Acorns and conkers 

If there’s something that’s always made me stop what I’m doing ever since I was a little boy it’s a shiny conker or a lovely brown acorn.

I’m sure in a previous life I was a squirrel.

Although my fascination probably has more to do with always enjoying this time of year and the slow change of summer into autumn. I can’t help picking them up and examining them.

They always remind me of the darkly lacquered furniture in my grandmothers and my own house when growing up and they bring back some happy memories both of childhood (where big conkers were something to be prized) and simpler times.

When I was little I didn’t know anywhere that conkers grew. Then a boy at school mentioned ‘Conker Island‘.

I kid you not – in my tiny child-like mind I imagined an actual island where nothing but conker trees (boring people call them Horse Chestnuts) grew and their seeds could be picked up off the ground with ease. I had a visualisation of pockets bulging with conker booty – and arriving home from the voyage like a pirate squirrel – ready to conquer any conker champions in the school playground.

(For those in Europe or elsewhere who may be unfamiliar with this game – have a look here.)

In reality it turned out to be a grove of trees by two main roads near the Clock Garage in Castle Bromwich about three miles from my house.

When my mom and I arrived there were no competition class conkers – they’d been hoovered up by the other children before I got there. They had no parents with them and were all throwing wooden coat hangers at the tree like ASBO boomerangs to knock them down in clusters. We steered clear of them.

It was a little disappointing if I’m honest – but I did get one or two smaller ones and a few handfuls of acorns, which I put in the two zip up pockets of my body warmer.

I have no idea why but the memory has stuck with me and I can’t resist picking up either of them when I notice them lying on the ground.

It’s the seasonal changes that I love though – not just the way they look at one particular moment in time.

It was only last week that I was in the Wyre Forest and all of the acorns were a fresh green colour. They were far from falling off the trees – but were in a shaded arboretum in the middle of the wood.

I’ve come to realise lately that although a lot of the joy of moving from A to B has been in the sensation of increased vitality and the corresponding positive moods there’s more to it than this.

As I type I’m again in a coffee shop surrounded by people. I need the world – not the solitude of my home.

That’s not to say I need to be surrounded by people all the time – but I need to see LIFE, as well as just talking to friends and passers by. When I watch the shift in seasons, see acorns maturing into a new shade and leaves getting ready to change into rich oranges and browns for the Autumn I feel connected to the world around me.

It’s a nice feeling.

For the most part it is anyway. I still feel ill and cannot stop coughing – which is a real pain as tomorrow I’m attending a friend’s birthday lunch. It’s a significant milestone, so not only only do I not want to miss it but I don’t want to turn up empty handed.

The internet came to my rescue in the form of Moonpig. I LOVE this website due to the variety of personalisation options on the majority of the cards you can send. You can really make it your own – and add your own verses and dedications – which I do.

Oddly it’s sometimes both a personal and an impersonal choice though. If you’re in a hurry to make the date (like I was) you can get the card sent direct to the recipient with your own words printed inside – but without your own authentic signature. When I’m not in a rush I get it sent to myself, sign it and then post it.

Thankfully I didn’t miss the occasion and my friend loved the card nonetheless.

Her pending celebration also provided the motivation for me to come into Leamington and have a plodding walk around town looking for presents.

Much of my gift shopping in the last few years has been exclusively on Amazon. Their next day delivery has sorted out my birthdays, Christmases and any other big event. In years past I used to enjoy browsing for little gifts and quirky presents in Solihull or Birmingham, but it just slowly stopped for me as it became easier to manage every aspect of such events from home.

I told myself it was to avoid queues and high prices but really it had a lot to do with just not wanting to move. Today however (despite the coughing and sneezing throughout) I’ve enjoyed present hunting and I think I’ve found some suitably fun and practical little gifts that will put a smile on her face. That’s pretty much made my day.

Well – that and my handful of warm acorns, with all of their woody imperfections and personality.

Although – If I’m honest internet I’m a little preoccupied and not looking forward to weighing in tomorrow. It’s not been a good week for eating and exercise.

However THAT that will be another story for another post…

Davey

Write off

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I knew there was something amiss the other day when a man dressed in sack cloth and ringing a bell walked past my house calling ‘bring out your dead!’ He moved on after drawing a chalk mark on my front door to indicate that there was a plague victim within.

The ladies in my life refer to this as ‘man flu‘, which scarcely does justice to the Ebola like symptoms of the flesh eating virus I appear to have succumbed to.

The consequence of blog silence however is a heartwarming one – and today my mobile has been buzzing away with people making sure that I’m not hibernating or on a downward spiral.

I can confirm to those who have asked about my welfare that reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

In truth I have a really annoying chesty cough thats been nagging away in the background for days. On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after a walk with a fellow Slimming World’r around Arrow Valley it turned into a constant cough, runny nose and banging headache.

I fear that this week (in diet and exercise terms) may well be a write off. My appetite has confusingly swung between absolutely ravenous and completely disinterested – with daily exercise in much shorter supply than normal.

Initially this depressed my mood greatly. I’ve also had to cancel several social engagements – one of which was planned months ago – and I hate to let people down.

I dislike feeling like I’ve overeaten and been ‘lazy’ even more.

However – this is just life. If this week goes a bit south I’m just going to have to deal with it when I stand on the scales. I already have a (nearly) full week of walks in the calendar for next week and will make up any ground lost.

So – thanks to all those who asked after me. I’ll be back in service soon hopefully.

(cough, cough, splutter, sniffle)

Davey

Counting the pile

I’m having a day of ‘rest’ today. Well at least from walking – it’s not really a day of chilling – but time to tidy my house. It’s become a bit of a mess in my recent prolonged outdoor absences.

It’s no excuse I know but I have been trying not to sit indoors at all lately, so the house has slowly become a bit of a dumping ground. I’ve been putting a lot of domestic stuff off.

Some of it is also because my dining room still has big boxes of crap from my mom’s bungalow and I’ve done everything I can to avoid going anywhere near them. Things have been placed in front of them and on top of them, probably in an unconscious attempt to avoid the task.

However this morning the band aid was not exactly ripped off but I began a gentle (ow!) peeling (ow!!) process (frick!) that is a bit more in tune with what I feel capable of bearing.

I have today added to my huge pile of washed and folded clothes to go to charity – along with a stack of towels (I have LOADS for some reason) and some handbags and things that belonged to my mom.

In the process I’ve also uncovered items that have been hidden in my ‘lalalalala not listening’ places for some time.

I stopped for lunch to read through some them.

My meal while I did so came courtesy of the slow cooker, which was filled with the ingredients for a beef stew last night. It never ceases to amaze me when I go to bed, and close the lid on raw meat and veg, that I then wake up in the morning to see this.

My lunch has been a somber one though – and if I’m honest it’s made me both angry and sad. Don’t get me wrong – the beef stew was lovely. It was the reading material that left me sitting in silence.

This morning I found my old Slimming World books (there are two) which I thought had been destroyed in a fit of pique some years ago.

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It’s all just numbers until I start to look at the dates and weights, and then I see my own reflection staring back at me in-between the lines – and I don’t like it.

I hate it in fact.

No…

I absolutely loathe it.

I’m stopping short of saying I hate myself because I’m trying hard to focus on the fact that the person in these numbers and dates is not me any more.

Although he is. I was him not so long ago.In many ways I’m STILL the same man and it terrifies me that I may one day completely become him again. It’s happened before.

When I originally met Angie and joined in November 2010 I was 33st 4lbs – a stone and a half lighter than I was when I rejoined for a third time in April 2016.

Although many weeks in my first book are concurrent I can see the gaps further on where I didn’t weigh in. They stand out like sore thumbs. I can also remember just walking out of the group after standing on the scales – not wanting to face up to what I had been eating and drinking during the week and instead going home to get drunk. I remember quite often getting a chicken kebab on the way home too.

I had to drive from Slimming World to the chip shop to pick it up, and drive home to eat it because I couldn’t easily walk the distance under my own steam.

How pathetic is that?

I got a few stickers though. I managed to loose two stone before I ran away the first time.

Then in between the 9th March and 23rd of May 2011 (when I made a half hearted second attempt and re-joined) I put on TWO STONE EIGHT AND A HALF POUNDS. That’s around a stone a month.

I lasted four weeks according to my second, sad looking, sticker-less book and then went right back to stuffing my face.

I keep seeing this figure of a stone a month. It was the same when I stopped Weight Watchers. It happened again after the Cambridge Diet – at exactly the same pace.

It scares me to death when I see evidence of what I’m capable of when I’m drepressed and have alcohol and food in unlimited quantities. I haven’t been able to stop myself with either before.

I have now though – and I HAVE to believe that this is permanent.

I genuinely feel like this is my very last chance, because if I do it again I’m 100% sure it will kill me. Maybe not immediately but it will do eventually.

I need to focus on all the positives and not give into recriminations and regrets – or think about the years I’ve lost.

Sometimes it’s really hard though – and on days like today when it’s raining outside and I’m left surrounded by bad memories it can gnaw away at me and make me forget all of the positives.

At the moment I’m working through it by writing and counting clothes. Huge clothes. Clothes I have been forced to wear by my inactivity. Half of them I never liked, some I hated, but wore because the alternative was public nudity.

I looked at the tag in one newish pair of jeans. 64 waist. Sadly this wasn’t the biggest pair I owned. There were bigger ones. They are stretched and deformed at the waistband, pulled out of their original shape by the strain and pressure of holding my gut in.

Some waistbands couldn’t take the pressure and and the buttons literally popped off, sometimes snapping in half and leaving jagged metal behind. I learned over the years that the best way to deal with this was to just sew the waistband together and cover it up with a thick belt.

The belts often also broke. Mostly because of similar metal fatigue in the buckles. I used to keep some string in the boot of my car just in case. True story.

All of it is intensely shameful. But it needs to be remembered.

In this pile on my living room floor are seven pairs of jeans (there are more waiting in the wings upstairs), twelve shirts (at least three more will join soon), one hoodie and five teeshirts (another four are almost too big).

I know I’m putting off taking these to charity  – and I know the reason. In the back of my mind there’s a ‘what if‘.

This pile of cotton and polyester misery represents at least £500 that I no longer have at my disposal to replace them if I backslide.

Taking all of these to Age Concern is the metaphorical and almost literal embodiment of ‘burning my bridges’. It’s a massive step for me.

I’m going for a walk tomorrow and afterwards I’m going to dispose of the lot. Every last single item. I am never ever ever ever ever going to wear any of these ever again.

And internet – you have my permission if you see me slipping or loosing my way to point me at this post and to rub my nose in the excrement of my past to make sure that I go outside and do my business there instead of sitting trapped in my armchair, sleeping upright because I couldn’t breathe when I lay down.

You have my blessing to boot my bottom.

Davey

Buzzard trail

Today I’ve been tramping around woodlands with Freckles – who was kind enough to bring my long standing friend along with her.

Freckles had directed her pet human to invite me (after our last walk in Warwick) to a longer woodland walk in the Wyre Forest – a lively hot spot for her fellow dogs and their tame bipeds.

She relaxed in the boot while her chauffeur drove and chatted.

The day couldn’t have been better – and although there was the occasional light shower, for the most part fluffy white clouds happily co-existed with light blue skies and frequent rays of sunshine.

As we parked up I could see that Sunday was a busy day. We’d arrived at the tail end (pun intended) of an RSPCA dog walking event. At the cafe by the car park some volunteers in little blue marquees were handing out small ‘doggy’ bags to the people that had completed the walk.

As the tired pet lovers tramped past us we stopped to look at the map of the forest and tried to decide upon which route to do.

My friend suggested the blue trail might be a bit to long for today (it followed a stretch of old railway line) so the choice was a couple of laps of a shorter one or the longer three mile red route.

The red route had some short hill climbs and seemed like a good choice for sensible exercise (plus it was not too muddy apparently) so we agreed on that one.

One Buzzard Trail coming up!

As we started on the walk I couldn’t help but notice that from a family perspective there seems to be a LOT for children to do, and besides the packed playground at the cafe there were hidden tepees in the woods and lots of clambering around in trees to be done.

As we passed the RSPCA tents children were whizzing along a steel zip wire cable in the canopy above us from a large tree house which led to the ground about 100m away.

There were some terrified expressions on the way down which seemed universally to give way to justifiable feelings of elation that they’d managed to conquer their fears and were back on solid ground.

Everywhere we looked there were rope bridges and suspended aerial crawl tunnels for children and adults to navigate through.

Years ago I did an outward bound course in Sealyham and loved it. I was at the time thin enough to rock climb, abseil, swing on ropes over rivers and clamber around in trees.

I’m adding it to the list of things to do again one day soon.

As we moved forward the number of people and children diminished and the paths widened as they meandered through the forest.

The sun came out for a while, and filled the bracken and trees with playful shadows and new life. Everything seemed lush, verdant and green. I mentioned to my friend that this was about as perfect as a place gets for me.

I adore woodland.

I’ve never cared really for beaches in the sun with towels by the pool or all inclusive hedonism. Trees and mountains are what floats my particular boat, and always have been.

As we walked and talked my guide mentioned that we might possibly see some deer crossing our path – but despite freckles looking very alert and staring into the bushes for a while (I love the way she stands with one foot in the air when listening!) the elusive creatures failed to materialise.

Before long (we had a short sit down here) we were off again. As the path began to circle back to our starting point the first of several small inclines appeared.

In the not so distant past I wouldn’t be so keen on this and it may have been a complete deal breaker. However today it was just another path that might require a little breather. My ‘to do’ list has hills pretty much at the top, as it’s good for my calf muscles and excellent for raising my pulse and burning calories.

Eventually I plan to walk up Snowdon and at some point (when I’m at a more reasonable weight) I want to start training for it.

It was good to see that although the inclines made me breathless, after a quick stop I was good to go again. Nothing much was slowing me (or Freckles) down today.

Before long – after a very satisfying walk and exercise we were back at the little cafe, where we sat down and enjoyed a cold diet soda whilst the dogs socialised and watched the children play nearby.

I’d never been to the Wyre forest before today – but I was sure that this was a mistake that would not be repeated. Instantly upon arriving I got the feeling that this was a place I wanted to come back to.

It’s got excellent facilities (fresh coffee and cakes are available for anyone that wants one – or a cooked breakfast/lunch) and the parkland is both well managed and beautiful. I said as much to my friend as we left – and I fully intend to return with him (and Freckles) in the near future.

I must also thank his most excellent wife, who had readied for our return some roasted stuffed peppers on a bed of salad leaves and a wonderful tuna, red onion, baby plum tomato and butter bean side salad.

Knowing that I was following Slimming World everything was measured and prepared so as not to sabotage any of my efforts and tasted thoroughly delicious. I worked out the whole meal to be 2 syns (the 40g of cheddar cheese was 30g ‘healthy extra’ and 10g synned) as the food was almost all free or speed.

After a lovely chat I drove home relaxed and happy. My exercise ring was full on Apple Watch, my tummy was full thanks to my friend’s lovely wife and my social activity gauge was full and sat in the ‘thoroughly satisfied’ section.

Overall Internet it was a great day out. I must remember to thank Freckles for asking  her humans to show me around.

She got a lot of petting though today. I think she knows I appreciated the gesture.

Davey

Duracell bunnies

‘I’ll swap you my biscuits for your chicken nuggets’ said my friend’s daughter to her younger sister.

The smaller sibling thought about the offer for a moment. She clearly wasn’t enjoying the nuggets or the chips, and had picked up and put down a test one several times without so much as a sniff of interest.

It seemed like a good trade. She nodded and held out her palm expectantly.

The small packet of 3 cream filled biscuits was passed over in exchange and the eldest daughter reached over the table to grab one of the three nuggets on the plate.

The chunk of tasty chicken was quickly examined, dunked in baked bean juice and then swiftly consumed. It was followed shortly after by a chip, and then another nugget.

‘Dad can you open my biscuits?!’ Said the younger girl, wrestling with the cellophane packet.

My friend opened the wrapper and a bourbon cream was pulled from the packet before being bitten in half.

It’s fun to watch kids play and eat – and I love this kind of bartering. I remember doing it myself at school.

I wondered as I watched them at what age I stopped trading my lunch with people and became so reserved. I should try offering my dinner to people more. It looks like fun.

I was really hungry though and everything looked tempting. Even the nuggets. However I never eat before weighing in.

My last meal was at about 6pm yesterday – but thankfully it had been filling. A chick pea, kidney bean and turkey mince chilli, filled with speed and free food (although I probably should have had MORE speed 😈 )

I’ve not cooked many ‘proper’ meals in the last seven days and I really should have made more things like this. It’s my resolution for the coming week to do a proper shop and more cooking.

This morning I’d been in a rush to get to my meeting so hadn’t brought any breakfast with me (a naughty faux pas for a diabetic). As always the group continually talked about food and by the end my tummy had begun to seriously rumble.

The meeting overan a bit too and I was late to meet my ex-colleagues in the park for a play date with their children.

I just didn’t have time to eat before I got there and I won’t buy crap. I simply refuse. It MUST be good food. I’d have to wait.

Slimming World today had been a smaller than usual group – which wasn’t entirely unexpected as Angie was away at a social engagement. We had a lovely lady filling in for her – who had lost an amazing seven stone before she became a consultant.

The group was no less chatty than usual however – and while some faces were absent, others that hadn’t been with us for a while were back again.

One of the things I love about our little community is that it feels like a SAFE space – where from time to time the tearful frustrations of trying to make big life changes can come out. When they do it’s truly heartwarming to see people hugging, supporting each other and sharing.

I honestly think these guys are the difference between success and failure for me. I haven’t missed a single week since I started and as much as I’m motivated to loose weight it’s them that keep me coming back.

Today I lost 3.5lbs and finally got my 6st award. This brings the total loss to 6st 3lbs and I’m on track (hopefully the week after next) for the 6.5st certificate.

I also got slimmer of the month (yay!)


I officially give up on trying to second guess my weight loss though. It’s impossible. I never get it right and I’m routinely too hard on myself.

I’m NEVER going to guess and stress EVER again.

Until, like ummm… next week – where I’ll probably get wound up all over again and spend at least two days giving myself a hard time and walking almost until my feet fall off.

On the flip side though – if I wasn’t so driven I probably wouldn’t be losing weight, so maybe I need the critical side of me?

Either way the big new motivator for me is the visualisation of the FRIDGE FREEZER. At exactly 7 stone this baby is next on my hit list.

It seems unreal that I’ve been carrying not one, not two – but THREE of these in excess weight for the last 8 years.

I’m trying not to think of how much effort it’s taken me to get to where I am today though. This is mostly because I’m also attempting to ignore the fact that I will probably have to do that twice over and more AGAIN to get to a reasonable goal weight.

It’s a tough thing to imagine and there’s a long road ahead.

My mate’s kids are a tonic though. They made me forget all about this nonsense.

After we left the cafe we watched them for an two hours playing in the park and running like Duracell bunnies up and down slides and back and forth on swings and fairground rides.

As I watched my friend’s oldest daughter bouncing down the huge inflatable slide in the park for at least the fifteenth time I marvelled at her energy. She got to the bottom, laughed and waved at us and then was immediately climbing back up the rope ladder again.

She slid down bouncing, then not bouncing, then on her back, then on her front, then sideways – and hardly seemed out of breath at all.

‘Why do adults stop doing this kind of thing?’ I said to my friends to the left of me as we watched the two girls ascend the rope ladder again together.

‘It’s so good for you just playing and running about. Why on earth don’t we still do this when we’re grown up?’

They both nodded as my friend’s fearless six year old trampolined on her bottom in the air from the top of the slide to almost half way down and then slid to the bottom giggling.

‘Mad isn’t it?’ My friend said.

We tailed off – all deep in thought.

Once the children had expended their little gold funfair tokens we all said our farewells and my remaining friend and I walked back to our cars. I asked what he planned to do with the rest of the day, and he said he was going to paint.

Not a wall, but a watercolour.

He just wanted to create something and get better at his hobby – which was something that gave him real pleasure. It would be a relaxing and therapeutic afternoon for him. A chance to unwind.

He definitely had the right idea. I had almost physically felt the stress of whether I would loose weight or not lift from my shoulders when I stepped off the scales today. The idea of having a day off from everything really appealed to me.

I decided therefore that the rest of the afternoon and evening would be solely about having something nice to eat and relaxing. I still have several blisters and it’s time to take my foot off the accelerator, just for a moment.

So that’s what I just did. I cooked myself huge a curried chicken, garlic and onion salad and it was flipping lovely.

This evening internet I will watch a movie, play a video game, or read. I haven’t decided yet. I’m not going to think about walking AT ALL.

I’m just going to chill out. Enjoy your weekend guys.

Davey

Taking my own advice

A friend said to me tonight that they were struggling to look at the future in a positive light – and for a while we talked about all the good things that they had either currently happening or that could happen to them in the coming months and years.

Hopefully after we chatted this person’s fears were abated. They deserve to be happy in my humble opinion and I think they will do very well in life thank you very much.

I will admit though to feeling a bit of a fraud sometimes when I try to cheer someone up or give advice that highlights other people’s best qualities.

I said as much to my friend.

I’m absolutely useless at taking my own pep talks – and for every time I’ve tried to convince someone else that life is good I’ve had several instances where I doubt myself or judge my own efforts harshly.

The problem I think is a deep rooted (possibly healthy, possibly not) paranoia that I’ll fail, backslide, get depressed, go back to my old habits and confirm my worst fears about my lack of ability to succeed in life.

At the moment I’m pushing myself really hard with exercise and focusing hugely on how many pounds I’ve lost.

Rational Dave knows that he’s doing well. This calm and measured part of me is very happy that in five months he’s lost almost six stone. Furthermore the lengthy distances he can now walk are cause for much back patting.

He’s getting out a lot and socialising every day.

Emotional Dave on the other hand is terrified that on Saturday morning he will not have lost weight – or even worse put some back on. He’s been walking everywhere as much as he can all week (and has 5 blisters to prove it.) If he doesn’t get up and propel his fat ass at least five miles forward every day he thinks he’s not doing enough.

He’s also probably becoming a bit too obsessed with fitness stats and honestly needs to wind his neck in a bit.

This morning I walked into Leamington for a coffee with a friend, around town for a bit, and then back again. My friend seemed like he’d had a good workout and I was definitely hot and sweaty.

Shortly after this an unexpected (and lovely) phonecall meant my trip into town was followed with a drink with another mate at the Hatton Arms.

As I drove home from my lunchtime catch up I kept saying to myself ‘you haven’t done enough!’ 

Yesterday evening I went for a walk in the park and my legs were tired and kept cramping. I had to keep stopping and I didn’t have the energy I expected to have. I only did four miles yesterday. I was annoyed with myself.

So I stopped at the park on the way home from Hatton this afternoon and walked another two and a half miles, bringing the total from my various activities to around nine miles.

The result of this is I’m aching all over – although honestly I DO feel good. Despite the blisters.

(Thinks for a while and stares at the wall.)

(Literally, not figuratively. It’s a calming wall. I like it.)

Maybe this isn’t all bad.

As I read back what I’ve written I’ve realised that I’m now beating myself up about beating myself up – which is an amusing irony in itself.

If I’m lucky this realisation will enable me to stop the next stage of the process – which is beating myself up about beating myself up about beating myself up.

Maybe I just think too much, and I need to work on taking my own advice as much as working on my fitness.

I should probably just be glad that I’m so driven at the moment, and happy that I don’t see sitting on my ass all day as a fruitful use of my time anymore.

Maybe this is what other ‘normal’ people (I know they don’t REALLY exist) do? Who knows?

I do know one thing. My friend told me today that my shirt looked too big for me.

That felt good. Really good. That wouldn’t have happened five months ago.

Maybe I should take a leaf out of the metaphorical (and waterproof) book belonging to the independent little swanling at the park. 

When I walked past it today its bottom was in the air as it foraged on the river bed for food. It’s undercarriage is slowly tuning white – but for the moment it’s still a youthful dappled fawn colour.

It didn’t care that it’s bum was in the air – and it seemed carefree and happy.

When I walked to the river edge it came closer (probably expecting food) and rested its head on the bank looking at me as little droplets of water rolled off its head onto its beak.

I love this animal.

It’s serene and calm but also a survivor.

It’s outlived its four siblings and prospered, growing stronger and more self reliant day by day.

It’s been blossoming alongside me in the park as I’ve changed and grown in confidence and ability myself. In a way I feel linked to it.

I just need to keep sticking my own ass in the air and putting my head down to the task at hand – not caring who sees my undercarriage and stop stressing. Things will sort themselves out whether I gain a pound or loose a pound.

I’ll keep getting fitter, keep moving forward and just try to keep testing my limits.

The only thing I’m going to try and cut down on internet is feeling guilty. Like I said to my friend – I need to take my own advice.

Life is good. 😏

Davey

Twalking

Today I was back at the Arrow Valley Nature reserve in Redditch to meet an old friend.

He had contacted me after a recent blog had resonated with him and had suggested we meet for a walk and a chat. As we did so we discussed some of my recent posts along with the events in his own life, and how similar our experiences and conclusions seemed.

Walking and talking really is the best way to explore thoughts. The endorphins are flowing from the exercise and you feel good. It’s not difficult to be open.

I’m an open person anyway – but things just seem to flow when I’m ‘twalking‘. It’s my new thing. We had 4.5 miles of free flowing twalking today and it makes me feel just as good as the physical exercise. It’s like my brain is working out at the same time as my legs, and conjuring order out of what sometimes starts as chaos.

As we chatted the subject of my recent bereavement came up and I re-affirmed that I feel I’ve found a peace of sorts with the whole affair. I told my friend that I like to try and remember the little things – like a papier-mâché Father Christmas hat my mom helped me make at junior school. It was painted bright red and the fur of his jacket and the hair under his santa hat was made with wads of soft white cotton wool. It won me 2nd place in a contest and made me swell with pride at how good she was at that kind of thing.

I’ve had to work at collecting these good memories though. They are like precious little pearls pulled from tightly shut oysters and are hard to find. They are often present only at great depth.

However as my companion said today (and I practically finished his sentence for him in agreement) memory is not really the truth. It’s something that’s alive and coloured with feelings and perceptions that we layer over it with our thoughts and reminiscences from the past and present as time goes on.

We can choose either consciously or unconsciously to remember things kindly, badly, or even not at all.

I think therefore the very best gift we can give ourselves is positivity. The more we strive to remember things in a good light, the happier our thoughts will be and the happier our lives will be.

Is this self delusion?

Maybe – but what value is there in living with bad memories? What can be gained by focusing on the darkest moments of our past?

Sure – there is definitely insight to be found in adversity and hardship, but when we take a negative moment in time and live with it continuously, holding onto the memory of the pain or sadness it does nothing but diminish our capacity to experience joy in the present and the future.

I’m not so keen on motivational soundbites usually but sometimes I hear one that just clicks with me and hits the spot. Long term readers will have read before that there’s one phrase that I try to live my life by.

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. 

After our walk my friend and I stopped for a cold drink at the Arrow Valley cafe, on the balcony that overlooks the lake. Today the water below was filled with energetic geese, and their spirited avian chatter seemed like it was all around us.

In order to sit out on the balcony I’d had to ask if the waitress if she minded me taking one of the (stronger) chairs from inside of the cafe outside to the deck with me. The flimsy ones already there just wouldn’t have held my weight.

This would have been a big issue for me in the past – and it’s this kind of ‘problem’ that often stopped me going out altogether. I don’t mind this any more. I’m intent on bending the world to how I want it to be and no longer apologising for existing. It’s only a ‘problem’ if I consider it to be.

In this spirit I asked my companion to take a photo of me, as I was still hot, sweaty and breathless from the walk.

I have a fellow blogging friend for whom this kind of image is something that used to be feared – and for me it was too, but for different reasons. I never liked being seen out of breath or sweaty – or having to ask if I could move furniture around – but who cares?

I’m not going to live my life apologising for being big. I’m just getting on with it, and making my lot in life better day by day.

After taking this photo my companion (in continuation of what we had been discussing around the lake) asked me whether I dreamed about my mother.

I sat for the briefest few seconds and considered the question. I’ve had a couple of random dreams that featured her – but nothing that was particularly upsetting or profound. The honest answer was no – although I still think about her sometimes during the day in quiet moments or when I’m writing.

Actually – when I began to ponder about it I realised that I haven’t had any really bad dreams for a while. Ages in fact.

And then something hit me. Completely out of the blue.

I used to have a recurring dream about my ex. We were together for almost five years and when we split it crushed me emotionally. I can honestly say it felt like the world had stopped revolving for a while and everything I experienced from the point that we went our separate ways felt somehow like it was only 50% of what it could have been – because I could no longer share it with her.

In my recurring dream we would be lying in bed on a Sunday morning. It was aways in a bright room with a warm duvet and we were cuddling, not wanting to get up – just enjoying being close. We’d gotten back together, realised the error of our ways and we were happy. Blissfully happy.

We were going to be together for ever.

I usually woke up crying when the cosy bubble of the dream popped – and even if I didn’t I was still affected sometimes for days afterwards with a sense of loss and sadness. The dream bled into my reality and it kept coming back.

I’d been punishing myself in a variety of ways ever since the relationship ended, despite neither of us really being to blame.

But today, sitting on the balcony of the cafe in the park and looking at the lake I realised the dream had gone.

Then it hit me. The dream hadn’t disappeared because I had replaced the thought of her with someone else. It had gone because I had made a conscious decision to live in the future and not in the past, and followed it up with real and positive actions.

As this has continued I’ve begun to believe more and more in the possibility of the future again – and without even noticing it, I had begun to sleep soundly and peacefully. When I lie in bed I’m thinking about what tomorrow will hold before I close my eyes, and not trying to forget the past.

As I said goodbye to my friend I noticed that the reserve’s car parking spaces were filled with British Gas vans. There were at least twenty of the little blue vehicles, all lined up in two neat rows, looking like they had been recently washed – but without a single driver in sight.

As I drove home I smiled to myself, thinking that somewhere, hidden deep within the nature reserve were legions of gas engineers – all taking a break from boilers, pilot lights and plumbing.

Moving as a herd in overalls and safety boots they were probably also twalking their lunch hours away and would be slowly and surely moving toward an epiphany of their own where something suddenly clicked into place, and they saw things with more clarity.

I laughed as I thought of all the bright eyed and well adjusted engineers attending emergencies that afternoon.

They have the right idea internet. The park is the answer.

Get yourself out there and have a chat with a friend. I dare you not to feel good afterwards.

Davey

Memorial Park

Rather then head for a walk in familiar territory today I decided to go closer towards where my friend lives in Coventry. I’ve never walked around Memorial Park before – but I have to say having done so today I’m a little bit in love with it.

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When we arrived the sky was still a bit grey and there had recently been rain. Although the paths had dried everything still smelt earthy and fresh. There was a lovely breeze and also the ever present scent of freshly cut grass. There were lots of people from all backgrounds using the park – but a nice chilled out feeling seemed present in all we met and talked to (and we chatted to quite a few people!).

Some were jogging, some walking, some talking, some taking the dog out, some cycling, some playing golf, and one very impressive guy doing aerobics as he walked around with a big grin on his face.

I have it on good authority that its not always as serene as we found it today – and as the primary park of a major city I believe it can get pretty busy – especially around the Godiva Festival, which I’ve never been to.

However, from a walking perspective this place is GREAT.

One of my favourite parts of St Nicholas in Warwick is the long straight shaded avenue of trees. As you walk along it there’s a sense that you’re in a wooded womb, and protected not only from the elements – but the stresses and strains of the outside world.

There’s a MUCH longer wooded avenue in Memorial Park, and it curves approximately around half of the length of the main circuit. Sadly I forgot to start my workout app so I don’t know how long it is exactly – but with some wandering and investigating, three or so laps came to about five and a half miles.

Initially I was shown around by Boris and his owner. Boris is camera shy today and only wanted me to take pictures of his ass, the top of his head or of blurred movement.

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His primary concerns as usual were selfishly not my blog but instead allowing his ass to be sniffed and engaging in the sniffing of other doggy asses. Immediately after this shot was taken he also managed to ‘punch’ me in the family jewels when coming closer for a fuss – but I forgive the sweet little Ewok, despite being slightly winded.

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Not far from the car park is a busy little coffee shop, where after the first lap we stopped for a short rest and a cup of tea. I have to say I’m not a great fan of the loos though, which probably because of vandalism in the past (they show no signs of this currently and are in good order) have metal toilets with no seats.

On the final lap nature came calling and I can attest to the fact that not only is the toilet pretty chilly to enthrone yourself on, but that when faced with an above average sized ass is capable of forming a seal that forces a stream of cold water upwards to cool down any damage in the sensitive area that Boris may have inadvertently caused.

Thankfully it was well stocked with paper and the experience was certainly ‘refreshing’…

Part of the meandering we did on the second lap was to view the war memorial – and as I looked at the various plaques and bedding arrangements I realised that pretty much everything in the park is designed around remembrance of many conflicts. The primary monument (which is the park’s centrepiece) is concerned with the first and second world wars, but the other little gardens dotted around everywhere have their own sombre words about lives lost in far flung locations.

One that drew my attention on my third lap was the Rose Garden (sadly slightly out of season) which had some very neatly trimmed topiary and a sense of tranquility. I really need to come back and look at this when all the flowers are in bloom and at their best. I bet it looks really nice.

I realised when I finished that I’d spent the best part of three hours in the park, and time had absolutely flown. My friend had headed home after the second lap and I’d done a faster, more exercise oriented walk on the final circuit.

I’ve noticed Apple Watch is being a lot more stingy with its exercise ring over the last couple of weeks. Apparently it ‘learns’ your fitness and will only consider what you do exercise if you get up to a certain heart rate.

However – I have noticed that my heart rate is now lower than it was two weeks ago when exercising, meaning I have to move faster and do more to make it go up. This is of course a good thing – and I keep surprising myself over how long I can maintain a brisk pace these days.

Once I’d finished the third lap I headed back toward Leamington Spa. Today is Super Tuesday meaning I can get cheap cinema tickets and sit in a near empty auditorium and kick off my shoes while I watch the movie.

It’s total bliss.

I parked up at the top of town and walked down to the cinema (which was almost deserted) with a sole attendant on the ticket booth and the rest of the place seemingly unmanned (or woman’d).

I’d chosen Anthropoid – ironically enough (given the location of my morning walk) a war film detailing the Czech resistance’s assassination attempt during WWII on Reinhard Heydrich – who by all accounts was not a very nice man.

It’s well acted, at times pretty tense – and does a good job of showing the sense of daily oppression that the Czech people must have felt under Nazi rule. The constant fear that anything they did to resist the invaders would result in huge loss of life for the civilian population is also evident throughout. I also particularly liked the fact that this wasn’t a gung-ho action movie. The men tasked with the assassination are rightly terrified of their enemy, and nothing they do is without a corresponding sense of fear.

As well as being thought provoking there’s also quite a lot of action in it – and it’s pretty exciting. I’d say its definitely worth a watch if you like this sort of drama. It’s also got Cillian Murphy in the lead role – which is a treat for any fans of Peaky Blinders out there. He manages to ooze an unsettling and brooding menace in whatever he’s in – and despite the ‘oddness’ of him I find his roles quite compelling.

Bt the time I’d finished walking around town and getting a few bits and bobs I looked at my watch for the day’s stats.

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Not bad for a day out!

This evening I’m going to be doing something more sedate however and will be (in a moment) logging onto Destiny to play Rise of Iron, the new DLC which unlocks today.

Many many alien scumbags will die tonight – but I’m OK with their sacrifice.

I have it on very good authority they have all been very very naughty and deserve a good spanking.

With my new rocket launcher. The Iron Gjallahorn.

Internet – I think I’m in love! She’s so purdy!!!

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Davey

Cracked pot

‘I’d forgotten how much I missed you.’

The words almost visibly hung in the air for me as soon as they left my friend’s mouth. It had been too long since we had gotten together – but also paradoxically it didn’t seem like five minutes had elapsed since we last spoke.

Time (and my previously ever shrinking world) sometimes overtakes things though – and for reasons I’m sure neither of us could easily pin down over a year has passed since we last saw each other face to face.

In truth though she’s much much more than a friend. I don’t think that this word does my relationship with her over the years any justice.

I’m a big one for hugs – but today I felt like I didn’t want to let go. As we both embraced when we said hello and goodbye I felt myself drawing in just that little bit closer, and holding on for just a little bit longer than I normally would. This lady is special to me and has been for what I now realise is decades.

Today we had a lot to talk about. The last year has seen many changes in both of our lives – some bad and some good. As we chatted I found myself watching her face – the smile lines around her eyes, and how the right side of her hair curled inward slightly as it touched the patterned scarf on her shoulder.

She hasn’t changed much over the years and looks just the same as she always has.

It’s easy to recognise a face. Our brains are wired to find them in everything we look at. They’re there if we see Jesus randomly burned onto a slice of toast, a bearded man floating in the clouds – or eyes and a smile in a camper van’s headlights and grille.

I don’t think though that there are that many people whose faces we truly KNOW. Along with with my brother, my Dad and my closest friends I think she’s one of a select few people that I could close my eyes and visualise perfectly.

Talking to someone that’s known you for years – that knows your history as much as you know theirs can sometimes enable you to open up and explore subjects that with other people might cause you shame or difficulty.

In my case I often feel these emotions and more when people ask about my Mom’s death, which my friend and I hadn’t really discussed at length before.

I always feel the need to explain myself when I discuss the feelings I have about this event as they’re complex. It’s not as simple as feeling a sense of loss about someone I loved deeply. My relationship with her unfortunately was nothing like that.

I feel a lot of guilt when I talk about it because I also feel compelled to use the phrase ‘the best thing that my mother did for me was dying’. I’m fully aware it must be shocking and that it probably sounds callous or as if I’m harbouring resentment towards her, which I’m not.

I often think that people’s immediate reaction will be ‘how can someone not feel unconditional love for their mother?’

I worry what kind of a person they will think this makes me, like I’m somehow malformed or have a cruel heart.

I could maybe put it in more socially acceptable terminology, but then the honesty of how I feel would be lost and I’m not about to do that. Not any more. It only hurts the ones left behind if you don’t face up to the truth and deny how you REALLY feel.

What I mean by this rather blunt statement is that in death she gave me something more significant than she did in life, and because of her actions I experienced a moment of clarity that set me on my current path. As I watched her slowly killing herself with cigarettes, not caring any more whether she lived or died I saw myself in a darkly tinted mirror.

I wasn’t angry with her for smoking again two days after leaving hospital. I didn’t feel disappointed at her continued slow motion attempts to kill herself one cigarette at a time.

I understood.

I was doing the same to myself with food and alcohol. I had told people close to me that I wasn’t expecting to reach retirement and deep down I thought I’d die before the age of 50. I thought it was inevitable and had given into the despair of my situation, feeling like I was just minding the store until closing time.

My relationship with my mother was not a good one, and she was often not a nice lady to me or others. Even when she made attempts to be on her best behaviour it seemed to end in conflict and arguments.

I try not to think of her in this light any more, and only remember the good aspects – but while she was alive I wanted to be as little like her as humanly possible.

As I sat in front of her while she essentially drowned in her armchair behind an oxygen mask I saw myself. I was killing myself with food and alcohol as surely as if I was putting a gun to my temple and pulling the trigger. My death would probably become just as drawn out, painful and degrading as hers was proving to be.

Yet I still had time to change. So on the 26th of Jan, two days before she died, I decided to try.

The first three months of my blog were about me coming to terms with what was left behind after she passed away – and the profoundly positive impact her death ultimately had on me.

I didn’t feel triumphalism – but instead a sense of gratitude.

For all the sadness and sense of lost opportunity I feel when I consider our relationship I’ve contented myself in the months since that some real and profound good came out of her death.

As we talked today my friend said a few times ‘you mother loved you, you know.’

Truthfully I’m not sure she knew how to love – but that’s OK. No-one is perfect and she was still my mom. She did her best to look after me as a child, and in her own way cared for and wanted a good future for me.

So – despite the adversity between us, now she’s gone I don’t think I’d have had her be any other way. I may have taken the scenic route to being in a good place in life – but I feel like that’s actually a good thing.

My dance walking friend in Slimming World was keen to talk to me after the meeting on Saturday. She jauntily wandered over once Angie had finished to tell me something that had been in her mind after reading my blog.

‘Have you ever heard the story of the cracked pot?’ She said as we collected the (hateful) little red chairs in the school hall.

‘No… I don’t think I have.’ I replied, stacking them by the climbing frame.

‘Well there was this cracked pot and every time it was filled with water it would leak on one side. All the liquid would dribble out onto the ground and drain away. The pot was damaged and all of the other pots nearby weren’t – they did their job and held water.’

I nodded. Cracked pot. Got it.

‘But then one day the man who owned the pots looked at the side of the cracked one where all the water leaked out onto the ground and saw all of the green shoots and flowers that were growing around it’s base.’

I stopped stacking the chairs .

‘It just shows that sometimes things that get damaged along the way can bring a lot of good into the world.’

I smiled and thanked her for the comment, mentally filing it away.

Today that comment came back to me as I sat talking to my friend, and even more afterwards as I drove home. In many ways we’ve both been damaged over the years – and in her case flowers have definitely bloomed all around her.

My mother was also a cracked pot.

For many years I felt nothing but resentment toward her – but her final parting gift turned out to be a gift of life. In her passing she gave me so much that I don’t think I can ever thank her enough.

Today internet I’m immensely grateful for the lack of resilience displayed by pottery, and looking back with a smile on my face at all the nice flowers that have grown up around them.

The damaged ones are by far my favourite kind of pot.

Davey

Twenty One minute mile

I started early today. 


The sun hadn’t been up long as I strolled into St Nicholas park to meet my ex colleague and friend. We’d originally planned (a couple of weeks back after she spied me walking into Leamington while driving past and contacted me in the evening) to meet at 6.30am – but the gods of providence were in a good mood and her son was unexpectedly on a sleep over at a friend’s house. 

I therefore slept in until 7.15. Bliss. 

When I woke up I was still thinking about the topic that’s been rattling around my head for the last week or so. 

I’ve been trying to determine exactly what the catalyst for going back to work will be. 

Ultimately I suspect it will come down to cold hard cash – as the bills won’t get paid by magical money faeries (although if anyone knows otherwise please let me know how I sign up for their sevices). 

Initially when I decided to take time off (ironically before being made redundant anyway) I wanted to loose weight, get fit and find out ‘what I loved’. 

These are all laudable goals, but frankly also a bit flowery and indistinct. 

I decided in a moment of clarity a few months back that I had discovered at least one thing I truly loved, and that was writing. I’m not sure someone should only love one thing in life – so the jury is out on whether that question has truly been answered to my full satisfaction. 

Next was the goal of loosing weight and getting fit. 

As with lots of things lately becoming smaller and becoming more active has modified or reset my perspectives on much in my life. 

A man in my Slimming World group said in passing to me a couple of months ago ‘I couldn’t miss my four mile walk in the morning’. 

As with many random and mundane things this stuck in my head. 

Although I may be wrong he implied at the time that he did this in an hour. I was incredulous when he said it as it was far beyond my capability. 

Now though it doesn’t seem quite so impossible to accomplish. 

As I shared in yesterday’s post, when I finally managed a mile of walking around a park it took me around an hour and ten minutes. This was some months ago. 

As I parked up to meet my friend this morning I decided that I’d try using the ‘walking workout’ function on Apple Watch to monitor what I did in the park. I was left with some mixed feelings about the output afterwards – but it shows me through the miracle of GPS exactly what I’m currently capable of. 


My first mile (as we walked and talked) was 20 minutes. Although I had to sit down in between the 3rd and 4th mile (I’m still having ligament problems In the thigh of my shorter leg) my speed at the moment is around 21 minutes per walking mile. 

I’m actually not THAT far behind my slimming world colleague, and it’s this that’s made me realise what I need to do before returning to work. 

I have a golden opportunity with this time off to increase my fitness to the level where I can compress the exercise into an hour (or two) that currently takes me most of the day wandering here and there with multiple breaks. 

So – this has become my new goal. Sort of. 

The issue is I don’t yet know what measure I should use to judge whether I’ve reached this point. 

Calories burned? Steps taken? Miles walked? 

This is still something I need to do more work on. I’m hoping that when I have several months worth of walking figures in my spreadsheet and I compare them to find an average that I eventually see a natural plateau. 

My objective is NOT to walk further every month than the one before – but instead to see what becomes a comfortable average… although by then I will carry less bulk and the actions will naturally burn less calories… 

It’s a work in progress. I guess I’ll have to see how this pans out. 

As always thoughts on the topic are welcome in the comments on Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr or Twitter. Let me know what you think. 

One thing is for sure – regardless of goals I think I’m in something of a golden moment in life, and for whatever reason events I experience are happening just the way they need to.

I’ve said previously that (despite not being spiritual or religious) I’m beginning to firmly believe that things happen for a reason and that (for want of a better way of putting it) ‘the universe is listening’. 

My walking companion on Friday can attest to this – as the very things we talked about (after discussing this exact topic) on our stroll happened to both of us almost immediately after we parted company. As she herself might have said – it was ‘totes amazeballs’, and quite amusing. 

I was only sad that we hadn’t discussed Kelly Brook in a state of undress parachuting spontaneously into my arms and us both winning the National Lottery. 

This is a lesson learned and one we’ll pay attention to next time. 

Recent moments are golden for more than just unexpected serendipity though. 

I’ve never been so sociable – and not because I’m a shy person but because I withdrew (because of my weight) from every available opportunity that presented itself. 

Lately I’m not only saying ‘yes!’ To almost everything, but actively going out of my way to make sure things happen. 

I’ve hardly used the calendar on my phone in the past – but as I hugged and parted company with my companion this morning I made sure we put a date down for the next walk. 

It’s sometimes tricky. My calendar is recently (joyfully) very busy. My walks started as a solo activity but have now become so much more. I’m getting to know more about existing friends and also starting to slowly make new ones. 

I haven’t made new friends for a very long time – and had become used to my close circle of work colleagues and the familiar comfort zone they provided. 

There are also opportunities arising all the time to make more of what might previously have been passing friendships with perfectly lovely people – that for whatever reason previously never developed past occasional chats and hellos. 

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my TV viewing and game playing has dwindled to almost nothing lately (although I still have a particular weakness for movies.)

I don’t need to watch human drama on a TV screen. I’m getting my fix daily from people that I like and care about – and it’s hellishly addictive. 


Plus I get to see the swanling grow up every day, and introduce him (like I did today) to friends who have never had the pleasure. 

For the moment Internet I have emptied my head – and you are now in possession of the contents. 

Davey

P.S. I hope this satisfies the regular reader who contacted me this morning to complain that he had run out of posts to read and wanted to know ‘what happened next’ before suggesting I should get up off my ass and find something to blog about. 😄 

It’s always nice to feel wanted! x

A moment away from change

There’s an advert I used to see on the television all the time for Disneyland in Florida. The children can’t sleep prior to their journey to the resort – and a little boy says ‘I’m SO excited!’ In such a way that it has stuck in my mind for years.

It’s a clever commercial as it hints at the child like wonder that’s also present in the adults, who steadfastly refuse to nod off as well.

It’s 4am and like them I can’t sleep. I don’t think it’s coffee – I only had two flower pots worth yesterday. That’s a minimal amount. It barely registers.

Instead I’m the little boy in the advert, thinking about the future and possibilities.

Part of me hates it when I get like this. Sure – it’s nice to have hope and a positive vision, but I begin to obsess over things sometimes and when I do I have bursts of momentum that can often be followed by trenches of disappointment where I want the future NOW but realise how far away it actually is.

Although I did around 7 miles of walking yesterday I was still wired at 8pm and buzzing with energy.

I have an exercise bike in my spare room that cost me a small fortune. It’s a machine capable of taking my weight and I’ve hardly used it. Honestly my massive stomach made it incredibly uncomfortable when I tried.

It’s been a while since I climbed on and when I last did I could manage little more than about 5 minutes without any programmed resistance. It was not pleasant.

Last night I managed around 34 minutes on it doing a level one hill climb.

I learned three things during that workout.

  1. I can sustain a heart rate of about 110 for over half an hour now.
  2. I can burn almost 300 kcal in about 30 minutes.
  3. My exercise playlists need serious work and Jason Nevins featuring Run DMC ‘it’s like that’ makes me pedal faster.

Ever since I’ve been thinking about what this means. Running is a bad idea for my knees. They can’t take the punishment my weight gives out, but all of a sudden I can do cardio. Furthermore I LIKED it.

Until the end mind you. The last 5 minutes were horrid.

And still I lie here, wide awake at 4.21am, thinking about my weigh in and some things affecting friends.

If I have done well this week I may get my five and a half stone award. I need a 3.5lbs loss to secure that. It would be REALLY nice to hold that in 6 hours or so.

Bums. I really really need to stop typing and nod off. Maybe I’ll listen to a podcast.

(Tries to sleep)

Well sleep was a waste of time. My mind was obsessing relentlessly about things I can’t control, and about people I know.

I instead got up and decided to do some cooking – in this case a tray of mini quiches so I could snack at the meeting.

I’ve ditched my cheap muffin tray (all the non stick was SO non stick it ironically kept falling off the tray) and I bought a Sainsburys cookware heavy duty one along with a square frittata tray – both of which weigh a ton and have a 10 year warranty. It’s so good I don’t need spray oil in the nests at all, and they just slide out into my waiting Tupperware.

Since I have a war on waste and had a flask of Starbucks filter coffee I’d forgotten to drink yesterday I quickly heated it up in a measuring jug and put it back in my container.

I was set for Slimming World. Almost.

I didn’t know how I was going to do when I stepped on the scales today. I genuinely never do.

I was umming and aarring over whether to wear my jogging bottoms (which are now cavernous) and a teeshirt (also way too big) or my smaller jeans and a shirt. I decided (no word of a lie) to weigh my belt and jeans on the kitchen scales to see how much they would set me back if I went with the ‘well dressed’ option.

I know now that my jeans and belt combined weigh 2lbs 11oz. My jogging bottoms weigh 1lb 4oz. Which do you think I picked?

So – as I strolled, flapping and fluttering to Swimming World looking like a hobo in my outsize clothes I reflected on what I’d done in the week.

I’d nailed a lot of exercise – but this hadn’t previously translated into a loss. I’d also had a rocky weekend where I ate a lot – but I’d also had very little appetite toward the end of the week when I was exercising more. According to Apple Watch I’d burned way more calories than I thought I’d consumed – so I SHOULD have a loss.

After saying hello and chatting to the ladies in the line I stepped on the scales – and then this happened.

 

I came within the distance of a gnat’s left nut of getting my six stone award and absolutely nailed my weight loss this week. It must have been the jeans!

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Whatever the cause was this means that in another half a pound I have lost the Mangrove Jack boat trailer from my previous new goals post. Give or take a few ounces I AM NO LONGER WALKING WITH THIS IN MY TROUSERS ALL THE TIME.

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This may go a long way to explaining my sudden bursts of energy this week both during walking (as one of my companions will attest to, given her reported aches and pains afterwards) and on my exercise bike last night.

(thinks for a moment…)

At this point I’d like to step back a little from banging on about how much I’ve lost. I’m happy – but honestly something else is playing on my mind.

Let me say from the outset that I’m pretty uncomfortable with being labelled as someone that people use as an ‘inspiration’. This is not my word, nor are my feelings about it false modesty. It honestly makes me cringe to even type it and it’s not how I would describe myself If I was presented with a sheet of paper – but I do so here for a reason.

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t glad that those I like and respect might be beginning to see me in such a light. It reminds me whenever someone says this word (no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel) in relation to what I write, think and do of how different things are for me now.

It also makes me want to live up to that ideal, although I often feel that I do not. I’m doing well today – but tomorrow I might not be.

In the last week though I’ve seen a couple of people I know hit tough new or established challenges in life head on – and although I know I can’t fix these for them all of me wants to reach out and help.

Maybe some of what I’ve written and achieved so far can do that, even if I can’t wave a magic want and make life better for them. However – if those people sitting at home or elsewhere are reading this, what I can say is that:

  • Your health CAN be turned around.
  • Good CAN come from awful events like serious illness or bereavement.
  • Your habits DON’T have to control you.
  • Your future CAN be different.
  • It IS possible to move from what seems like an inescapable pit of emotional despair to a place where you feel you can begin to rebuild a life – whatever is wrong with it.

The only things that need to change are what you feel about yourself and what you believe you can do.

Every day can be a struggle for me – both physically and emotionally at times, but the incremental steps and slow moves forward keep me going through the bad moments.

Without the effort I put in they wouldn’t happen, and I’d feel much lower for it. Nothing has been delivered to me (or others I look up to in my life) on a plate.

I’m very uncomfortable with making myself out to be someone thats succeeded at anything, and I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m just as flawed as everyone else and 7 months ago I was drunk every evening, my diabetes was spiralling out of control and I was 6 stone heavier. All this is now different, and I intend to do more. Much more.

I’m beginning to have aspirations that don’t involve me dying young or being trapped in my house.

It’s not rocket science. Change sometimes just means learning to be good to yourself, and choosing to look at the positives in life.

Internet (and to the people I know facing challenges – whom I direct this post toward) whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling, whatever habits you have, or things you’ve gone through you’re only a moment away from changing everything.

Davey

Sharing my rings

Normal service has been resumed in the UK it seems and sunny weather with soaring (indeed record breaking in some cases) temperatures have given way to more customary rain and cloud cover.

This morning it’s been torrential.

I’ve mixed feelings about this – and over the last few months my approach to the climate around me has changed a lot as my fitness has increased and my weight has gone down.

My skin (rather unexpectedly) appears to have gotten used to the sun. I can co-exist with other non-crispy types for sensible periods. I’d go so far as to say I really like this development.

I have always ‘loved’ rain – although I’ve come to realise that my feelings on this topic are more complex than a simple like or a dislike. As with everything else in my ‘old’ life rain usually meant cool, non-sweaty weather, and time indoors on my Xbox looking from the inside to the outside.

Inclement weather can be good if you like walking in the rain, but I’m also wary of slipping (I’m too heavy to arrest a descent without damage). I also don’t own a raincoat or any kind of jacket THAT CURRENTLY FITS. 

Now I’m not so sure I feel the same about rain. It disrupts my activities.

I’m in a race against time in the next few weeks to get back into my lightweight raincoat and warm winter leather jacket before the weather makes a significant turn towards Autumn.

Therefore I’m making the most of it when it’s nice. Today it wasn’t. Irritatingly I had a walk planned (arranged a couple of weeks ago) with an ex-colleague and her chirpy little baby around the Arrow Valley nature reserve in Redditch.

Thanks to the wonder of my obsessive blogging (my apologies for the relentless spam of new posts subscribers get) I know that I first attempted this on May the 9th in this post.

It’s worth a read (especially if you haven’t read it before.) I could only do 1/3 of a circuit of the lake back then and (to me) it seems like a different Davey in the words of the post.

Today, after a slightly later than expected start involving a trip back to my buddy’s house to get a forgotten pram (we went in her car where the seatbelt just fits!) myself and my friend started our leisurely walk around the lake. The sun was JUST staring to come out. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Today as we walked and talked there were no stops (apart from the occasional swig of water) and no seats – just two straight laps, which took about an hour.

Previously (when I finally managed to do one complete circuit) this took me about an hour and 10 minutes. The last time I measured it on walkmeter in the pic below on Jun 3rd it was still taking me just under an hour. Back then I was approximately three and a half stone heavier.

It occurs to me as I write that at some point I’m going to stop being amazed at things like this because they’ve become mundane and normal. I’m not there yet – but honestly this week in between both good and bad moods I have been able to visualise it on the horizon.

I hope it’s not any day soon though as I love the sense of wonderment I get from the absolutely mundane. Sometimes I feel like a baby, standing upright for the first time, and it’s often a magical moment when I do something unexpected, no matter how small it is.

As my lovely friend and I talked (and her baby quietly gurgled in the shade of his little seat) I discussed with her how the nuggets of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that I had absorbed when giving up alcohol had become infinitely more relevant to me with the passage of time. Although I can’t be 100% sure of this figure (I didn’t make notes) I recall the leader of the group I went to saying that for something to become a learned and unconsciously repeatable behaviour you had to do it for three months.

I’ve heard different numbers in the past and since (some say a month) and I’m frankly dubious of any ‘science’ that can put such a definitive timeframe on what must be a very individual thing to many people – but for me at least it appears to hold water.

It was about 3 months after I gave up drinking that I realised I no longer thought about it daily.

It took about 3 months after starting Slimming World for me to stop having borderline erotic thoughts about pizza, pies and kebabs.

It was about 3 months after starting regularly exercising that I noticed I ‘needed’ it in my day.

It does (for me at least) appear to take around 3 months for things to become habitual. All it takes is 90 days of brute force willpower and then something good becomes normal and not so stressful.

Today it felt normal to be walking and talking at the same time. It felt so different to the last time that I was genuinely surprised at my progress.

Plus – after the rain had stopped it had turned into an absolutely LOVELY day.

As we hugged and parted company we agreed that this was a good venue to meet again – and that we both felt better for a walk around the lake.

It’s not the only route in Arrow Valley though. There are more and I’ve never tried them. I took a photo of the layout of the reserve and the distances. I’m going again soon and I’m going to try some of the longer walks.

As is a little typical recently when my friend and I parted company I immediately started thinking about what I could do next and where else I could walk.

Apple Watch is becoming a bit of an obsession for me lately, and immediately as I was finished with one walk I was looking at my step total and distance travelled. In the back of my head I’m still working toward virtual John o Groats.

It’s getting worse too – after an initial technical hitch with the new os3 watch software that stopped us doing it a different friend is now sharing his fitness data with me in the Apple activity app. I believe that this is a common thing for Fitbit users – but a new one for me.

Like most people in the known universe he’s both significantly lighter and fitter than me – so I don’t expect to be able to compete on a stamina or distance level, but it gives me something to strive for. I may not be able to run like he can – but I can still get my heart rate up during exercise and burn calories.

So far I’ve walked more steps than him today – but I doubt that will last for long!!!

Either way the amazing thing is that I’m actually sharing this with someone and gradually feeling like I can… maybe not compete… but at the very least be part of the same goals and lifestyle as other people.

With this and virtual John o Groats in mind I parked my car a mile outside of Leamington on the way home and decided as usual to walk for my coffee and a stroll around town.

I’m in a very good, happy frame of mind – but also quite a reflective one.

I’m sitting here now typing and thinking about Slimming World and how my weigh in will go tomorrow.

You know what? In some ways it doesn’t matter (although it really really does) because other more tangible things are also becoming my motivators and goal posts.

Exercising with people. ME!!! EXERCISING. WITH PEOPLE. It still seems ludicrous when I write it down. But there it is. I’m doing it. It’s just slowly happened, and in doing so my social circle is becoming more vibrant and active than ever.

You know what internet? I’m fudding loving it.

I’m loving the people, the conversation, the feeling of wellbeing and all the hugs.

It’s all really great and there are only better things to come.

Davey

Diabetes WIN!

I was up relatively early today for a walk around the park with a fellow Slimming World’er.

9am is not the time that we’d normally meet (we’re becoming ‘regulars’ now which is really nice) but for various reasons we’ve struggled to set a time that’s convenient for both of us this week. As it turned out the early start was probably a good thing.

The day has been heating up minute by minute – and it’s brilliantly sunny outside for the second day in a row. By the time we left the park after 3 miles I was pretty sweaty and could really feel the quickly heating up temperature of the day on the top of my newly shaven head.

Having really short hair certainly helps to keep a big guy like me cool (and looking devilishly handsome) but there’s little protection when it comes to sun.

It’s the right cut for me though. I have a male patent bald spot developing on my crown. I’ll probably be a total baldy in a few years, so its best to just get used to it now rather than live in denial!!!

We were also walking early today because I had an appointment with my practice nurse at 11am (our normal slot). As usual we discussed this and other health related things as we strolled – particularly some posts that have been in the Facebook SW private group over the last few days.

There have been some lovely things on this feed lately. People have been visualising their weight loss in a variety of ways as well as reporting some huge total figures.

Some have been amazed that they have lost the combined weight of their children, while others have been finding more comical examples via http://www.ilostwhat.com which gives some amusing and relatable examples of what people have gotten rid of.

When I inputted my own total number of pounds lost the output the page gave me was something that had a surprisingly personal resonance. I had lost the equivalent of 44 bottles of wine.

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I posted this on Facebook and Instagram at the time, feeling really rather chuffed with myself. Someone then blew my mind even further when he commented that 73 pounds is approximately 255500 calories!

I used to have two McDonalds double sausage and egg mcmuffins for breakfast on the way to work quite a lot.

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This means that the weight I’ve lost roughly equates to burning off 452 of these evil (but delicious) heart attacks in a bun.

I’ve duplicated the wine visualisation here because I also use my posts as a journal to look back on how far I’ve come, and in this respect it’s been very useful. Selfishly I’m noting it again predominantly for ME – for just that reason.

But it’s a milestone that has dual significance.

This number is almost 4 boxes of wine. When I sat and thought about it (shamefully and embarrassingly) it also represents less than three weeks (probably closer to two) worth of what I USED to drink before I gave up on the 26th of January.

Things have of definitely moved on.

I now look forward to some things that I absolutely hated in the past. I bizarrely now look forward to exercise for instance – and itch to go out for a walk when I feel I haven’t done enough.

I have also been looking forward to my diabetic review, which went very well.

My diabetic nurse is STILL unable to weigh me on the practice scales (I think they top out at 23 stone) but I can now go in armed with photographic evidence of my current weight thanks to my weekly weigh-ins at Slimming World.

For the first time in a VERY long time my medical records are accurate.

Aside from the crushing embarrassment of my GP always going into the consultation room next door to get a second pair of scales so I could put a foot on each (trust me when I say that firstly it doesn’t give an accurate reading, and secondly makes the patient feel like a piece of crap) this has big health implications, particularly with regard to medicine dosages.

I knew it already – but they now also know now that my BMI has now gone from 67.6 to 59.8 and is under 60 for the first time in the best part of a decade. I’m still in the colossally overweight bracket – but I’m making great progress.

I also now know that my Cholesterol is down to 3.8 from 4.3 (the last time I had it tested a few months ago) and that’s just where I need to be – although despite my excessive salmon and mackerel eating my ‘good’ cholesterol STILL needs to be higher. I’m going to start eating more almonds.

My blood pressure is also ‘excellent’ – although sadly I neglected to note down the exact readings…

My uric acid levels are still irritatingly on the cusp of the danger zone however, meaning that I’m still at risk of gout attacks, but not yet at a level where I need to be medicated. Having had two suspected ones so far I have no wish to have another. They’re incredibly painful.

The REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD NEWS however is regarding my blood sugar results from my HbA1c blood test last week.

For those of you that aren’t diabetic I took a picture of the chart on the nurse’s noticeboard (with her permission of course) and also noted down my results from my previous practice reviews.

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When I was first diagnosed in January 2014 my level was 94 mmol – on the far right of the chart. I couldn’t go more than 45 minutes without the toilet at this incredibly low point and was seriously in denial.

I hadn’t been to the doctor and was almost hiding in the wardrobe with worry about what was wrong. Self diagnosis on the NHS internet pages and elsewhere had suggested either cancer or diabetes.

I buried my head in the sand because I was terrified of both outcomes, and ended up being weirdly ‘thankful’ it was ‘only’ diabetes. Initially I tried (very badly) to alter my diet on my own.

  • Jan 14 94 – Initial diagnosis – So bad that I wet the bed twice before I was diagnosed.
  • April 14 46 – 4x Metformin and 1x Glimepiride per day (still fuzzy eyesight)
  • Jan 15 40 – upped dose to 2x Glimepiride. Diet improved but still drinking alcohol.
  • May 15 66 – Diet in the toilet, levels going back up. Drinking like a fish.
  • Feb 16 74 – Two weeks after I gave up alcohol, two months before Slimming World.

This morning my results show that my levels are 30 mmol. That’s a three, and a zero. Thirty.

The phrase that the nurse used to describe this was ‘…these are the levels of someone WITHOUT DIABETES. You’ve not even on my chart.’

My medication now needs to be reviewed ASAP as at the amount I’m taking has the ability to cause me to go TOO LOW and be in danger of a hypo (low blood sugar condition). As I type I’m awaiting a callback from the diabetic specialist GP to discuss this.

(while typing the doctor called me. I am now ceasing ALL of my Glimepiride, and its been taken off my repeat medication list. Imagine a man fist pumping the air at his desk!)

How freakin ace is that?! I’m exercising so much, and have made such sweeping changes to my lifestyle that I have been able to reduce medication that previously only seemed to be something that I would be taking more and more of until I inevitably became Type 1 and needed to inject insulin.

Nothing is certain about the future – and this may still happen one day – but I’m now stacking the odds in my favour, rather than against me.

I went shortly after my appointment for a coffee with my friend, and he picked me up in his convertible. As we drove into Leamington we chatted while I enjoyed the sensation of the wind rushing over my balding head.

Prior to me getting in his car for the first time last week I’d NEVER BEEN IN AN OPEN TOP CAR. I haven’t been small enough when the opportunity presented itself, and I wouldn’t previously get into other people’s cars for fear of the seatbelt not fitting or breaking something (it has happened in the past).

Now I have fitted into two other people’s cars in a week, and my confidence is growing.

For one reason or another I’ve had some low moods this week – but regardless of that I’ve kept on with my exercise and tried really hard to eat the right foods in the right quantities.

I really needed today.

I needed it just to put a huge flag in the ground on the way up my sometimes seemingly insurmountable mountain. I’m about 1/4th of the way up it currently – but this represents proof positive (if I ever needed it) that everything I’m doing is THE RIGHT THING.

Internet – no matter how far you have to go, just keep plugging away at it, even if you’re only moving a millimetre at a time. It all adds up and it all helps.

Davey

You can do it. 

I’ve spent the morning with a good friend from work who kindly made the journey on his day off to come and see me so that we could go for a walk. 

Some readers and people who know me may have felt his influence without realising it already – as at one pivotal moment in the recent past he reminded me that no matter how small the steps in life are that ‘forward is forward.’ 

As with many things mentioned in passing it’s impossible to assess what impact they will have, and I doubt he intended it to be profound – but when I included it in my blog and shared it with others I was amazed at how this positive and supportive message spread out further into the world and inspired other people. 


Walking round the park with him today was special for several reasons. 

Firstly when he gave me this advice I couldn’t do what we did today. I could hardly move from my car to my front door. He and others helped make that seismic change possible for me – and maybe also for other people I’ve come into contact with online and in person too. 

Since I last saw him I’ve lost a stone and a half – enough for him to comment immediately when he arrived at my house that I looked different. 

It was a good moment. 

As we sat in Costa Coffee after our park walk talking about work, technical things, life and our progress in the world after redundancy I reflected upon how things in a relatively short space of time had changed so much. 

We chatted for three hours and time flew by. 

As we parted ways after our beverages and walked to our cars I couldn’t help but notice I had an extra spring in my step. I was in a good mood, but also two large Americanos will do that to a man. I can’t resist them. 

I’m not sure why – but I still feel that I need a vice. I tell myself it keeps me sane – and that it’s my last bastion of naughtiness in an otherwise fitness conscious life. 

Currently my vice of choice is clearly coffee. I think about it first thing in the morning – have a flask of it with me pretty much at all times and if you listen carefully to the sounds in the background as I type you’ll realise that for the second time today I’m in a coffee shop. 

I don’t think I’m alone in needing something like this either. It seems that for every human impulse to be good there’s a corresponding need to have a treat or do something ‘naughty’. 

Maybe it’s a reaction to society’s rules and structures (where there’s a need to rebel) or maybe it’s more innate – something in our DNA. 

Maybe it’s just me. 


It’s thankfully not a particularly self destructive obsession – and for the time being it’s not one I feel guilty about or have a burning desire to remove from my life. 

I’ve had a lot of vices over the years though, and it took me a long time to whittle my habits down to just caffiene. 

Despite hating the fact my late mother smoked I too (confusingly) also became a smoker for many years. I gave that up a decade ago thankfully. After watching her in hospital tied to an oxygen mask toward the end I’ve no regrets. 

It was one of the best decisions of my life. 

Readers from the start of my blog will know that I also used to drink an awful lot. The jury is still out in my mind as to whether or not that was an addiction. 

Towards the end I preferred the term ‘alcohol dependant’, but regardless of how I re-labelled the habit its effect on my health was just the same. I’m sure it was the main reason behind the development of my type 2 diabetes. 

In the ‘Madchester’ fuelled 90’s – in dual acts of rebellion and inquisitiveness I did a lot of things that I shouldn’t (I’ll leave that to your imagination) and for a time thought that they made my life better, until I realised the inevitable truth that they didn’t. They too had consequences – but thankfully nothing long lasting. 

Finally – food has controlled me all of my life for one reason or another and I’m still working on learning to control that. 

My last unhealthy binge (this time on healthy food) was just yesterday afternoon. I’m busy forgiving myself today and moving on. 

Forgiveness however is not the same as excusing my actions. My thoughts in this area are complex and sometimes still changing. I try to strike a balance that doesn’t leave me feeling like I’m needlessly beating myself up. 

The underlying catalysts for all of the above problems have their roots firmly planted in the past. My childhood, the bullying I endured for almost a decade, my relationship with my mother and other trivial nonsenses that everyone goes through all started the various balls rolling. 

But – I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that a crutch is a crutch – no matter how you spin it or what form it eventually takes. 

At some point you have to stand on a damaged limb and walk forwards for it to get better. 

One thing I have little tolerance for is rhetoric about addiction (in particular regarding my own past) that suggests ‘alcohol made me do x’ or ‘xxxx habit made me do y’. 

Too often in society we abdicate responsibility for our actions and to do so we give our vices a voice, suggesting they caused the resultant action rather than ourselves. 

I might have many catalysts for my actions and habits but the choice to continue or cease those self destructive behaviours has always been my own – and one by one I’ve had to make the decision myself to change. 

I’ve had help in a few instances (Slimming World being the most recent) but it’s important to me that I take responsibility for what I did and do. 

I can’t blame events in life for falling apart and making me engage in stupid behaviour any more and nor do I want to. 

If I pick up a pie and eat it then it’s my hand controlled by my brain putting it into my mouth. It’s not the fact that it’s my birthday or Christmas or that I’m having a bad day. It’s just a convenient fiction that I have used in the past to allow such bad behaviours. 

This fiction has been killing me. 

Quite literally. 

I actually feel if I hadn’t stopped drinking, started loosing weight and exercising that I might already be dead. I’m still a big guy. It’s a daily reality I have to live with. 

I might sound harsh here – and I feel I must point out I don’t condemn or look down on others for making similar choices in life – or state that these choices are necessarily the wrong ones for other people. My values are my own and directed at me. 

I just can’t take or leave some things like other people can. I’m not wired like that. 

Instead I’m simply beginning to understand the mental process of my own self-delusion better than I once did. 

Yesterday my mood dipped because I was tired, still thinking of my mother and the past, and I took that as an excuse to over eat. 

It happened and it’s not the end of the world. Today I feel different and I have already walked and talked and thought it all out in my head. Now I’m writing about it and trying to share so that it doesn’t help just me. 

I have forgiven myself and I have also taken responsibility for it. I’ve walked 6 miles so far today and I have another two to go before I’m home. I have seen lovely randomness and beauty in the world already and it’s barely past midday. 


From the swanling in the park to beautiful fungus on a tree and a random line of apples on a garden wall I’m continually reminded WHEN I MAKE THE EFFORT that the world is out there for the taking and it’s wonderful. 

Internet – it’s all us

We’re the only ones in our heads. The past may shape our thoughts and fears but it’s US that chooses to change, seek help if we need it, talk about our failings, pain and feelings and stay on the right path. 

Whatever you’re struggling with out there it’s never too late to dust yourself off, stand up, steady yourself and try again. 

You can do it. 

Davey

Early session

Despite a lengthy walk yesterday I was unable to sleep properly last night, and as my head hit the pillow I realised that my mind was full of (amongst other things) thoughts about how much of a loss this week’s weigh in would bring. But something else was also dogging my thoughts.

For some strange reason yesterday several women I had seen brought back memories of my mother as they’d walked past me in Birmingham.

Something in their facial features or way they walked or smoked a cigarette had reminded quite out of the blue that she was no longer alive. Although I didn’t feel ‘upset’ in the conventional sense one associates with bereavement it had made me very reflective and preoccupied later in the evening.

My mind was full of thoughts that I didn’t want to be dwelling upon, but they were there nevertheless.

Despite my attempts to divert my attention I’d been unconsciously thinking about elements of her face – and how for one day in several instances they had seemed to belong to other, oblivious ladies passing me on the street.

The anniversary of her death co-incides for a variety of reasons with the anniversary of when I started to try and ‘fix’ myself, and sometimes when I focus intently on how far I’ve come with self improvement I can’t help but think of the other, more upsetting aspect of its genesis.

I tossed and turned in bed until in the end I couldn’t take it any more and got up to watch TV. That turned into watching ‘Steve Jobs’ (the rather dour biopic piece about the Apple founder played by Michal Fassbender) and then random things on YouTube in the hope that something would step up and bore me enough to make me fall asleep.

By the time 4am arrived (my alarm was set for 7.30) I was convinced that regardless of what I wanted sleep would not happen and I’d just have to power through, so I started reading.

Then fell asleep immediately.

Typical.

When I awoke it was to my alarm clock – which hasn’t happened for a while. Normally I’ve been awake and ready before it’s had to give me a nudge, and it wasn’t welcome. I stabbed at the snooze button on my phone.

It doesn’t help that my phone alarm tone is set to ‘Kungs vs Cookin on three burners – This Girl’.

This catchy track also features in my walking playlist AND should I ever need it my ‘nod off’ playlist. Sadly it seems because of this my brain doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

This morning it chose the path of least resistance, which was to go back to sleep.

When I finally woke up therefore I was in a bit of a rush. I’d agreed earlier in the week to attend the 8.30 weigh in this morning so I could meet some of the ladies from the earlier group. Lots of them have commented very supportively on my posts in our SW Facebook forum in the past and it was time to put some faces to the names.

I almost took the car (it’s been raining all morning) but then mentally slapped myself and grabbed the umbrella out of the boot instead. Walking is the best way to wake up, feel better, and loose weight. Plus every little bit helps toward my goal!

When I arrived at my usual destination it was immediately a bit of a culture shock.

The 8.30 meeting was was a LOT busier than the 10.30 group, and full of people that looked vaguely familiar from their Facebook pictures – but not quite enough that I could confidently walk up and introduce myself.

Thankfully lots of them were saying hello and welcoming me – and there were a few I already knew well.

I’m not sure I was anywhere near as awake as I should have been for meeting a bunch of ladies for the (sort of) first time, so I apologise to those who were there if I looked a bit sleepy!

I stood in the (lengthy) line waiting for the scales after signing in and chatted a little with the women in the queue while I waited. They were all lovely and talked about their own journeys and shared how the week had been with each other.

Like my usual 10.30 group they’re all networking and pushing each other to achieve more as a team, which is really really nice to see. This group has a big bunch of park walkers that meet once a week in the evenings. They seemed a very committed bunch with a LOT of energy.

It was still a weird feeling weighing in with them though – as I realised (particularly when I stood on the scales and my usual weigh in lady wasn’t looking up at me with her usual chirpy grin) how much I’ve gotten used to the familiar faces in my own group.

We all watch each other really closely when we go through this particular part of the weekly gauntlet and I’ve noticed that I’ve become attuned to the ups and downs in people’s expressions both before and after they stand on the scales.

You can pretty much tell now how people think they’ve done as soon as they step through the doors.

No-one (unless they run off!) gets away without some supportive chatter if they look crestfallen in my group and as I’ve said before I now go to the 10.30 session just as much for the guys there as I go for myself.

This earlier session was no different from what I could see (and the weigh in lady no less smiley) but I also wondered what would happen to the 10.30 chaps.

The scales were thankfully kind to me and I managed a 3lb weight loss this week.

Honestly I wanted to lose a little more as the two previous weeks were a little slow – but a win is a win, and for the last two months I’ve been lighter every week than I was the week before.

I’m also a little bit closer to my next weight loss goal – the 6st Mangrove Jack boat trailer, but I feel it’s going to take a few weeks yet, and my interim goal (hopefully in the next 2 weeks at the most) is my five and a half stone certificate. I have another 3.5lbs to go.

My increased exercise does NOT immediately equal increased weight loss from what I can see. However – that’s no bad thing, as it still equals inch loss and promotes a general feeling of wellbeing and positivity.

After the 8.30 group filed out I thought I’d sit and wait for the 10.30 people and see how they’d done, so I made myself another coffee and sat back down.

Today there were some new faces, and some that hadn’t been around for a while – but all of them were doing really well to either face up to some mistakes, or to celebrate successes. One lady on her second week had lost 7.5lbs and received her half a stone award.

It’s true that nothing tastes as good as success, and watching her face as she sat next to me made staying the extra hour and a half completely worth it.

Another regular arrived a little later in a swanky pair of blue jeans, and proudly proclaimed that she wasn’t really all that fussed about how much she’d lost as they had not fitted her for a couple of years. She’s the smiley sort anyway – but today she was grinning from ear to ear, and it was lovely to see.

So – although I got up at the last minute, felt knackered and probably didn’t come across at my best today I felt rather good walking home in the rain at midday.

I met a lot of very nice new people, absorbed all of their positive energy, and then also got to sit and listen to all the other snippets of good news with some of my regular buddies.

Honestly, then I came home, had some breakfast and then fell asleep for four hours, so if you’ve logged on today expecting further exciting adventures and escapades from the tubby avenger sadly I’ll have to disappoint you.

Unless that is you wish to hear a loving essay on the alluring curves and sensual nature of my pillow.

No? You surprise me. It’s a shame. She’s puuurdy.

However, if sleep did nothing else it made me realise that my mild disappointment with what is a very respectable weight loss was purely down to feeling tired.

Now I feel wide awake, and a selfie that I took in the Leamington Pump Room Museum earlier this week (shortly after being judged by an evil pigeon) now seems quite appropriate to my mood.

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Have a lovely Saturday internet – I’m going to go and tidy my house up and find something to do for the evening.

Davey

The Dalek and The Electric

I love a slow burning film. No Country For Old Men style plodding noir is something I can get completely lost in.

You have to be in the right mood for one though, and I woke up today feeling refreshed and ready to meet the world on my own relaxed terms. I wanted to go on a little trip to somewhere languidly nice, and I had just the place in mind.

Over the last month I’ve gotten maybe a bit too used to a life lived at the pace of my own heartbeat, and to the hours of my day dictated only by my sleep cycles. Lately they seem to vary between really really short and quite long – which I guess is just my body taking as much as it does or doesn’t need.

Oddly this seems a bit hedonistic, and has caused me to feel strangely guilty. I’ve been used to getting up for work for so many years that a perverse situation has developed after being made redundant where I actually feel bad about sleeping well and getting up when I’m not tired any more.

Maybe it’s this guilt that’s driven me to go outside so much and push ahead with my plans to get fit. It feels when I do this that at least one part of my life is structured and that I’m making progress.

Today (primarily for this reason) I decided that I’d build on my previous trip to Birmingham by NOT driving to the train station outside of Warwick and doing the whole trip under my own steam. It’s become REALLY important to me that I remove as much reliance on my car as possible. Proof positive that this is happening  can be found in the fact that after three and a half weeks since my last fill up my car still has over half a tank of petrol.

The plan this morning was that I’d go to Birmingham to see ‘Hell or High Water‘ at The Electric powered only by feet (and a couple of trains). However this was not the ONLY thing I wanted to do. When I went to Birmingham the last time I hadn’t realised (until a few people pointed it out to me on Facebook and WordPress) that the Central Library hadn’t been nuked altogether – it had been replaced with a modern one in Centenary Square.

After getting off the train and purchasing my tickets early at the Electric box office (saving 45p by not booking online 😄) I wandered off to the library via theTesco Metro behind New Street. I managed to hit the reduced food counter at just the right time and got a bottle of water, some cooked salmon, ham and a few organic apples for breakfast and lunch.

I hadn’t really planned to eat it anywhere in particular – and knew nothing about the library – but as I got closer I realised there was a balcony half way up and people seemed to be wandering about up there, looking down at me.

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My initial lukewarm feelings about the ‘marmite’ external aesthetics began to mellow. It looked quite nice actually and was slowly growing on me.

It grew on me LOTS more as I progressed inside.

If you’re no fan of vertigo (I was ok but tightly gripping a LOT of barriers and trying not to look straight down!) I’d advise that when you visit you focus on the stairs or the lifts and avoid the escalators. These appear to delight in showing you the ground floor, no matter how high you go up. From some places you can see from the top almost to the bottom.

It does look stunning though. It’s a fantastic space designed for quiet contemplation and exploration. I LOVE IT!

The outside decked and seated area was a bit breezy today – and was one of the reasons I don’t miss the old days and having flowing golden locks of long hair whipping me to death.

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I used to look a bit like Thor. True story.

The views were expansive – but I think ‘developing’ is probably the best way to describe the vista. Birmingham appears to be undergoing open heart surgery.

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From what I can see on the various billboards the results will be impressive – but it’s hard not to feel a bit conflicted about this re-generation at the cost of £500,000,000 when so many doorsteps surrounding some of the city’s iconic spaces are full of the homeless, begging, sleeping, or just looking depressingly lost.

It’s disquieting to say the least – but I don’t think it’s a new problem. I remember this from when I used to come here as a young man. Somehow the poverty back then seemed like it ‘fitted’ though, and almost went hand in hand with the run down looking Digbeth coach station and the concrete eyesore that was New Street and the Bullring.

Maybe it’s a testament to how much has been done to structurally improve the centre that this rampant homelessness now seems so jarring and out of place.

On the way past lots of big issue sellers was the mailbox – providing a sharp contrast to the consequences of economic austerity with the exclusive shops and concessions contained within.

Oddly this space seemed also affected by recession, and appeared partially drained of life and commerce, with the lower floor almost appearing as a modern art installation. Two enormous bespoke benches were flanked by almost no shops and I felt like I was in the bottom of the Tate Modern rather than a mall.

However, my temporarily moody view of the world faded when I noticed on the third floor in the reception area of the BBC studios there was a Dalek!!! 

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It’s difficult to explain why to someone who doesn’t like Dr Who – but seeing a Dalek makes me feel like a five year old. I almost skipped through the front door into the BBC reception and started taking photos, much to the amusement of the security guard, who asked if I wanted to see a TARDIS.

‘What?! No way!!! You have a TARDIS? Where?!’ I said, managing (I think) to maintain an air of adult calm and composure.

He pointed at the lift. It was painted to look like a TARDIS.

‘Oh.’ I said. ‘The lift.’

I took a photo of it to make sure he wasn’t disappointed.

‘No – if you go upstairs in the lift there’s a TARDIS.’

‘Woohoo!!!’ I replied (further maintaining my grown-up demeanour) pressing the button and taking photos of the TARDIS LIFT DOOR OPENING!!!!

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I headed upstairs and sure enough there was a full sized TARDIS, and some iconic character heads, including Davros!

After a few more photos I went back downstairs to the security guard, who smiled knowingly at me.

‘Happy?’ He said – his arms still folded and his legs slightly apart in the standard security guard pose.

I really really really am!‘ I giggled and grinned like a Cheshire Cat as I left the building.

The next stop (via a bizarre Starbucks for coffee where all the baristas were dressed like cowgirls) was The Electric Cinema.

The atmosphere here took me right back to picture houses of old and I instantly felt that spending money here was worth it – just to keep this slice of history alive. The Art Deco touches, hand made slices of cake at the box office, the quirky cocktails, the old style tickets and the plush red velvet seats oozed history and charm.

I’d been looking forward to this for AGES and I wasn’t disappointed.

I had booked a front ‘sofa’ – which was in reality an armchair, and not a particularly wide one at that.

However, when I look at seats these days I still tend to view them with the mindset of a man who has not lost any weight. This seat some months ago would have been a BIG problem. Not any more though. Sure – It was a little ‘fitted’ – but also felt comfortably ‘snug’.

I had the front row to myself so I put my feet up on the leather pouffe and chilled out.

The film was excellent, and the cinema going experience was about as close to perfect (in my humble opinion) as you’ll get. Plus I made my way there under my own terms with no car and no feelings that anything was a strain.

As I type I’m on my way back to Warwick on the train for the last part of my walking, the mile or so back to my house, and we’ve just reached my stop.

Back in a minute. 

Well – now I’m home, and I’ve been looking at my activity log. Today was a busy one from a walking perspective – and I’ve been keeping a close eye on what Apple Watch has been counting. I’m very confident indeed that its stats today reflect real world effort.

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There has been some interesting discussion (after my request for input on my last post) regarding my walking and whether I should take the Apple Watch figures and add them up to count toward my virtual walk along the length of the U.K.

No-matter where people shared their thoughts the common themes in the feedback were ones of huge support and positivity about my progress – which I’m always thankful for, as it really does help when there’s such spirited and well meaning energy being thrown at me from all directions.

I have decided to take the figures as they are – even with their margin for error and count them toward my goal. Every month I’ll add up the totals and see how close I am to virtual John o Groats.

At the moment – since I started Slimming World (from April to August inclusive) I have walked 349.5 miles.

Although there are slightly different figures everywhere for the true distance on the internet I’m following Wikipedia which says the distance by road (roughly around when Ian Botham would have done it in 1985) is 847 miles.

I therefore have 497.5 miles to go.

Piece of cake internet. I can do it, and I’m going to have a lot of fun along the way. You’re welcome to join me for the journey, although I might stop a few times on the way. Man can’t live without coffee and the cinema after all…

Davey

 

Raw data

Well – I’m a bit unsure what to do now. After yesterday’s post about walking from Land’s End to John o Groats I’ve exported and have been looking at the data stored on my iPhone. It goes back to 2014 (!) when Apple introduced the motion co-processor into its phones and started publicising HealthKit. This app quietly saves any info that the phone or watch collects about activity or health data.

It details (amongst MANY other things) the distance I’ve walked and the number of steps I’ve taken since April.

I’m pretty sure I don’t completely trust it though.

When I’m walking I’ve confidence in Apple Watch and the iPhone’s combined ability to track me with GPS and count my steps (with an acceptable margin of error). However some days I’ve noticed that the total continues to creep up more than I think it should when I’m just moving around my house in the morning or evening, after or before my daily exercise. I’m pretty familiar now with how it feels to walk a mile and I’m sure that I’d recognise it if I did one accidentally. I don’t think I walk a mile around my house on any given day.

The figures I have from April till now therefore don’t seem to show an absolutely 100% accurate distance travelled.

However the watch and phone are tracking ALL movement, and I probably have ‘hidden’ exercise in the background. It’s counting everything I do from the moment I put it on in the morning until the moment I take it off. Every time I make a cup of tea, or walk up the stairs, stand up, sit down and go to the loo. It records it all.

Maybe I don’t feel it because it’s not continuous effort. Maybe I am (and was) doing more than I thought?

So how do I use this? Is there still a point to a goal like the one I made yesterday if I can’t accurately measure it?

Maybe accuracy isn’t the point though. Maybe since I’m walking in a ‘virtual’ trip to from one end of the country to another maybe it doesn’t have to be 100% accurate – just as close as I can get it.

Am I being too picky?

I’m undecided what to do. I am really not sure how best to manipulate the data to get an absolutely HONEST account of the distance I walk during a day, and I don’t want to feel that I’ve misled anyone reading my posts or lied about my efforts.

One thing the data does show is an undeniable overall progression in my fitness. What I can say with authority is that I see a big month on month increase in activity. A huge one in fact.

The raw data (take it how you will) is this:

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For those of you that like graphs….

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I’m going to open this up to people reading and ask for comments.

Whether you follow on Twitter, Facebook or WordPress – (if you have any thoughts either way) please put your opinion where you prefer and I’ll read and consider it.

Do you think I should:

  1. Keep the goal and use the approximate data I’m getting to reach my destination?
  2. Find another way to do this?
  3. Find another goal?

For that matter if anyone knows of another way to harvest and interpret historical data with Apple Watch/iOS I’d love to hear it.

One thing that won’t change however is how much I enjoy moving from A to B again. Today started with a walk to the Saxon Mill, then a stroll with some friends to St James the Great. That turned into a coffee at the Shire Retail Park, and then a gentle walk home along the canal and River Avon.

I spent an hour in a place I’d never been before, sitting on a bench and just staring at this shaded view.

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I shouldn’t really worry too much about accuracy I guess – as long as I’m continually making progress – which I feel I am.

Anyway internet – let me know what you think please 🙂

Davey

 

 

Lands End to John o Groats

Something that I haven’t done for years is go to the cinema on my own during the day. In my youth when I was a student I did it a lot, and really loved sitting there in the dark with some popcorn and disappearing into fantasy for a couple of hours.

I’d wanted to go and see Morgan for a couple of weeks now – and so far no-one had been available to go and watch it with me. Since I’d recently signed up for discounted tickets at my local cinema on Tuesdays I decided today was the day. I’d go on my own and just enjoy the film. 

I can’t have the popcorn anymore though. 

Well – actually I can have the popcorn. I just choose not to. A large sweet one is 48 syns, which is a bit unfair but also a fact of life. 

Instead I ate some ham pieces and cherry tomatoes shortly before I went in and smuggled in a flask of coffee. 

I’m not sure why I hid the flask in my pocket under my shirt. The lone attendant clearly couldn’t have cared less, but smuggling in contraband made me feel a little naughty. 

I’d avoided adult prices with my discount (I paid child rates) and didn’t buy any over priced sugary snacks to make me feel like crap later. I was a paragon of economy. 

When I sat down I soon realised that I also had the cinema to myself. 

A private screening!


I sat right at the front and stretched out my legs. It was nice to take a weight off and relaaaaax

I’d started the day in the park with my mate and Boris – his French bulldog. We’d done a couple of miles and were deciding whether or not to do a third lap. 

My foot had been hurting all morning and initially I hadn’t wanted to move. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to go too far either according to my mate. 

By all accounts when I roped Boris into a 3rd lap last week he was all achy and creaky for a whole day afterwards. The poor little fellow only has teeny tiny legs. 

He’s also got a curved spine, and walks slightly at an angle with his back legs about two inches to the left of his front ones. My friend calls it crabbing. 

He seems content enough though, and after a couple of miles (at least from my perspective) any aches and pains that the three of us started with had melted away. 

The human body is a wonderful thing – it’s always repairing itself! I was good for more, but maybe Boris wouldn’t see the same benefits. We called it quits and headed for a coffee instead. 

As we headed to our cars we met a blonde lady with a Doberman – a lovely friendly animal with a proud pointy nose and a sleek black coat. When we strolled past she was busy rewarding its good behaviour with little biscuits from her right hand pocket. 

Boris could smell the dog treats in her body warmer immediately and stopped to look up at her longingly, putting both paws on her leg and sniffing the source of the biscuity scent. 

She laughed and stroked him. We said hello and began to slowly walk and talk together as we headed out of the park. 

‘Did you have him as a puppy?’ She asked my friend.

‘No – I got him later on. His previous owner used him for breeding.’ He replied. 

‘Awww – the poor little thing.’ She said smiling at him. 

I bit my tongue and smiled. It didn’t sound a bad existence to me. Boris had a start in life (back when he still had his family jewels) that most dogs would envy. His chief concerns extended no further than eating, sleeping and procreating. 

The stoic little fellow did not suffer unduly from what I can see and his expression now shows a contented dog with only fond memories of the past. 


I do however have a tendency to anthropomorphize when it comes to dogs and pets so he could just be thinking ‘sausages‘. 

Who knows?…

While we sat drinking and talking at Starbucks (it’s easy there to sit outside with a dog) I showed my friend the new goals I had set myself in my post yesterday.

We talked about segmenting my weight loss into managable chunks with memorable goals and I mentioned that one of the ladies from Slimming World had come up with a really good idea. 

She’d commented that it would be a nice to add up all the miles that I’d done day by day and plot it against a virtual geographical walk – similar to the channel tunnel approach from the other week

I liked the idea so much I immediately started wondering where I could (virtually) go, and it struck me that I was really impressed as a young boy when the cricketer Ian Botham walked from Lands End to John o Groats in 1985

This is a pretty epic distance (by road it’s 847 miles) but what the hell – I’m in no rush. I’m going to do it!

I’m going to use Apple Watch to track it as it keeps tabs on everything I do and saves a daily log to my phone. I can’t think of anything more impressive than saying many months from now that I managed to walk that distance while loosing weight. 

Since I could hardly walk at all when I started Slimming World in April I think it’s a good idea to take my first meeting as my starting point. Firstly I’d like to see month on month how I’ve improved and then exactly how far I’ve walked since I started to lose weight. 

Apple Watch is a little imprecise sometimes in my experience – so there’s a some margin for error, but it will definitely give me an accurate(ish) total based on total daily steps counted by the pedometer and distance moved in GPS on my phone. 

I’ve had a look at how to export the data into a spreadsheet and once I’ve made it look pretty I’ll share the results. I have no idea how far I’ve walked since April as I only started looking at the stored data recently. 

I’m excited to find out!

As I left the cinema all of this was on my mind. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the film (although the twist was blindingly obvious within the first 10 minutes) and was mulling it over along with my goals as I walked to the car – parked a mile or so away. 

Every step now had a bit more meaning – and by the time I was putting on my seatbelt I’d spent an hour meandering and criss-crossing all over town. I suddenly felt just a little bit closer to John o Groats!


I’ll hopefully see you on the way Internet! Check back tomorrow to see how far I’ve travelled to date and what the difference has been month by month. 😄

Davey

Twerking and goals

It’s early evening and after a shamefully slow start to the day I’m sitting in the park on a bench with a sweat on. 

I can walk a lot faster than I used to but I’m not able to do it for long periods and so far it reduces the overall distance I tend to travel. Apple Watch reports just over 2.5 miles so far and I’m dripping. 

It’s a bit humid this evening. I suspect this shirt will need a wash tonight. 😄


I’ve been thinking more while walking about my goals, and things to get me motivated on the next stages of my weight loss journey.

First of all I decided last night to discount using exercise as milestones. I want activity and walking to be organic and fun to do. I want to naturally experience new things, places and people – not run like a hamster in a wheel at a gym because I feel I have to. 

For this reason I’ve never asked for a body magic award at Slimming World and I’ve no plans to do so in the near future. 

I also ruled out clothes. While it’s really nice when I get into something smaller I have to go further than the ones I own (I have shirts all the way down to 4x and jeans to match) to feel truly good about myself. I need to buy something new in a size I DON’T have and that’s not going to happen for some time.

I think therefore I’m going to stick with what has worked so far and break it up into more manageable segments. In honour of my Ulrik the cat post I have over the last few days preparing a road map for approximately (based on current progress) the next half a year of my life.

It may take a little longer. Who knows?

(kg weights below are rounded up or down)

Objective one.

Six stone (38kg) will represent a lot of weight that I’m no longer dragging around. It seems appropriate therefore that it’s actually the weight of a ‘Mangrove Jack’ boat trailer which is designed to do nothing else but drag other things about.

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The innovative tagline for this product is ‘A Mangrove Jack won’t break your back‘.

I’d beg to differ. Mine had been agony for years, and this lump of metal (that’s capable of carrying 250kg of fishing boat) might finally answer the mystery of why it hurt so much for so long. This is my NEXT OBJECTIVE.

Objective two.

By this time all of the calories I’ve burned should be making me feel a little hot under the collar, and I’ll no doubt need a tasty cold beverage and some cool cherry tomatoes.

I could do a lot worse than getting my drink or salad items from the shelves of the Fridgemaster MC55180FF 50/50 Frost Free fridge freezer.

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As well as having handy reversible doors to suit my kitchen layout and an impressive A+ energy rating it just so happens to also weigh 44kg or 7 Stone.

Yep. Thats right. Two stones from today I’ll have lost a fridge freezer.

Objective three.

I’m sure you’ll agree that nothing says ‘I’m a little bit heavier than a fridge’ more than a diminutive pop princess with an appetite for DIY.

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At 8 Stone or 50kg (give or take 2 pounds) after a few months I’ll hopefully be seeing the back of Miley Cyrus, whose considerable bulk is apparently capable of knocking down breeze blocks and changing the static free hanging position of a 1000 pound wrecking ball made of solid steel.

Unless we’ve been hoodwinked by clever special effects – which I very much doubt.

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It’ll be sad no longer having her around – as her continual twerking and ability to engage in extreme renovations without safety gear will make future home modifications more time consuming and infinitely less engaging.

I’ll be willing however to branch out on my own in this area and for the sake of progress. Miley has to go.

Objective four.

Although I’m not a fan of sweet foods, it’s undeniable that after knocking down walls on my own I might fancy an energy boosting bar of chocolate. To be honest – I might fancy more than one.

I imagine that 1266.6 standard sized bars of cadburys milk chocolate might do the trick, but as they’re so pesky to carry I will probably go instead for the largest easter egg that the Bournville based confectioner makes.

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It’s hard to imagine anyone willingly eating 9 stone or 57kg of chocolate – but I suppose with a big enough hammer, a large enough sweet tooth and a lot of persistence it’s entirely possible.

Objective five.

I’ve been quite obsessed with filling my red ring lately – and for that matter my blue and green ones. Apple Watch can get a little addictive in that respect when you start exercising.

However, one ring that I’m unlikely to fill is the world’s largest, in Dubai. This incredibly understated and tasteful piece of jewellery weighs in at almost 64kg or 10 stone of gold and precious stones.

 

(images courtesy of here and here)

By the time I hit my 5th objective I will have lost the weight of the worlds largest solid gold ring. That’s going to feel pretty awesome.

Now – although these objectives are relatively obvious and linear I’m also of the opinion that I should push myself further outside of my comfort zone and begin to incorporate some hill walking – eventually my goal is Snowdonia. 

I’ve realised though that my calf and heel are vulnerable to changes in gradient (when I switch from uphill to downhill or vice versa). This is why I never pull anything in the park, and why it happens in the street, so this is something I’m going to have to work at gradually. 

This week Internet I’m off to a relatively OK start though. I’ve managed to get my pulse raised every day and filled my green ring.


The journey to a Mangrove Jack begins here folks!!!

The park looks lovely by the way. You should be here. It’s ace!


Davey

Pigeon critique

I think the only way I don’t go quietly mad sometimes over how much weight I still have to lose (about another 15 stone) is that mentally I’ve segmented it into manageable chunks.

The first of these was one stone. That went pretty quickly so then I moved the mental goalposts to five.

The Slimming World ‘interim goal’ that I’ve set in the back my book seems largely pointless sometimes as it is still seven stone away. So the question is what I now use to keep me motivated. What’s in my sights?

I’m not sure ‘another five stone’ fits the bill. It needs to be done but it just sounds depressing.

My ‘unicorn friend’ who appears to be a keen observer of my nature (and attempts at self delusion) pointed out recently to me that I am by nature an ambitious person.

‘Bol****s am I!’ I replied in my typically erudite fashion.

‘I’ve got zero ambition. Most of the jobs I’ve done have been about people and I’ve never been interested in climbing corporate ladders!’

She carried on eating her dinner, without looking up, dipping one half of a roast potato in some English mustard, and then rolling it in her apple gravy.

‘The mistake you make is not recognising that not all ambition is related to work. You can’t loose the weight you’ve lost without being ambitious.’

And there it was. She was absolutely right. How could I have not seen this before!? I sat back in my chair, my mind temporarily blown.

I thought about it more later that evening while lying in bed. I wanted things in life – and I was willing to put in the effort to get them, but what drove me wasn’t money or a career. It was something else entirely.

But what?

Over the years I’ve not been very good at understanding this (clearly I still struggle) and an internal perception of myself has taken root in this vacuum of self awareness that I’m not very good at a lot of things, particularly competitive pursuits.

I instead choose to remove myself from the field of competition entirely and engage in purely cooperative activities. This is mostly because I associate competition with sport and school (both things that harbour unpleasant memories) and I hate the feeling of being someone that continually fails.

On the plus side though it also fits in very well with my love of spending collaborative face to face time with people. I’m not the confrontational type if I can absolutely help it, so I feel at home in teams and groups.

In many ways I’m still doing this – but (now that I suddenly recognise the signs) ambition and competition have surfaced seemingly from nowhere.

This time however they have arrived with an unexpected and wiley opponent.

Myself.

I’ve realised I’m now in a race with the imagined ‘other me’ to make the right decisions as often as I can and make an effort where ‘he’ would not.

To do this I need goals and ambitions though.

My whimsical post about funny items that weighed 1-5 stone (Ulrik the Cat) was ultimately really useful to me because I began to visualise the huge industrial fire extinguisher – and I wanted it GONE.

It touched a nerve with others as well. One jolly lady I know messaged me last week to say that she’d worked out she was the weight of 40 chihuahuas. She lost another diminutive pooch the other day, bringing the total to 39 and she has her sights set on a small adult male Kangeroo.

I never asked what the weight of a buck was. Not only was it terribly impolite but it’s HER goal. It’s something that gets her up in the morning and makes her work just that little bit (or a lot) harder towards her objectives. I wish her nothing but good fortune on her journey toward masculine marsupialdom.

But what’s next for me? What’s going to get me out of bed in the morning?

I allowed myself a day of relaxation and celebration after the food tasting yesterday where I ate a little more (of GOOD THINGS) than usual, and put my feet up to watch the telly while it rained outside.

Few things are nicer. I enjoyed it – and also had a decadent snooze on the sofa.

Today though is a new day and two things happened this morning.

Firstly I made another hole in my long suffering belt – approximately an inch and a half further in than the last one. The dangly bit is now getting comically long, but I can’t bring myself to trim it.

Secondly I ironed and put on my freshly laundered and SMALLEST 7x shirt. 

Maybe clothes sizes could be my new goal. I have many of them all in different patterns – but it’s a bit indistinct. Going by labels (in my experience) it’s usually the case that some things fit when they shouldn’t and other don’t when they should.

No. Not clothes.

Still mulling this over I filled my slow cooker with the ingredients for a beef stew (fail to prepare and you prepare to fail) and had some berries and the rest of the fat free fromage frais from the fishcakes yesterday (with cinnamon and stevia this time) for breakfast.

I then headed off to Leamington for a round trip walk and a coffee. I decided to try and come up with a new goal while I walked.

Today I’ve been a bit nervous about exercise. My calf has again been cramping and for some reason the tendon on the bottom of my foot also feels really stiff. I’ve been stretching it at every opportunity by putting my toes on a kerb and gently leaning toward the path. It’s helping a bit – but this seems to be a problem that’s not going away easily.

For the moment though I’m OK. I’m trying to be careful.

Hmmm – for this reason I think its a bad idea to make some form of exercise my goal.

I was still really pleased about my shirt though – so my aches and pains weren’t getting me down. I originally bought it for a Christmas party at work in December 2007.

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Vertical stripes are universally known to be slimming (although they have their work cut out in my case) so I’m super happy I can wear it again. When I bought it years ago I remember being really chuffed as I tried it on in the shop and it fitted.

Beardless me was a little drunk in this photo – but he looks happy as well!

Initially I lost even more weight and put it in a suitcase, as I’d only worn it a few times. Then when I started to put all the bulk back on again I had a brief couple of months on the way back up in 2009 when it was useful once more, before it again ended up in my suitcase.

It now fits perfectly.

However – the world doesn’t always recognise your accomplishments in life.

I spontaneously decided to take a selfie at the bottom of Leamington while sitting on a bench – just to record the moment so I had something to look back on that was attached to a date.

It looked quite good. The sky had gone a little blue and I didn’t come across as a sweaty turnip.

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However a nearby pigeon disagreed and a moment later I felt the bitter sting of his disapproval as he surveyed me from the tree above.

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Even birds are critics it seems… He didn’t like my shirt at all. Hopefully he will end up in a (crustless syn free) pie.

I wandered over to the museum nearby (the toilets were a good place to remove the bird turd) and while I was there had a look at the pump room history exhibit, which was actually quite interesting. I wish the health spa was still in operation – they might have been able to help with my many aches and pains!

As I wandered around I noticed that the curators seem to have had a problem with tactile visitors. Touchy feely tourists appear to have been handling the historical items and the museum had seen fit to take special measures to ensure that anyone with an interest in intimate cavity irrigation didn’t stroke their exhibit.

I immediately put my strong desire to get hands on with this well worn site of Victorian personal cleansing to one side. With great personal fortitude I managed to resist the temptation to touch the douche slab.

As I walked home with a slowly drying outline of pigeon crap on my shoulder I realised that I still hadn’t answered my earlier question about what my next motivating goal would be.

I’m still undecided too. Ironically I didn’t meet my goal of defining a goal. I can hear the universe laughing.

However in the meantime I’ve made a start toward the next Slimming World certificate. Today I’ve walked six miles and eaten perfectly within my plan.

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Internet – tonight I’m going to spend thinking about what I want and what will motivate me. Check back with me tomorrow and I may have an answer…

For now there’s a beef stew with my name on it and I’m not going to take any prisoners!

May the pigeons of fate view the shoulders of your afternoon and evening favourably.

Davey