interested in it primarily because it represents a hell of a lot of effort and time – and I’m impressed by the dedication (or crippling OCD) it must take to maintain.

If there was an appropriate chocolate box on which to place this hedge it would certainly sell a lot of confectionary.

Normally focusing on a point of the journey would happen I was exhausted or needed to rest. However on this occasion I wasn’t gasping for breath. I just liked the trimmed topiary.

(A curly haired ex colleague and fellow Airplane! fan will appreciate this as she knows I’m drawn such things. We’ve discussed them many times in the past.)

In fact something else was on my mind. My teeshirt was falling off my shoulder and it was annoying me. I tugged it up and straightened it around my waist. How crap was I at dressing myself?!

Had I put it on back to front or something?…

I carried on walking past the hedge and on to the nearby church. After a few feet I noticed it was now falling off the other shoulder and realised that I wasn’t in need of a man servant to clothe myself – instead my tee-shirt (previously tight) was now becoming too large. It used to be one of my more ‘fitted’ ones that always required some gentle stretching around the waist area after being laundered.

Pleased with this revelation I decided to work with the off the shoulder look and carry on.

The group was lively this morning and thankfully the ladies didn’t seem to notice my wardrobe malfunction. There were a couple of new starters joining the group this today and a lot of energy – with more people than usual and a few faces I hadn’t seen for a while which was nice.

I was more interested in breakfast though. I hadn’t eaten or taken my pills yet and I wanted a hi-fi bar ready for IMMEDIATELY after I weighed in. I grabbed some (Banana Milkshake will have to do in place of the Jam Roly Poly flavour thats no longer there) logged in with my membership card and moved to the weigh in line.

Now – it might seem like I say this too often, but I genuinely was not expecting any significant progress this week. My perception of the week had (from an eating perspective) been largely negative and (as I shared in group) I had been annoyed with myself less with what I ate, but the quantity and speed with which I ate it. I hadn’t forgiven myself fully for massacring 3 packs of M&S ham pieces, 450g of cherry tomatoes and 6 apples a few nights ago. Sadly this episode had not been isolated – and I comfort ate in the evening on other days too after some really depressing days at work.

I felt therefore like I had been letting myself down and backsliding.

However – last week I did a lot of walking, and sometimes I find exercise losses are deferred for a week. Today’s results once again re-inforced that theory and I lost 6lbs!!!

Not only did I have a great loss – but this figure hit the jackpot in terms of sticker bling, and Angie’s Vegas slot machine of certificates, adhesive labels and fridge magnets just kept paying out. The front of my book (which was virgin territory at 10.30am) was already filling up by midday.

Today saw me get slimmer of the week, slimmer of the month, my three and a half stone award AND MY CLUB TEN AWARD!!!! This means that I have now lost over 10% of my starting body weight, and I’m already on the way to my 4 stone certificate.

Frankly I don’t need any more wins today. I could get my car stolen and I’d still be in a good mood.

As I sat drinking my coffee and munching my hi-fi bar(s) I was also pleased to see was the success of other members of the group – and one (seated close by) was doing better than she had ever done in the whole time of attending SW with Angie. She looked really happy when this was pointed out, and rightly so.

It’s really nice to see the smiles of slightly embarrassed pride on people’s faces when they do well, and it puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Some others were bravely back to face the music and get stuck in again after holidays or weeks off – and I really admire them for staying to group.

It can be very easy to praise others (which they all do online and in the room) but so hard to praise yourself. I discussed this topic as I walked home with one of the ladies, and it’s clear that beating ourselves up but not others is a common trait we all share.

Learning how not to? Well that’s the trick isn’t it?

I’ve not succeeded this week thats for sure.

I knew when my slow cooking Facebook buddy in the group sat with her arms folded listening to the image therapy talk that she was having the same inner monologue I’ve had with myself many many times.

I wonder if it would help her to know how many photos (frikkin lots) I’d taken of the contents of my slow cooker to get just the right shot of my food so that I wouldn’t look like a newbie on Facebook when she checked out my results. She’s got TWO slow cookers and I only have a weeny one – so I consider her the Jedi Mistress of prolonged food preparation.

I probably wouldn’t have made the efforts I did without her tips (half an onion on the bottom under the meat – I’ve not forgotten!)

A good week is just a few filled to the brim slow cookers away! I know she can do it x

Anyway internet – I must get on with the day. Us unemployed people have incredibly busy schedules!!! Later I am meeting up with my brother and sister in law to indulge in the one remaining dirty, impure and depraved vice that I have left.

Coffee. Mmmmmmmmmmm….

Davey

Lifelong friends

‘Don’t you think th….’ began the sentence – but I couldn’t hear the end of it. My colleague’s lips were moving and she was looking me in the eye, but the words were lost.

There was no music in the background and no-one nearby was shouting or being rowdy, but the hubbub of people surrounding us had rendered it impossible to hear what she’d said. I watched her mouth move as she continued her sentence and just focused on her face.

She was smiling at me as she spoke, and the light was hitting her hair at just the right angle, making it shine underneath the brown sunglasses that were casually pushed back on her head.

It was a nice moment to remember. She looked happy and was reminiscing about good times.

The noise that drowned the conversation was coming from the large number of people from the past and present of our Global Customer Operations Centre (GCSC) that had travelled from far and wide to attend its ‘wake’ at the pub and to say goodbye.

Many started their careers in ops (as we call it) and had gone on to well paid and successful jobs. Some had stayed and decided to make the GCSC their career. All however (without exception it seemed) had fond memories of the times they had spent together and wanted to share them with each other one last time.

Two hours beforehand most of us had been gathered together in the office and were listening to our centre director give a closing speech before finally leaving the building and relinquishing our security passes.

He’s often not particularly politically correct during his public addresses, which genuinely makes me titter. His unvarnished and direct approach to staff relations can cause quite a bit of mirth at times and I think its fair to say that everyone in the room, whether they knew it or not looked to him to set the tone of the occasion.

He didn’t disappoint. This moment, said our director, was not about him. It was about us – and he wasn’t wrong.

It was then, while looking through the lens of my camera, that I then realised it was impossible to choose a subject to focus on. The foreground of everything I pointed at was just as important as the background.

Rather than taking pictures for a few seconds I lowered the camera and started watching people’s faces as they listened to him talk.

The expressions, body language, posture, proximity and demeanour of everyone showed a connected and joined group who were less concerned with the loss of a job and more preoccupied with how they would remain connected to the person standing next to, behind, or in front of them.

As I saw the groans and belly laughs, or embarrassment and mock disapproval of the often ribald leg pulling coming from the front of the room I felt was looking at everything through a microscope. Revealed under its lenses were the strands of DNA that formed the last 16 years of my life and as I looked at them I saw how they mingled and combined to become something with a life and personality of it’s own.

I kept coming back to the same word that kept surfacing with everyone else when I talked to them.

Family.

As I sit now, looking at the photos of today I’m not drawn to the faces smiling at the camera – I’m instead transfixed by the glimpses of people in the background – unaware that they are in a photograph, and just being themselves.

Unusually, none of the photos I took today contain anyone looking unhappy. They’re all talking to someone – in many cases to people they may not have seen for many years – and nothing seems different. They’re all right back there in the moment that they first met as if nothing has changed.

I feel rather selfish though as I had dreaded today for reasons other than the fear of how such an ending would make me feel.

All week long emotional eating had been a challenge and I thought this occasion would end up being the ultimate test of willpower. Upon my arrival at the office yet more waffles from Amsterdam appeared alongside boxes of samosas and spring rolls from Birmingham.

By the time we reached the ‘wake’ there were chips as far as the eye could see, and plates of sandwiches that had been cut into handy face stuffing sized triangles.

The aroma of lager filled the pub and temptation lurked in EVERY corner – but when it came down to it the people all around me mattered more than the food, and I was so happy to see all of them that I didn’t eat a thing.

As I write there are tears in my eyes. I’m pushing them back but they aren’t going without a fight.

I still can’t think about food. Today so many of my friends hugged me and told me they would miss me, or that they loved me and wanted the best for me that I’m full up to the brim just with the thought them, and things they said or did.

When I left the pub in the early afternoon I felt subdued and overwhelmed by it all. My mind was empty and I didn’t know what else to say. I’d shaken more hands than a politician – but there the similarity ended.

I meant every word that I had said to the people on the end of them. 

On the drive home the car was quiet to start with. Neither me or my suddenly ex-colleague (now he’s just my very excellent friend) knew what to say. It was almost like we’d been to a funeral and I know we both felt a sense of loss and more than a little hollow.

Then we started talking, and then we started laughing, and began again remembering everything from scratch. By the time we arrived at his house normality reigned, and his energetic children were soon running around the living room after a walk in the park.

It was his wife’s birthday and the house was full of energy as they readied themselves to go out for an evening meal.

He beckoned me to the fridge, laughing. When I leaned around the kitchen door he showed me the family’s latest talking point (names removed) designed to promote only the best behaviour in his youngsters.

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Now I’m unemployed I might make a similar chart for myself to ensure I maintain all of the above (although I am getting pretty good with poos and thumb sucking lately).

The chart on his freezer door was in fact the perfect reminder that no matter how we feel now tomorrow life will go on, the world will continue to turn and we’ll all have new challenges and hurdles to overcome. We’ll have to try hard and be as good as we can be to get our stars.

If we’re really really good then there may be a reward at the end.

On reflection though I think that today I already received mine.

I didn’t suddenly lose loads of colleagues – I just gained a huge portfolio of lifelong friends.

Davey

(ponders for a moment)

P.S.

A lady whose profile I have admired for many years mentioned today that she secretly hoped she would eventually appear in my blog and had waited patiently to see herself immortalised online.

It would be remiss of me, given the seemingly limitless hugs and pecks on the cheek I’ve received from her over the years to forget this fine woman, especially when I think about her parting words, which were both touching and reciprocated.

Consider yourself in my blog and thoughts xxx (hug)

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Breadcrumbs

There’s a rumble of thunder as I type, setting the tone adequately for how I feel at the moment. It heralded the arrival of torrential rain and as I sit at home with the curtain closed in a darkened room I can hear it hammering down on the roof of the wheely bin under my window.

The day is almost over and done with and like every Thursday that came before it will be followed tomorrow with Friday, which for once I wish wasn’t the case. I’m writing instead of getting upset but honestly I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive at the moment and I may end up doing both before I go to bed tonight.

My desk drawers at work are now empty. I moved all of my staples and paper clips into a Tupperware tub and put it in a big box nearby ready for disposal or re-use.

Until a few days ago the tub with a green lid and a smiley sticker contained conkers. There’s a tree in the grounds of the building that drops them in abundance and several years ago I collected loads of them to dry out and have a contest with my team to cheer them up.

I never got enough interest in the proposed activity but kept the conkers at the back of my drawer just in case for nearly a decade before finally throwing them away.

If the conker contest would ever have finally happened then mine would have been like perfectly aged orbs of granite that would have easily smashed their way to victory. Sadly it wasn’t to be – and instead of being the occasion of a final jubilant conker contest today was spent disposing of confidential waste and emptying unwanted possessions from desks, lockers and the kitchen cupboards into bins.

Oddly I came home with an unwanted cushion and 12 weetabix.

As people looked at the odds and ends left by colleagues and claimed orphaned mugs or cans of soup from the rest room I thought how sad it was that we were all picking at the bones of something that had died before its time.

It’s an ignominious end to something I loved – and to see the chairs, desks and room emptying of possessions and people is frankly heartbreaking.

A cushion and 12 weetabix though. Is that what it comes down to? I have no idea why I picked them up. 

It’s these often unnoticed everyday footprints that people leave behind that I find so poignant.

Little things are playing on my mind such as the card we all signed yesterday to say goodbye to the cleaner who has dusted our desks, washed our plates and hoovered our floor for years.

She’s quiet and unassuming but always asks me about my Dad and remembers stories that I’ve told her from years ago about his visits and his love for fish and chips. I don’t know what will happen to her – but I know if she loses her job when we go it will definitely change not only her circumstances but those of the local birds.

Every day she works her allotted hours and before she goes home she sprinkles a bag of breadcrumbs that she brings from home by a tree outside reception where I sometimes park. Often she leaves straight away, satisfied that her task is complete and because of this little act of kindness I regularly see birds pecking away at the bread when I go outside or look through the window.

No-one asks her to do this. She’s just a nice lady and it makes her happy. 

I’m going to miss these unique elements that nice people bring to that place – and the good humour that surrounds them.

As you can tell today I’m not taking this well. Now I’m at home in silence it’s all that’s filling my head and I’m trying not to get upset.

I think the only emotion keeping tears at bay today for myself and others has been one of collective annoyance at still being there at all – rather than just being told to go home and that we’re sacked like the majority of us certainly will be tomorrow.

Although drawing out the inevitable seems like a curse of sorts it’s also a minor blessing and gives people something to grumble about while they sit at desks wanting to leave instead of letting other feelings overwhelm their inner monologue.

I do wish the snacks would get lost though.

Since sad people like to eat, food has been all over the place this week, ranging from chicken samosas and spring rolls to cakes and donuts. Today was no exception and from a dietary perspective I’ve been in a special kind of hell.

Chocolates (courtesy of the centre director) were in abundance, and thanks to some visiting colleagues from the Netherlands who came to say goodbye there were also loads of caramel waffles around.

The sandwich lady (who visits our premises daily early in the morning) was also compounding my misery by giving away complementary carrot cup cakes to colleagues, which tantalisingly looked perfectly moist with an alluring swirl of frosting on the top.

Later in the afternoon my manager also found a large cache of boiled sweets in his desk – which he proclaimed never went off ‘because they’re boiled‘ and tried to ply them onto everyone nearby.

As with every other day this week I politely declined all of it and munched my carrot sticks and celery.

When I left there was a single Thorntons chocolate, sitting on its own in the box. It’s sugar dusted and crisscross patterned top just stared at me suggesting I should put it out of our mutual misery and eat it.

But I didn’t.

I can’t honestly say the same for the ham, apples and cherry tomatoes in my fridge though which took an unwarranted kicking when I returned home. They are now reduced to pips and packaging and I think definitely regretting entering my house.

Tomorrow it’s the goodbye drink at the pub, and I’m not sure my resolve will be so strong. The ladies at Slimming World have helpfully suggested some strategies for survival – but this may be one of those days where I just take the hit and live with it.

We’ll see.

Internet if there was ever a week when I wanted everything to be simultaneously over and done with and also for it to never end this is it. Since I can’t eat junk food, I no longer drink and is absolutely slashing it down with rain outside I will instead spend tonight online with a friend laying waste to any alien scum stupid enough to pop up on my television.

They are ALL going down. To Chinatown.

Davey

People watching

It’s Wednesday afternoon. Despite a damp start to the day it’s now become unexpectedly sunny with a cool breeze. There’s cloud cover but I’m taking no chances. Before I left work I covered my arms liberally with suntan lotion. 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, and for the last 30 minutes I’ve been watching people to relax myself. It’s fascinating and highly recommended.

Behind me on a comfy bench there is a Polish sounding couple and their discussion is chugging along at a high tempo. The heavy set gentleman (boyfriend?) that the lady is talking to seems irritated and his girlfriend (?) has the tone of a woman discussing a toilet seat that has been left in the upright position. 

He’s tapping the back of the bench quickly and displaying obvious irritation. I think his dinner may well already be in the dog, and judging by his body language he knows it. 

In front of me a young Indian guy in a sharp blue suit with neatly coiffured hair (he looks like a go getter) is interviewing someone for a job of some kind. 

His prospective employee has an ill fitting shirt and it’s tugging at his waist. I know this feeling well and I can see him occasionally re-adjust his shirt just above the belt to introduce a gap in the front – which sadly just tightens the back. The process is repeated at front and rear every few minutes. He looks nervous, and occasionally places his hands flat on his legs to tap them to an invisible beat. 

Behind them is a man who may have Tourettes, although he’s most likely just anti social and doesn’t care who knows it. He came in with a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi and between him and his friend they drank the lot without buying a single beverage. 

They played Pokemon Go for quite a while – discussing their monsters loudly behind the interviewing pair before they finally left to annoy other people. 

I’m listening to the slow Jazz music in the background and wondering what I will do with my days next week when I have no work to fill them. 

So far there’s a friend coming up to meet me on the 2nd which I’m looking forward to and another windswept and interesting chum has an art exhibition at the end of the week in Leamington so I’m going to that as well. I could also go to the cinema. I haven’t hidden in the pictures during the day for ages…

I think I may also try walking in the REAL world, and it occurred to me that to save yet more money I could try to stroll to the park, go once around it, and then walk back, instead of driving there and doing a couple of laps. It will save petrol, get me used to some gentle hill walking and be good exercise. 

I’ve also got a lot to do in my back garden – which once again I’ve neglected. I’m sure I heard Tarzan out there last night swinging from vine to vine – and that’s not good. Cleaning up ape shit is a real nuisance, but excellent cardio depending on the quantity. 

The fact is that I’m probably going to need to move my lardy ass twice as much next week. I’ve struggled with my mood (as I mentioned in the last post) but also my sleep since Monday. Drinking nothing but green tea hasn’t helped much either. 

This has a bit of a corrosive effect on my willpower, and in an effort to stop myself going off the rails yesterday afternoon on the way home I stopped in at Marks & Spencer. 

This is the wrong place to shop if I’m soon to be unemployed and in truth I’m a bit annoyed with myself.

The alternative though was a bag of chips – which I’d been fantasising about all the way home in the car – and having a bargaining dialogue with myself about how I would feel if I did it. 

Would the disappointment in myself be worth the crime?

I’m not certain it would. I think it would actually do more harm than good. I get way more happy feelings from loosing weight than I do from the momentary pleasure of stuffing myself with fast food. 

Plus, a new acquaintance from Slimming World posted in our Facebook group that she had gone for a burger in a bun on a night out. Afterwards she said she felt heavy, bloated and wishing she hadn’t. 

Her post was on my mind when I bought some (free) ham pieces, some (speed) celery hearts and a pack of 6 (free) Jazz apples. 

It was maybe a little further from my mind when I practically inhaled three 120g packs of (scrummy) ham, a 450g punnet of (free) cherry tomatoes and all 6 apples for dinner – but there we go. 

It could have been way worse, but it still annoys me when I have ‘binge’ moments. 

Although the food I chose limited the damage the impulse to overeat is very much still with me and I’m intensely irritated by what I perceive as a weakness. 

I know that I’m being unreasonable with myself – and that I should forgive the inner me – but frankly sometimes I feel like I let the naughty little sod get away with far too much over the years and from time to time he deserves a bloody good spanking. 

Maybe today is not the day though. I have more than enough to get through without needlessly beating myself up – and what happened last night can’t be taken back so I just need to carry on and not stress about it. 

Tonight I am returning to some veg in the slow cooker which should have reduced enough by the time I get back to fit some frozen Quorn chicken pieces in with them. I’ll leave those in for half an hour then add some fresh coriander before watching more from season 4 of Downton Abbey (it makes me feel dirty but I love it 😄 !!!!)

Internet – If I don’t find out how Lady Mary is coping with inheriting Matthew’s share of the estate then I think I’ll just die! 

Davey

Six month anniversary

The park this morning was a tough sell when my alarm went off at 5.30am. Although I didn’t really need to get up that early today I’d forgotten to re-set my wake up reminder to an hour or so later.

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I looked out of the window and it had been raining (with the threat of more to come) but since I was already awake I decided that I might as well take advantage of the morning and got out of bed.

There was also the fact that I’d actually been asleep for almost 12 hours to consider – and if I stayed there any longer I might begin to become forever bonded with my pillow and need pioneering surgery to remove it.

As I find is often the way with me – for pretty much every moment I feel a flush of success there’s usually a corresponding moment shortly after where I realise I feel down. Sometimes, it’s related to sleep, sometimes its circumstance, but at other times it’s almost like I must experience a low mood to enjoy a high one.

I felt like this yesterday and I still felt like it when I woke up.

I don’t for a minute think that this is a psychological condition or an illness. I’m not teetering on the brink of anything – I just think it’s life. You simply cannot be happy all of the time, and feeling a bit glum is just a fact of life occasionally. It’s what you do with that emotion that makes the difference.

All I need is to do something positive, and exercise is positive.

This morning the park wasn’t the place to spread cheer however. Everyone I met seemed consumed by their own thoughts and intent on staring at the floor, so it was difficult to smile at anyone or say hello, which is how I normally try to cheer myself up.

The weather didn’t help. It was spitting with rain and the sky was dull and cloudy. For me this isn’t really an issue – cool air means less discomfort, and clouds mean no sun tan lotion. It’s actually a bit of a win (unless you factor in wet benches and soggy bottoms).

There’s one particularly tough nut that’s so far proving tough to crack in the park though.

I’ve concluded that an elderly Indian lady who wears a dark salwar kameez that I’ve seen a lot on her own recently REALLY doesn’t seem to like talking to people. She’s ignored all my nods, smiles and hello’s over the last few days. Today she was joined by her husband, walking a few strides in front. He also wasn’t interested in acknowledging me – or it seemed his wife.

As I watched them as they appeared to do two circuits of the park seemingly without saying a word to anyone or each other.

It’s a beautiful thing to be in the presence of someone you’re so in tune with that there are moments where you can just exist in the same space without the need for conversation. However I don’t think that this was an example of that. I think they just don’t enjoy each other’s company.

I may be wrong. Appearances can be deceptive.

There are times when I think about the possibility of finding another partner in the future (I’m still no-where near ready) but when I see things like this it makes me wonder whether I want to ever risk experiencing a bad relationship ever again. While the highs are wonderful when it works, there are few feelings worse than being stuck in one that doesn’t – especially when the person you’ve probably started to fall out of love with is around you all the time.

I suppose it’s the possibility of all the bad things that can happen that stops me from experiencing all the good that can come out of a relationship – which is almost certainly the wrong way to look at it. It’s hard to come around to a different perspective on this though – but I guess one day I’m going to have to try.

Anyway – today is NOT about feeling sorry for myself or being glum. It’s now been six months since I started my journey of self improvement, and as well as my weight loss I’ve not had any alcohol for 182 days.

That’s definitely cause for (non-alcoholic) celebration!

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Last Saturday Angie informed the group that a 250ml glass of strong wine had been up-rated from 11.5 to 12 syns by the all knowing Slimming World guru that sits on top of Skinnybottom Mountain in continual contemplation of foodstuffs.

There were a lot of horrified expressions in the room as people watched another half a syn evaporate in front of them. A quick mental calculation of my own suggested that I was now saving myself around 108 syns per evening and around £11.50 a day compared to where I was just before my mother died.

The six month anniversary of that is tomorrow – and wherever possible I’m still trying to think only good thoughts in her memory. Sometimes it’s difficult though. When I consider what we shared in life there was so little common ground that it was at times impossible to hold any kind of conversation.

The other day though while scanning old photos I found one rather innocuous one that made me stop and smile.

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She too liked birds. She loved watching them, and often painted them as well. She was taking pictures of swanlings way before I was born, so maybe on some level that connects us – and I will take that and put it out into the world as my happy thought about her. We shared a love of swans, and both enjoyed walking in the park.

So – there we go internet. A walk round the park, an anniversary, and a positive memory to start the day.

Whatever you’re doing, if you’re feeling a bit down, just take a moment to sit and think about the good things in your life. Sometimes they may be well hidden – but they are always there. There is always something to be thankful for and smile about.

If not then here’s a picture of an impossibly cute teeny tiny Chewbacca that turned up on Facebook the other day and left me grinning from ear to ear!

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Davey

 

Time travelling

I awoke at 5am today for a visit the most regal area of my house.

As I sat reading the morning news in the resplendent calm of the throne room I couldn’t help but notice that I could hear birdsong and that the sun was coming up behind me. Although I wasn’t initially planning to go for a walk until a little later in the day this suddenly seemed like a great time to get started.

I quickly concluded my daily head of state activities, put on my jogging bottoms, made a flask of coffee and headed to the car carrying a new CD that’s full of catchy tunes. I compiled it in iTunes over the last week or so and I think I’ve made all of the tracks hang together rather nicely.

The disc isn’t just music though – it has a purpose.

I’ve created it to mark my last days at work – and I’ve been trying to listen to it as much as I can so that the thoughts and feelings associated with the event become forever linked (in a good way) with the music.

Years ago I noticed that I had stopped calling my tapes or playlists things like ‘Dave’s great tunes’ and instead started to title them with the date they were created. This isn’t because I’m anally retentive and strive for order (quite the opposite in fact) but because when I listen to certain songs I’m immediately transported back to a moment in time, place or journey.

When I started college back in 1990 I was listening relentlessly to ‘The Pet Shop Boys – Behaviour’ and ‘Erasure – Wild!’ (still two of my all time favourite albums). I can’t hear tracks from either of these without being instantly pulled back to the bus journey I used to have into Solihull every morning – and as I get older these have become treasured memories.

So – while the music I listen to from back then conjures images of the surroundings and my feelings, the date of an album’s release contextualises the images it evokes, providing me with a sense of time.

In a way these days I’m using these dated playlists to time travel – as I’m sure lots of people do.

Oddly you’d think it was on my walks that I’d listen to them but I’ve found that since I’ve been disconnected from the world for so long, part of the pleasure of propelling myself from A to B is nature’s own soundtrack. Without the noise of the trees, songs from the birds and the splashing of boat oars as they pass it all seems oddly lacking.

For this reason I leave my headphones at home.

This morning although I was still humming the playlist while I walked the silence of the park was truly lovely. At dawn it was absolutely deserted – and the sun, rising just behind me pushed the length of my shadow waaaaay into the distance as I walked.

I found myself intently watching the captivating and warm orange light that was gradually climbing up everything around me. The trees and the grass were sparkling, and the dew was slowly turning to mist as the sun warmed the world.

I didn’t go for a walk yesterday (other than to the Slimming World meeting) in order to give my plantar fasciitis a rest. While I’ve loved the walking this week I’ve not enjoyed the tendon pain that happens after I sit for a while, and sometimes when I move.

It was a good call. The lower temperature this morning and a day off had an unexpected benefit. I was able to do my entire first lap WITHOUT A BENCH and just a few standing stops for a 30 odd seconds. The second lap was a bit harder however, and my legs (particularly calves and glutes) noticed that I’d not rested as much as usual.

I’ve not become superman overnight it seems. But who cares –  I’d done it.

The pain was instead a good excuse to sit by the river on my favourite bench to watch a heron, who until I stood up was letting me stay unusually close for about five minutes.

Sunday morning six months ago would have been seen me hung over and probably lying in bed until midday, at which point I’d get up and most likely eat crap whilst playing video games obsessively until it was late enough for my conscience to allow me to open more wine and repeat the process.

I really hated myself at the time.

Now, six months on, the last lap had proved that I can finally again walk a (flat) mile and a quarter without sitting and without being in pain. This means I no longer needed to feel afraid of getting stranded close to home.

Furthermore soon I won’t have to continually stress about where I’m going if I’ve never been there before. I can just go.

This is a HUGE milestone for me psychologically, and it means in time I’ll finally be able to graduate to other environments without benches. When this eventually happens (there’s no rush) I’ll be able to walk into Warwick or Leamington like I used to and I’m so happy about that I can taste it.

I was so pleased in fact that I barely had to argue with myself at all when I finished the second circuit and then embarked upon my THIRD LAP.

Yep. That’s no typo. Overall it took me an hour and 45 mins with some serious bench rest on the last leg but I did it that too – three laps.

This may have been a bridge too far for it to be a daily thing at the moment though as it came with a cost. Afterwards I felt utterly exhausted, had the beginnings of several blisters on both feet and my legs were trembling badly when I reached the car, which I had to hold on to for a while before getting in.

When I finally felt I could drive home, I completely zonked out upon arrival – face planting my pillow and not waking again for two hours, regardless of having had two Nespresso shots barely an hour prior to coming home.

Now I’m writing this – still listening to my playlist on repeat – and I’m thinking about the walk, the mist on the river, the sounds of the birds and squirrels and how good I felt.

Neither the pains in my calves or the burning warmth on the soles of my slightly blistered feet matter one bit.

I think Internet that when I listen to this CD again a few years from now I will look back and think of scary upheaval and great change – but I hope that those memories will also be interwoven with POSITIVE images, of growing self esteem and self worth. Hopefully I will remember that these have been won by the same willpower that I had previously convinced myself I no longer possessed.

If I’m in a darker period of my life maybe it will enable me again to recall who I was at this moment and how I wanted to be infinitely better than I am, and what I did to make that happen.

Davey

Hasta la vista 3 stone. 

Absent from my walks lately have been the Swanlings (known by pedants as cygnets). I’ve not seen them for quite a while, and had wondered where they were when I strolled along the river during the last couple of weeks.

Until Friday morning, when I spotted the swans on the opposite bank near an electrical substation.

It was early and the two fully grown parents were sleeping, surrounded only by ducks, and seemingly alone.

It was a different picture to when I first started noticing them in May.

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At this point – thanks to a chatty and keen eyed old lady I had learned that there were originally four babies – and that one had already fallen by the wayside.

By early June though things were still going OK and it looked like the chances were good that no more would be lost from this fragile little family. I reasoned that since they were now bigger than a lot of the ducks it would be likely they could protect themselves and have a pretty good chance.

Furthermore they looked healthy and happy – and still adorably cute.

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Since then I hadn’t seen the swanlings again, and assumed that they had migrated to another park, or were further up the river by the castle. After all – such regal creatures deserved to be in the very best of surroundings.

My heart actually skipped a beat yesterday when I noticed on the opposite bank, camouflaged by the concrete near the substation a single remaining swanling. I couldn’t see enough to tell whether it was fit and well, but it had grown significantly.

I waited for a while to see if it would venture into the river, but it didn’t so I continued on my walk.

By the time I reached the same point again (one of the many benefits of doing two laps of the park) they were now on the water, and came towards me as I filmed them

I couldn’t tell which one of the brothers/sisters this one was, but it was thankfully very much still alive. The fluffy brown feathers are now beginning to lighten and be replaced by larger adolescent ones. It’s looking more grown up and its tail feathers have a fully formed pointy swan like appearance.

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I wonder when it’s beak goes orange? I could Google it but honestly I just want to wait and see what happens.

Either way – it makes me happy the little guy has survived, even though I find it equally sad that the others are gone.

It’s just the nature of things I guess, and next year I’m sure the whole cycle will begin again for all of the wildfowl in the park, including this fellow, who by then will probably be protecting a little brood of its own.

As well as this uplifting encounter, the completion of my stroll around the park also marked a new record for my weekly walking. Previously I managed 7.5 miles in a week, and was tremendously happy with this (which honestly was not easy at the time.)

I’ve now managed to extend that to 10.5 miles!

As well as feeling pretty darn epic about managing it I am beginning to notice some other little changes. I can now stand for much longer periods without my back hurting, and I don’t get out of breath quite as easily as before. I’m also feeling generally more alive and in control – and I’m pretty sure my shirts are looser.

I’m getting closer to my stock of 7x shirts, which will all need washing and ironing soon as I noticed they actually have dust on the shoulders inside my wardrobe!

However the biggest indicator that my dietary and exercise changes are having a positive impact is to be found in my blood sugar readings. Yesterday morning I had eaten two apples and a bowl of oats (35g) with 250g of natural yogurt, strawberries and blueberries. It was sweetened with cinnamon and Truvia (stevia extract which has a low glycemic impact).

About 45 mins after I’d eaten my breakfast this was the result.

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For those non-diabetics out there a good range for someone with Type 2 (and I believe type 1) is 4-7 mmol/L after eating. So this is absolutely spot on. To put this into perspective before I gave up drinking in in late January and started Slimming World in April this had been creeping up to the dangerous levels of when I was first diagnosed.

I’d regressed to between 11 & 14 mmol/L.

If this wasn’t good news enough I also got an all clear letter yesterday from my diabetic retinopathy scan. This reported that there had been no changes inside my eyes. All was well with the blood vessels they examined – so yay for tangible benefits!

As I write it’s early on Saturday morning and I’m going to step on the scales in a couple of hours. I’m excited and because of this woke up early. I almost decided to go to the 8.30 weigh in – but I like my little 10.30 group – so instead I’m waiting.

As always I’m wary. I want my 3st certificate – but I also want to meet the target of a 4lb loss that I set with Angie in front of the group last week. Although I don’t expect this every week I want to keep my average up with a good loss so that I keep the momentum going. A bad week is just fine as long as I sort it out the following week.

(goes to Slimming World.)

Nuts. Frikkedy frick frick. I missed my target by half a pound! Not quite the goal crushing I had hoped for – but 3.5 lbs off today means I FINALLY get my 3st award. 

I can’t help feeling a little disappointed though – but I have no reason to be.

This is supremely good news. I’m now on my way to four stone via three and a half and the back of my book is completely covered in stickers. I’m going to have to start on the front now!

Also – today I walked to the meeting from home, which I’ve not done before – and I have no idea why as it’s way way way closer than I thought it was. As long as it’s not slashing it down this will be my new weekly thing. I’ll leave the car at home and get the extra exercise.

I’m also really glad I didn’t go to the earlier 8.30 group. There’s a lot of camaraderie in the 10.30 one (although I’m sure the other is lovely too) and it’s great to chat with everyone before everything starts.

Although I felt a bit shortchanged by my 1/2 a pound shortfall on my goal by the time I’d nattered to the girls (and boy) in group today I felt really good.

As a bunch they’ve got a lot on. They’re going to Greek weddings (with a cunning Malibu related plan), avoiding samosas and bacon butties at work (and consequently having a great loss), enjoying busy new jobs (and feeling rightfully epic) – to a heroic lady working in the ultimate den of syns. A bakery. 😐

I have nothing but respect for anyone that can make and sell pies for a living and STILL loose weight. They’d have to crowbar me out of the loading bay door after a week working in such a place, and she can actually sit on the little blue chairs.

(They’re smaller than the little red ones and designed for dwarves! And children…. Maybe actually just children…)

Honestly – I’ve nothing but respect for all of them. That’s why I go there and that’s why I stay for the talks. They and Angie put EVERYTHING into perspective and it’s so encouraging to see the normality of it all.

The natural fluctuations of proper healthy weight loss affect everyone the same way. My nearby chat companions either maintained or lost weight this week – but the one unifying factor was that none of us ever knew quite what to expect – and even on weeks when we’d metaphorically walked on water nothing went quite the way we thought it would.

Overall though everyone’s trend was downwards – and I think staying and sharing this ‘slow one week and down the next‘ phenomenon removes the sense of pressure and isolation that’s all too easy to feel when you think you could have done more and begin to beat yourself up.

Internet – I don’t think I could do this on my own, and frankly I don’t want to. I take just as much pleasure in the success of the people I see every Saturday as I do feeling my trousers fall down when I take the wheely bin out (true story. It happened).

Well done US!

Davey

The steal of the century

I’m in a reflective mood this evening. I have been for most of the day, including yesterday afternoon.

In many ways the end of my current period of employment can’t come soon enough. The knowledge that we are all being made redundant and yet still having to be present in the office makes a single moment seem endless at times.

So – despite wanting an end to this lingering death I find myself in a strange no-man’s land.

In this weird landscape I’m faced with a paradox where time seems like it’s stopped altogether and I can’t wait for the end of the day. As soon as I’ve worked through that feeling I’m faced with thoughts about the finality of it all and the knowledge that one week from now it will all be over. It’s difficult to know how to feel from one moment to the next.

I do know that today I don’t want it to end.

One workmate (whilst we made tea this afternoon) pointed out to me that his son was now a precocious teenager – an energetic 14 year old.

I’m not sure how this happened. I’m not sure where time went.

I remember the day he announced in the office that his wife was pregnant. All of a sudden it seems like yesterday. We joked about the time he trained me on a new discipline a couple of years after I started, and how he broke up the long sessions of dry technical information by playing Kylie Minogue videos and remarking on her perky antipodean posterior.

We both laughed about this – and were transported right back there into the moment.

I’ve bonded with colleagues through a variety of shared interests – and my current (unexpected and inexplicable) addiction to Downton Abbey prompted someone else to tell me today how much they love afternoon teas.

I suddenly found myself saying that we should schedule regular lunches, to make sure we didn’t loose contact. I’ve felt it important to say that to people, although it may already be obvious. I don’t want to be a stranger to any of them.

Another talked about his experiences of the office where we first worked, and how close he had come to ending his employment on his first day (with an act of cavalier parking) before he had even walked through the front door. The security there could be ferocious, and his memories underpinned my own recall of their almost terminal lack of humour.

One person walked away upset when I hugged her today – and she left me feeling quite the same. I didn’t quite know what to say as she hurried off. I made light of it to those nearby – but that wasn’t how I really felt.

I remembered that we once sat together in a corner office being bored to death by a visiting American who drew Six Sigma Ishikawa fish diagrams to explain how our jobs worked. We both earnestly paid attention to him throughout and then agreed between ourselves it was pretty much all bo****ks when he left to go home.

He kept saying over and over ‘In God we trust, but everyone else needs to give me DATA!

I’ve been reminiscing all week with different people about things like this.

There have been comic stories about DIY jobs performed by colleagues gone awfully wrong, people’s sometimes odd but now accepted habits, drunken tales of christmas parties, office romances and office scandal.

We have talked about people who we didn’t know at first but eventually came to trust, then respect and in almost all cases finally became friends with.

I’ve also realised today (and it seems so obvious now) that next Friday when we say goodbye there will be no more managers and staff, just people who know each other like family, saying their goodbyes.

Oddly I’ve never felt managed really. Just befriended, so maybe it won’t be that different after all.

Soon I won’t regularly see these people any more but (thanks to social media) we’ll still remain in each other’s orbits as we migrate to new lives.

But it’s not quite the same is it?

I won’t be able to cheerfully walk through a door and see them all at the same time, engrossed in their tasks, or making cups of tea for one another, or saying hello as I pass them and the pot plants to get to my familiar desk with its ornaments and fan.

(…………)

Anyway internet – I’m trying to keep my chin up. Lots of people have already found new jobs, and those that haven’t are an excellent sort and will find something soon enough. I have faith in them, even if one or two may be a bit downhearted at the moment.

What other employers don’t know yet is that they’re all getting a bargain – the steal of the century.

They’ll find out soon enough though. Which is a good thing all round. All will be right with the world eventually.

Davey

Espionage in the park

Pokemon hunters didn’t appear in great numbers today but they were definitely out and about this morning.

A young blonde girl in denim shorts seemed to be the only person walking slower than me around the park – and her patient black Labrador (with a super cute patterned blue neckerchief) seemed confused but content to follow her as she criss-crossed the path in front of me, meandered into bushes, then out onto the common and back, all the time looking at her phone and occasionally tapping the screen.

I’m amazed at what a craze this has become in a short space of time – and almost tempted to have a go, but I really detest jumping on bandwagons.

Besides I really wasn’t in the mood by the time I got to the park.

When I woke up today I honestly felt like I’d been mugged. Some unfamiliar assailant yesterday had bullied me with excessive warmth, blue sky and sunshine. This determined criminal also eventually stole most of my sleep and left me feeling very shortchanged. I was lethargic, awoke with tired eyes and most annoyingly an aching back that hurts when I turn to the right.

Yesterday it was just too hot to go for a walk and I felt annoyed with myself that I didn’t get any exercise. Because of this I’d decided yesterday to get up REALLY early today and avoid the sun.

Well it turns out that ‘really early’ when I can’t sleep anyway means sitting bolt upright at 2.25am saying ‘**** this for a game of soldiers!’ and deciding to go to the park rather than slowly boil on my mattress.

I got out of bed, opened the curtains, saw the total darkness, realised this was way too early, and concluded that that everyone would probably think I was a sexual predator if they met me in the dead of night panting and sweating on a bench.

I decided it was not the right moment to venture out. Maybe in a couple of hours…

A couple more hours translated into more tossing and turning until 6am (the perfect time to get up) when I immediately fell soundly asleep until 7.45am. By this time the sun was already out and my room was heating up even more.

So – I jumped in the shower, covered myself in suntan lotion, popped on a patterned shirt that would hide my embarrasment if I started drowning in sweat and headed out.

Apart from the Pokemon zombies it was quiet today – but very very hot. Thankfully there was a lot of shade on the way and a nice breeze which was good.

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I’ve noticed that I meet the same people a lot lately. The energetic power walking ladies in pink were burning round their circuit again today and jovially saying hi every time we passed.

I joked that we had met each other so often this week that we should probably take up playing correspondence chess and make one move every time we passed – but I think they’re more interested in dumbbells and wearing out the soles of their trainers.

Good on them.

Silent elderly Chinese lady with neat hair from a few blogs ago has also passed me lots of times at a furious pace this week. Today she was on her way out of the park as I entered.

She doesn’t acknowledge my greetings and this morning I’m sure she looked at me with mild suspicion when I smiled at her yet again. I am beginning to wonder if she’s a spy, sent by a foreign power to determine the offensive military capabilities of our communal nature retreats.

Or maybe she just likes to walk fast and listen to the radio rather than chat.

Impossible. I’m clearly irresistible. She must be a spy.

I will continue to smile at her every time we pass in an effort to engage her in dialogue and gather more intel on her dastardly plot.

When I’d made my two revolutions and said my final goodbye to the energetic ladies as they passed (they said they would see me tomorrow) I made my way back to my car, and its blissful air conditioning.

My final ‘hello’ on the way was with an older chap that I often see with a little sausage dog. It walks behind him carrying its lead neatly folded between its teeth. This cheerful little Dachshund is apparently 15 this year and the two have reportedly been constant companions. If there was ever a poster dog for ‘the perfect pet’ this diminutive pooch may just be the one to go on the advertisements! I really like him 🙂

Today I have some online training to do – so I headed back home thinking I’d relax for an hour and a half until my shopping arrived and then get started on it. I walked through the front door, kicked off my boots and immediately sat in front of the large fan in my living room with it on full blast.

Utter utter bliss.

Now normally this is where I would remain. It’s highly likely I’d have fallen asleep there for a quick nap before starting my training.

Not today though. Fitter Dave had noticed on the way to the park that his evil and scheming next door neighbour had once again mowed the front lawn yesterday evening. This was CLEARLY an attempt to highlight the longer grass on my side. The cad.

Mine was now a distressing 2 inches higher than his. With daisies on it.

I stared at the wall. It wouldn’t do. It just wouldn’t do.

So I got up, grabbed the mower, mowed the lawn, tidied up the grass clippings, put the mower away then sat back down in front of the fan.

NOW I could relax for a little while before the shopping.

But I couldn’t. It would be wasted time. Before my groceries touched down I could use the remaining food in the fridge to cook something lovely for lunch. Maybe a nice side salad and some mini crustless quiches?

Hmmmmm.

Old Dave would have discounted this idea after walking twice around the park and also mowing the lawn. He would instead probably have started eating slices of ham when the shopping arrived instead of cooking a meal.

Screw it. I still had time and I was sweaty already. The oven’s warmth didn’t bother me. 35 mins later I had lunch prepared with TONS of speed food and the decks were cleared ready for the shopping.

I looked at my watch. It was only 10.30. I still had time to do the washing up and clean the kitchen a bit…

Well. Hmmm. Why not. It will make everything look better for after my study period. Nuts to it.

So I did all that too.

These are all relatively normal everyday things – and they are all activities I did before. But they’re NEVER things I used to do one after the other. Usually I felt pretty tired after most tasks and certainly did NOT go looking for another one right away.

Things have definitely changed. I’m sitting (a few hours after all that above) having a coffee and a break from study and I’m quietly amazed at how alert I feel.

So far this week I have walked 6 & 3/4 miles. My weekly record is 7 & 1/2 miles and I’m only on Wednesday. Before I weigh in on Saturday to CRUSH MY 4lbs GOAL I have several opportunities to walk further.

It will be interesting to see where I get to internet! Stay tuned!

Now I need to get back to my training. Laters!

Davey

Balloons

It appears that little Pokemon are loose in the park. Or at least I assume that’s what’s causing nerds to be wandering about waving their phones in front of them like metal detectors in sweeping motions.

I’m not sure I get the fascination with the little pocket monsters…

One pasty faced guy with dyed bright green hair appeared to be taking his first tentative steps outside for quite a long time – and as he shuffled past me, lost in zombified augmented reality I was mildly surprised he wasn’t still wearing his dressing gown.

The Joker look-a-like hasn’t been on his own today though. He’s the second one I’ve noticed that’s ‘Gotta catch em all’ this morning – but hey, if it works for them then who cares?

If Pokemon Go gets people out of the house then that’s just great! I’ve already noticed one blogger I follow using it as an excuse to get out more – so it’s got to be better than sitting on the sofa doing nothing.

I do think it’s a bit of a shame they aren’t looking around them this morning though as the early morning mist in the park when I first arrived made everything look mysterious and interesting. They’re missing out on what’s to offer right in front of their noses.

I’m a bit more of a slow mover today. Yesterday’s two laps didn’t come without a small price and I’ve noticed that my butt cheeks tightened up faster than a camel’s sphincter in a sandstorm today.

I’ve also apparently entered blister territory and have one on the pad of my right foot and one on the little toe of my left foot. They’re uncomfortable – but not deal breakers. As I write I’m half way around my second lap of the park sitting by the river under my favourite tree watching a tractor mowing the grass on the opposite bank.

On a weekday morning the tone of the place is very different – and even the ducks seem more relaxed.

The little wooded grove nearby is not peppered with shafts of sunlight today, but on my first circuit it’s earthy shaded womb made me stop again and just draw in the shades of colour and textures of the roots on the ground.

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Standing here by the river under a large tree was completely serene. I closed my eyes and just existed there for a moment, feeling the breeze hit the perspiration around the back my neck and absorbing the scent of freshly cut grass that the gust of wind carried along with it. Apart from the sound of the leaves and the river it was totally and completely quiet.

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Where I’m sitting now though is a bit more reflectve. I’ve been typing for about 15 minutes and although I was aware of my surroundings I hadn’t looked straight up until I took a swig from my omnipresent flask of coffee.

In the tree above me, hidden from view by the languid canopy of drooping leaves were several balloons.

Initially I thought they had been trapped after being lost by a child, but then realised that they were tethered to the tree – and on the floor by the trunk behind me were two small bunches of flowers. More were more resting further up the column in the nest of branches at the top.

I didn’t see them yesterday morning, which means that yesterday afternoon someone (maybe a family judging by the number of flowers) celebrated the birthday of a lost loved one. The person that passed away clearly liked this bench just as much as me, and I’m convinced it has the best aspect of any in the park.

It suddenly became quite a beautiful thing to just sit there and watch them bob about in the breeze – and made me feel quite reflective.

We all touch people’s lives in the most surprising ways – and these little tokens of a love lost that waved in the breeze were poignant reminders of the brief time we’re all here, and the legacy we leave behind.

Will we be missed?

I started my walk thinking about my butt and how it ached. By the middle of my stroll I was grumbling about blisters and fascinated by the roots of trees.

By the end I was considering my place in the world and I left the park with a smile – thinking that if I’m going to be on the earth for a relatively short period of time I should continue to take the time to enjoy it by constantly getting out more and saying hello and smiling to as many people as I can.

Pretty much all we can do internet is try to improve ourselves and leave the world a happier place than when we found it.

Davey

Twice around the park

I arrived at the right time. Not early, not late. JUST at the moment the park was waking up.

Today I’d got up early for a walk because later on I was going out for a meal with a friend, and I wanted to get some exercise in before heading off to bury my face in a big lunch.

The open sign flicked on as I walked past the Golden Putter stand. The miniature golf was now open for business. As I relaxed on the bench a few metres away I also noticed the bouncy castle gradually climbing upwards from the floor, and could hear the quiet whine of the air pump inflating it.

As the giant rubber ocean liner filled with air its steam funnels and bright yellow archway quickly solidified. Soon it was fully formed – and where there had previously been an empty space there was now a multicoloured kingdom of fun behind the miniature railway.

The fountains in the nearby paddling pool were also on – but so far there were no children in sight to splash in them. The water in it was clear, and the floor of the pool clean and blue.

The fun was lying in wait – ready to pounce.

I continued on my walk. It’s been pretty warm today – which is not my preferred kind of weather. To counteract this I had liberally covered my arms with not one, not two, but THREE different sun creams.

Theoretically I could have survived re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere if NASA required my orbital services. Thankfully they did not.

Although most of the park was relatively unpopulated, by the time I reached the boating house there were lengthy lines of children – which I thought must be a school trip, but the boathouse was locked…

Strange…

I continued on – coffee in hand along the river. Still no Swanlings. I wonder where they’ve gone? There were lots of ducks though today…

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As I was walking I noticed a lady who looked familiar – but wasn’t sure, so didn’t say anything. I could have sworn she passed me earlier… Did I know her?

I was also making a mental note of two middle aged ladies wearing bright pink tops with leggings and hand weights that kept passing me in the other direction. They were power walking.

I nodded at them, smiling and we said hello as they passed me for the third time.

‘You’re doing great!’ one said to me.

‘Yes but you guys are making it look way too easy!’ I said back. They laughed and continued their circuits of the park.

As I approached the end of my lap I realised that the lady I had seen earlier was actually someone from Slimming World – and I stopped to say hello. We had a brief chat about our progress and motivations and took the time to wish each other luck. Both of us it seemed were in a good place today – and philosophical about the whole issue of weight loss and how quickly it was coming off.

Angie’s words this week in group appeared to have sunk in with a lot of people – and the message of being realistic, loving yourself, and not engaging in self hatred for perceived mistakes had resonated with more than just me.

I was glad I’d bumped into her. If I’m honest I saw her doing more laps than me and thought ‘I wonder if I can do another?’

So, instead of walking back to my car I continued around the circuit.

This was unknown territory.

However, much to my surprise the second lap was actually proving easier than the first, and I was stopping and standing to catch my breath rather than having to sit. My glutes were cramping a bit (it seems I am a tight arse) but otherwise I was loving it.

As I walked for the second time past the bouncy castle and mini golf I posted a pic on the SW Facebook group of the ducks. Almost instantly my fellow SW’er in the park replied – saying that there were dragon boats on the river a few metres away.

I could hear the drums as I read the reply!

I walked a bit faster (yes – walking further AND quicker) and got to the boat house as quickly as I could. There they were. The school kids were actually cub scouts – and they were here for a race!

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The enthusiastic parents lining the banks were all cheering, clapping and taking pictures, making the atmosphere really friendly. I moved past them a few metres and sat on a bench for a moment to look at my photos.

‘It’s going to get easier.’ A voice suddenly said.

I looked up from my phone. It was the ladies in pink, who had lapped me once more. One with a thick gold necklace and black sponge covered dumbbells had stopped to commend me for my efforts. She was leaning in towards me smiling with big brown sunglasses on.

‘I have a long way to go before I can make it look as casually fabulous as you guys though!’ I replied.

I wasn’t joking. They were kicking ass!

‘It was hard for us when we started..’ The second lady said ‘…but now I’ve lost three stone!’

‘Me too!’ I smiled. ‘I couldn’t walk to the end of my road before and it’s getting easier all the time!’

‘We’ll see you again no doubt!’ They both said as they hurried off for another lap, all the time lifting their foam covered dumbbells up and down toward their chins as they walked.

This is the kind of thing that makes me feel great. I exchanged an extra hour and a half in bed for THIS. How worthwhile is that?!

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I was now almost completely around the park a second time, and although my feet were aching I felt fantastic.

Taking a moment to sit in the shade inside a small wooded area further down the river I again looked at everything around me. The sunlight was peeping through the trees and on a branch in front of me a browned leaf amongst other green ones had a perfect spotlight on it, making the colour of it pop and sing.

Despite the leaf being dead it looked for a brief point in time more alive than any other part of the tree, and had become slightly translucent for a moment, hypnotically catching my eye as it sparkled like a little brown rainbow until the light changed.

Then the sun slipped back behind a cloud and I got up to continue. It had been sunny for most of the walk and I was sweating a lot – and really looking forward to the air conditioning of my car.

As I stepped out of the shade on my way there I passed the wild flower meadow I had stopped to look at the previous week. It was now an even more vibrant carpet of yellow than it was the last time that I saw it – punctuated only by occasional hints of white, red or purple.

I couldn’t help but stop and look again.

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I had been in the park much longer than usual – and yet I was still feeling epic. Furthermore, despite doing TWICE what I originally planned (2.24 miles in about 1 hour 35 mins) I had also finished just in time to go and pick up my friend for lunch.

We had decided to go for a carvery in Knowle.

Toby Carverys are one of my favourite things. They’re cheap, cheerful and great quality food. They also have a nice family atmosphere. Since neither my friend or I had recently won the lottery this cost bracket fitted the bill perfectly.

As I drove out of Warwick we talked about what was going on with each other’s lives, and how the sale of her house was going. Nothing it seems is simple in life (including this) but I love her spirit. Regardless of what lands on her plate she doesn’t take the opportunity to wallow in it – and that’s an admirable quality in anyone.

I tend to think that people who tell you they’ve had hard lives haven’t actually had it that bad. Those that just get on with things and make the most of everything are the ones that probably REALLY had a tough time. The crucial difference is that they just pick themselves up and carry on instead of dwelling on it.

I’m not sure this is always who I’ve been when I look at myself over the years (you don’t get this fat by dealing brilliantly with all life has to dish out) but it’s definitely the viewpoint I aspire to.

Upon arriving at the pub I whipped out my Slimming World iPhone app, and started looking at what would cause the most potential damage – and what would be free. Most things it seems were well within my boundaries, and as long as I didn’t go crazy I could have a really satisfying dinner.

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So – how does my carvery stack up?

I cut all of the visible fat off my turkey, gammon and beef before I ate them so they were all free. Roast potatoes are 2 syns each and I had four. My green beans, carrots and cauliflower (I had no cheese sauce) were classed as speed. The courgette I’m not so sure about as this appears to have been oven roasted with oil – so maybe a couple of syns rather than free…? My onions in gravy are 0.5 syns per serving.

The mint sauce and mustard are approximately 1 syn combined (0.5 each for a level tbsp) and I didn’t have any gravy. I had plenty to drink with it and no desert.

So the rough total for what was an incredibly tasty and filling meal was about 11.5 syns.

To put this in perspective a pint of cider is 11.5.

A McDonalds Big Mac is 25.5.

I know which one I prefer.

Internet – I could have spent the day kicking myself for gaining half a pound but honestly where’s the fun in that? I could have stayed in bed and not gone for a walk – but where would that have gotten me? I could have not looked at my iPhone SW app before eating and just gone for chipolata sausages with sage and onion stuffing and yorkshire puddings whilst burying my head in the sand.

But today I made good choices and I feel better for that. Yesterday is old news. Next Saturday I’m going to CRUSH my goal.

Davey

Repatriation 

Today is the day I need to take my own advice – and to direct some of the care I show to others back at myself. 

First things first. Today the scales said I put half a pound on. It’s nothing in the great scheme of things thankfully – but it’s slowed my road map for weight loss down a bit. 

However – my journey is NOT a race and I need to remind myself of that at all times. 

I must not set myself unrealistic goals. 

I’ve set myself a target of four pounds for next week to redress the balance and I’m pretty confident I’m in the right head space to achieve it. 

Why?

1. Because I’m not beating myself up. I’ve already lost way more than I originally expected to in 3 months. 

2. I know what I did wrong. I ate too much whilst snacking at work. On several days I reckon I had the equivalent of a fourth meal. 

3. I didn’t drink enough water. 

4. I didn’t do enough exercise. 

5. I didn’t have enough speed with my free snacks to make me feel full. 

6. I know I’ve managed to produce bigger number two’s than this in the morning, so I’m only a firey vegetable curry away from this gain being history. 

So – it’s not rocket science. It’s a combination of dehydrated comfort eating and laziness – plain and simple.

The remedy? Do all of the things that are good for me that I didn’t do last week and stop doing all the bad things that I did do instead. 

Simple. 

Watch this space and we’ll see how the best laid plans of mice and this man work out next Saturday. 

In other news I finished scanning most of the photos I had to return to my Aunt and Uncle last night (by about 3am – I’m knackered) and finally reunited a family album that they thought was lost with what I consider are the rightful owners. 

I know what it’s like when someone holds your past hostage and it’s not nice. 

My mom (for reasons of her own) hid/stole/kept all of the photos and birth certificates related to me – or indeed ANYTHING from my birth to mid teens for years. Until she died recently I had no mementos of my childhood. 

She had – through a startling act of brazen theft after her mother passed away – done the same to her own siblings. 

Oddly some items of immensely sentimental value to others in her family were taken without discussion, locked in suitcases with no keys and then hidden.

 When going through her belongings I had to physically chisel these open to find out what was contained within. 

I concluded that normal people don’t keep canteens of stolen cutlery in locked suitcases, but sadly that’s who my mother was. 

Scanning the photo album and giving it back was a nice moment and the expression on my uncle’s face spoke volumes as he looked at photos of himself and his surviving sister that he hadn’t seen for 30 years or more. 

It turned out he had only one photo of her as a child and in this album she (as well as himself and his wife when they first met) had a big presence. 

We’d met up at a nice Beefeater pub that’s equidistant between our homes, and as we chatted about the past, the photos and what else was happening in our lives we munched on our dinners. 

It’s a rare occasion for me to not see someone for a while and report a weight loss instead of a gain and I was immensely proud to say I’d lost almost 3 stone when they asked how I was doing. 

Next week I want it to be more so while my uncle and aunt went for chips and racks of ribs I chose one of the ‘lo’ options from the menu – all of which were 500 calories or less. 

In this case it was a chicken and avacado salad. 


I haven’t had any avacado for a while and although I know it annoyingly has a syn value in slimming world terms (9.5 per 100g) it’s incredibly good for me and since I’m not intending any other syns today it’s a great choice. I left the pub following a lovely after dinner (black) coffee feeling good.

I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t expect to feel this way today. 


As I now sit in Dave’s happy place (regular readers and keen observers will know where this is) writing this post and contemplating life I’m thinking about why I feel happy instead of sad or annoyed. 

Copying the photos last night was hard going – and I didn’t enjoy looking at or editing them. I went to bed tired and woke up feeling the same after unpleasant dreams of the past. I also ‘failed’ to loose any weight this week. 

Most annoyingly I didn’t get my certificate. 

But you know what? Tomorrow is another day and shit happens. I’ll loose this and more over the next seven days and it won’t matter in a week when I step on the scales and crush my 4lb goal. 

I also made two good people happy today and simultaneously helped to heal a wound in the family that has been there for years. 

Internet – today was a good day, by any measurement.

Davey

Gifted by the Pope or signed by Elvis

I’ve spent some time today emptying the odds and sods from my drawers at work, so that when we finally leave the office for the last time in two weeks I don’t have a huge pile of crap to lug home with me.

I’ve learned over the years (particularly after clearing out my mom’s bungalow) that keeping too much isn’t sentimentality – it’s hoarding – so I’m trying to be brutal. I’m taking a photo of the item, then slinging it in the bin – unless it was gifted to me by the Pope or signed by Elvis.

Sadly what meant a lot to me a few years ago no longer means the same now, and not many items (none actually) have been touched by the pontiff or been anywhere near Memphis. While I’m grateful for my time with my company I have no need to keep any milestone or achievement awards that they’ve given me.

They’re just paper and glass now.

My desk currently contains nothing more personal than an emergency pot noodle, a mug, bowl, fork and spoon. Otherwise the stationary and other things I’ve used for years don’t belong to me. They belong to the next employee in line.

I wonder who will sit in my chair next and whether they will enjoy their time here as much as I have? I’m not going to miss the job so much (lately it isn’t what it once was) but the people will be a massive loss.

Today, despite the pending redundancies, two long service awards were handed out by our director in large shiny silver frames. One was for 10 years and another for 15.

In times past there would have been a roomful of people all clapping and congratulating the guys or girls that received something like this. They’re huge milestones.

Today there were just nine of us.

There was no less love in the room though. Everyone here has supported each other through thick and thin – and they have clung together through the last two months, taking everything with good humour and compassion and sharing each and every scrap of info about external jobs that people might want to apply for as soon as they’ve found them.

I’ll miss them all.

It’s a sad time – and it doesn’t help with my eating habits.

Every time I start thinking about it I want to put some food in my mouth. The best I can do at the moment is minimise the damage and fill my bag for work with things that won’t do too much harm.

Here’s what I’ve been eating this week at home and in the office – and I’m hoping that it’s still going to enable me to lose again on Saturday.

I’m worried (as always) though that food is food and I shouldn’t eat so much of it. When I’m at home I definitely don’t eat the quantities that I do in the office and it’s annoying when I succumb to boredom or eat because I feel down.

At the moment I’m really looking forward to taking a break from work for a while and deciding what comes next.

Although I don’t know yet what that is from an employment perspective I’m pretty certain that the next few months will be about self improvement. I want to be losing weight at least half a stone a month – ideally more – and push myself under the 30st barrier.

I know that weight loss isn’t a magical panacea and that it won’t provide any career decisions or propel me through future interviews, but it does a lot for my self esteem – and that goes a long way toward me forming realistic ideas about the career paths I might take.

My self improvement won’t be just physical – It will be spiritual and intellectual as well.

From a spiritual perspective I’m going to be doing some volunteering in the near future. For whatever reason there has never seemed enough time in the past – or I haven’t felt emotionally or physically able enough to get involved with good causes.

I passed the DBS criminal background checks required by the charity of my choice last week however, and now I’m all set to be unleashed on the local elderly population in a few weeks as a ‘befriender’.

Effectively this involves being paired with a like minded, but socially isolated pensioner who needs some company. I’m hoping that this will be a good thing for both of us – whoever this turns out to be. I haven’t had any grandparents for years, so I feel there’s a gap that can be filled for both parties. Plus – I just love finding out what makes people tick and hearing their stories.

At the risk of stereotyping, I have no idea how to play dominoes though so if that’s required I may need some teaching!

Intellectually I’ve already started some creativity themed courses on Coursera, which my brother has been patiently suggesting I do for ages.

Since they’re free (unless you decide to get an accreditation) you can learn until your head pops.

Although I prefer my brains inside the confines of my skull I’ll try and cram in as much as I can while I have the time and see if I can re-kindle a passion for study. Since my degree finished this seemed to have left me without the possibility of returning. Hopefully it’s a temporary condition…

Finally – this evening I’m finishing a task that I’ve been putting off for ages.

I’m scanning the remainder of some photos of my mom and her family as children so that I can give the originals back to my Aunt and Uncle – who my mother rather contentiously ‘borrowed‘ them from.

The last time I started doing this it made me feel intensely sad. When I blew the photos up after scanning them people contained within had hidden expressions I’d never seen before. I could make out strands of hair and folds of clothing or buttons. The increased size of the image somehow humanised moments that were previously tiny and indistinct and I wasn’t ready for how this would impact me.

The unexpected sense of lost opportunity that stuck was so powerful and overwhelming I had to stop – and have been putting it off ever since.

There are very few things that make me want to pour a glass of wine these days – but this unfortunately is one of them. The sooner I’ve done it and handed them back the better. I honestly never want to see the originals or the faded album in which they sit ever again.

Well internet – that’s about it for the day.

As you can tell, with my task for the evening all mapped out I’m in a very reflective frame of mind. Maybe I shouldn’t be though. It might be nice.

I have to look at the positives!

Davey

Ulrik the cat

Whilst reading a fellow blogger’s post today (which mirrored my own thoughts on Wednesday) I was thinking that we all have low moments where things seem absolutely impossible – and at these times you need to just regroup for a few minutes and consider exactly where you were and where you are now.

But how best to do that?

Some people use clothes as their yardstick. It’s not working for me just yet.

Currently I am still only able to fit into an 8x shirt. Despite loosing almost 3 stone I’m not yet able to wear a 7x without it tugging uncomfortably across the waist. It’s annoying me – and although I know its just a number I feel I should fit in it by now.

But it’s not far away – in fact it’s closer every day.

To keep me motivated and on track over the last few months I’ve instead been mentally counting bags of sugar to keep track of my achievements – and my current 1kg bags lost is 19.

This visualisation is partially so that European friends who read my blog can work past the English barrier of pounds and ounces but also because a bag of sugar is a well known and tangible item.

The problem is that unless you have worked in a supermarket (I have – for quite a few years) after a while it gets a bit pointless. Who voluntarily picks up nearly 20 bags of sugar in Tescos just to see how it feels to walk with 10 on each shoulder?

Not me. Not since I stopped working in a supermarket warehouse anyway.

So how DO you visualise it?

In an effort to answer this I’ve found myself recently paying a lot more attention to large items with a standard weight, and my eye is drawn to them every time I notice one.

If you’re a keen Christmas (or thanksgiving) cook and you’ve lost a stone in weight you may be interested to know that the turkey you’re probably going to cook for your family no longer has to hide inside your xmas jumper – but can instead go in the oven.

6kg of Turkey looks like this:

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Nice to eat – but aren’t you glad you’re not carrying it with you everywhere you go?

So what if you’ve lost a bit more? Say two stone?

It turns out that there are some hefty puppies and puddy tats out there. The PDSA (a UK charity) helpfully keep track of the widening girth of the nation’s pets and in 2013 they informed us that Ulric the cat weighed in at 13kg (2 stone).

At the time he was the largest cat in the UK.

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I think we can all agree that this particular moggie may benefit from a few trips to Slimming World, and it would probably be a great idea if his owner stopped sprinkling Nandrolone on his bowl of Felix.

Most impressively if you’ve lost two stone then you no longer have to cram Ulric into your trousers and walk around the office with him. Well done you.

I’m getting close to three stone now (one pound to go –  hopefully I’ll do it this Saturday…) When I get there I might celebrate with a cod supper.

Maybe even THIS cod, caught a few years ago by Stefan Bude – which at 19kg and 126cm long represents the weight that I no longer have on my back, belly, bottom and chins.

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Finding enough chips to go with this might be a challenge, so I think I’ll stick to carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes on the side – with maybe a bag of lemons as a garnish…

The next major milestone, four stone – reached by some of the amazing women in my Slimming World group (and where I have my sights set next) is easy to visualise with a quick trip to a Wickes DIY store.

At 25kg this bag is almost 4 stone (55lbs).

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If you’re finding it hard to imagine the weight of a bag of cement you may be interested to know that (at 55- 60lbs) this is also the average weight of an elephant’s man sausage.

According to National Geographic it’s in the region of 55 lbs, while an intrepid biologist from another institution has calculated the average weight contained in an elephant banana hammock at around 59.5 pounds.

Its testicles also weigh in at 4.4lbs each, so a really good loss one week may see you say goodbye to one of these without even realising it!

Sadly unless your surname is Attenborough most of us are unlikely to handle the last two items in question, so in a real world scenario (or unless you have access to a zoo) the bag of cement is probably the best option for the less adventurous 4 stone visualisers out there.

Go and lift one up to see what’s gone!

Finally – for the five stone mark your safety in the workplace can dramatically increase.

The extra space in your clothes will now allow you to carry with you your own full size industrial CO2 fire extinguisher in your (probably larger than average) pocket. This will prove very useful indeed for dealing with flammable liquids, gas, oils, paint, fats and alcohols or even electrical fires.

You’ll become very popular in office emergencies and a sure fire hit (pun intended) with colleagues.

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It’s also worth noting that a 12 week plan at slimming world is £49.50. If you lost a pound and a half a week for less than a year this works out at 1/3 of the cost of pretending to be a fireman (in this case your conflagration quelling fantasy will cost over £600) and therefore SW clearly represents excellent value for money.

So internet – there we have it.

If like me you’re currently struggling with the idea of tossing off an elephant’s ding-a-ling it’s worth remembering that you already squeezed out a really large turkey, wrestled a giant pussy out of your trousers – and if you look back probably have a 126cm fisherman’s friend as a vague but fond memory.

If this fails to spur you on at all then you can at least look forward to people asking whether you have a fire extinguisher in your pocket, or whether you’re just really really happy to see them.

Davey

Mr Magoo

My eyes are tired, mostly because I can’t sleep. I think if it’s at all possible they’re also stressing (a bit like the rest of me) about my pending diabetic retinopathy screening later today.

It’s simple enough – as anyone with diabetes will know. A specialist will pop some drops into my eyes to dilate my pupils, wait for a while, then take some detailed digital photos of my retinas.

The unfortunate part of this is that the dilation lasts for up to 6 hours – during which time I will basically be Mr Magoo and need to wear sunglasses outside. It’s not painful – but every light source is uncomfortable – especially if it’s a sunny day. Pretty much all I can do for some time afterwards is listen to the radio or go to bed for a bit.

Again, not so bad. I can catch up on podcasts.

For me the biggest source of stress associated with this activity is not the test but instead that I’m not supposed to drive once I have the drops in my eyes. This means that I have to get to and from the screening under my own steam or on public transport.

The very first time I had to do this a couple of years ago I couldn’t get a taxi back. It was rush hour and I hadn’t pre-booked, so I ended up walking to a bus stop a few streets away rather than wait 90 minutes in the doctor’s surgery. It was an unexpectedly hot and sunny day.

This walk absolutely wasted me and the fear and vulnerability I subsequently felt because of it is still with me.

I could see almost nothing and was barely capable of physically moving from A to B. As there was no-where to sit down on the route I was quickly in all kinds of distress and pain. By the time I reached the mid point I couldn’t go back and also felt I could barely move forward.

I was absurdly trapped in the open.

My heart was pounding in my chest, my back was screaming with pain and I was drenched in sweat. When I eventually reached the bus stop I remember clinging onto a large wall with my legs quivering, convinced I was about to fall over or pass out.

According to Google Maps that day I only walked 0.6 miles.

While mobility is still an issue for me – walking is no longer as severe a problem as it was back then. Every week I become a bit more capable.

Although I’ve not said anything to anyone for fear of jinxing it, I’ve known about this appointment since before I joined Slimming World. It’s actually been one of the unspoken goals I’ve been working towards – to get there (reasonably) comfortably on foot and under my own steam.

Today’s location is different to the previous one but it is the same 0.6 miles there and also 0.6 miles back again. This means a round trip of just over a mile, which (thanks to the St Nicholas park circular route I’ve been walking) I’m now familiar and comfortable with.

However in this instance there are no park benches so the only respite I’ll have is stopping to take a breath or sitting on the occasional garden wall which worries me. I’ve been lying in bed walking the route in my head and thinking about inclines and possible places to rest and getting stressed.

It’s so ridiculously near but in my head every time I visualise it my appointment seems further and further away. I keep thinking over and over that I will have to move 31st 9lbs of fat from where I’m sitting now to my destination and back – which isn’t helping.

Unlike my park walks there’s a gradient in this journey – and since I still consider hills to be my natural predator I’ve avoided them up to this point. If I get successfully from A to B and back again this short journey will mark an important new step in my gradual improvement and slowly growing self confidence.

It’s now 4.30am and I have approximately six hours until I have to be there. I think I’m going to try reading. Sleep is clearly impossible. Back later.

(Reads, sleeps, wakes, toilets, sleeps, wakes, showers, makes coffee, walks and arrives at appointment 30 minutes early).

The walk here was actually rather pleasant. I arrived a bit out of breath but nothing that I’d consider upsetting or embarrassing. Only one garden wall stood between me and my downhill destination and that was mostly because I wanted to reply to a text.

The selfie I took on the way also looks like I’m thinning out in the face and a bit healthier – which is nice to see. When I look at myself every day in the mirror I seldom notice any differences – but today…

Maybe it’s the angle or the light?..

I’m not sure…

Aside from that while sitting in the waiting room at the health centre I’m becoming convinced that the sole purpose of any red chair is to cause me discomfort. I’m also cursing my habit of arriving early for appointments. Now I have to endure Torquemada’s little red torture implement for half an hour. 

The small plastic ones at SW are bad enough but ones with built in arms are like being trapped in a vice when you have an ass like mine. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the test and then I get to go back UP the hill…

(Time passes. It’s now early evening. )

Well that wasn’t so bad. After a short wait I was called in to have the drops and moved to a second waiting room for 15 minutes. This had a blissful, heaven sent, wide armed black plastic chair. I waited on it in relative comfort for the drops to take effect and slowly watched my leaflet become blurry and eventually unreadable.

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I’m not sure why there’s a caution on the leaflet about blurry vision.

As soon as the drops go in my eyesight is a mess and I can’t read the text on my phone or watch. At the point where the next most enjoyable part arrives (flash photography of the inside of my eyeball) I’m already extremely photosensitive and the world is unpleasantly fuzzy.

However, as uncomfortable as it is I prefer it to going blind, so I’m not ungrateful.

Its quite the opposite in fact. I’m very grateful I live in a country where I don’t have to go into debt to get healthcare. I value every single member of the teams that look after me. I know I’m a fortunate person in a socially inclusive system that provides me with the support and medication I need to live a healthy life.

Like a lot of the things I do that cause me stress – when I consider the complex and often negative emotions that surround them – about 80% of how I feel relates to my physical limitations.

After peeling these away I’m usually only left with positive feelings – so I try to do this whenever I catch myself becoming particularly grumpy.

Digging underneath grumpy Dave’s exterior today will expose someone feeling positive that after his screening He was able to walk back home. Up a hill. Without feeling like he was dying. He had to stop and sit four times  on the way back – but compared to the awful experience from before this is a huge improvement. 

The irritable Dave – that I fight to overcome in situations like this (the one previously grumbling about seating and suffering with insomnia) is an annoying manifestation of my fear, shame, frustration, guilt and embarrassment – and in this instance it’s specifically related to my diabetes.

While I am continually trying to be kind to the inner me I often catch myself thinking ‘What have I done to my body? I caused all this. It’s my fault. I deserve to etc etc etc…’

Then I stop and try once again to forgive myself, forget the past and to move on.

One day I want to be at the point where concerns like this no longer bother me. I can now envisage a day in near the future where I will not have to worry for months in advance about such an upcoming event like I do now.

Hopefully internet, when that day arrives – and it’s not all that far away – I’ll be able to sit and walk wherever the hell I like.

Davey

Food glorious food

I’ve been trying lately to vary things up a quite a bit with what I eat.

In the past variety has not been something that I’ve done so well and I have tended to find things I like, can cook well, and eat them until I can’t face them any more.

This is a really bad idea for staying on plan – because if you get to that state then you’re already in danger of failure.

So – as mentioned in my last post I took a cue last night from the kind soul who gave me a Spicentice curry kit in the slimmer of the week basket and made a Chicken Jalfrezi from scratch. The only thing I changed was the oil, as the recipe called for 3 tablespoons.

When it came down to it I just saw it as a waste of syns and munched a couple of Hi-fi bars (less than half the cost of the oil at 6 syns) while I prepared it instead. In the end some fry light spray did the job just fine and nothing ended up sticking to the frying pan.

Chicken Jalfrezi 2

The instructions for this were pretty simple and were on the inside of the packet of spices – so I’m not claiming to be a champion chef!

Personally I felt I ended up with two filling portions rather than four – but I’m willing to concede that my judgement isn’t always the best in this area. I think I could probably have included more speed on the side to bulk it up – but I’m not sure it would have looked quite as cool on the plate!

Chicken Jalfrezi 1

Although I’m not a typical man I do make one concession to masculine stereotypes and thats being the type of guy who doesn’t usually read instructions (another habit i’m trying to change). In this case however, they were nice and easy to follow, well laid out – and pretty hard to mess up.

I left the chicken marinading while I chopped up everything else and grated the ginger.

I decided to use half a tin of chopped tomatoes rather than one fresh one – which seemed to me to be more for show than flavour in the recipe.

Not so long ago I accidentally bought a miniature grater – wondering what the heck I would EVER use it for. Well it turns out it’s actually very good indeed for an inch of ginger.

Chicken Jalfrezi 4

Once all the marinading was done, and the chicken cooked I added some microwave brown basmati rice (2 syns) and served with LOTS of freshly chopped coriander.

I absolutely adore the fragrance of finely chopped coriander stirred into a dish after the heat is turned off. It just fills the room with earthy pleasure!

Chicken Jalfrezi 5

I have to say I REALLY liked this curry, although I’m not sure about the amount of salt the recipe states it requires. I put less than the amount it wanted me to in and felt there was still a slightly saltier taste than I would have preferred at the end of it.

It’s all personal taste however – and if you want to try it for yourself you can find the kits here. I think (from what was said in group when this was mentioned several weeks ago) Ocado also sell them, but they don’t seem to be in Tesco or Sainsburys.

Half of this was boxed up for a later meal and I went to bed pleasantly full and sleepy.

I awoke this morning with another culinary mission in mind and ended up quite literally shedding blood for Slimming World – but despite introducing the end of my thumb to the business end of a cheese grater my lunchtime meal of Pork and Apple Burgers (from the pages of the club magazine last month) turned out to be absolutely DELICIOUS.

This was completely syn free, and outrageously tasty. I haven’t eaten bread for a while and didn’t really fancy having the wholemeal bun just for the sake of it. It’s personal choice however – and I can see how some people would think it’s just not the same without it.

The recipe was also very simple to follow and relatively quick to prepare (I don’t have a food processor and doing it by hand slows me down a bit.)

The ingredients are things that are probably mostly in your cupboard anyway – and the instructions are also child’s play to follow (as long as you have thumb sized plasters close by to stem the resulting arterial spurts).

pork and apple recipie

I used Braeburn apples in my burgers, which next to Cox’s Pippins are my favourite supermarket variety due to the tangy flavour. I often bemoan the range of apples today and find it exasperating that we are reduced to 4-5 main varieties. However – these were very fresh and the sharp flavour really hit the mark with the pork.

I also only used two medium potatoes here as I’m cooking for one.

Pork & Apple Burgers 2

I couldn’t help getting a shot of my magnetic measuring spoons in action. They stick together like magic!

They’re my favourite kitchen thing ever!

Pork & Apple Burgers 3

After mixing in the parsley, onion, apple and garlic (I prefer my onion and parsley chopping a bit rustic – which can make the patties a bit less cohesive but the cooked texture is way nicer) I portioned the burgers into six rather than four as I don’t like the idea that something won’t thoroughly be cooked through when I eat it.

It was about 8 mins each side on a medium grill setting for me – but I also set off the smoke alarm somehow before turning them – despite them (in my view) not burning at all. Due to this on the second side I put some spray oil on top of them and this seemed to do this trick – enabling them to ‘sizzle’ a bit more, rather than dry grilling.

The potato wedges were seasoned only with salt in my case and spray oil. I had toyed with adding garlic – but as the burgers already contained it I thought I’d keep it simple.

In my oven 30 mins cooking time was more than enough.

Pork & Apple Burgers 4

The accompanying salad was half an orange pepper, a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, 2 sticks of celery and 4 leaves of romaine lettuce. This was tossed in some cider vinegar, which went REALLY well with the salted wedges.

Pork & Apple Burgers 1

So there you have it. This is the living hell that I am forced to endure with Slimming World.

Sometimes I don’t know how I cope.

Actually internet – I’ve just realised that I haven’t had my Sunday coffee or diabetic meds yet. I better get on with that immediately!!!

I hope you’re having a smashing weekend, and whatever you’re eating you’re enjoying it as much as I am!

Davey

On target dieting

Apart from a brief trip out yesterday to get some essentials (mainly of the brown caffeinated kind) today is my first proper day out of the house since Monday thanks to the flu – and despite sniffing and coughing throughout today’s Slimming World meeting I’m glad I went.

If I hadn’t (amongst other things) then I’d never have been there to hear one of the ladies say that she takes her mind off food and keeps active by practicing archery in her garden.

My mind instantly filled with images of her housemates with apples on their heads – and I couldn’t help laughing.

What a great idea though – and how original! Kudos to her for finding something unique that works. All the walking back and forth to pick up arrows must also count towards body magic.

Talk about on target dieting!

Archery-31

As I sat and sipped my flask of coffee I listened to the rest of the group. Some others struggled this week and it seems I hadn’t been the only one that was ill.

Others were having difficulty with patting themselves on the back about their progress. Angie was quick to re-frame this and pointed out that having a steady weekly average was a very positive thing.

It’s a really worthwhile exercise to do to add up what little losses mean over time. In the case of someone loosing a pound and a half on average a week (after quickly totting it up on my calculator) in a year 78lbs is gone. That’s 5st 8lbs of weight that doesn’t have to be carried 12 months down the line.

Five and a half stone. Over 35 bags of sugar. That’s amazing!

It seems very odd (due to the regularity that it’s been happening) but in group Angie has been largely in step with my own thoughts over the last month or so when she’s done her presentations – and this week was no different.

Her group talk concerned image therapy, and considering the positives about ourselves – something that I had been going through when looking at my most hated photo in my last blog.

I could fill an entire post with things I don’t like about myself – but doing the opposite is often not so easy (although in this respect I am slowly getting better).

This is something everyone attending today agreed that they struggle with. Finding something about ourselves that we love can sometimes be really difficult – but it’s absolutely necessary to move forward.

I shared in group today that every previous time I’ve lost weight (and given up drinking, smoking, or other naughty things) I’ve used hatred of myself as a motivator. When I’ve reached a point where I could no longer look myself in the mirror that became the pivotal moment that I decided to make an effort.

This can be a really powerful motivator – and it can definitely produce results – but in my experience they come with a heavy emotional cost. Ultimately hating yourself to get things done is a scorched earth policy.

While outwardly it may temporarily get you where you want to be it has a terrible impact over time, and completely fails to deal with any underlying issues that caused the problem in the first place.

It also requires that you feel really negative about yourself for extended periods prior to anything good happening .

My experiences with my mother and her death earlier this year have starkly illustrated what hating yourself and others can ultimately do to a person – and how isolated and lost someone can really get when that’s their driving force in life.

For all the negative things surrounding that event the big positive that I took from it was a drive to better myself – and to take a positive path in life that would benefit others as well as myself.

Ultimately the last six months has all been toward that end – and instead of being made redundant from my job with feelings of self loathing and physical immobility in 3 weeks I (purely through re-framing my view and having already made positive changes) will instead have many burdens lifted and yet more time to focus on self improvement – both physically and mentally.

The key to recovery from any kind of compulsive or self destructive behaviour is learning to forgive and love yourself the same way you forgive and love others – and I like the person I’m becoming.

Angie finally asked us at the close of her talk to get a piece of paper and write down some positives about ourselves outside of the group.

I’m not going to write my list of things here (it doesn’t seem appropriate) but I AM going to write it down later in private just as she suggested.

Her session this morning was worth attending for more than just image therapy however – and (maybe thanks to the flu) I lost another 5lbs, taking my current weight to 31st 9.5lbs.

I have one pound to go and I get my three stone certificate!

I still haven’t gotten to the point where I can second guess how I’m going to do in advance though – and I was genuinely expecting something entirely different this week. I feel like I’ve eaten a lot – but what I’m doing way better than I ever did before is snacking on the right things.

I might eat a couple of apples if I’m peckish, or some ham pieces and (truckloads of) cherry tomatoes – but the alternative used to be a Cornish Pasty (28 syns) – so that in itself is progress. Coffee has also replaced cider – saving me 11.5 syns a pint.

Not that I’m recommending that anyone drinks several pints of coffee in an evening instead! 🙂

It’s not all been plain sailing lately though.

Honestly I am still really struggling with portion sizes – and sometimes feel like chewing my own arm off when I put on the plate what I think ‘normal’ people might eat. This is something that I think is going to be a constant battle for me.

Some days I do better than others in this respect and the ratio where I succeed and where I don’t is probably sitting at the 50/50 mark a the moment. I think I’m probably getting away with it for three reasons.

Firstly because I’m making sure that I am having a large volume of speed food, secondly because I’m cooking everything from scratch and thirdly because I’m usually way under my daily syn intake.

This isn’t because I’m restricting myself, but instead because I’m thankfully not usually craving the types of food that fit into the syn category.

I know that overloading my plate is something ultimately I’m going to have to be a lot stricter with if I want continued success – but for today I’m just happy with where I am, and looking at the positives.

So what are the they for the today?

  1. Despite feeling like crap I got up and went to group with a (broken) flask of coffee.
  2. I lost 5lbs and got slimmer of the week (while sipping my coffee from my broken flask).
  3. I bought a new Starbucks flask (its greeeeeen!) & filled it with a second free refill coffee after I finished the first one.
  4. I unexpectedly bumped into my brother and sister in law in Starbucks before they went on holiday tomorrow because I decided to go out.
  5. I had coffee with them – which is always ace.
  6. Did I mention coffee?
  7. And coffee. Can’t forget that.

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Well internet that’s enough naval gazing for one day.

I’m only going to be happy if I keep this stuff up – so tonight Im going to cook myself chicken jalfrezi made from a bag of spices I got in the slimmer of the week basket (thanks to whoever popped that in there!).

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It’s going to have some syns with the oil – but I’ve had none today and this seems like a great way to use them.

I’ve never made this before, so check back tomorrow or the day after to see if I was the master of culinary disaster or the architect of cooking awesomeness!

Davey

Most hated photo

There are quite a few pictures of me on my computer. The vast majority of them I have no love for. One or two I like a bit, but they’re the absolute minority.

When I scroll through my photo library I’m struck by how much (until fairly recently) I have avoided having my picture taken. There are vast gaps in my timeline where I take photos of objects or other people, but there are almost none of myself.

A candid photo of me will almost certainly catch me in a pose I’m unhappy with. When a man of my stature has so many awful angles to choose from, taking a photo that I dislike is not difficult.

Unlike some of my friends I don’t mind people taking my photo though. I take pictures of other people because I want to capture a memory of someone I like, and I assume they do the same with me.

Do I want to look at the pictures they take? No – not really. They can keep them to themselves.

Recently however I have been seeing other brave people in Slimming World putting up before and after photos of themselves and It’s amazing to see how some have changed.

They’re genuinely inspiring.

Unfortunately I haven’t got anywhere near my goal yet, but I do know where I want to be in a couple of years.

Because of this I need something to focus on when I’m sitting staring at the fridge in weaker moments (otherwise known as ‘days of the week’).

All of the photos floating on the SW Facebook group on the topic made me start to think ‘what’s the absolute worst photo of myself in my collection?’

In the last decade the LOWEST weight that I have recorded for myself is 24st 5lbs (155kg) in May 2008. Although to many this would be a starting point to me it was a massive achievement, and I’d lost almost 10 stone to get down to that.

This is how I looked.

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The route I’d chosen to get there was however not the right one for me. I’d chosen a diet that relied on meal replacements, not re-learning how to eat real food.

The diet consultant I went to was an absolutely lovely woman, who genuinely cared – but I had ignored (and was unwilling to properly deal with) other problematic aspects of my personality and eating/drinking habits.

For a short time though I was fitter and happier (at least I thought I was) than I’d ever been.

Then the mental wheels came off the bus and I started destroying all my hard work. Looking back I remember actively working to sabotage myself again and again. Pretty soon, at the rate of a stone a month I had put it all back on. By February 2009 (when I gave up weighing myself) I was 32 stone 7lbs.

Years passed and then by mid 2015 this was the moon faced man I once again saw in the mirror. I’d learned by this time to hate myself in every conceivable way. I had developed diabetes and high cholesterol, and could barely physically move from one location to another.

The only way I could deal with this was by hiding from the world and covering my physical and emotional pain with food and alcohol.

most hated photo 2 (1)

When I finally stepped on the scales at Slimming World in April 2016 I was 34st 8.5lbs, and I know for a fact in the three months prior to this (thanks to giving up alcohol) I had already lost some weight by then.

So what’s the point of this?

Why am I posting this picture when I haven’t got back to where I want to be? I’m sure that the guy in this image still looks familiar to all that know me.

Sure – I’m a couple of stone lighter now, but I have a long way to go. I still can’t walk very long distances and my mobility (although improving) still sucks. The person I am now isn’t radically different.

Or is he?

Mentally something has changed. I can feel it deep inside – and it’s something I want to remember when I hit dark moments. I need to be able to look back and focus upon how I’m thinking here and now, so I’m writing it down.

I’m not thinking about dying any more.

I’ve said to many people (including my family) over recent years that I didn’t expect to see old age. Flippantly I compared myself to John Candy, who died of a heart attack at the age of 43 while filming Wagons East! 

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He was a smaller man than myself. Although I don’t know how heavy he was when he died some Googling suggests he was at times 325lbs in weight (some non-news sites suggest it was higher) and was approx 6 ft 1in. In contrast I am also 43, started at 484lbs and am 5ft 11.

I realise now how much me saying I expected to die so soon must have hurt the people I love. They were forced to see someone they cared about matter of factly admitting he expected to be dead in the very near future. Furthermore they also had to watch me slowly committing suicide by food and alcohol in front of them.

I’m not sure I’d have taken it as well as they did if the tables had been turned on me.

To be honest I still feel a lot of shame about that – but I have to move on and focus on what I can do right, not just kicking myself for what I did wrong.

So this – my most hated photo is something I may not have looked closely at had it not been for the people at Slimming World. I’m glad I took the time to search for it, crop out everyone else, straighten it up and present it to the world in all its morbidly obese glory.

It represents the man I never want to be again – and the more people that have this image, and read this post the better.

Not only do I want to keep this in the forefront of my mind and never forget it – I want each and every one of the people that know me to remind me about this photo if I falter in the future.

Anyway – that’s almost all I have to say today internet, but I want you to know that despite still being full of man flu and still having a long journey ahead I’m not feeling down.

I’m feeling positive – and I want to share that with others. 

Every.

Single.

One.

Of.

Us.

…can be who we want to be if we strip away the artifices we’ve constructed to hide from our realities. In order to effect long term and positive change the only way forward is to be truly honest with ourselves and others about who we are and why we do the things we do.

Davey

Appetite disturbed

As is typical when it comes to the best laid plans of mice and men the only thing that can be considered a certainty in life is uncertainty.

I started Monday as I planned to go on for the week – positive and on plan, with a indomitable certainty that my mood would conquer all, which it did – until early evening when I began to feel unusually hungry.

I managed to annihilate an entire box of Slimming World Hi-Fi bars, nailing 18 syns in one sitting. Then immediately after I had a baked potato and some stir fry with two salmon steaks. Everything tasted unusual though. Not only was my appetite randomly out of control, but everything I was eating had a coppery tang to it.

Then I started to feel queasy. The fish was new – it couldn’t be out of date… Was it the types of food? Mixing hi-fi bars with a main meal maybe? Then my headache started, followed by shoulder aches and a scratchy throat.

Finally to complete the picture my nose started running. I realised that man flu had arrived.

So now – for the second night in a row I’m sitting upright because I can’t breathe properly lying down and I’m feeling grumpy.

On the positive side for the start of today my appetite has swung in the opposite direction to last night, and I’ve not felt particularly hungry. Maybe this will redress the ridiculousness of Monday’s out of character need to binge on something sweet.

As I can’t sleep tonight to pass the time I decided I would finally try to make the little mini quiches / egg nests that Angie brought to the food tasting session a few weeks ago. I absolutely loved them – and was reminded about them a couple of days ago while watching the Eh Bee Family make something similar on YouTube.

It just so happened I had all the ingredients in the fridge – all I needed on top of that was Lemsip and coffee.

Although Angie used leek in hers (and the Eh Bee’s used spinach) I decided to go with what I had to hand. Since there was half a courgette and half a large onion already waiting to be used up in the fridge these would have to be part of it.

Ingredients for my 12 Egg Nests:

  • 1 /2 tub Sainsbury’s Quark (Free) (I used approx half of a 250g tub)
  • Large Eggs x 8 (Free)
  • square sandwich ham (Free) (12 slices needed)
  • Half a large onion (Speed)
  • Half a large courgette (Speed)
  • 5 chestnut mushrooms (Speed)
  • 2 x cloves of garlic (Speed)
  • 4 x Sainsbury’s BGTY Bacon Medallions (Free)
  • 12 x muffin tray (although Angie used silicon ones I decided that this was less faff with washing up!)

Firstly, chop the onion, the courgette, the mushrooms, the garlic and the bacon finely. Then put it into a hot pan coated with spray oil and slowly fry this mix until the bacon is cooked and the onion is beginning to caramelise. Be careful not to burn the garlic – its usually a good idea to put this in last.

Make sure you stir this every few minutes.

While this is on the hob grease the muffin tray with more fry light and put a square of ham in each of the 12 holes.

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Next crack 8 eggs into a mixing jug (I used a plastic measuring jug with a spout – it makes filling the nests a lot easier) and add half of the quark to them. Whisk until it’s a constant light yellow colour and then pour it into the ham nests.

Roughly speaking you should have all of the 12 nests about 3/4 full by now, leaving a little room for the filling, which should now be cooked.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 204 degrees Centigrade / Gas Mark 6 (depending on where you live or what you use) or if you’re like me and someone scrubbed all the numbers off your dials then just guess and keep peeking every five minutes.

Now you can spoon the filling into the nests individually (the ingredients above roughly gave about two teaspoon’s worth per serving) and pat them down before popping the tray into the oven.

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After about 20 minutes your nests should look a bit like this. Leave them to stand for 5-10 mins and they will be easily lifted out of the tray and sliced open.

Although my taste buds are wrecked and my nose is blocked these tasted REALLY nice.

From a Slimming world perspective I had mine with a load of cherry tomatoes to keep the ‘speed’ ratio up for the meal – but there isn’t a Syn in sight here – so you can go right ahead and enjoy yourself.

This was a top recipe from Angie – so kudos goes to her for the inspiration! I have a tupperware box full of these in the fridge for tomorrow, and I think I’ll do them again in the future so I can take a few to work occasionally.

They’re PRETTY FILLING as well!!

Anyway internet. Its now 3am, and I’m still awake talking to you. I need another Lemsip.

I’m going to try and sleep in my armchair downstairs and hope that my head stops pounding and my nose stops running long enough to nod off.

Have fun cooking – and I hope you feel better than I do!

Davey