Temporarily benched

I’m currently sitting in a blue fabric chair with fixed arms in the waiting room of my local doctor’s surgery.

Chairs like this are one of my natural predators – worse even than the hateful little (but armless) red chairs at Slimming World meetings. I’m always wedged unceremoniously into their unflinching confines and I’m usually in pain because of it.

Encouragingly however (while it’s still snug) this seat is no longer painful. I can fit into it – which wasn’t the case the last time I was sitting here several months ago.

Thankfully I can also (I discovered this morning) fit into a Ford Ka – and get the seatbelt on, which was previously impossible.

I say thankfully because it meant that my much smaller friend could give me a lift home today from the park when I finally admitted to myself (and her) that I could no longer walk properly on my left leg after hobbling all the way there from my house to meet her.

It turns out that ignoring advice from the NHS website is a bad idea. Saying (like a complete idiot) that I would ‘walk through the pain’ whilst on a ten and a half mile jaunt around Warwick and Leamington yesterday means I’m now unable to lift the foot on my left upward or push downward on it without considerable discomfort.

(Goes in to see the doctor after being called)

I’ve been benched. I’m now on the reserve team.

I’m not allowed to walk (or even use my exercise bike) for at least a week – and I may not be able to walk for two. I’m allowed to swim but I have no swimwear and fear boats with harpoons.

I have an official diagnosis of shin splints in my left leg (as I suspected in my previous post). According to the doctor due to my excessive weight a torn tendon will also probably take longer to recover on me than someone half my size.

Yay.

The doctor was actually very supportive, despite this rather demoralising diagnosis. We talked about possible causes and stretches I could do for a while, plus how I could prevent this happening again in the future. He was also very complementary about my weight loss, which made a refreshing change from the usual speech about needing to slim down and the likelihood that I would drop dead if I didn’t.

On the bright side it doesn’t seem like a stress fracture – which was a possibility according to the NHS website (as it’s only in one leg). He twisted, poked and manipulated my foot and shin bones for quite a while and was convinced it’s not bone related.

I was really worried about this. I’ve broken so many things (not just bones) with my weight that I think I’d have actually cried in his office if that was the case.

I’m REALLY REALLY REALLY &£*%ing angry though. This week was supposed to be all about me smashing my weight loss and sorting out the small gain I had on Saturday.

It’s de-railed me in a completely unexpected way and I feel like punching the wall. I hate the idea of sitting in my living room all day with my foot in the air. And I know that when I’m bored I’ll just be thinking about food.

It’s not a good place to be.

However – my friends have my back, and I have to listen to their advice. If I’m sitting down for a week I’m going to be burning a lot less calories and I must start considering what I can and can’t eat over the next seven days in the absence of exercise.

‘Maybe now is a good time to start thinking about portion sizes’ said an impressively fearless mate, who was valiantly willing to poke my particular bear for the greater good.

I’ll be honest – this line of conversation is something that raises my pulse a lot and instantly puts me in a mentally defensive posture. I usually have to talk myself down from the metaphorical ledge before I reply to anyone on this point (no matter how well intentioned or benevolent the person is) as my natural response involves either fight or flight.

I’m trying to be better in this respect and take well meaning advice as it comes.

Portion control is in many ways a much BIGGER issue for me than giving up alcohol or dieting. I always skirt around the issue and have not yet managed to crack this particular problem to the point that I feel free of the hold it has over me.

She is 100% right though. I’ve been avoiding this for a long time, and I told her as much last week over coffee.

Luckily so far I’ve been exercising like a demon and that’s picked up some of the ‘slack’ that I’ve caused caused by eating larger meals than I probably should. I’ve also been eating lots of good stuff rather than bad stuff.

These twin pillars of virtue have been holding up my little temple of denial, and have allowed me to put this important dietary issue on my ‘to do’ list rather than where it now has to be – on the ‘sort out now’ top five.

It doesn’t make me feel any better about it though.

I’m angry as I type because circumstances have conspired to make me confront something emotionally complex when I don’t honestly feel ready.

It’s particularly ironic because my conversation with a walking companion yesterday touched on just this topic – and once again it appears the universe was listening.

It heard my conversation – noted that my advice was incompatible with my behaviour and decided to make an example of me.

And here I am.

If I’m looking for some other plusses however this DOES mean some guilt free video gaming for a few days.

Maybe it’s not all bad internet. Maybe the universe just wants me to shoot more aliens. 👽

Davey

Peaky Blinder

It’s been a busy week of walking and keeping in contact with people and I think during this time I have added yet another war wound to my little list.

After a lengthy trek the other day around Stourport on Severn (story here) I think I’ve developed ‘shin splints’ in my left leg. From what I read online the near constant dull pain I have in my shin is often caused by being overweight and having tight calves – along with having footwear thats not cushioned enough – but it seems mostly associated with runners.

I’m not a runner but I am overweight, have tight calves and my walking boots are stiffer than they were since I had the soles replaced – so maybe this is to blame. Either way it hurts – and made me glad I had a large tube of ibuprofen gel tucked away in my medicine chest for just such calamities.

On the bright side though I now have a new ‘friend’ for the plantar fasciitis in my right foot. It’s been getting a bit lonely lately so at least it has something to compete with for my attention.

Despite this yesterday I managed to hit (and exceed) my self imposed target of four miles walking – bringing my weekly total to 41.

It was a pretty leisurely day of strolling and chatting though rather than power walking (which was a good thing with my shin issue) that started in Memorial Park with my friend and his dog then ended up in a really eclectic shopping arcade in Coventry called the Fargo Village.

The park held a hidden surprise for Boris – which it’s fair to say made him a very very happy little Frenchie.

A deflated football.

There’s something absolutely hilarious about watching a deliriously chuffed dog carrying and shaking back and forth an object that’s twice the size of its head.

After squashing and deflating it enough to get it into his mouth Boris’s pleasure centres seemed well stimulated. After trotting in circles for a few seconds he finally managed to hold the impossible object in such a way that he could see over the top and then skipped along beside us like a cat that had just discovered an everlasting cream fountain.

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There have been many times I’ve wished I was a dog and I have to say this was one of them. To experience such pleasure from something so simple is a fantastic thing – and to have goals in life that are satisfied by the discovery of a deflated football could be an answer to pretty much all of the world’s problems.

It would certainly solve all of mine.

I resolve to ‘be more Boris’.

I was still thinking about him later when we arrived at Fargo Village – a wonderfully diverse, offbeat and individual selection of shops made from shipping containers and caravans near Coventry City centre.

Randomly hanging outside a shop was possibly the best shower curtain I’ve ever seen – made from individual cells of film reel – all showing tiny but incredibly detailed images of nature. I was tempted to buy it until I realised I had nowhere to put it – and that I’d probably get so lost in looking at the pattern of it it that I’d never get out of the shower!

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There was also a scooter showroom just outside with some lovely Lambretta scooters of all colours and configurations parked up in front of the shop in lovely neat rows waiting to be sat on, photographed or played with.


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I don’t feel in the least bit trendy usually – and this kind of territory proved that I have a long long way to go before I had any kind of image based cachet with the kind of people that frequent such a place.

I needed to be far more urban, and I’m pretty sure that my jeans were tight in all the wrong places.

To be honest I also had some serious beard competition nearby that made my chin fur look rather pedestrian. Hirsute envy immediately began developing deep inside me when I caught sight of the frankly epic facial hair sitting waiting to be coiffured in ‘Dashing Blades’ – the cool little barber shop on the site.

I couldn’t help but laugh when my mate suggested what a stampede and pandemonium we could cause if one of us stood outside and shouted ‘death to all hipsters!!!’

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Every time I passed the shop as I strolled around there seemed to be a new and bushier set of facial plumage waiting to be trimmed and waxed.

Fargo village is also offbeat enough to have a Sgt Bilko / Phil Silvers memorabilia museum. This is possibly better than the Redditch Nail Museum – although just like my unfulfilled desire to explore the history of nails last week (here) I was denied the chance to investigate further.

It was closed due to family illness when we arrived – so all I could do was peer through the left hand window at the FULL SIZED RED DALEK (which I don’t remember seeing in the Phil Silvers show…) and the huge cardboard cutout of Rick from The Walking Dead.

Feeling a little parched after the morning’s walking we stopped a few doors down from here for an ethically sourced, ethnically aware, vegan, fair trade and socially responsible coffee at the nearby bookshop. This was (ahem) not cheap – but I guess diversity and individuality has to be financed somehow.

The economy of scale that underpins my usual cheap and refillable Starbucks filter coffee comes with many hidden social costs that I often choose to ignore while I sit in their premises writing my blog posts on their free wifi.

Musing over these and other topics of conversation my friend and I left, unable to find what he had originally been looking for.

For my part I departed with an unexpected and great sense of longing – for I had quite out of the blue fallen in love with a hat.

Normally I’d have thought that such an item would leave me looking like a pretentious idiot – however since I am recently getting a cold head and since the consensus of (Facebook and Instagram) opinion appears to be that this suits me I’m genuinely tempted to go back and get it. I’m just not entirely sure it will match the rest of my clothes…

Comments are always welcome!

The week however has not been completely plain sailing. Today I appear to have had a blip on the scales and managed to put 3lbs back on. 

If I’m honest when I sit in the cold light of day and examine why – it’s not a complete mystery. I’ve had a bit of a sweet tooth this week and have been eating a lot of fat free quark and natural yogurt with frozen fruit and sweetener to stem the craving.

I’ve also had a lot of apples, plums and oranges. My blip therefore is not a magical mystery, nor is it unjust and unfair. I ate too much free food and not enough speed. I should have eaten less overall.

Truthfully I thought I could get away with it given all of my walking, but it appears not – so this coming week I’m going to have to double down, keep a food diary, go back to basics and make more effort.

Truthfully I felt a bit peeved and disappointed on the scales – but you know what? I’m not alone and it’s not the end of the world. All the other members at the group have blip weeks and get right back on their metaphorical horses. I stayed to the image therapy talk with Angie afterwards – was honest about all my mistakes during the week and I’m owning the responsibility for it.

I’m going to draw my inspiration from the ladies that cheer me up every weekend and just get on with it.

However (ironically enough given it’s the first week in ages where I put weight ON) today I won the Mr Sleek 2016 award (with a commemorative tie). This morning we all voted for the person we’d most like to win.

It was a nice surprise and I had a photo taken with the wonderful winning Miss Slinky 2016 (withheld as it’s not just a photo of me).

I can’t think where on earth I would wear this rather bold tie (Miss Slinky seemed the same with her eye catching sash) but I can now add it to my wardrobe safe in the knowledge that I have at least one item of clothing that will never get taken to charity!!!

The rest of my day internet will be spent with a cool tube of ibuprofen and my leg up on a pillow. I’m not going to give it the two weeks off that the NHS website suggests – it’s going to have to learn that these days we do things differently at casa du davey and it’s going to have to get with the program in the same way other parts of my tubby frame have.

Today pouffe – tomorrow the world!

Davey

Stourport on Severn walkabout

Freckles has been a bundle of energy all day – and has been relentlessly straining at her extendable lead in an effort to go further, faster and quicker. She’s an energetic tonic of a dog whose ENTIRE body wags when she wants to say hello or play.

It’s pretty much impossible to feel either tired of grumpy when she’s around, and when she greeted me by running round in circles and jumping up and down as my friend opened his door this morning I instantly felt happy.

Mind you – after today’s exercise even her seemingly endless energy was depleted – and she finished the walk we were about to embark upon with her paws in the air, resting on the living room floor.

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She had the right idea. I walked over six and a half miles today (according to Apple Watch) and my feet definitely felt it. If I was a domesticated quadruped I’d be inverted on the floor as well.

Although Stourport on Severn today was grey and overcast at 10am there was a lot of enjoyment to be had walking along the picturesque river and its nearby network of canals.

We started in pretty much the perfect place, as just around the corner from my friend’s house near the river and locks were the local swanlings of the Stourbridge Canal Terminus. Sadly they don’t like Freckles – and while they were very keen to come and see if I had bread they spent most of their time looking at her like they were ready for a fight and hissing.

The locks nearby were quite busy, and as we moved away from the agitated swanlings there was a barge making its way through a gate. On the bow a young mother, her son and a fascinated spaniel sat and watched the water levels change.

Oddly I never get board of this little miracle of science – and the simplicity of canal travel is as romantic to me as it ever was. I’ve never taken a barge holiday – and one day I plan to remedy this. The languid and freewheeling nature of such a break really appeals to me, as do the quirky interiors that can be found in narrowboats.

It also never ceases to amaze me that the canal and train networks we take for granted today were built in an age where mechanisation was in its infancy. In the case of this particular canal terminus it was built by James Brindley between 1770 and 1781 when it was expanded upon (ref).

The moorings and locks were cleverly placed 30ft above the level of the river to mitigate the regular flooding that (even back then) affected the region. Today its tranquil calm is still a thing of beauty and despite its industrial heritage it feels strangely ‘natural’ to me.

Shortly after watching the barges for a while we carried on waking and followed the path of the river. There wasn’t much traffic on the Severn today – and the nearby park and amusements were also pretty deserted.

Autumn it seemed was now in control of everything, which suited me just fine as it all looks absolutely wonderful at this time of year. Freckles was just loving all the sounds and smells that were all around, hidden in leaves and climbing up trees in the shape of squirrels.

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After winding our way through a caravan park we were back in an urban location, and stopped for a sit down and a cold glass of diet coke in a nearby pub along the canal side.

Many local pubs (according to my friend as we chatted) have closed in the area lately – but if there’s one thing that seemed to define our walk it was the proliferation of remaining ale houses – which seemed to be on every corner and all along the canal side.

Should one feel so inclined I imagine that a rather long and rather inebriated pub crawl could be easily planned to take in the full majesty of this shrine to waterside imbibing.

I can only assume that they must have built up around the industrial heartland of the town to ensure the working folk remained content as they dragged their barges along the waterways full of cargo destined for far flung places.

As we left the town centre and again moved to the outskirts in the countryside we joined the path of an old railway (previously used I believe for an old coal fired power station, which no longer exists) and followed its slowly inclining path through a long wooded grove and over a weathered sandstone bridge. Now the tracks are long gone and it’s instead become a nice walk with some cool views and (at least for the moment) a delightful orange and brown canopy.

As we descended from the disused railway we passed a REALLY interesting pub called the Rock Tavern, part of which had been built into the sandstone cliff. According to the plaque it was constructed in 1760 and has the BEST outdoor smoking shelter I think I have EVER seen EVER!

Granted – the furnishings may leave a little to be desired (especially if there’s more than one smoker) but if you desperately need to nip outside for a cigarette this seems like the best place I’ve ever come across to consider your mortality and the carcinogenic effects of your pastime.

As it’s soft stone and smoking takes a while people had used their downtime productively and chiselled graffiti into the walls. I don’t know why but I found this quite amusing – although honestly I don’t believe any of it’s outlandish claims. No-one can have genitals that big and survive, whether they’re from the midlands or not.

I wish I’d gone inside as it looks excellent in the online gallery – but there was still no stopping Freckles. Straining at her lead she pulled us ever closer to the nearby commons, which are very popular with dogs, their walkers, and (somewhat randomly) grazing bulls and cows.

I’d seen the bovine occupants from the road as I arrived – but thankfully none were apparent while we were walking through it. I’m reliably informed that they’re not easy to move along if they decide to block your path while they investigate a tasty bush.

There were some occasionally surprising spots of colour here and despite the overcast skies along the route there were at least three different types of large and small mushrooms – with the most eye catching ones being a vivid red with yellow spots.

I’m sure that despite its allure it’s hideously poisonous and that I’d die in agony after eating a brightly coloured omelette made with them. However suicidal eating one would be though I think that they look fabulous!

Shortly after passing through the common we were back at Freckles’s house – and as she spread out on the floor and put her aching paws up I chatted with my friend.

He’s moving house soon and his entire life is either in boxes or listed on eBay. I don’t envy him the challenge of moving and unpacking it all – along with the new jobs that await him in the shape of decorating and renovation at his new home. I’ve never been overly fond of DIY, and due this aspect of my personality alone I think that I would probably make pretty awful husband material (although I’m a good cook and I leave the loo seat down so it’s not all bad.)

I’ve had a can of Nitromors sitting in my hall for almost two years to remove the flaking white gloss around my front door so that I can re-paint it. The mood so far has not taken me and the task remains undone.

I’m sure my friend has no such issues. He’s the industrious sort and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does to his new place in the near future.

As I said my goodbyes and left his house I felt hunger pangs kicking in.

I’m a bit of a twit sometimes when it comes to eating. There are days when food is all I can think of, and then there are those (usually when I’m walking a lot) where the thought of having a meal hardly crosses my mind.

It was almost 3pm and I hadn’t had a bite to eat yet. From a diabetic perspective this is pretty naughty and I should eat regularly.

Thankfully according to the ever vigilant Apple Watch I’d walked for six and a half miles, nailed over 16,000 steps and burned 1350 active calories. I therefore deserved a treat. Thankfully on the way home there was a house of sin and debauchery (translation – a Toby Carvery) where I could indulge my dirtiest and most unclean culinary desires.

I headed back down the M42 until I reached Knowle, strolled into the pub, waved at the waitress, had the chef fill a plate with turkey, gammon, beef and pork before I piled five synful roast potatoes (2 syns each) and a ton of speed food on top with mint sauce and mustard.

I then ate my fill until my plate was shiny and clean. Manners prevented me licking it and burping afterwards. That’s just not polite in public.

So internet – that was my active and fun day.

I’m currently at 36 miles of walking for the week and have another short walk planned for the morning which will hopefully round it up to an even 40. I’m making solid progress toward my virtual Land’s End to John o Groats goal, which I’ll tally up at the end of the month and post a report on.

Hopefully I’m ALSO on track for a reasonable weight loss on Saturday. We will see!

Happy autumn internet – get outside and kick some leaves!

Davey

9 Months

I woke up this morning with some real surprise when I looked at my calendar. It’s the 26th of October – and time has been moving fast lately.

This week has been a little odd in terms of personal motivation. Saturday was a big day. The picture taken of me with a fridge freezer honestly will remain with me forever. It’s an absolutely huge event in my life – but like all such things it’s just a moment. While the picture will remain important I have to move on.

I’ve really only just begun my journey toward a ‘normal’ weight and have a long (and sometimes very daunting) way to go. Triumphalism leads to relaxation and I can’t do that. I need to remain focused. I have to regroup and find the motivation to continue moving forward and to push myself to the next milestone.

More importantly I have to obtain it.

I set quite a few goals in a post a while back. Most were whimsical – and when I wrote it I was having a lot of fun with the ideas and how ridiculous they seemed. The thought behind my post was that the more outlandish and bizarre they were the more enjoyment I’d have reaching them.

However – maybe I forgot something. They ALSO need to be real and understandable to me and have a frame of tangible reference in my own personal experience.

A fridge (I realised on Saturday when I stood next to it) was as tangible and every day as things get. We live with it day in and day out and understand the dimensions, weight and presence of this ubiquitous item. I think this is why so unexpectedly it meant so much to me.

The next goal I set after the fridge at 8 stone was Miley Cyrus. Apart from seeing her occasionally on TV I don’t have a similar understanding of her. I’ve never stood next to her and certainly not picked her up. She could be a cardboard cutout for all I know. She isn’t in my kitchen.

Miley’s not doing it for me at the moment. Neither are my other goals.

I need to rethink.

There are other things more personal to me that DO make an impact, but these are more difficult to work towards. I have clothing that slowly I’m beginning to be able to use again – but these items are not in themselves particularly significant to me because they’re very transient.

As soon as I begin to enjoy wearing a new shirt that I like it becomes something that I have to take to charity. I can’t form a bond with any of my clothes because of this. I’ve realised that such a situation makes them actually an irritating inconvenience rather than a badge of success.

More than anything else lately I am associating clothes with unwanted costs rather than winning. However – sometimes they can help me to look back to what has been for motivation instead of trying to imagine what will come in the future.

It was a very big day a few weeks back when I finally managed to get into an old coat again (JUST in time for the cold weather) and I can now report that both my warm leather jacket AND my lightweight raincoat fit me, meaning that I can continue walking in most conditions, although irritatingly I still can’t find my gloves.

I can find my warm hat though and it’s already come in useful. It seems that I’m feeling the cold a bit more without the winter benefits of 45kg of blubber.

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I posted this picture (shortly after taking it yesterday) on Instagram and Facebook.

At the time I thought the point of the selfie was that it was amusing that I was chilly – and wearing both a coat and a hat. People who have known me for a long time will have seen me on many occasions standing outside in bitter temperatures (or even snow) in a short sleeved shirt and not feeling the chilly conditions at all.

However I realised yesterday evening that my eyes look different lately. They are glossy and white and there’s no darkness or patchiness around them like there used to be. The Xanthelasma (most often known as a cholesterol spot) which had developed by the tear duct under my right eyes is not visible any more.

The often used saying ‘that the eyes are the windows to the soul’ is probably true in my case, but they also provide a pretty good view of my lifestyle.

As you might expect I didn’t take many photos of my face when I was at my worst – but I occasionally took one when my eyes were sore (which was quite often). Although I still moisturise all the time I haven’t suffered with any majorly dry skin or eczema for a while.

I used to get it every time sunlight hit my face. My skin was generally poor and painful. The dryness and inflammation used to be particularly noticeable around the change of seasons and generally corresponded with a significant drop in temperature (which would usually be right about now).

I always thought sunlight was my skin’s biggest problem – and I know now that this was just self delusion. If you put crap in to something – you eventually get crap coming out of it. My skin and my eyes showed the consequences of my bad eating and drinking habits quicker than anything else.

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Although this picture may not be a perfect direct comparison it’s an indicator (to me at least because I also remember the constant itching pain that came with it) of how far things have come in a relatively short space of time.

The 26th of October was so noticeable when I woke up because it is significant for another reason.

It’s nine months (273 days) now since I stopped drinking.

Although I would never preach to anyone about what they should do in life I will say that I doubt I would have had the same positive results with my diabetes, weight loss or fitness if I had not done this.

I’m aware though that to many I represent an extreme when it comes to alcohol consumption, and that this level of self abuse may be one that they find difficult to relate to. Many can easily self regulate such things, and I applaud those that do.

In contrast, other people (some of whom contacted me directly and in strict confidence after reading my blog) I know very much relate to my past behaviour, and still struggle in similar ways themselves at times.

In the months leading up to my mother’s death (and probably for quite a while before) I was consuming up to three bottles of wine a night. My average was probably about two and a half – but three was by no means unusual.

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I drank white wine usually (but not exclusively – I used to drink cider before I got utterly sick of the volume I had to consume) and it was anywhere between the 11% and 14% abv levels in the diagram.

I estimate that a week of drinking for me would have been around 190-200 units. 

I know that most will take the recommended weekly guidelines for men and women with a pinch of salt (we are after all a nation of binge drinkers in the UK) but I have never felt able to stick to what would officially be considered a healthy limit. With me it’s either do it to excess or don’t do it at all.

I came to realise nine months ago that after many many years of denial this means I shouldn’t do it at all.

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The damage I was doing to my kidneys, heart and liver was no doubt bad enough – but all these extra calories meant that my diabetes was massively out of control. At one point (still unwilling to come to terms with what I had to do) I switched to vodka as a ‘healthy’ alternative.

This just meant drinking epic amounts of spirits with Diet Coke and feeling sleep deprived as well as being hung over.

The ‘syns’ that I later realised were associated with it when I joined Slimming World some three months after I became sober (I couldn’t do both at the same time) were almost MORE shocking though.

In group Angie told us some weeks ago that SW had revised up a 250ml glass of strong wine to 12 syns. Given therefore that you get around 36 syns in a 75cl bottle I was having 108 a night and 756 a week.

This is not even counting the unhealthy food that inevitably came with it.

For lots of people the reality behind drinking and the impact that it has on diets and fitness will be hard to accept. Some will never accept it, and some don’t need to because at their level of consumption it’s not a problem.

To me though it was.

After my fridge freezer post I feel that rather than preaching a message to others (I am not in the business of doing that) I am writing this down is for me – and it’s what I need to do to keep me going.

It will drive me more than a cardboard cutout of Miley Cyrus.

I’m now healthier, happier, fitter, stronger, sleep better, think more positively, walk further, am out of breath less, sweat less, worry less, talk more, open up more, meet new people all the time and am generally loving how getting better makes me feel.

At the moment THIS is the most important thing to me and my ongoing goal is that I get to have more of my life back every day.

For the moment at least I’m just thankful that I have more time to be with people that I care about and do things that I enjoy. THAT’s the reason to keep going and keep reminding myself of where I was only nine months ago.

Now if I could only find my gloves internet everything would be just peachy. My hands are really cold.

Davey

No more ice cubes

I woke up unusually early this morning. I had quite a bit to do before this afternoon and I wanted to get a head start on the day. 

I was also quite excited. Today is a big day for me. 

At the moment it’s 8.55am and I’m waiting in my vehicle for the shop in front of me to open. The car park is deserted and the lights in the shop are dimmed. I can hear a hoover. 

The reason I’m sitting outside Currrys PC World waiting for them to begin trading, is not because of anything urgent that needs replacing – but because I’ve worked really hard over the last few months and I hope that the item contained within the store will prove to be a fitting reward for my persistence. 

I’m treating myself. 

I’m no stranger to this shop. I used to buy a lot of things from it to keep me happy – and have often been referred to by friends as a ‘gadget man’. 

I’m guilty as charged of course. I do like technology. However I found that over recent years my ‘addiction’ to it (if that’s what you can call it) was actually more to do with retail therapy than needing to have the newest and best toy. 

If I was feeling particularly down I’d go out and buy myself something – often a game or games console, or better television so that even if I couldn’t venture out into the big wide world I could experience a virtual one. 

Not today. 

(Author visits the shop and then heads home to put on comfortable ‘weighing in clothes’ for Slimming World before briskly walking to the meeting)

The group is energetic today. One lady has been jumping up and down whooping with delight at her success on the scales. After much effort today she’s finally got her club 10 award and is absolutely extatic

Watching her obvious joy is making me smile from ear to ear and I’m really happy to see her success!

There are others in the group who are doing really well too – with some really big losses. People have gotten rid of two stone here, three stone there or even become target members today. 

Everyone seems positive and focused – and even those that are struggling want to draw support and advice from the group. 

Angie is on holiday today but the gang is doing what it does best in her absence and picking up anyone that’s struggling. 

It’s a lively, happy, positive and supportive place to be. 

I’m also feeling proud of myself. I have in my pocket something from Currys and I can’t wait to show it to the people around me – because I’m damn proud of it. 

When my time comes I hold it up to the people in the small semi circle of (hateful) little red chairs.

It’s not a gadget designed to paper over emotional cracks. It’s a photo on my phone, taken at my request by a helpful member of staff in the shop. 


This is the ESSENTIALS CE55CW13 Fridge Freezer. It comes in three colours (also available in black and silver) and is a very reasonable £170. 

I haven’t bought this – I’VE LOST IT. 

If you follow the embedded link and look at the specifications this particular fridge is 45kg. 

That’s now gone from my body – and if I have anything to say about it will never be returning. 

I needed to lose half a pound for my certificate – but really put the effort in this week to make sure I did it. In the end this meant that I lost five pounds. 


I’m not sure quite why this particular hurdle means so much to me but it’s actually very emotional – and as I talked about it in group today everything was completely from the heart. 

Although the lady who took my photo in the shop was quite nice and friendly, when I told her how much I had lost and how much I still had to lose she said ‘but what are you going to do with all that skin?!’

Honestly I didn’t have a flippant or upbeat and well thought out erudite answer for her. 

In the past when this issue has been raised by people close to me it’s upset me, but at that moment in time absolutely NOTHING could take away from me the triumph of having lost this monolithic kitchen appliance. 

She even compounded her indelicacy and called over her manager to tell him I’d lost the fridge freezer – then wanted to call over the balcony downstairs to her friend ‘who would also be amazed.’

Thankfully other consumers intervened and I left before her well meaning but embarrassing praise spread around the shop. 

The people in group are different though. I want to talk about such things there. They all understand the complex emotions involved with loosing weight and the other issues that surround it, such as what you are left with when the fat has gone – both emotionally and physically. 

I don’t care if they see me at my worst. It’s why I go there. Because I feel safe. 

As I told the group – even if there is a lot of leftover skin I don’t want operations. I want to be happy with who I am – whatever that turns out to be. I’d rather love myself than cut bits off and it’s the same mentality I developed toward weight loss surgery. 

I’ll never be Brad Pitt and I don’t want to be butchered. I’m good just the way I am and will be. 

None if it matters though. Today nothing else matters. I tried to pick that fridge freezer up in the store and it was heavy. 

Really heavy. 

If I’d been told that I had to carry it home with me I doubt it would have been possible. It made my knees strain when I lifted it from the ground and made them feel better when I rested it back down on the floor. 

A fridge freezer. 

I have to keep saying that to myself just so it makes sense – because on many levels it doesnt. 

But it doesn’t need to Internet. 

I don’t need to intellectualise this. I just need to feel it and enjoy it. 

(Author sips coffee and feels great)

Davey

The dog man of Arrow Valley

My companion and I couldn’t find the ruins of the abbey we were looking for. We’d followed all the markers leading to it on the little wooden posts in the park but our way now seemed blocked.

There was a padlocked gate, and a picture of a free grazing bull with large pointy looking horns nailed to a post near the impassible metal stile.

My friend’s pram didn’t seem like something we could easily lift over the fence and neither of us wanted to be chased by a bull – especially one with pointy horns.

The Arrow Valley Abbey and nearby nail museum (which I really want to see now purely because it’s a nail museum and seems wonderfully random) would have to wait for another day.

We resolved to turn around and walk around the nearby lake instead. Walking was walking, and wherever we were going was good exercise and a chance to chat.

As we walked the autumn colours were everywhere. The nearby Abbey Golf Course was filled with trees covered in rich aubern shades of brown and orange. It looked lovely – and little shafts of blue were peeping through the clouds.

It was quiet and peaceful – and apart from the sound of some nearby ducks the parkland around us was almost completely silent.

‘Awww do you want to sleep?’ My friend attentively said to her toddler. He looked sleepy, and she adjusted the angle of the buggy and pulled the hood over so that he could nod off.

We carried on walking back to the lake, chatting. The paths were covered in leaves and as we walked underneath a road bridge I remarked that with the close bushes and tall black street lamp it looked like Woody Allen and Mia Farrow could stroll around the corner any minute.

A car rumbled past us on the road as we continued to walk, temporarily ruining the mental illusion of Central Park in the Autumn.

In front of us as we left the small meadow and crossed over a road there was an elderly man standing in a wooded grove next to a small white dog with a short pointy tail.

The dog was stationary and didn’t seem interested in moving in any particular direction.

‘He’s getting slower’ said the man to me and my companion as we passed him. We stopped, smiling to examine his portly Jack Russell.

The small waddling white dog at the end of the man’s lead was indeed moving slowly – and seemed preoccupied with a scent in the grass which had rooted him to the spot. He had his nose buried there, investigating.

‘He’s sixteen now. Getting on a bit.’

We all smiled at the dog. He looked cute.

The white haired dog walker was casually dressed with a shiny sky blue tracksuit top that was zipped up to the chin. It had a circular Birmingham City Football Club logo on the left breast.

‘We got him from Birmingham dogs home’ he said with a beaming grin full of big white teeth.

‘He was a rescue. Brought in with another dog who died the same day. They’d burned him over half his body and dislocated this one’s back leg. Tortured them for ten days these yobs had in a derelict house. You wouldn’t believe it.’

I paused. This wasn’t the usual dog walker’s banter.

I looked at my friend. She was nodding at him and didn’t seem worried. I sipped my coffee.

‘I went back to the home every day for three weeks to see him with my disabled wife on the train to be sure we’d get him’ he said.

The man smiled – he had a broad grin and a mouth filled with large white teeth. His hair was neatly combed and under his darker blue tracksuit bottoms were an even darker blue canvas pair of slip on plimsolls with clean white rubber soles.

‘When we eventually went to get him these yobs turned up and tried to drag him out of my wife’s arms’ he continued. ‘A disabled woman’s arms. Two of em. You wouldn’t believe it.’

I shook my head and looked politely incredulous. His disabled wife wrestling with two yobs over a Jack Russel with a dislocated leg in a dogs home.

Sounded bad.

‘I lost it.’ He said, looking at the dog, who was now pulling toward another scent, making the red dog lead taut in his owner’s hand.

He looks back at us. ‘Back then I’d had a head injury. I thought I was Rambo’ he mused.

I nodded. Rambo. Ok.

‘No – I REALLY thought I was Rambo.’ He confirmed.

I silently nodded again. Rambo. Got it. Ok.

‘Broke one guy’s ankle and nose, broke the other guy’s arm and face – made a real mess of ’em. They called the police. You wouldn’t believe it.’

My friend started gently rolling her pram back and forth to keep her toddler asleep.

‘The people in the dogs home had to drag me off. Told me to leave and said they’d tell the police they didn’t know who did it.’

He paused to look at both of us, gauging the reaction. I looked at my friend again. She was still nodding.

I smiled and nodded as well.

‘I went to a cafe up the road in Digbeth – I knew the guy there – and bought him a sausage.’ He reminisced. ‘Big sausage. This long!’ He motioned with his hands.

It looked like about six inches. A lot of sausage for a Jack Russell.

‘He loved it!’

We all continued to focus on the dog. He looked like he’d had quite a few sausages since that day – and was sniffing some leaves.

‘I felt a little guilty about three hours later’ he continued ‘and I called the dogs home in case they’d got into trouble. The man said the police didn’t care once they heard what the yobs had done to the dogs.’

He smiled. He obviously felt he had done a good deed.

‘They never forgot me after that – got a card from them every Christmas’ he said.

‘They all know me.’ He said proudly.

‘I’m the dog man of Arrow Valley’ the mad said grinning with lots of teeth.

‘Everyone knows me’.

My friend laughed along with him and we all looked at the plump Jack Russell – now in another bush investigating what was there. He turned and looked up at us expectantly.

‘He’s really clever too.’ The dog man of Arrow Valley said.

‘You know them calls? The PPI calls? He knows. You wouldn’t believe it.’

My companion continued to nod, rocking the pushchair slowly. I nodded too and sipped my flask of coffee.

‘We ‘ent learned him to press the button on the phone – but he knows. He hears the phone ringing when it’s them, knocks it off the cradle and starts talking to them.’

We continued to look at the dog, smiling. He was standing on the path now, looking bored.

Ow wow wow ow woow wow he sez to them. He does – you wouldn’t believe it!’

The Jack Russel looked up at him. There seemed to be a brief flicker of understanding.

‘Course the wife never liked the name the dogs home gave him.’ He mused. ‘Called him Rooney. She likes Manchester United. Did it just to wind me up’.

He motioned to the football club logo on his left breast. ‘You wouldn’t believe it.’ He said again.

I bent down to stroke the pooch. He had a little pink bone shaped tag on his collar with ‘ROONEY’ engraved on it.

‘Well – better go! Nice to meet you!’ He said, and just like that the dog man of Arrow Valley was gone, with his reluctant Jack Russell waddling slowly behind.

We continued our walk around the lake.

The Nail Museum would have to wait for another day. The Dog Man of Arrow Valley was far more interesting. The Nail Museum just couldn’t compete.

Davey

Cardiff bay

I was up earlier than usual today putting together my breakfast and lunch for a trip I’d had planned for a few weeks to Cardiff.

I don’t ALWAYS practice what I preach (and truthfully used to find this saying very annoying) but I try and have a ‘fail to prepare and you prepare to fail’ mantra regarding my diet.

Although this sounds very obvious I’m most likely to eat when I’m hungry.

The trick is making sure that something is available at that time that’s both delicious and nutritious – but also that won’t sabotage me. Not taking things or making them in advance is a recipe for disaster.

Today I was taking tupperware aplenty with me. Snacks for the drive, and a filling meal for later. I made some mini quiches in advance last night and packed five of them along with a few sticks of celery and several carrots. I also put some frozen berries in with fat free natural yogurt, cinnamon, stevia and 30g of porridge oats.

It wasn’t until I had set out in the car, and was sipping my freshly brewed flask of coffee on the M42 with an ‘aren’t I organised’ sense of self-satisfied smugness that I realised I had brought no spoon to eat my yogurt and berries with.

Ultimately my oats eventually became an evening meal – and I’ve only JUST put the tupperware in the sink after returning home. I sat and ate it in the kitchen – where I’d prepared it 12 hours previously…

Tsk. Better luck next time brainiac.

The journey to Cardiff took a couple of hours – and despite Apple maps having something of a brain fart for 20 minutes when I was almost next door to my destination (which added an annoying 20 mins) I arrived in relatively good time to see my friend.

It’s safe to say that we simply don’t get to see enough of each other – and probably even more so recently life has gotten in the way of us hooking up. We were well overdue a long uninterrupted chat – and the plan was to have coffee, walk, eat, have more coffee and talk till our jaws ached.

Truthfully I don’t find talking all that hard. I often wonder if those who walk with me lately consider bringing with them a roll of parcel tape and some rope in case they need to shut me up.

However, some friends have the cachet of having known you for a very long time. They’re the special ones where you can start your conversation right where you left off without any back story, even if you haven’t seen each other for a while – because they know you so well.

They have seen you at your best and your worst and have stayed by your side throughout all of it.

My friend had a new place to live in Cardiff since I last visited and she was keen to show me around. It was frankly quite lovely with some really nice views and perfectly placed for walking. It’s quite flat and there are loads of places to stop and admire the view.

There’s a circular walk of Cardiff bay (which she estimated at 4.5 miles) that includes the bay and docks, and then winds through the re-developed millenium area closer to the city edge. We started near the nearby Marina and headed toward the coast past several boat yards.

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I find a real sense of calm by the sea – which is less to do with a natural affinity for boats and more to do with my time living next to it in Aberystwyth. The smell of the air, the seagulls, the wind and the sound of the tide – they all take me back to a place (and time) of happiness, and I’m immediately in a relaxed frame of mind.

It was a pretty grey day today – which was a bit of a shame as I think some of the bay area would have looked REALLY nice with a bit of blue sky and sunlight. The BBC weather report yesterday promised 3 hours of sun today and frankly they turned out to be lying swines. It was no-where to be seen sadly.

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However, whatever was taken from the view was given back by the cool breezes and fresh air. It was a pleasant day for walking – although frankly I’m always the last person to feel the cold (unlike my companion) so this may not be an opinion shared by all.

Given that it was midday on Thursday the area was largely deserted except for the occasional walker and jogger – and even when we reached the half way point on the other side of the bay there was hardly anyone around. It seemed that Cardiff knew I was coming and had cleared out all of the superfluous individuals to make my passage easier.

It was at this point that I asked my friend to take a full length picture of me.

I haven’t had too many of these done recently – and although I’m getting better with liking my selfies for what they are (me) the full length shots of me are something I still don’t feel all that comfortable with.

I still have a pretty poor overall self image. Physically I don’t like so many things about myself that the list is practically endless. I try not to think about it too much as it gets me down.

However – if I don’t face up to it and don’t try to normalise my perception of myself rather than hide from it and bury it I doubt anything will ever change. So – here is a full length pic.

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As I sit and look at this I can see the improvement in both my face and stomach (both look smaller) but it’s clear there’s a lot of work still to do here.

This is useful as a reference point however – and I’m happy about this picture because I remember wearing this shirt while working in Amsterdam many years ago. It gives me a sense of time and place – and makes me feel like physically I’m winding the clock back to fitter and happier times.

It’s a definite improvement on my most hated photograph – which from time to time I feel I should pull out of storage and look at just to see how far I’ve come.

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A long way it seems.

Cardiff bay is also home to Doctor Who – and although I didn’t visit the Doctor Who Experience (I can’t afford spending £16 on a whim to look at Daleks and sonic screwdrivers these days sadly) I did manage to visit the fictional entrance to the Torchwood facility – which is labelled Ianto’s Shrine (after the character in the series who died)

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Initially it looked like there had been vandals about – as the statue above this had a curiously pink dog. My friend said it didn’t normally look like that. It must be meddlesome students.

As we walked over however it seemed that the bronze pooch had been given a makeover for cancer research – which periodically is turning parts of the bay blue and pink. It seems this week was the turn of pink – and even the litter pickers had pink high-viz vests on!

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I quite like the pink hound!

Now seemed like a good time to stop for a bite to eat, and my ever generous friend treated me to a rather tasty Harissa Chicken Super Salad at The Dock (just to the right of the pink dog and above the shrine). Although it had some Avocado in it and a few seeds I’m guesstimating this came in at around 8-10 syns.

Although I fully appreciate why Avocado has such a high ‘syn’ value in Slimming World terms I do find it really annoying. Although syns and calories have to be accounted for, the seeds and avocado in this salad are really important, healthy foods to eat – and are packed with nutrients.

A whole avocado will set you back 14 syns – nearly the entire daily SW allowance if you’re a woman – and 3/4 if you’re a man.

In SW terms eating three and a half packets of Walkers French Fries (a UK low fat potato crisp) comes in at the same value, yet contains none of the benefits of the salad I had for lunch.

I know which I prefer. I’m trying to eat as little processed food as possible – although ham, bacon medallions and light mayo are currently notable concessions to this lofty aspiration that I can’t seem to ditch!

After our salad we stopped off for a coffee and headed for the cars, which were parked at her flat.

By the time we got back there Apple Watch reported that for the day so far I’d done 14,500 steps and 6.5 miles. The bay walk accounted for just under six miles of that, and was a bit longer than I expected.

Not a bad amount of walking for a day trip!

We had an extra big hug, said our goodbyes and then went our separate ways – she to pick up her toddler and me to battle some traffic on the M4 on the way back to Warwick.

Superficially today is just another walk, but its more than that. It’s actually really really REALLY important to me.

I thought about it all the way home while I watched the brake lights, and wiped the drizzle periodically from my windscreen as it slowly moved from dusk to dark.

My friend is someone that I’ve mentioned in passing on previous blogs. The fittest I’d ever been in my ENTIRE life culminated in a truly great Cornish costal walking holiday with her in 2008. We walked a long way together. I was amazingly happy at the time that we were able to enjoy something that she liked for a change, instead of the sedentary activities we usually ended up making do with because of my size.

Today is the first time since then we’ve been walking together since then – and it was particularly significant because of that.

This photo was taken at 24 and a half stone – the lightest I’ve been this side of the millennium. I am wearing a pair of cargo trousers that have a 52 waist.

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For whatever reason almost immediately after this photo I took that happiness and flushed it down the toilet by putting all my weight back on.

I’ve got another 3 stone and 4 inches to lose before I can put those trousers back on.

It’s going to happen.

Shortly after I’ll take them to charity, because I’m not stopping there. After the trousers in this picture are too big I’m into uncharted territory. I have no idea what I’ll be able to do when I pass this weight barrier.

I’ve still got a long way to go internet – but I’m getting there, bit by bit and day by day.

Davey

Walk to Hatton

Another little milestone of sorts has been reached today and I’m now sitting at home on my sofa looking at my feet dangling over the edge of my leather pouffe whilst admiring their new attire.

(Warning – gratuitous underwear shot)

On the way home today I treated them to some new thermal socks. They deserve a bit of TLC and at the moment feel a little achey – but in a totally good way.

I have no blisters, just a bit of a throbby reminder that I’ve been out and about.

This morning myself and a friend had been planning to walk from the outskirts of Leamington (starting by the Lidl supermarket) along the canal to the Hatton Arms.

This is a distance of just under 5 miles – and one that I’ve partially walked before, but not for a very long time. I’m not sure I’m ready for a ten mile round trip walk just yet and this distance seems more than enough if I want to be exercising daily!

The great thing about doing it with a buddy is that we could leave one car at the pub, and one back at the start of the walk.

The weather for our little jaunt proved to be pretty much perfect – and as we set off I could see lots of blue appearing between the clouds, just like the weather forecast said it would.

The canal towpath between Leamington and Warwick is for the most part well maintained – although in some sections there are quite a few dips in the path where ground water (because of the tightly packed aggregate surface) doesn’t drain very well. At the start of the journey (due to some rain last night) there was a bit of hopscotching to do while I ducked under the older lowest bridges and skipped back and forth among the puddles to avoid getting my boots wet.

The new (stiffer) soles on my boots appear to have done wonders for the plantar fasciitis heel pain I’ve been experiencing and over the last few days I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the condition. I’m hopeful that with my weight loss, repaired footwear and exercise I’m turning a corner with this.

I’ve had it for almost nine months now and I won’t be sorry to see the back of it!!!

It wasn’t long before we reached the ducks and swans that congregate by Tesco. They appear to have grown significantly since I saw them a couple of months ago in the same place.

Unlike the St Nicholas Park swanling these have beaks that are starting to turn orange (which I don’t think phographs or shows up that well so you’ll have to take my word for it) but seem to have darker plumage.

It’s interesting looking at the slightly different development cycles that they seem to be going through. Although it’s broadly similar there are subtle differences that mark them apart from MY swanling who has a whiter bum.

These guys are also a lot more territorial and ‘hissy’. They didn’t strike me as the type of swans that I would like to invite over for dinner.

I’m sure that bringing wildfowl home as evening guests will sound like folly to many – but an element of this mentality runs in my family. My father regularly travelled back and forth on busses with Eric (his pet goose) in the mid 1990’s, and was well known by the number 71 bus drivers for this eccentricity.

Eric used to comically fall asleep on the journey to Solihull with his long neck inside the sleeve of my father’s jacket (which was being worn at the time).

When I first moved in with my dad some years later he had a lounge room that was ‘bird friendly’ and contained nothing but clear plastic sheeting on the floorboards. This catered for the obvious consequences of having several ducks and a goose as permanent house guests that were free to come and go as they pleased.

Going barefoot wasn’t an option for me in those days and one had to be particularly careful whilst sleepily going the kitchen for cereal in the morning. The eccentricity of it all did make me smile back then – and still does over two decades later when I think about it.

It’s probably why I like swans and ducks so much.

The canal is a lovely place to walk if you want to see this and other kinds of wildlife. There are fields of sheep, lots of dogs and even horses to stop and say hello to – although in the case of the equine residents I’m not sure they cared too much for my (sugar lump free) company and were a little laissez faire!

Before long we were on the outskirts of Warwick and passing the first canal lock at the Warwick Parkway train station.

I’d thankfully remembered for once to start the workout app on my watch when we set off. It was periodically tapping my wrist every so often to remind me that a mile had passed and was also keeping me informed about the pace (around 23 minutes p/m) which today was not designed to be a race, just a pleasurable walk.

The work that’s gone into the stretch of canal between WP and Hatton is really noticeable and as we strolled on past the train station there were quite a few guys strimming the borders and maintaining the gears and housings of the locks themselves.

I couldn’t help but pick the occasional blackberry to munch as we walked, as there were quite a few on the bushes. Sadly though they were mostly out of season and mouldering on the branch – but what were still ok to eat were pretty tasty.

I hadn’t had any breakfast before leaving (I rarely eat before a walk and my appetite disappears almost completely during exercise) but I wished I’d brought an apple along with me to go with my bottle of water.

It was approaching 2pm by now and my stomach was rumbling.

However the pub (and coffee) wasn’t too far away now. After the slow climb up the network of ascending canal locks we would be there and I could either eat or have something after I drove home.

Thinking about hunger didn’t last long for too though as everywhere I looked there were plants and flowers to grab my attention and make me pause to examine them further.

There were bees all over the flowers along the route – and it was lovely to see all the insect life so healthy and flourishing on and around the canal side plants. Everywhere I turned there was something flying or buzzing in the background and the environment was clearly carefully managed to promote this diversity.

After a couple more miles we reached our destination. The Hatton Arms, which is opposite a small canal and river trust building and coffee shop.

Their signage here (I couldn’t help thinking) was a lesson for life in general – not just for a stroll along the canal. If there were ever words to live by given how much I’ve needlessly stressed lately about weight loss I think these definitely fit the bill.

I stopped my workout app, turned around and and simply enjoyed the view.

It really was lovely. I’d never noticed on my previous walks – but framed perfectly by the trees and shape of the canal in the far distance was the church tower in Warwick town centre.

I don’t think my camera phone does this justice (its just to the left of the man operating the lock dressed in black and red) but it looked great.

Had we really walked that far I wondered?

I checked the results from Apple Watch’s workout app in my phone browser.

We definitely had.

Although we’d sat down twice on the way (the tendon problem in my left leg kicks in at the two mile mark it seems) this represents real progress as this walk has almost no benches. I’m dead chuffed that I’m beginning to significantly build on my continuous distance ability.

When I’d finished digesting this my attention once again turned to the pub. There was a gate leading directly from the canal to the rear of it by the Hatton Lock building. As we turned into it and trudged up the grass path to the welcoming bosom of the Hatton Arms I spied several trees to the right surrounded by yellow and red lumps on the floor.

Could that be… breakfast?!

The answer was a resolute ‘yes!’

There was no sign prohibiting picking them, so I grabbed a few apples and proceeded to munch away. There were 3 different varieties and the larger ones seemed like a cox/jonagold cross with a sharp and crisp taste (my absolute favourite apple flavour!!!)

Completely fresh and picked off the tree. This is the way food should always be – not arriving in a chip shop polystyrene case or cardboard pizza box.

What better reward than a sun warmed fresh apple (or three) after a long walk?

Well coffee of course, because coffee is better than almost anything in life, and when it’s in my presence it doesn’t stand much of a fighting chance.

I practically inhaled this tall americano. It died for a good cause though. I felt quite perky after it’s noble sacrifice.

As we drove back to Warwick to pick up my car I mused on the walk and the sense of well being that had come from being outdoors talking with my friend, seeing birds, horses, sheep and swans, picking fruit from bushes and apples from trees as we walked and looked at that beautiful cloudy blue sky.

It had been a great day.

But thankfully it hadn’t ended.

After a short trip to Aldi for some fresh veg (and my aforementioned socks) I returned home to the wonderful scent of a curried beef stew in my slow cooker – which I’d had the presence of mind to throw together before leaving.

And that, internet has been my day. I WAS going to end it with a trip to the cinema – but it seems that now I’m home I’d much rather put my feet up and watch episode three of Westworld with a hot bowl of stew. So far it’s shaping up to be an excellent new TV show.

Have a lovely evening people – it’s time to chill.

Davey

From 66 to 56

Today is a restorative day. A day of relaxation, hanging out with good company, drinking coffee and reading.

It’s also a day of triumph.

Some gentle ribbing from the ladies at Slimming World yesterday highlighted what deep down I already knew. That my only usable pair of jogging bottoms look like the legs and crotch were designed for use by MC Hammer and contain a lot more space than is currently required.

I’ve been trying not to buy new stuff – but I may need to concede defeat in this area. I’m going to have to see if I can find some cheap ones that fit me better.

In the meantime I decided to open…

(dramatic pause)

(…)

(Drum roll)

THE SUITCASE!!!

For those that don’t know this sits on top of my wardrobe and at one time contained an insane amount of tightly packed and folded clothes from my smallest recent size to my largest.

In a recent blog I took much of what was previously in my closet to charity (loads of jeans and 8x shirts) and bit by bit I’m now moving into the lower end of my 6x tops.

My friend (over coffee) the other evening pointed out (before the women at SW highlighted the baggy ass in my joggers) that my jeans were getting too large, and she’s right. When I pulled my belt in there were folds of material bunching together and the front had started slipping out from under my belt, leaving me with a kind of marsupial pouch under my belly button.

The largest pair of jeans that I took to Age UK were a 66in waist. 

In truth I didn’t wear these often. Something happens between 64 and 66 where the waistband suddenly gets very high. Effectively they buttoned up just under my boy boobs and it wasn’t a flattering look.

The pockets were also about 15 inches deep (no jest) and frankly wearing them made me feel both ridiculous and depressed, so I made do with the slightly tighter 64’s.

As I type I’m wearing a pair of black 56′ waisted jeans. They’re a little snug around the middle – but frankly I’m stunned that I did the button up without any effort. Another few pounds and they will be perfect. Until then I will proudly look a little bit like a muffin in a paper case.

If I’m honest they felt fine this morning when I put them on.

Their current level of increased tension is completely attributable to a Toby Carvery Sunday lunch earlier with my good friend and his kids.

His cheerful little lad remembered I liked his little blue plastic Fireman Sam binoculars from our walk around the park and brought them along so that I could play with them during lunch.

I also got a detailed demonstration from his sister about how to take a Velcro baby grow off her dolly and change it’s nappy.

Who knew dolls were so interactive these days?! It was an exhausting procedure!

Apparently the dolly had also seen some misfortune since I was first introduced to her on our park walk and had her arm was bandaged and in a sling (apparently after a mishap falling over – even dolls are careless).

The makeshift bandages and large silver ‘hospital tag’ she had carefully applied indicated that care was needed and the poor little doll needed some TLC as well as a new nappy.

I’ve very little direct experience of small children (having none of my own or in my immediate family) but more and more I find the way they see the world as something of a revalation. It’s like looking at things through an entirely new pair of eyes – or indeed a pair of little blue plastic binoculars.

Another friend’s daughter recently started school – and barely two months into her inaugural term I can already see the change in her. She talks more confidently and discusses her day at school with confidence and candour.

I was blown away at the difference when I saw her last week.

I want to be more like them. I resolve to worry less, enjoy more and see things with a fresh perspective.

I may not watch Peppa Pig so obsessively though. That’s a step too far I think.

Lunch was lovely – and I think there are few things in life that are more comforting than veg, sliced meat and a few roast potatoes. In Slimming World terms this Toby Carvery meal came to approx 10 syns, was incredibly filling and totally within plan.

I’ll admit to having a couple of plums for an ‘on the go’ breakfast before I arrived (courtesy of the kind lady who donated them to Saturday’s slimmer of the week basket) so that I wasn’t tempted to overeat when I got there.

I think I may have needed to ripen them a teeny bit more before I ate them though. They were a little sharp and crunchy!

The best thing to do after such a perfect afternoon is to have coffee – which I am doing at the moment.

I’m also reading John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath at the moment (my all time favourite book is also by the same author – Cannery Row) which I’ve meant to do for about two decades.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I like the book at the moment.

Not only is it very different in tone when compared to my my much loved CR but (as with many things in life lately) I’m realising that with loosing weight, getting out more and having an active social life, what I once considered likes and dislikes were actually far more complex (and often largely unconscious) decisions that I’d made over many years based on what I could or could not comfortably do.

It seems even my taste in films and literature is not immune from re-assesment lately.

A good friend confided in me a while back that after birth and marriage had dramatically changed her life she found herself in a clothes shop several years later, confused and unsure.

When her friend asked what was wrong she replied ‘I don’t know what I like any more.’

I really related to this. I have a collection of things I THINK I like – but I’m not sure that any of those long held assumptions hold true any more.

Maybe this is why I love being with children lately. They are reminders that everything can be new and fresh – and that the only thing that stands between you and a new experience is often your own pre-conceptions.

If you tear these down then all possibilities are open, and everything feels new and interesting.

I feel good today.

It’s not just because of my jeans. It’s not even completely attributable to my Sunday lunch. It’s also not fully caused by my thoughts about child like wonder.

Sometimes it’s more simple than that.

I have my boots back, and my blisters don’t hurt so much.

Sometimes internet all you need to do is put on a different pair of shoes and that’s enough.

Sigh. Boots. ❤️

Davey

Capitalism 

I was talking to one of the lovely ladies from group outside Slimming World this morning and for some reason started comparing my weight loss mentality to capitalism.

It felt like an odd thing to say when it randomly fell out of my mouth but as I expanded upon the metaphor and thought about it while I walked home it made more and more sense to me.

Capitalism is all about growth. Share prices have to get bigger, everything needs to endlessly expand otherwise it stagnates and falls apart. Sometimes even if a company is successful it can collapse under the weight of unfulfilled expectation. Nothing ever appears profitable ENOUGH.

Although growth is not my aim, continual losses are – along with a weekly increase in exercise. It always has to be a little more.

Sometimes I feel like I’m going too fast, too far, too soon. I feel (even on a day where I’ve had success on the scales) that I’m doubting everything and that nothing ‘feels’ right.

I joked with the girls on the weigh station today that this week felt like my ‘star week’. This is a term used by the ladies to delicately refer to their monthly cycles – although it took me a while to cotton on to this.

Initially when they referred to this clandestine term I thought that all of their children at the same school might be in a talent contest and that was the cause of their stress and worry.

I have since been enlightened by those with insider knowledge that this is not the case. Now I’m one of the gang and I’m privy to their code. This week I’ve felt bloated, at times very emotional, down, tired and currently utterly drained.

I don’t know if this is just my ‘capitalist’ approach to things and whether I’m driving myself too hard or not. As I said to my friend outside group this morning, I don’t think I know anymore what ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ looks like when it comes to exercise and weight loss.

I think my blisters might have something to say on the subject. If they had a voice they’d tell me to take a day off and relax. If I had my way though I’d walk further EVERY day, eat less EVERY day, loose more weight EVERY week and just be practically damn perfect.

Angie said in group a couple of months ago that after 10 years of beating herself up (even as a Slimming World consultant) she feels she’s finally gotten to the place where she no longer does. I envy her a lot.

Never failing is a fantasy and I don’t know why I judge myself so harshly about what I’m doing. Sometimes even when I’m succeeding a voice in my head berates me because deep down I feel I should somehow be achieving more.

I don’t look at other people and think the same way – so why do I do it to myself?

This doesn’t apply to everything. Some things can get stuffed. I’ve been searching endlessly this morning for a reason to not tackle my garden and despite my imagination usually being quite good at things like this I’m drawing a blank.

My friend is coming over to help me shortly and ensure I don’t chicken out.

The question remains though – why can I look at some things and totally not give a toss – but with others get completely obsessed to the point of exhaustion both mentally and physically.

I suppose the easy answer is that weight loss and fitness have become vitally important to me whereas grass and bushes never have been and probably never will be. I don’t care frankly how long or how wild they are.

I do care (and feel unjustifiably peeved) that today I came within half a pound of my seven stone award. I lost four and a half pounds. I’m annoyingly near. Another half a pound and I’ve officially lost a fridge freezer.

This book and its numbers have become all consuming.

There’s no denying that this is definitely doing me good overall. Despite feeling a bit glum today I’m faring better in almost every aspect of life because of it – but sometimes I don’t know whether or not my obsession is entirely a good thing.

It’s great because of course I’m loosing lots of weight but not so good because at times it occupies my every waking thought and I simply can’t switch off.

If I’m not doing something related to Slimming World I’m thinking about doing something related to Slimming World. If I feel I’ve deviated or failed to make forward progress in Slimming World then THAT becomes my thought pattern. Either way it’s on my mind from the crack of dawn to sunset.

I always step on the scales every week fearing the worst and with a sense that I haven’t done enough.

I don’t think I’m very good at focusing on things, but historically I’ve found that I AM good with obsession. If I can direct it to positive endeavours (like weight loss and exercise) then it can be extremely useful – but left unchecked it can become something very bad and can affect my mental state.

Part of me wants to just take a week off and say ‘sod it’, but the logical side of me knows how it will make me feel when I step on the scales in another seven days and I haven’t made forward progress.

I feel rightly or wrongly that what I’m doing isn’t something that I can just take a consequence free vacation from. In the absence of currently having a job this has become my ‘work’.

I can deal with not getting up to drive to an office if I’m getting up to exercise, getting up to shop for good food, meeting a friend for a walk or going to collect my repaired boots so I can go further distances and lose more weight.

Or doing the garden. Which I’m going to start now. My friend will be here shortly.

(Mate comes round, garden is tackled, green bin is filled with brambles and bushes, further large piles of chopped up greenery are made for disposal, and some outdoor order is restored. Author feels a lot more positive.)

You know what? Tomorrow is another day and I’ll think about whatever it has to bring when it arrives. I can’t control it and I can’t foretell what it holds.

For the rest of the day I’m going to relax and stop thinking about losing weight. I’m stressing way too much and it’s absolutely pointless. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow it will happen the day after. It’s a marathon and not a sprint.

The garden looks much better, and after working and talking about ‘stuff’ I feel 100% more upbeat.

People are ace. I love being around them. They just make everything better. Friends even more so. Good ones patiently see through your self deluding bullshit and lead you back to the light. I couldn’t imagine life without them.

Just when I’m (again) disappearing up my own ass over thinking stuff one appears with gardening gloves and pruning shears and we set about physically restoring order and calm to the chaos of the ivy and brambles that make up my hedges.

The real world, tackled, slowly, methodically and with help and conversation. What could be better?

It’s very therapeutic – and it’s also a good reminder that what I’m doing at Slimming World is not done alone. Every step I take is with the support of someone saying something positive – and knowing that other people I admire go through exactly the same processes in their heads.

Feel free to give me a slap internet. Sometimes I need one.

Davey

Lego teracotta army

Motivation wise this week has been a tough sell in many respects. I’ve been hungry a lot, haven’t felt particularly energetic and appear to be attracting blisters like manure draws flies.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been wearing my trainers instead of my boots all week – which honestly still feel weird to walk in, and may well be the cause of my woes.

I think if I’m honest though I’ve also been guilty of naval gazing and over thinking things, which has led to a slump in my mood. I can sense when I’m doing this. I begin to withdraw a little bit and start shooting digital enemies on my Xbox a bit more.

I think too much sometimes.

Even though I usually feel my introspection is always with good reason it’s often been confirmed by close friends to actually be just me stressing about stuff that I should really just forget about and instead get on with life.

I wouldn’t talk to them about things if I didn’t expect them to tell me when I’m just being silly. Thats what friends are for.

They’re also there to make you feel better and laugh about yourself – as a close friend of mine did when she reminded me that it was only a sense of perspective that separates positivity from negativity, and likened this to a Terracotta Army made out of Lego.

At the time I laughed so much at the apparent randomness of this collection of words that I’m still smiling now – and then I Googled it.

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This must have been the image in her head, because standing looking at this from another angle would result in a complete mess – but from the point of view of the photo things have depth and make sense.

You just have to find the right way to view your thoughts, and choose to see the positives, not the negatives. Friends are ace, especially when they make you realise that your fears aren’t as bad as they seem.

One rather good thing that grew out of my temporarily deep thoughts though was a miniature revelation of sorts (at least to me). It might be obvious to others but I’d never appreciated just how just comfortable some aspects of being hugely overweight were – and how much I hid behind it – particularly when it came to the subject of relationships.

Sure – I comfort ate (and drank) a LOT – and the weight that piled on was a symptom of many things that were initially psychological but ultimately became completely habitual.

However – being grossly overweight also gave me an excuse. People no longer wondered why I was single any more and I think they just mostly assumed that it was because of my weight. I didn’t have to worry either about people being attracted to me – it just didn’t happen any more.

Again, this may be blindingly obvious to some – but I never really considered it previously. Either way – I think I just need to leave the thoughts from my last post (here) where they are for the time being.

A lady at Slimming World shared with me after reading it that she had been certain at one time in her life that she’d never take her clothes off in front of anyone ever again – and then one day the right (and loving) person came along out of the blue and everything just happened naturally.

I need to not get hung up on body image and just be a leaf in the wind. What is meant to happen will happen and the universe will sort things out eventually.

I do have to make a little effort towards this though.

Despite not wanting to do it this week exercise always helps to get things in perspective. Somewhat paradoxically in an effort to get over the hump of not wanting to walk I’ve been pushing myself to walk more than I otherwise would (go figure) and this morning was no exception.

I woke up early for a Memorial Park walk with my friend and Boris, and decided that I would go for a walk before my walk (yes – a pre walk walk) and started striding half an hour early while the early morning dew was still drying and the shadows were still long.

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It was a really nice day for it – and I had a great marching song playing on repeat. I’m  little obsessed with ‘Party like a Russian’ by Robbie Williams at the moment. It’s my new favourite thing to exercise to and I can’t stop playing it over and over.

Before I knew it a mile and a half was under my belt and I was back at the car park in time for my mate’s arrival. Boris now seems to get quite excited when he sees me (it’s mutual – I love the little guy) and skips over to say hello, sniff me and get a stroke.

He loves fuss – so I doubt I’m entirely alone in getting this kind of special attention but it reminds me of why I love dogs so much. All of their feelings are on the surface. When they’re happy to see you there’s no hiding the emotion – they practically wag themselves to death.

Boris is a little more reserved though, as he can’t wag. Instead he nudges and bumps you until you have a hand on his head or under his chin. At this point its impossible not to stroke his furry warmth and its a win for both teams.

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After three laps, much chatting, and a generous offer of gardening help (it’s like the set of Predator outside my back door currently) my friend and I headed off to our respective tasks for the day.

Mine was firstly PICKING UP MY BOOTS FROM THE COBBLER!!!

As the use of capitalising and italics suggests I’ve been looking forward to this all week – and the cobbler that Lockwoods recommended last week (here) appears to have done a sterling job on the repairs.

The new soles look extremely well secured and seem to be a very durable (although maybe a little generic looking) for the price (in this case £30) which is waaaay cheaper than new boots.

I still need consider the insoles suggested by Lockwoods. I plan to go back and at the very least try them out to see if they’re really as good for plantar fasciitis as the salesman suggested. It’s something for another day though as I arrived home (after hitting the unlimited salad bar at  the local Harvester with other friends) just in time to accept a parcel from Virgin Media.

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As I mentioned previously (here) my experience to date with their call centre has been less than stellar – and as a customer facing intermittent technical issues, a proposed increase in my monthly bill AND seriously crappy call handling on Sunday I wasn’t a happy customer.

In a move that’s very unlike me I took to Twitter and began the process of exposing their awful customer service in public. Although I didn’t expect the result to be any better than my slow and painful mauling by their Indian call centre it turned out to be a good route to take.

Clearly some companies recognise the damage that letting complaints go unanswered on Twitter and Facebook can cause.

An extremely helpful guy on their social media team called Joe set up a web chat with me (I was furiously typing away to him on my laptop in Starbucks) and managed to confound all my expectations by

  1. Offering me a new (and upgraded) modem free of charge
  2. Reducing my bill by £4 – wiping out the proposed £3 increase and making it cheaper than it was previously
  3. Not extending the term of my existing contract
  4. Upgrading my broadband speed free of charge from 50mb down/3mb up to 100mb down/6mb up
  5. Freezing the price of the package for 18 months
  6. Confirming everything we had talked about personally by mail

Of course all of this is relatively academic if the new modem doesn’t get to the bottom of my connection drops. After I finish this post I’m going to give it a go, so fingers crossed!!!

I don’t want to get up though. My blisters are killing me.

This is all because deep down I want to walk until my legs fall off if it means I loose weight tomorrow. As usual I have nothing but trepidation with regards to standing on the scales – and I’m trying not to dwell on it.

Instead internet I’m still sitting thinking about an army of terracotta soldiers made entirely of lego and smirking to myself. It’s all a sense of perspective – and I choose only to look at it from a positive one.

What will be will be.

Davey

 

In a mirror naked

I’ve realised that recently I’ve become slightly preoccupied with the future – or at least a specific aspect of it.

It came up in conversation over dinner last night – and when I realised I was talking about the subject I also realised it was entirely me that had started the thread going. It’s not the first time that this topic has cropped up – but I’m still surprised that I’m doing it.

Relationships.

Most people that know me see me as a single guy. I’ve been that way for a long time through personal choice – although honestly my feelings about weight and how it impacted my last relationship are still inextricably linked.

It’s a difficult subject to write about openly because although I’m coming to terms with being very public about many embarrassing aspects of who I am there are still some things that remain deeply personal.

However – there’s a flip side to that position. If things that bother me remain buried then I worry that I’m doomed to repeat the same behaviour again and again – so at the risk of poking at a scab that I can’t unpick I’m going to try and start an internal (and it seems public) dialogue with myself about why I’m not in a relationship.

I didn’t have any girlfriends until the last year of school – mostly because I was awkward, overweight and (I think) dressed in home-made clothes and hand me downs.

In the period between finishing my exams and starting college I starved myself (quite literally) and dropped from 17st to 12st 7lbs.

My grandmother had placed £500 in National Savings Certificates when I was around 10 years old, and it matured to £750 when I left school. I cashed this in and started to spend the money for the very first time on NEW clothes. At the age of 16 I purchased a pair of jeans- Levis 501’s.

I’d never had a pair prior to these, and they were beautiful – with an exotic button up fly instead of a zip. I wanted to be the guy in the launderette with the bag of stones because he was the epitome of cool. I even hummed ‘I heard it on the grapevine’ while I bought them.

I bought lots of other clothes too (including a pair of embroidered cowboy boots!) and constructed a girl friendly and outgoing persona that shocked my peers when they met me at Solihull College for the first time since we’d broken up from school.

I did really well for some years as far as girlfriends were concerned – and it wasn’t long until I’d finally realised every teenager’s dream and found a relationship that became intensely intimate.

It didn’t last – and culminated with my girlfriend’s dad chasing me out of the house with a small axe. I’d never been so happy to see a number 11 bus pulling up on the other side of the road to whisk me away to safety.

The ones that followed (I now know) established a common theme, where I didn’t judge a relationship on how much I liked the girl, but instead on how much they liked ME. It seemed completely inconsequential that I didn’t get what I needed from them emotionally – it was at the time more important to be loved and wanted.

It took me many bad relationships to recognise that I had become addicted to feeling something that had eluded me as a teen – being wanted by the opposite sex and feeling attractive. I didn’t get this from anyone until I first lost my weight and because of that (and some mother issues) I really didn’t grasp the truth – that nothing will ever work without reciprocal and mutual love and respect.

Back then when a relationship ended (for a time I was a serial monogamist and never outside of one for more than a couple of weeks) I couldn’t stand the silence or loneliness. I craved someone to ‘validate’ me. I needed to publicly to be seen as someone that was ‘normal’ and not the fat, unattractive, bullied boy I’d been at school. Having a girl on my arm seemed to do that, at least in my head.

Consequently I was continually lurching from one girl to another, and much like a kid in a sweet shop. My one saving grace was that I only ever ‘cheated’ once and felt so bad afterwards that I never did it again.

Then out of the blue someone came along someone that challenged me on every level. She was smart, funny, engaging, difficult, yet easy to be with. I wooed her by throwing rolled up balls of paper at the back of her head until she acknowledged me.

I remember her telling me ‘You’re not funny. You’re just persistent’.

There was an element of truth to this and with the power of pestering I finally managed to get her to acknowledge I was wonderful.

Victory!

It’s not a lie to say that I fell for her like a ton of bricks from the first moment I met her – and it seemed that the same was true (eventually) for her. My persistence (and paper throwing skills) had paid off.

I could belly laugh for hours at her jokes. The pressure of not making someone else happy all the time and getting nothing in return was completely lifted. We complemented each other in so many ways that it was spooky. We finished each other’s sentences and even heinous and degrading activities like ironing and washing up became romantic when we did them together.

She even admitted her darkest secret (she liked Star Trek) and for several years we indulged this filthy and illicit passion as two consenting adults in private, behind closed doors, in the dark, as God intended.

Then nearly five years after it had started – for a variety of reasons (a lot of them of them completely outside my control) the relationship ended.

It was then that the grieving started – and it lasted for half a decade. It was like my best friend in the entire world had died. I never saw her face again – and only talked to her once more afterwards. She told me that six months later she had married someone else.

My world fell apart – and all the issues I had never resolved with drinking and eating began to totally consume me.

For five years I didn’t sleep on the right hand side of the bed. I couldn’t fall asleep without the radio or television on. I drank every time I thought of her, grew a beard (she hated them) and pushed the self destruct button so hard my finger went through the keyboard.

I learned slowly how to repair myself though – and bit by bit became able to deal with the negative thoughts and self recrimination when I closed my eyes in bed. I turned off the TV and the radio.

However – the image of the perfect woman (her) remained in my head and whenever I visualised what I wanted in a relationship (both emotionally and physically) there was a picture of her. Somehow I had begun to idolise her memory, and romanticise the best parts of our shared history – filtering out all of the bad bits. I couldn’t get past my twin senses of loss and longing.

As time went on this dulled – but never really went away. In many respects I viewed the whole experience (rightly or wrongly) as a bereavement and I suppose I expected it to fix itself over time.

In some respects it did – and I think overall I’m in a happy place with myself.

I’m not a lonely man. I spend a lot of time with friends. In many ways my career, established friends and the bucketloads of lovely people I worked with provided me with a surrogate relationship of sorts after my real one ended. Between them they provided me with almost everything I needed in life from people and kept the loneliness wolf from my door.

I relied for many years (sometimes too heavily) on my brother as well, and he rarely let me down.

But – the last time I hit a weight loss roadblock and piled all my weight back on the catalyst was me beginning to think about how I would rebuild this area of my life.

The worry that I’m going to do this again hasn’t gone away -and as I get closer to the weight where this last happened it’s lingering in my thoughts.

I don’t know any more why I’m not in a relationship. I don’t know whether I’ve forgotten how to feel that way, am unconsciously terrified of feeling the same painful loss again, am too self conscious about my stretch marks and scars, or I’m just meant to be single.

As soon as I start to try and answer these questions I feel a flush of emotion and my immediate response is to find something else to think about and suppress it.

That’s not healthy.

I know I’m not ready yet – but I also know that left to my own devices I will probably NEVER be ready again. I will comfortably exist in my own little bubble of close friends and a lifestyle that is uncomplicated by the elliptical orbit of a relationship or the highs and lows of having children – which another far deeper part of me is beginning to consider.

Maybe it’s shallow to think in such reductive terms but I still see a wrecked body and nothing else when I look in the mirror naked. I can’t imagine being loved or wanted in the way a relationship requires and it leaves me feeling both empty and cold sometimes.

I know that it’s not all about my body though. However I also see myself (in relationship terms) as someone that’s as emotionally scarred as they are physically damaged – and I don’t know how to, or when, or even if I should start changing this aspect of myself.

I’m not sure that there is an immediate answer at all – but I need to start confronting my thoughts and not hiding from the way they make me feel before they trip me up again.

I’ve come a long way since January the 26th but I also can’t help feeling that some parts of my journey haven’t even begun to begin.

It both scares and excites me to think about who I will be in a year’s time – and in the future who I will be WITH – or whether I will still be alone (but never lonely).

Davey

Freckles, Kassaba and a charity shop

It’s early morning and I’m tired. For some reason I’ve been up and down to the toilet all night and I think I must have expelled an oil tanker’s worth of fluid.

This always worries me a little (it happens occasionally) as it reminds me of  what made me realise I had diabetes. Going to the loo every 45 minutes had become an embarrassing and irritating necessity – and the final straw was actually wetting the bed one night a couple of years ago.

Thankfully nothing like that is happening at the moment. I have been eating lots of veg and drinking lots of green tea. I guess the water from all this has to do somewhere and I’m glad it’s not chosen to take up residence in my ankles like it used to when I sat on my ass all day long.

Sunday was a day of rest for me – intended originally to be a zen haven of video game nirvana – but ultimately it became a telephone battle with Virgin Media’s inept billing dept (which sounds like it’s in India) who don’t listen and kept transferring me to another endless queue.

I spent nearly two hours on the phone – approximately 90 mins of which was on hold to a ‘customer retention department’ who ironically never bothered to answer the phone in an attempt to retain me.

I used up 2/3rds of my talk time allowance on my mobile and ended up fairly livid.

By the time I went to bed I was still not a happy boy – and on Monday decided that I’d rather spend the day out walking (or doing anything) than I would trying to resolve this again.

Thankfully I had a trip around the park planned with a lovely lady from Slimming World.

We’ve now been meeting up once a week for a few months, and each time spend a couple of hours nattering, sitting on benches and strolling around looking at the park and swans. Yesterday was a lovely day for it and as I walked over the canal toward the park from home I couldn’t help but marvel at the clear blue Mediterranean sky. The day was pretty cool and fresh but there wasn’t a cloud to be seen!

When I arrived at 10am to meet my companion St Nicholas looked like it had just woken up for the day. Not only were there brand new roses blooming on the path into the park but the swanling (now almost grown out of it’s baby feathers) was eager to come and say hello.


By the time I’d done three laps of the park, walked home and completed various other chores I had managed to finish the day with 18,500 steps and 8.5 miles under my belt (and had not a single thing to do with Virgin Media)

Today I also have a busy one planned – and the entire day revolves around ex colleagues who I’m either going for walks with or meeting for a meal. However – before all that happens I need to do a bit of hoovering, so I’ll be back in a bit!

(hoovers house, meets mates, has a looooong day out)

Well today has been wonderful. First of all Freckles came to visit and brought her driver with her (who just happens to be an ex colleague).

Our original plan had been a walk around Memorial Park in Coventry. My friend had read about it in a previous blog (that time accompanied by Boris the French Bulldog) and was keen to explore a new dog walking space. As it happened the thick early mist of the morning quickly cleared and turned into yet another blue sky day peppered with little white fluffy clouds.

We did two brisk circuits of the park – which is three and a half miles according to Apple Watch. It’s fair to say that all three of us had a good workout – and a cold drink back in Warwick was called for.

Irritatingly the last time Freckes had visited Warwick I hadn’t thought very hard about where to go (after our St Nicholas park walk) that had outdoor seating – and we had ended up sitting in a Sainsburys car park outside Starbucks.

It hadn’t even occurred to me until later when Freckes was on her way home that the Saxon Mill would have been a good place to go – so this time around I was determined to remedy that. As pubs go it’s pretty special, and given its fully working water wheel it’s not just a nice place to sit by the river – but a genuinely interesting piece of local history that’s VERY dog friendly.

After we’d all had a little rest (and Freckles had lapped at a bowl of water) I suggested that we wander to the St James the Great church over the river, and meander around the edge of the corn fields there toward Old Milverton.

Neither of us had anything better to do, so this seemed like a plan. I did however have an ulterior motive. I was having a meal out with friends later and I needed all the exercise that I could squeeze out of the day.

We did a full leisurely circuit (about 2.5 miles) of the fields and the churchyard before heading back to the car.

By the time we had arrived back to my house my friend, Freckles and I had walked around six and a half miles. It was clear that while she enjoyed all of the exploring his pooch was now a little tired. It took her less than five minutes to get to grips with how exceptionally comfy the thick underlay beneath my living room carpet was and start her little doggy snores while she dreamed about squirrels in Memorial Park.

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Eventually my friend and Freckles left and I headed with another mate to a dinner at Star City in Birmingham.

This was with several friends that in some cases I hadn’t seen for several years. We had planned to meet for 6pm at Kassaba, a Turkish grill restaurant, and apart from a little hiccup with traffic from the NEC everyone mostly arrived on time.

The decor of the place was immediately to my liking. I adore the colourful opulence of Turkish and Moroccan art and furnishings.

I’d not eaten much prior to arrival (a baked potato and a tuna salad) but I was keen to not damage my diet too much, so I tried where possible to make some healthy choices. In this case the lamb and chicken kebabs on skewers were fresh meat without fat and were accompanied with boiled rice and salad. As a main meal they seemed like a good way to go.

Since I never normally have a starter I decided to live a little and have some meatballs in sauce. Complimentary bread and houmous arrived at the table too – and I had three pieces with a few generous dips.

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As regular houmous is 2 syns per level tbsp I think I had maybe 8 syns – and I’m guessing that the bread (a ciabatta style sliced roll) would have been about 10 syns. There was also some oil in the dressing and the meatballs probably weren’t syn free either.

I’m thinking the meal came in at about 30 syns or thereabouts – but given my walking for the day (my active calories burned was 1,662, my total cardio time was 32 mins, my steps were 18,842, and the total distance 8.83 miles) I think I’ve done OK and struck the right balance between exercise and reward.

I’ve never eaten at a Turkish restaurant before – but I think I’ll be eating there again as the food was flipping delicious – and the hot tea at the end was the cherry on the cake.

When I add to this the great conversation from old friends too seldom seen it’s no surprise to me that three hours of eating and chatting had passed before any of us noticed the time. When we finally asked for the bill it was well past nine o’clock and unfortunately those of us with children, jobs, pets, and addictions to walking were beginning to tire.

We paid up and headed for our cars and home – agreeing that we should meet up again soon.

Honestly I’ve been invited to these meals before – but due to embarrassment over my weight, and worries about seeing people and being bigger than the last time we met I’ve turned the opportunities down.

Lately though I’m turning nothing down. I’m open to (almost) anything. I’m not making the same mistakes and excuses again.

Yesterday and today are stark reminders of the simple pleasures that can be found in a healthy lifestyle – and it means more than just feeling physically well, it means feeling mentally fulfilled too.

I feel both this evening as I type.

I’m tired from all of my exercise, proud that I’ve done so much, happy that I spent so much time with my friends, and looking forward to whatever tomorrow has to bring.

(but before I sign off)

Today I FINALLY took 13 pairs of jeans (ranging from a 66in – 60in waistline), 17 8x shirts, 6 8x teeshirts, 2 8x hoodies, 2x pairs of 8x shorts and one 8x pair of tracksuit bottoms to the Age UK charity shop in town.

It was very VERY hard to do, and I’d put it off and put it off, but now it’s done and I no longer have a clothing fallback position.

The only way for my weight to go is downward. Financially I can’t afford to replace them.

I’m wearing the smaller 7x’s I have and the larger 6x’s. There will be more to go to charity soon.

Scary, but happy times Internet.

Davey

 

 

I can wear my coat!

There are some eclectic and upbeat tunes playing in the background, and as I type ‘Don’t stop believing’ by Journey is just finishing and turning into ‘Labour of love’ by Hue and Cry.

I’m in an excellent mood and so are the people around me. Today I have finally managed to get into my jacket – a waterproof mac I’ve been saving since I was last able to get into it in 2008. 

It’s casually hanging off the back of a little (hateful) red chair to the left of me, and despite basically just being a plain garment, and nothing special – to me it’s a badge of pride that has managed to genuinely put a lump in my throat.

What’s more currently I’m in good company – as the Slimming World regulars are an observant lot. Angie clocked the unusual garment as soon as I walked through the door and complemented on it me right away.

I do love coming here on a Saturday.

The ladies here know what it means to me and quite a few remarked that I was (very unusually for me) wearing a jacket.

It feels epic when people notice something new about you!

It’s not just my new wardrobe that’s making me feel good though. As much as the ladies around me notice things about me I feed off their success and wins too. A REALLY happy woman has just stepped off the scales and is the proud recipient of her Club 10 (which means she’s lost 10% her body weight) award after six months working towards it.

There was much whooping and cheering around the weigh station as she virtually leapt off the machine cheering with a big smile with her hands in the air.

(In my over active imagination she also backflipped around the room and vaulted over the upright piano by the stairs as well – but as I have mentioned before I’m prone to flights of fancy.)

Another infectiously smiley lady has gone down another notch on her belt this week and looks fabulous. She’s managed to get a GOLD body magic award today and the list of exercise she’s been packing in every night is really impressive.

She’s doing proper cardio workouts (unlike me) which has made me think that this should become my long term goal too.

I love it in group where people give me ideas and make me modify my goals!

I even got some suggestions about how I could improve my image with a hair makeover (it might admittedly take a tiny bit of growing to implement this) while a lady with a particularly vibrant and eye catching new plummy auburn colour was soaking up some justly deserved compliments on her new look.

I’m not sure I could do it the same justice she does though. I’ll put these plans on the back burner for now…

It’s ALL going on today!!! Why would anyone not want to be here feeling the love?!

So how did I do today?

For my part I’m back on track baby! After last week’s flu related maintain I’ve managed to lose 6lbs this week, so I’m the proud recipient of a six and a half stone award!!!


Angie pointed out that my average weight loss (despite some fluctuations) is still 3.5lbs per week.

This also puts me into a new number category. I’m now 27st 13.5lbs.

(That’s 177.5kg to my loyal Belgian and Dutch readers)

Putting on my jacket and doing the zip up this morning made me realise that I’m getting close to the LOWEST I’ve been this millennium.

The coat I’m now able to squeeze into is the one pictured below. This photo of me was taken in 2008 on a rather damp coast walking holiday in Cornwall with a most excellent friend.

(I apologise for the gratuitous beard free full frontal facial nudity)

My lowest recorded weight in recent memory was 24st 5lbs (which is approximately what I was in the photo above) and I’m now about three and a half stone away from being back there.

This coat therefore is immensely symbolic, and it’s why I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

Granted – if I sit down in it currently with the zip done up I may just manage to suffocate myself in public – but this means that at least while standing upright I can walk in all weathers now.

I can’t put into words how positive this makes me feel. 

I’m walking on (Nike) air not just because my boots are with the cobbler – but because I’m currently making all the difficult but RIGHT choices in life and experiencing the sometimes slow but always rewarding benefits that they bring.

I’ve not set a goal weight – but I’m thinking that around 14-15 stone is a reasonable end point.

I’m never going to be Brad Pitt, and I’m fine with that. I just want to be a healthy weight and be able to wear normal clothes, sit in the same seats as other people on busses and planes and maybe one day even start thinking about changing my home life.

It’s on days like today, knowing I still have over HALF of my body weight to lose, that I feel I can do it. Every right decision and every motivated moment is a step in the right direction.

So. What to do with the rest of the day? It seems rude not to go for a coffee and a walk, so I think thats exactly what I’m going to do.

I’ve realised after listening to reports on my whereabouts from readers that my route into Leamington passes not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR of the ladies houses in my group – and that I’m being spotted going about my daily activities quite regularly.

To be completely honest this is great!

I’ve moved slowly from feeling that the entire world wants to hang out of a car and call me names to feeling that I’m making people smile in their kitchens as they see me ambling past.

It’s nice to know that people think of me as a positive ‘can do’ person and furthermore see evidence of me doing positive things every day towards my goals. For so long I felt like I had to hide and not show myself to the world – and now they’re watching, and I don’t mind one bit.

In fact it spurs me on.

Internet – if you’re wondering whether you should get up off your collective bottoms and go out and do something the answer is an emphatic ‘YES‘.

Move your booty and feel great about yourself. You deserve it.

Davey

Lockwoods rock!

My feet ache today. More than normal – and normally they ache a lot. I think it’s just par for the course when you’re 28 and a half stone. 

This isn’t the only reason though. The soles of my walking boots have taken a pounding over the last few months and they have virtually no tread in some places. 

I’ve always bought the same type of boot – and despite minor variations in design have worn nothing but Berghaus since 2008. I use these for EVERYTHING. 

I even attended two weddings in them. 

The very first time I put my feet in a pair they felt so at home that I bought them immediately and saw no reason to ever buy a different type of shoe. 

However – over the last few years they’ve admittedly had an easier life than the very first pair I owned. 

That’s not so much the case now. My Berghaus currently patrol 35-40 miles of pavement or woodland a week and at the moment they’re showing the strain. 

As I walked around Arrow Valley Nature Reserve yesterday and Memorial Park this morning I could feel the pressure points on the sides and heels of my feet – and although I can walk for miles and miles they begin to complain a lot quicker than my leg muscles. 

I currently have a big plaster on my heel and yet another trophy blister. 

It’s annoying – and I’m really keen on dealing with ANYTHING that will derail or slow my weight loss. So (despite being on an ever dwindling budget) I decided it was time to replace them. 

My initial research into this yesterday was troubling. The uppers of the (new) Berghaus boots in the style I so love remains the same in camping shops – but the tread underneath had changed from a car tyre-esqe horizontal ridge style to one more akin to a snowflake pattern. It didn’t look like it would wear well on concrete, would gather mud in woodland, and crucially it was a lot more rigid. 

As I stood in (a popular high street camping and outdoor chain store) staring at boots that were still close to £100 even with 25% off (they had a sale on) I realised that the previously easy choice of what to pick had become a bit more stressful. 

New boots now represented two weeks worth of groceries. I really couldn’t afford to mistakenly buy crap. 

The sales assistant wasn’t helping. He seemed unable to advise me about wear on the sole material, grip patterns or my plantar fasciitis and was clearly bored to death. 

‘I’m not sure I’m going to buy anything today…’ I said, looking at a wall of GoreTex and rubber, and not wanting to commit to anything. 

‘… I don’t want to waste your time!’ I said apologetically. 

He started at me. 

‘As opposed to me wasting it by being bored to death staring at these walls instead?’ He said. 

‘I might as well be helping you.’ He added, leaning on a nearby display. 

It was clear all of a sudden that he needed me way more than I needed him. Rather than endure another moment alone surrounded by discounted camping gear he wanted to talk to anyone about anything – no matter how smelly their feet might have been after a day in waterproof boots. 

Sadly however he didn’t seem to have a great deal of knowledge about the boots he was selling, or how they would affect or not affect my condition. 

Sometimes price isn’t everything. 

I exited the store without any new boots – leaving him to the mercy of the slow brain death I’d inadvertently interrupted moments before. 

This encounter was still on my mind today when I went into a local shop just outside of Leamington town centre called Lockwoods

It’s a ski and outdoor apparel shop. I’ve been there before years ago and purchased my second pair of Berghaus boots from them. 

I’d known what I wanted at the time and was in and out like a whippet so I had no positive or negative impressions associated with my purchase. 

Today though was different – and as I walked in I realised that it was owned by one of the lovely ladies that reads (and occasionally comments on) my blog. She immediately greeted me and said hello when I walked in. 

Although I’ve been ‘online’ for a while now it’s always a little weird when someone recognises me from my blog, especially if I don’t know immediately who they are. I’m always wondering if I’ve somehow forgotten someone and have a moment of panic!

I’ve taken to writing names in a notepad with descriptions of people I meet recently, so I don’t forget them and appear rude. I’m absolutely crap at remembering names. 

Therefore if I meet you and I suddenly appear to be typing on my phone this is probably what I’m doing!

The lovely lady at the front of the shop pointed me toward the fitting assistants and soon I was talking to a real, knowledgeable and INTERESTED person. 

I explained to him about being on a (recently made redundant) tight budget, and also about my plantar fasciitis. He knew immediately what I was dealing with and picked up a jointed skeletal foot prop to explain the problem and what they could do to help. 

To be clear I didn’t get this level of support and explanation of my condition from my NHS doctor OR from BUPA. 

A range of insoles it seemed were available, sold by them (he showed me a sample) measurable and fitted to a shoe with a two month satisfaction guarantee

If I didn’t get what I needed from them I could take them back – with no questions asked. 

He then asked me why I was replacing my current footwear – something the previous guy hadn’t enquired about at all. 

Lifting my foot I showed him my worn tread and then slipped my boot off and passed it to him. He looked at the wear and then said he’d be back in a minute, and walked away with it. 

I moved the small wooden measuring footrest to one side and sat on the fitting bench looking at the wall of all terrain boots.

Whatever was coming was going to cost. My wallet felt like it was tightening in anticipation. 


Moments later he returned with my boot and a leaflet. 

‘Try this guy’ he said handing me the flyer. 

It was for a cobbler, locksmith and engraver in Leamington. 


‘I’ve spoken to people before who’ve been here.’ The sales assistant said. 

‘Your boots are in good order other than the tread. He can shave the bottoms off and put something new on. Given your redundancy it could give you a good few months more life out of them at a reasonable cost.’

‘Ask for *****’ he said – giving me the cobbler’s name. 

I sat open mouthed. He wasn’t trying to fleece me or sell me an overly expensive solution. He was just taking a pride in giving me the best advice that he possibly could with what I’d told him. 

I instantly shook his hand and thanked him for his candour – telling him that without doubt I’d be back – whether it was for new boots or new insoles, and headed off (via home to get my trainers) to the cobbler to see what he could do for me. 

As it happened he was very pleased about the referral and showed me a nice durable sole that he could put on my boots to extend their life. It would take him a week to get them back to me – but what the hell? 

The shoes he showed me as an example of his work looked frankly excellent. The cost for them was £30 – way cheaper than new boots. 

If I could get them back to working order and also get a specific insole designed to treat my disorder (around £35) from the shop that gave me such good service then that would be a real win for all concerned. 

On top of this both traders were local businesses and I love the symbiotic relationship between the two. Neither got commission or kickbacks – they just supported eachother and in doing so both probably have just gained a customer for life. 

Before visiting Lockwoods the idea of a new insole (other than my gel ones) to treat my plantar fasciitis had never occurred to me – and after visiting the cobbler I was certain (as long as he did a good job) that I’d be back to him in the future. 

At the moment I feel genuinely good about my customer experience today and I’ll go so far as to say what I received from Lockwoods was on a similar level with visiting an Apple shop, which for me is still the highest customer service watermark that I’ve personally experienced (just behind Volkswagen). 

So – at the moment I sit drinking coffee and blogging in trainers and I will have to do without my beloved boots for a week. 

I miss them already. My feet feel all springy and weird. 

It will be interesting Internet to see how they hold up to getting me from A to B. 

In the meantime I will continue walking – in the hope that tomorrow I’ll be rewarded for my efforts and maybe get a six and a half stone certificate. 

If I do it will REALLY make my day. 😊

Davey

Appreciating freedoms

I was grocery shopping in Aldi yesterday morning.

As budget shopping goes I’ve come to really appreciate the minimalism of the place and the sometimes bizarre apparel that they sell right next to the cherry tomatoes.

If the zombie apocalypse strikes while I’m out shopping then I’d prefer to be in a grocery store that sells a full size fire axe. It will make hacking my way home through the undead infinitely less bothersome – and I’ll also arrive with some tasty provisions.

I’ll be honest though. I avoided Aldi for many years.

I used to associate it with my first serious relationship in the early 90’s where our watchword was poverty. Eating beans and frozen waffles until payday was often a depressing reality when we lived together. The people who went to Aldi when I shopped with my ex were not so great and neither was the food, which came in oddly named or generic packaging or in the case of meat often without a little window to see a representative of its contents.

Aldi has made great strides over the years though and is now my first choice for shopping based on value AND quality. My salmon comes in comfortingly clear packaging now and looks delicious.

Occasionally however there’s still a windswept and interesting individual exhibiting a unique personality. The person with colourful character traits yesterday was a woman in her mid 20’s having a heated discussion with what may or may not have been her partner.

‘Calm down!’ Her companion said quietly.

In my experience never in the entire history of calming down has the phrase ‘calm down’ ever resulted in someone calming down. This instance was no different.

‘I’ll calm down as soon as the world stops treating me differently because I have a VAGINA!!!’ said the lady in reply rather loudly.

She was about 6ft away from me. I resisted the temptation to turn and look at her. She then began to address her fellow shoppers.

‘Oh yea – NOW you’re interested!’ She said at the same volume. ‘All because I said VAGINA!!!’

I put some frozen prawns in my trolley. I’d defrosted my freezer the day before and now it was free of icebergs filling it seemed like a good idea.

Oooh haddock! That’s cheap!

I continued to ignore her as she ranted and moved the bargain fish from the chest freezer into my trolley as I looked further along the row for frozen berries.

Ironically it hadn’t occurred to me to treat or think about her any differently before her outburst – but now all I could think about was her vagina and what it had done to get her into trouble.

I must admit to at the time being quite amused by the whole incident. Her petulant and public display of outraged feminism however did little to make me sympathetic to whatever her plight may have been.

This morning though I awoke to a different reality – and the ugly spectre of sexism was writ large when I opened my eyes and checked my phone.

Going into detail in this case would be indelicate and unfair – but it brought back a lot of painful memories from my own past where a person very close to me was for a long time emotionally blackmailed into something that she absolutely did not want to do – and over the course of several years the implications of this affected and changed the course of both our lives.

I was in a somber mood therefore when I met a friend for our planned walk this morning. Despite some excellent conversation and some absolutely beautiful woodland the incident I’d learned about earlier in the morning was at the top of my mind when I left to drive home.

It was sitting there right alongside a growing anger about the fact that however much things in the world change, they also remain depressingly the same.

Back then in my past I hadn’t ultimately been able to change anything for this person. I’d felt powerless and swept along by the currents of feelings and events both before and afterwards. Today was different however and I’d offered whatever help I was in a position to give – but it still didn’t feel like enough.

Even if I could change someone else’s reality in the here and now (and I’m not sure I could) it wouldn’t stop the underlying evil of inequalty and prejudice from existing – and that was the saddest thing of all.

Some belief structures exist to perpetuate one sided power – be this race, disability, age, sex or otherwise and it’s maddening sometimes to see that not only does such blind prejudice still exist – but sometimes it gets worse.

When I was at university I studied Grace Nichols and her book ‘The Fat Black Woman’s Poems’.

I’ll be honest – at the time it wasn’t my cup of tea, and I gravitated to other works in my American fiction module that fired up my imagination. They were by male authors like John Steinbeck, Tim O’Brien and Don DeLillo.

However one phrase that my tutor used to describe Nichols’s book stuck in my mind -because at the time it began to open my eyes to a new and rather uglier reality.

‘The most disadvantaged person in society is a fat black lesbian in a wheelchair.’ she said to our seminar group.

It took a while for the gravity of this depressingly true statement to filter in. The prejudice that I read about in books wasn’t just something that had happened in the past – it was alive and well in the present day. At the time my aforementioned history was my present day and bit by bit that phrase came to mean more and more as I watched the resolve of the person close to me get slowly chipped away until it crumbled and ultimately failed altogether.

Sometimes little seems to have changed – except that we can probably now amend the statement (given the increase in religious fundamentalism and ever growing intolerance in both the west and east and from multiple religions) to:

‘The most disadvantaged person in society is a fat black lesbian in a wheelchair wearing a hijab.’

Brexit in the UK doesn’t seem to be helping to heal racial and ethnic divides – and I despair at the capability of our world (I’m looking at you Donald Trump) to talk about building walls, finding enemies behind every bush and demonise entire cultures because of the beliefs of violent and despicable minorities.

I’m sure in another 10 years time I will be able to add another identifier to the list – and the burden for that poor made up woman will grow yet heavier. Maybe it will be communism again – who knows?

I don’t claim to have insight into every nuance of intolerance – nor have I experienced it all, understand it all – or know everyone else’s pain.

But I can try to empathise with those that I know.

I’m a human being and I know what it’s like to be descriminated against. I know what it’s like to feel bullied and weak and apart from society – yet I am theoretically at an advantage by being the owner of a penis, having white skin and coming from a secular first world ethnic group and society.

If it feels crap in my shoes when I’m abused by a passing transit van it must feel a million times worse for that fictional occupant of the wheelchair. Especially when you heap all the other burdens (such as motherhood) on top.

I hope that tomorrow I wake up in a different world.

Although I probably won’t.

In the meantime I have to try and look around me for positivity and take the time to appreciate beauty and goodness wherever I find it.

Today I walked around Hay Wood with my (male) friend. It was a lovely, peaceful free walk, where we both took the time to stop and look at the world, stroke moss, examine tree stumps, marvel at the huge variety of fungi, squirrels, birds and proliferation of LIFE.

Then in the afternoon I strolled to the cinema, at my leisure, under my own steam, and sat watching a film with my shoes off in a largely empty, comfortable auditorium.

It’s true that I don’t often appreciate the freedoms I take for granted.

Today Internet, as I looked at the woodland and sat enjoying my film I really really did.

Davey

Horses, owls and a parrot

Today is the start of operation ‘Get Back On Track’.

While I might have been ‘happy’ with my weight maintain yesterday at Slimming World I’m only OK with it because I plan to make sure I make up for it this week.

Yesterday would have been a tough day to start. Not only did I still feel really crappy but it absolutely POURED with rain all day long. I only realised how awful it was outside yesterday evening when I saw a gondola gently sail past my front window followed by a fishing boat.

(Note – author has flights of fancy and an over active imagination. He actually lives on a quiet residential street with zero nearby waterways.)

This morning however is a very different kettle of fish.

The forecast for the whole day is sunshine – and when there isn’t a clear sky there will be little fluffy white clouds with more sunshine. After that sunshine is expected, which is highly likely to be followed by more sunshine.

A regular follower of this blog who likes outdoor Kindle reading in sandals will note that the UK is experiencing rather good weather of late and is an ideal travel destination.

Honestly no-one is more surprised than I am!

So – it was clearly time for a walk, and nothing motivates my movement more than the promise of coffee, which also seems to suit a Sunday morning unbelievably well. I set off in search of it. With a flask of coffee… well… because… well… you just can’t have enough coffee.

As I briskly moved toward town, looking at the blue skies I couldn’t help but think that sometimes a day appears to just develop a theme all of its own. Initially I’d thought it would be the onset of autumn (due to all the leaves falling down around me) but it turned out instead to unquestionably be animals.

With my jaunty exercise playlist propelling me forward as I moved down the hill I felt good, and wanted a record time on my first mile. I need to get it well under 20 minutes (this has so far eluded me) so I can eventually cram more into shorter times. The eventual goal is four miles in an hour.

As I strode ever faster I could could hear a strange distortion on my headphones. I played with the volume. Nope – the noise was real. It sounded like hooves.

I turned around and approaching behind me was a herd/pack/posse/team/group (or whatever the collective name is for them) of around 15 horse riders. There were some absolutely lovely animals – all slowly clip-clopping down the hill at a pace that made it possible to walk alongside them for a short while and say hello to the riders while I took pictures.

The horses were a wide variety of colours and in a two by two formation with one solo guy bringing up the rear. The club all seemed really happy and were saying hello with big smiles as they passed.

Soon they overtook me as the gradient levelled out and when they reached the bottom of the hill they all broke into a canter and headed (like myself) toward Leamington.

As I too got closer to the bottom of the hill I realised how much energy I suddenly felt I had when ‘The Edge of Glory’ by Lady Gaga popped up in my playlist and my speed increased. Maybe having a few days off has been a good thing after all. I felt like I had legs full of Duracell batteries!

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I couldn’t walk to Leamington without sitting down. Today I wanted to make another little milestone – which is not stopping for a breather at all on the way. When I do pause it’s usually really short (maybe 30secs?) but it irritates me that I have to stop at all. I want it to be continuous.

Today on the way in I did it with only three pauses and it took me just over 35 minutes to walk the 1.7 miles to the top of town.

I stopped before reaching the coffee shop because unexpectedly there was a market on the high street and the roads had been closed to vehicles. My attention had been instantly drawn to a sign saying that there was a bird of prey display further up the road.

Coffee could wait. I love birds!

When I arrived it wasn’t quite what I expected. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about so many captive wild birds on public display, but they were obviously being cared for well by the Central England Reptile Rescue & Bird Of Prey Sanctuary (website). Each bird seemed healthy and quite calm – so I can only assume that they’re used to seeing lots of people.

All had different reasons for why they had ended up in captivity. Few of them had been born in the wild (one for instance was bred in a prison as part of a birds of prey inmate rehabilitation program) – but the one thing they all had in common was that they were undeniably beautiful. I’ve seen owls before but never such a variety in one place – most breeds of which I don’t think I have never seen before.

There was a Tawny Owl, a Little Owl, a Kestrel (who was very camera shy and wouldn’t look at me), A Snowy Owl, A Barn Owl and a Great Horned Owl.

According to their Facebook page this group do try to release wild animals back into their natural habitat if at all possible – and the man there genuinely seemed to care for them. I guess when it comes down to it they need money like anyone else and this is a good way to educate people and get donations.

I don’t normally give money on a whim to people on the street, but I couldn’t help putting a few pounds in the collection box. Caring for these truly stunning birds can’t come cheap and they need to be protected at all costs in my view.

Shorty after a punnet of fresh strawberries (two pounds from a local grower’s stall further down the street) and a large coffee from Starbucks I headed home.

I hadn’t managed to get under the 20 minute mile barrier on the way DOWN the hill, but after walking around the shops for a while I was warmed up. I wondered wether I could get home without stopping for a breather at all, and make the whole journey as brisk as I could make it.

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When I stopped the clock (rather breathlessly) on my doorstep I had actually managed to hit my target of not stopping AND get under 20 minutes in the averages! For some weird reason I was faster uphill than I was on the way down (although I wasn’t photographing horses on the way back!)

I’m pretty pleased that despite still not feeling 100% I’m definitely ‘cooking on gas’ again (a phrase beloved by my well travelled father) and a few miles closer to kicking the ass of the scales next Saturday!

Finally – as I mentioned before, sometimes the day seems to tangibly present a topic, and it’s as if I’m being invited to write or think a certain way.

When I sat down to begin this post a radio programme caught my ear in the background (Bookclub on Radio 4. Yes – I’m THAT dynamic).

It was about birds. Specifically birds of prey.

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Helen MacDonald, author of ‘H is for Hawk’ was talking about her love of falconry, and how she used the training of a Sparrow Hawk after the death of her father to get over the grief she felt overwhelmed by when he died.

It was a fascinating insight about how we can identify with certain creatures in times of crisis, and she talked candidly about her wish that she was cold and emotionless like her bird, who just got on with life regardless of the death that was it’s every day reality. She also shared how for several years she lived frugally off the land with very little income while the animal hunted for her and regularly provided the main ingredient of rabbit stew.

Although she cared for and trained the bird it almost seemed that during the period of her bereavement it was the dominant party in their relationship. Through it’s emotionless relationship with its surroundings it enabled her when she felt at her lowest to connect with the world.

It doesn’t require a bird of prey to give an entry point into society however. The author also had an interesting anecdote about meeting a man walking down a busy street with a parrot on his shoulder.

When she approached him to interact with the bird she talked briefly to the owner, and he explained why he walked around in public with his unusual companion.

‘I’m painfully shy.’ He said.

‘But surely you must realise that walking around with a parrot on your shoulder means people will keep coming up to you?’ she replied.

‘Yes’ He said ‘but there aren’t coming to talk to ME – they are coming to talk to HER.’

He was using his bird just like she was, to maintain a relationship with the world even if he himself felt unable to interact with it.

It struck me at many points today how complex our relationships with animals are, why they enter our lives, and what we get from them. I must admit this afternoon to feeling that in part I understand this lady (and to an extent the guy with the parrot).

I had another idiot hanging out of a car calling me fat on the way back up the hill – ironically enough just as I was breaking the 20 minute barrier and doing something to improve my life.

I guess I should expect it. It’s been several weeks since I was last abused, and I can’t seem to go too long without it happening.

Sometimes internet people are really crap – but all of the beautiful, proud horses and stunning owls (and dogs – there have been lots of dogs!) today have made me feel as if it doesn’t matter, and that I’m right to just be focused on my task, and driving myself forward one step at a time.

They don’t care if someone calls them a name – they just get on with life.

Today I’m an owl. People can look at me as much as they like. I don’t care. I’m still ace.

Davey

500 Miles

Well – I think I have a flu victory of sorts. After a week where I mostly sat on my ass or lay under a duvet after eating more than I felt I should have I managed to maintain my weight.

Nothing lost – but thankfully also nothing gained.

I wondered how I’d feel about this – but the truth of it is I feel pretty good actually. It’s proven that the lifestyle changes I’ve made aren’t limited solely to exercise alone.

The contents of my cupboards and fridge will struggle to make me gain weight. It’s all fresh, unprocessed (with the exception of ham and bacon), natural and requires effort to turn into something resembling a meal.

Even a baked potato in my house will have to do without the finer things in life.

Butter? Doesn’t exist in my fridge. Grated cheddar? Nope, only low fat feta for salads and that block has been there for two weeks. Ready meal? Haven’t had one since April. Biscuits or cereal bars? Banned since I realised I ate them all in one go every time I bought them.

This sounds like a miserable, depressing, boring crappy kitchen right?

Wrong.

Some time ago it was a place of danger. It was somewhere I went to comfort eat, to rage eat, to drunkenly eat, to eat so I would feel sleepy, to eat because I just walked past the fridge and it crossed my mind, to eat because I was bored.

Now it’s actually a place of safety.

I look upon my kitchen as a children’s ball pit. Somewhere that I can just dive into without worrying about getting hurt or thinking too much about the consequences if I’m occasionally feeling reckless.

If I don’t order a takeaway there’s practically nothing I can do at home (apart from drinking a litre of extra virgin olive oil) that will majorly derail me.

This of course has limits.

I can’t eat EVERYTHING without consequence. I can’t binge eat (although I still struggle in this area sometimes.) If I want a meal I have to make it. I have to chop up the ingredients and cook it myself.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve tried to avoid the fake takeaway food that you can make and stay on plan at Slimming World. This isn’t because I look down on it or think people other than me shouldn’t do it. It’s because I want to no longer crave that kind of stuff.

  • JustEat – app deleted from my phone
  • Dominos Pizza – app and number deleted from my phone
  • Ming Kee Chinese Takeaway – deleted from my phone
  • All Kebab shops that deliver – deleted from my phone

I see ‘fakeaways’ as training my tastebuds to keep thinking about the kind of food that’s bad for me. The kind that made me fat, that made me diabetic, that stopped me cooking, and made me feel like crap for hours after five minutes of joy.

I don’t want any substance that makes my goal of NOT WANTING THESE FOODS ANY MORE any further away.

So – this is why I see my kitchen as a place of safety now. This is why I see a maintain as a victory rather than a failure.

In a couple of days the flu will hopefully be completely gone and I can get back to the business of being well and walking again.

This incidentally is going swimmingly. As I mentioned in a previous post (here) I have a stated goal of walking from Land’s End to John O’ Groats (847 miles) over the course of my weight loss. At this rate I might get it done by Christmas if I put my mind to it.

The numbers from September have now been added to my stats and even with a slow week due to illness I’ve improved upon August’s total. Last month I managed just over 150 miles and 317229 steps.

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This brings the total distance I’ve walked since I started Slimming World in Mid April to approximately 501 miles!

Now – I might be wrong but I think there’s an appropriate musical interlude required here…

(waits for readers to watch the video)

(Don’t worry – I have time. Enjoy it. It’s a good track)

Shortly after weighing in I went to a lunch at the Hatton Arms in honour of my friend’s 40th birthday. This morning I realised I’d annoyingly run out of birthday wrapping paper – and I was hoping when I parcelled them up that I hadn’t made them look too Christmassy!

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My mate was looking happy and fabulous as usual – and she still appears seemingly un-ravaged by the winds of time, and hasn’t changed since we were young enough to know better.

I still can’t see a single grey hair in evidence – unlike myself! I’m sure in a darkened loft somewhere there’s a painting slowly ageing – or a Faustian pact that was made many years ago with a shadowy figure to ensure her eternal youth.

She wasn’t the only one though – and despite having children everyone (most of whom I hadn’t seen for a while) looked just as I remembered them.

When I noticed one couple I was instantly reminded of the last time we met (a 30th birthday party I think) – where we were rather drunk (praise the gods of strong cheap cider!) and all danced around in circles listening to ‘Jakatta – American Dream’ over and over at an unsociable time in the morning with way too much volume.

That was in 2001!!! How time flies…

As we chatted and discussed our mutual life events I passed on that recently many things had changed.

It seemed the right thing to do to lead my potted ‘story so far’ history with being recently made redundant (it seems important somehow) but honestly it was really just a way to say that it had been for the best, had changed my life in a good way and it led neatly into how I’m trying to improve my overall health.

This topic is something that felt at one time alien and embarrassing to me – and that a fat man should have the front to talk about nutrition, diabetes and food groups – or be passionate about a certain kind of eating regime seemed somehow wrong.

Now what I find this is what makes me conversationally come alive.

I overheard a lady earlier this morning in Slimming World say that she had finally found something that worked for her. Something that she felt comfortable with and trusted to get results.

‘Why wouldn’t I keep coming back even if one week was bad?’ she said to a friend.

It seemed like a no-brainer to her that whether she had put some weight on or lost it that she would keep going, and keep grinding away, because when she followed the plan it worked.

I feel the same.

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When I skipped the starters, and my main meal arrived (chicken and bacon ranch salad) I knew I’d made the right choice. Sure – there were syns in the croutons, dressing, parmesan and probably the bacon (it looked streaky – not a medallion) but I made absolutely the best choice possible on a menu of things that could have done way more damage.

I passed on desert too. The cheesecake looked lovely though…

So it’s not about being the fastest to my goal. It’s not just about shifting tons of weight every week. It’s not even about how far I walk every month.

It’s making a conscious decision in every aspect of my life to make the right choices in the knowledge that ultimately this will improve my world and make me happier and healthier than I’ve ever been before.

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So today internet I maintained my weight and I’m super super proud that I did.

I have loads of walks planned for the coming week and I plan to kick the arse of the scales next Saturday.

I’m SO gonna nail it!

Davey