Looking for the spark 

I’m beginning to think I’m the wrong shape. Actually – scratch that. I know I’m the wrong shape.

I don’t for a minute think that I’m particularly unusual in this – but it’s not doing me any favours at all when it comes to finding outdoor clothing – which I need to buy relatively soon for Snowdon.

Oddly all of the walking trousers I’ve tried on lately have a very different ‘give’ in the thigh department in comparison to my jeans (which as I firmly established in public the other day have ‘stretch’ in them). They all noticeably tug when I lift my leg up and I can’t imagine happily climbing lots of stairs in them, let alone a mountain.

I can get into a 3XL walking trousers in ‘Trespass‘, which demonstrates the same thigh (and crotch) problem. In ‘Sports Direct‘ it’s even harder as there’s no changing room – so there’s a lot of guesswork. The Karrimor brand they stock seem wider in the leg but oddly much smaller in the waist. The small belt that came with a 3XL pair of them barely touched end to end around my jeans when I tried to put it on.

They had a 4XL which frankly looked massive.

More annoyingly if I go to ‘Mountain Warehouse‘ I’m faced with the reality that they don’t seem to want to acknowledge my existence at all – and for the most part are sticking to a 2XL in trousers (but a 3XL in jackets) yet oddly go up to a 44in waist in the more fitted examples that they had (which is easily a 3XL).

Adding a specific number to the waistband also appears to double the price and extends the standard leg length to ‘baby giraffe‘.

Plus the quality of the stitching in their garments looked suspect at best. If I managed to get up and down Snowdon in a pair of them without at some point presenting a bare gluteus maximus to my walking companion then it would be a miracle.

Finally (at least from a high street perspective) Millets aren’t even close.

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Annoyingly they had the best quality, the best selection – and the best price (£12.50 for Peter Storm dual purpose zip leg breathable trousers) but these only went up to a 2XL/40in waist. I tried them on just in case – but there wasn’t a hope in hell that I’d be doing them up any time soon. I even checked their online inventory and this is the largest size that they make in any of the walking trousers that Millets sell.

Consequently I’m no closer to getting either walking trousers or waterproof over trousers – although I’ve yet to try Debenhams – which did some limited lines in this area and have occasionally larger sizes.

The hunt annoyingly continues… 

In other news I don’t think I’ve done enough (of anything) this week and I’m beating myself up over it.

I know that deep down this is because I’ve been battling the impulse to hibernate and hide from the world. I’ve managed for the most part to ignore this and just carry on, but yesterday I stepped out of my front door, locked it behind me, and just stood on my path looking at the sky.

I’d already started my exercise playlist but nevertheless I continued to just stand there – looking up and down the street.

The sky was grey, it was drizzling and my road was deserted. Everything was still. It was just me and the grey world.

Very unusually (and probably for the first time in recent memory) I decided not to go out, took my front door key out of my pocket and went back inside. Although I still completed my planned level of exercise for the day I felt like I’d retreated (and therefore failed somehow) and I was left pondering why I’d done that.

I know that cumulatively I’ve been struggling (and I mean genuinely having difficulty) with the question of what to do for future employment. There’s still no sign of a magic money tree in the garden and I’m acutely aware that frugal shopping can only do so much to stem the flow of cash that for a long while has been going on one direction only (outwards) from my bank account.

The phrase ‘what comes next?’ Seems to be playing (like the last song you hear on the radio when you leave the house) on an infinite loop in my head and periodically it’s been driving me slightly potty.

Maybe rather naively back in March I thought that the answer would just come to me. If I’d gotten a job as a postman (I have applied and subsequently failed – but not yet given up) then I think all would be well with the world – but now that’s fallen through for the moment I’m faced with a similar situation to the one I was in last November – and annoyingly I’m now also finding myself lingering on thoughts about going back into an office.

This is particularly galling because I left the last job I had in such an environment because it was too sedentary. The problem is that I still don’t know what to replace it with. It’s been a feature of my life for so long that it’s like a huge wall that I can’t see round or over.

It’s not as if I haven’t talked to a LOT of people about this. It’s been an ongoing twalking topic for months. The issue is that despite all of the suggestions my generous companions have made nothing is jumping out at me as something that I’d want to start charting a course toward.

I’m consequently beginning to feel paralysed by indecision and a lack of impetus.

I’m also starting to second guess myself over every related thought and question all of my motivations on the subject. Part of me thinks that deferring work related decisions ‘because I’m in no hurry’ or ‘because I am ‘enjoying a career break’ is infact just me avoiding decisions because they scare me.

Another part of me knows that I want (and need) to make a choice – but every time I get close I get stuck in an almost infinite loop of internal arguments and counter arguments, meaning that I eventually get so knotted up about it that I wind up feeling totally lost and my mind begins to withdraw.

It’s at times like this that my bachelor status is dangerous. There’s no-one to kick me up the arse if I’m wallowing and there’s no-one to shake me out of it or change the subject unless I choose to go out and talk to a friend – which at these times is very counter intuitive. Maybe unusually this element of being single (as opposed to the physical side) is the one that sometimes hits me the hardest, and makes me feel quite alone.

It takes all my willpower at times like this to not just open the fridge and try to make the problem disappear under a mountain of food. 

When I took the key out of my pocket and went back indoors yesterday I know that it wasn’t because I didn’t want to get exercise – it was that I couldn’t face walking on my own and being in isolation with endlessly looping thoughts.

Instead I drowned out my fear of the future with home entertainment, tidying, cleaning and floor exercises (those lunges for descending Snowdon still need to be done and they won’t do themselves).

Today though I managed not to turn around and go back into the house. Instead I’ve tried to walk faster and further than I normally would – and turned my music up loud, which is better than stewing at home – but if I’m honest it’s still stewing.

Although I’m doing something with positive benefits I’m also avoiding something I really need to face up to. Do I invest in re-training? Do I go back to what I know? Do I find a ‘McJob’ just to keep things ticking over?

I have no idea.

I’m not asking you the reader this question, or seeking an answer from anyone by writing this. I debated whether or not to talk about this at all in my blog or just write about it in private – but you know what?

Much more good in my life has come from being flawed and open instead of flawed and closed off so I’m doing it anyway. 

I’m guess what I’m doing is publicly asking myself the question again – and forcing myself (in full view of others) to confront the reasons why I’m not making any current progress.

At the same time I’m looking within and hoping to find the currently elusive spark that I feel I need to ignite change.

I don’t know the answer though internet. In the meantime I’ll keep exercising, and keep looking for trousers, in the hope that somewhere they’ve been made for a non-giraffe with chunky thighs.

If I can’t make progress in one area of my life then I’ll damn well make sure I keep moving forward in others.

Davey

Ilmington Downs

Over the last few days I’ve started preparing a for Snowdon. Although it’s still a way off I’d rather not be completely crippled by the downhill element of the experience. In the absence of hills on my doorstep this has until now taken the shape of floor exercises such as lunges (which are really good for quadriceps).

However – lunges are boring.

Hills and views are not.

So today I’ve been clambering over a small portion of the Ilmington Downs. They’re in Ilmington.

Who knew?

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I’ve never been here before – and I had absolutely zero idea that such a peaceful and beautiful village was just (relatively speaking) around the corner from me. It’s about as ‘chocolate box’ as it gets – and the whole place has a uniform, well built, heavy orange sandstone appearance that runs through all of the cottages, the local pub and the lovely 12th century (St Mary the Virgin) parish church.

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As we passed the (12th century) church on the way to the uppy and downy puffy panty exercise I couldn’t help but pop inside and have a look at the stained glass.

Sadly there wasn’t all that much to speak of – but it was pleasing to see that this is clearly a VERY well kept building inside that has a surprising sense of scale – particularly given the teeny size of the local population. It was apparently (according to the plaque above the door inside) ‘enlarged, repaired and renewed’ in 1846 and I think this is why it’s much bigger than one would normally expect for a building of it’s age and number of parishioners.

It’s fair to say though that it’s still a little unusual to see such a humungous organ in a building of this size – but there it was, trying to hide from view, tucking itself nonchalantly into the corner and hoping no-one would spot it.

It was only with my acutely keen eyesight that I picked it out from between the pews either side.

I almost missed it.

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If the dimensions of such an instrument are enough to gauge its acoustic capability I think we can safely say that this particular church is capable of catering for the auditory needs of the hard of hearing, completely deaf and recently deceased – all of whom should have no difficulty humming along with the hymns while their eardrums begin to rupture.

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However – the church was a pit stop on the way to beautiful views, which initially at least were on some quite modest gradients. Before we knew it (after about 10-15 minutes) we were already in a pretty good position to check out the sprawling views of the local countryside.

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For the last two days however it’s been raining a little – so although we had a pretty nice vista to keep us interested it’s fair to say that we both found (to differing degrees) that wet legs and feet were just going to be a feature of our day.

I was definitely glad that (for no particular reason other than chance) the other day I’d applied a waterproof spray to the outside of my (suede) walking boots.

It’s proven something to me though (although I didn’t need convincing really – it’s just the associated cost) that for Snowdon I need a non-cotton pair of walking trousers that will breathe well and quickly dry, along with a pair of waterproof over trousers.

Today the legs of our jeans (and therefore socks) were soaked.

I’ve resisted buying these so far mostly because of continued weight loss but also (it being summer) they won’t get much use before they’re too big for me. So far I’ve not managed to find any pairs of either one that crosses the cost/comfort/utility divides in a way that makes me want to open my wallet.

My current thinking is that I’m going to buy them closer to the time, and then I may get more use out of them as autumn and winter arrive.

We’ll see…

Thankfully the entirety of our route today wasn’t through sodden fields and long grass. After a while we emerged onto some pretty deserted and tranquil country lanes, that seemed at one point to just go up, and up and up. However – my peak heart rate didn’t seem to go much over 105 bpm the whole time – which I think is a pretty good level of fitness.

I’m not really all that bothered by uphill gradients these days – which is sometimes more than a little weird because I remember my heart pounding like a drum in my chest a year ago purely because I went upstairs to go to the toilet. Quite often back then I saw spots in front of my eyes and heard the the distant beating of a heart shaped drum in my ears as I sat on the loo…

Things have definitely changed for the better. The worst that happened today was I had to take my jacket off because I was getting a little warm.IMG_3324

In total our walk was around 5.15 (relatively leisurely) miles and it’s safe to say that both myself and my companion today felt like we’d had some exercise. However – I was looking at my exercise app after we’d finished and the elevation made me stop and think for a moment.

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Today represented 673 ft (205m) of climbing – which made me check again what this is in comparison to my upcoming objective.

It’s around one sixth – as Snowdon is 3,568 ft (1,088 m) above sea level.

However – the Miner’s track (our chosen route to the top) starts at 1,150 ft (350m) and the route down (via the easier gradient of the Llanberis path following the mountain railway) terminates at 344 ft (105m).

This means that our ascent will be around five times what I did today and the descent slightly longer – but crucially also less likely to grind my knees into dust.

My preparation continues internet. Hopefully I can also keep losing a good amount of weight at the same time. If I can that will definitely help make it a more pleasant experience!

I can’t believe its already Wednesday! Only two more days till my next weigh in…

Eeeek!

More news as it comes!

Davey

 

 

An eye for detail

Last week I took another huge load of clothes to my chosen charity. 

It’s always a bittersweet moment for me because although it’s all for a good cause none of what I have left now represents ‘old money’. Around 65% of the items in those bags were purchases made within the last six months. 

It’s getting to the point again where items (some of which I’d begun to really like wearing) are now just baggy on me and make me feel almost as self conscious as things that appear too tight.  

A couple of weeks ago I made some ‘aspirational’ clothes purchases – but until now had only worn a jumper from my new collection, which are mostly hanging on the backs of chairs in my dining room. 

Today I decided to wear my new jeans. They’re a Sainsburys TU clothing branded 44in waist stonewashed dark blue with a straight cut leg, and after losing a good chunk of weight over the last week they fit me perfectly!

It’s a nice feeling to go for a walk in something that you feel completely at home in. It makes me realise that I often end up going for items that are already pretty loose to hide whatever supposedly offensive body parts that I worry about residing underneath. 

As I passed some workmen with a spring in my step I stopped to cross the road. 

‘Are they new jeans mate?’ One of them said with an impassive look on his face. 

Mildly surprised (and flattered) that the guy with a high visibility jacket seemed to be checking me out I smiled at him and said ‘Yes they are! New today actually!’ Thanks for noticing!’

‘You’ve got stickers on your arse.’ He said, pointing at my arse…

I reached behind me and felt around on my bum while he helpfully continued to indicate their approximate location with an extended index finger. 

There they were. 


I peeled them away and looked at the large dual proclamations that my clothing may dye furniture and was made ‘with stretch‘. 

I couldn’t help but laughing. In fact I couldn’t stop laughing. There’s nothing like a label on your posterior to bring you back down to earth!

I thanked the man, popped the stickers in a nearby bin and carried on walking. 

There was a time (not so very long ago) that someone dressed very much like that man would have been hanging out of a passing van calling me a ‘fat ***t’ – but now they’re helpfully telling me about colour transfer warnings on my hind quarters!

I’m not sure why I’m still laughing while I type – as it’s really silly – but it makes me happy to feel normal

I’m no longer apart from the world in other people’s eyes. I’m just another guy in cheap supermarket jeans with stickers on his arse and I love that. 

I really really love that internet. 

❤️

Davey

In the teens!

Well my week’s experiment has concluded. After a somewhat disappointing 1/2 a pound loss last week I had been looking at what I’d been eating and also what I’d been doing for exercise.

Since the 22nd May I’ve been gardening in earnest – and because of the time involved there has been less walking in my life – but according to Apple Watch this wasn’t an issue. It was telling me I was doing the same (if not more) in the garden as I was out of the house walking from A to B.

However during the period where I’ve pulled the garden round from a complete jungle to a rather usable space I’ve lost roughly half the weight that I have on average in prior weeks. Of course – there’s no rush and I’m not saying a two pound average is a bad thing – but it is a little irritating to feel that you’ve put in the same effort that you used to and for no apparent reason only get back half of the reward you expected.

This week I’ve knocked the gardening on the head (apart from a bit of mowing and weeding) and instead walked around 63 miles. What’s more (unlike the phantom ones reported in the garden from my watch’s pedometer) they’ve been genuine miles counted with GPS and requiring plenty of heavy breathing and sweat.

By the way – when I say sweat I mean LOTS OF SWEAT (it’s been a hot week!)

And this is the result.


I’ve only gone and smashed the target this week!!!

This actually makes me a bit emotional to be honest as I’m finally under the 20 stone barrier. I have to say this again quietly and slowly to myself because I still don’t really believe it.

I am now nineteen stone and twelve pounds.

I’m in the teens!!!

The last time I was anywhere near this weight (I don’t have the specific date sadly) Blur were fighting Oasis for the top spot in the charts, Charles and Diana were newly divorced and Nelson Mandella had become the president of South Africa!

You might imagine that this makes me feel rather sentimental – and that there’s a sense within me that I’m recapturing some sort of youthful spirit – but nothing is further from the truth.

When I look back there are few happy memories.

I was an idiot back then.

Mostly I was covering up one kind of pain or another or running from the wrong partner to the wrong partner again and and again just to prove I was normal and not some emotionally damaged fat kid with an abusive home life.

I had no idea about the enormity of the mistakes I was making and what I was doing to myself physically and emotionally. I papered over almost every crack in my life with cigarettes, alcohol, food – and other things too numerous to detail.

Although there was no digital photography back then I can see this in almost all of the photos that remain. I see someone persistently running away from truly feeling things, being the ‘life and soul of the party’ and burying problem after problem under layer after layer of fat – and ultimately retreating to near isolation.

I don’t miss the mid 90s.

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With this in mind the fact I now also have a fourteen and a half stone certificate barely seems to register in comparison – but I have to admit when I stop and say it to myself slowly and look at my progress from 34st 8.5lbs that’s pretty nice too!

So – what does the week ahead hold for me? Relaxation? Partying? Treating myself? Absolutely none of the above. I’m going to have a go at being a (bit of a) vegetarian this week.

Ok – well – maybe not a complete vegetarian – but I bought lots of Quorn!!!

Ok Ok Ok – maybe I’ll have half meat and half Quorn?!

Oooorrrr possibly some veggie days and maybe the rest as meat days?…

Either way internet –  it’s hopefully going to be another week of walking and healthy eating – so watch this space! The next stop on my route is my (mildly unbelievable) fifteen stone certificate!!!

Davey

Inept navigator

It’s amazing what you find when you least expect it.

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I stared in surprise and mild disbelief at the boat in front of me. It was hidden by brambles and bushes and I’d initially missed it completely. I’d been looking elsewhere and then my eyes had been drawn to the unexpectedly circular shape of the tiny portholes peeping through the thorns and ivy.

I wasn’t sure why or how it ended up sitting there – in the middle of a bush but there it was.

My day started in a completely different place and I’d really not expected to find looking at a seagoing vessel in the middle of Warwickshire.

I’d originally decided to visit Chesterton Windmill – purely because I’d driven past it after a walk some weeks ago and had been meaning to find out more about it. It’s pretty darned old it turns out – and from what I’d read online has been a feature of the Warwickshire countryside since 1632, and overlooked the ancient Roman settlement of Great Chesterton – which had originally been established between 140 and 160AD!

It was surely worth a look.

When I arrived there it was really peaceful.

Initially at least there wasn’t a soul around and I sat looking at the lovely surrounding view from the top of the hill. As one might expect by a windmill it was nice and breezy. The architecture was superb and it was amazing how solid the structure still looked after all this time. They sure don’t build things they way they used to!

Then to my right I noticed an inquisitive visitor – a small white wire haired terrier sniffing the air and looking at me.

Lucky!‘ Shouted an elderly lady nearby. ‘She’s probably after your sandwiches.’ she suggested.

I looked at Lucky and stroked her rough head and back. The poor dog had no way of knowing that bread was pure evil and that I hadn’t eaten any for over a year. She wasn’t living up to her name if acquiring a sandwich was her objective.

‘She probably is!’ I replied – not getting into the pros or cons of fattening lunches. ‘Nice windmill isn’t it!’ I said – walking over to the lady and her husband – who was moving slowly behind whilst leaning heavily on a black metal walking stick.

Lucky put her front paws on his right thigh and looked expectantly at his face. He reached into his pocket to get her a treat.

‘There’s usually an open day in early September’ he said to me feeding a small biscuit to the dog. Lucky moved away, wagging and chewing her snack.

‘…you can go up inside and they start the windmill if it’s not too breezy. It’s completely refurbished – all the original parts!’

We started chatting.

They came here a lot – and it turned out that Lucky was a rescue dog. They loved the windmill and local walks – and we started discussing local churches and stained glass. The old man pointed into the distance and said ‘that one over there was in the Doomsday book. It’s really well kept. You should have a look.’

I peered at where he was indicating and could just about see the top of a church above the tree line. ‘Are there any nice walks nearby?’ I asked.

‘Sure!’ The man said.

‘You can walk in a big loop nearby – it’s about a mile and a half.’ I nodded, still looking at the square tower of the church in the distance. It didn’t seem that far away.

We walked back to our cars chatting for a while as he slowly made his way across the uneven field with his stick. He’d fallen recently and hurt his leg his wife said. He was usually a lot faster she joked – winking at him with a smile.

The ground was proving quite challenging for my brief companion though today, and Lucky threatened to unbalance him several times as she whined for another treat. He eventually gave in to canine pester power and fed her another.

She scuttled off happily chewing again to sniff the grass by the gate and I stroked her while the old lady put her back on the lead. I thanked them warmly for the chat, said my goodbyes and headed off toward Chesterton church, parking about half a mile away.

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When I arrived I was met with a really well kept church that was not only filled with some lovely stained glass – but sat in a supremely well maintained churchyard and demonstrated some impressive masonry carving – both inside and out.

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After looking around for a while and making a small donation I headed off to find the walk.

I’d already met a couple of people along the way stopping each time for a short chat – and they all continued to point me in the same general direction, so I ambled along thinking I couldn’t go too far wrong with such large local landmarks in near view.

Until I met Beaker near the church.

What I know now is that he was a muppet, and was just as new to the area as me. He told me NOT TO TAKE the marked route I was going to directly opposite the church over a field, so – thinking he knew best – I carried on along the country lane.

The path I’d had chosen for me was absolutely lovely though – and wound through what appeared to be private woodland  (and a road lined by oddly leaning trees) with some small nearby lakes absolutely teeming with birds – particularly herons.

However this ended up terminating abruptly at a private residence (Kingston Farm) with a public bridleway sign nearby. Thankfully I had (through the kindness of a proud cartophile friend) access to Ordnance Survey Maps online. I opened the app and looked carefully at the field that the sign pointed to.

No path listed.

Yet in front of me there was a sign and a clearly marked bridleway pointing through the fields. I double checked the map.

Nothing. 

I know NOW (having investigated further this evening) that there are multiple different kinds of maps in the Ordnance Survey app – and I was looking at COMPLETELY the wrong one. The one I’ve scribbled on below is the right one – along with my route.

If I’d been looking at this one I’d have seen a nice little dotted green ‘public footpath‘ line just below the church – which is where Mr Muppet told me not to go…

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I looked into the distance. It didn’t seem so bad. What was the worst that could happen? If it was truly awful I’d just turn back. I opened the gate and headed into the field.

After around 30 minutes of tramping through uneven fields (whilst chasing butterflies!) and realising that several trees had fallen on the path or grown over the fences and gates I finally found my way out onto a road.

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I was standing near an M40 motorway bridge about a mile away fron Warwick services.

I checked the map again. I was quite a long way away from a mile and half of circular walk. There was a route back to the church over the bridge and through Lighthorne Heath along the B4100 but it was quite a trek. I’d already done around three miles and this looked like it was slightly longer. Plus it was now starting to rain.

I zipped up my fleece and started walking briskly on.

Then something caught my eye. An old derelict Land Rover – and then another – just rotting away in a clearing. As there were no signs suggesting this was private property (although it probably was) I decided to have a quick peek (touching absolutely nothing) and take some pictures to play with my camera.

Randomly it was here I found myself standing next to a large boat.

It was propped up on wooden supports, partially gutted and slowly being reclaimed by nature.

I’m not entirely sure why but this made the whole day worthwhile. It was so unique and unexpected – and strangely beautiful that I couldn’t help but look all around it.

My mind was instantly full of thoughts about why it was there and who stencilled the hand and cannabis leaf onto the cabin. What was its history? How had it come to be here, slowly dying alongside the cars?

I left with many images in my mind about who the owner might have been and what had happened to stop them renovating the vessel. I continued the (long) walk back to the church via a stupidly busy 50 mph B4100 with no paths either side.

(I know now there was a bridleway that would have avoided this – and I dearly wish I’d taken it. This felt dangerous!)

Thankfully this soon turned into fields of relaxing sheep and horses, and TONS of cyclists (I found out this evening that this is the Official Warwickshire Feldon Cycleway!)

So – because of my complete ineptitude with a map I’d somehow managed to turn an apparently short and simple circular walk into a seven mile hike over farmland and twice crossed the M40 – but it had been a really nice day. I genuinely loved unexpectedly getting lost in deserted countryside and having (almost) no idea where I was going.

The day has been full of friendly (if occasionally stupid) people, cute dogs, herons, robins, sparrows, blackbirds, (what looked like) a kestrel hovering by a field on the B4100, sheep and horses.

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It’s made me feel connected with the world in a week where I’ve honestly felt a little apart from it.

One thing’s for sure. I’m going to have to go back and find the proper walk. I want to do it again and next time it needs additional twalking!

Davey

 

Sockfail

So far It’s been a good week for walking and exercise (I’m up to 51 miles so far) – and despite the heat I’ve put in some lengthy single day distances – on Tuesday doing the perfect walk (8.5 miles) for a boiling day – almost completely in the shade to Balsall Common along the Kenilworth Greenway.

Initially my companion and I were going to go to Burton Dassett for a hill walk (since I really need to get this kind of workout into my routine) but the heat eventually made us decide against it and do something that I knew was cooler and less exposed

Boy was it a good call. The day was roasting.

We also (quite by accident because the pub was closed when we arrived) found an out of the way little cafe at a fishery behind Berkeswell railway station at the end of the walk. It was a lovely friendly little place with cheap coffee and outdoor shade where me and my fellow twalker sat for about 45 minutes hiding from the heat.

Kudos to the Lavender Hall guys – they were really cool in more ways than one!

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However – as nice as THAT walk was, yesterday I learned the hard way about trainer socks which wasn’t so great.

Having never owned (what I previously considered were very silly things) a pair of the little slip on sockettes that give the illusion of a bare ankle when combined with shorts and running shoes I purchased some the other day.

I’ve only worn shorts in public once before and that was to Slimming World on Saturday because it was so hot. I didn’t really mind going there dressed like this as I don’t feel like I’ll be judged by my group – regardless of how I look.

I had decided that I was going to wear shorts again for a walk in the heat – something I’d have never done a couple of months ago – which (on the plus side) indicates a newfound body confidence (of sorts) but honestly I still have a long way to go with self perception.

I was so self conscious before leaving the house that I even took photos of myself to make sure that I didn’t look stupid from any angle.

I’m still not convinced – but after scrutinising the photos (and tutting endlessly at my belly) I thought I looked acceptable enough to go out. I’d made my sock purchase so that I didn’t feel like a tubby grandad with mid calf walking socks and trainers.

More fool me. 

After a mile both Achilles’ tendons by the top of my trainers were shredded and I had to turn back. By the time I got home after (just over) two silly frikkin miles I’d deployed both of the emergency plasters I carry in my wallet (thankfully I’m always prepared for this) but both sides had already blistered and popped.

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Theoretically these (Tesco) ‘silicone heel grip’ socks should magically stay in place, and cover all the bits that needed covering – but in reality all they did was continually slip off and bunch up underneath my feet.

To make matters even worse, on a day that I wanted to get out and keep the impetus with walking going for my weigh in I was now benched. If I went outside again then I’d make the problem worse and since it eventually turned into the hottest June day in the UK since the 1976 heatwave yesterday I had zero intention of getting on my exercise bike in a house that already felt like the inside of a microwave when I was sitting still.

The rest of the day then turned into a festival of me feeling overly sorry for myself (actually I was a little glum before all this – as sleep has been hard to come by in the heat) playing video games and picking at food in the fridge from midday to midnight.

As always none of it was ‘bad food’ but none of it was in the correct quantity either.

I kept telling myself I was probably thirsty rather than hungry – and drinking pint after pint of water but it seemed to have little effect. I finished the evening close to midnight by eating a whole jar of gherkins and 400g of sandwich ham.

Consequently I awoke still annoyed with myself today and my mood hasn’t really progressed past that feeling. I’ve walked to the supermarket with fresh plasters on my heels and both of them still really hurt – with the right one now actually bleeding.

Silly ****ing socks!

Also the sky is grey and the air is humid.

Grumble grumble, mutter mutter…

(Author saves post for later. He doesn’t like moaning and posting sulky things. He’ll review it when he’s done more with his day…)

Ok Ok – I’ve moved over my moody hump thanks to exercise. My feet still hurt but I’ll get over it. Today (rather than taking carrier bags) I wore my new super cheap 30 litre rucksack (bought for £16 with Snowdon in mind) to the supermarket and filled it full of shopping.

 

I was interested in how it would feel on my shoulders when fully loaded. I now know -having individually weighed all the items that I’d bought on my kitchen scales (I have no bathroom scales to do it all in one go – they would drive me insane if I was tempted to use them all the time) that the whole lot weighed 11064 grams (24.4 lbs) which is almost 2 stone. This added bulk added up to a pretty good workout as it’s almost two miles from Aldi to my front door (with the last bit being uphill) and I definitely felt the added weight.

The bag was great, the straps were comfortable, and I think I’ve made a good purchase!

Yay!

It’s really weird to think that I was carrying around seven and a half of these rucksacks around with me all the time in April 2016. I’m not sure how I did it! (……) Although – on reflection I didn’t – because I could hardly move – so I suppose that answers that question…

So internet – there’s only one more day to go before weigh in. It’s been a good week for exercise – but a mixed one for eating – as well as being humid as hell. This has definitely left me feeling like I’m carrying extra fluid – so I have absolutely zero idea what this combination of factors will mean for my losses. I guess the only thing I can do is continue to try and be good, and keep doing what I’m doing until then.

Fingers crossed.

Davey

Moob sweat

‘I’m melting’ has been a common text / Facebook status update today – and I can wholeheartedly agree with those who’ve shared it – particularly as I chose yesterday and today as my pivot point away from the garden (for a while) and back towards the open road. 

I’ve been putting in the walking miles again and today they have been hot ones. 

For all the girls out there – I feel your pain. Boob sweat is a curse and guys such as myself with moobs stand with you in solidarity today. 


I’d retreated after the first five miles into the air conditioning of a coffee shop when the above (erotically charged) photo was taken. 

I haven’t spilled a drink – I’m sweating from maintaining a heat rate of 90-110 in scorching sunshine for around 90 minutes. 

The waistband of my trousers looked much the same and thankfully a long shirt and tee shirt covered a similar embarrassment of rear cleavage moisture. 

However the west wasn’t won by staying indoors when it got a little warm – and I’m not letting the heat slow me down. 

Rather than the virtual ‘miles’ my watch thinks I walked while chopping things down in the garden, today (despite the soaring temperatures) I did ten and a half actual sticky, salty, exhausting miles along canals and up and down the hills and paths of Warwickshire. 

My clothes were so drenched and so sticky this evening when I arrived home that I put everything I was wearing immediately in the washing machine and climbed into the coldest shower my heating system would allow. 

But I felt good – for more than one reason. 

I was sitting in the park munching through lunch earlier today. It was admittedly an unconventional one. Aldi are doing two Romaine lettuces for 49p at the moment so I was eating one (along with 6 tomatoes and a red pepper with a tub of cottage cheese) like a giant green carrot when a bunch of tiny school children in high visibility vests passed with their teachers on a field trip.  

In the past they would have all pointed and said ‘look at that fat man!’

Today they all said ‘Lettuce! That man’s eating a lettuce!‘ And all of them pointed at the lettuce eater, repeating ‘lettuce!’ as they passed. 

I prefer the vegetable categorisation to being called fat – although I’m quietly also glad that they weren’t mistaking it for a cabbage – as that’s almost as bad!

As I was sitting at home in front of my large fan this evening I was thinking about this event as I flicked through the channels and noticed a programme on BBC1 called ‘supersize cabbies’


The guy on the right is Mike, although he might as well be called Davey because he was roughly the same age as me and 31stone when he started his battle to lose weight. 

Sadly his obstacles were more difficult to overcome than my own. He had the same peripheral oedema in his legs that I did, but he (unlike me) was diagnosed with heart failure during the making of the documentary and was eventually admitted to hospital with kidney failure. 

After a month in there recovering from this event he went on to lose a total of 11st during the year long period that the programme covered – which brought him to almost exactly the same 20st weight as I am now… 

I must admit there was a tear in my eye as I watched. I felt all of his pain. 

Not just the physical pain or sense of initial hopelessness that I could see in his face, but the underlying emotional damage he had inflicted upon himself. When he started to cry after losing his initial three stone I was right there with him. 

The truth is I’ve worked hard to get where I am now and it didn’t just magically happen – but I’m also a very lucky man

Somehow I’ve avoided (at least for the time being) the worst aspects of what he experienced and hopefully I never will. 

It makes boy boob sweat something completely inconsequential. 

I don’t care if I look tired or sweaty whilst out and about – in fact I’m glad if I do. Every drop of sweat equals effort put in – and it just motivates me more to go out and get soaked. 

I’ll be out doing the same again tomorrow internet and I don’t care who sees drenched Davey one little bit. 

Davey

You’ve NOT won an iPhone 7

I finally addressed my long standing commitment issues today and signed on for the paid version of WordPress. This is mostly in response to several people highlighting to me that my blog was serving those viewing my posts on a mobile browser ‘congratulations you’ve won an iPhone 7‘ spam messages over and over again.

I hadn’t seen the issue myself outside of Facebook until I realised that I’m logged into my account on my phone and I don’t get adverts in Safari.

So – apologies for the grief you’ve been getting. Everything is gloriously ad free now and in the process I have a domain name too. If you feel the need to punish yourselves further and wish to endure more of me with uninterrupted regularity then my site can be bookmarked here:

http://www.daveywankenobie.blog/

In other news I’ve been thinking about my diminishing returns over the last few weeks with weight loss and how to turn things around.

I thought I’d not been doing anything different – which has confused me – until I looked at the dates of my weigh ins.

I started gardening in earnest on the 22nd of May – and due to the effort involved this has over the last month become (from a time and effort perspective) around 50% of my weekly exercise. If you look at my progress since that date the average weight loss has noticeably dropped.

Now – I can live with 2lb a week as an average – and I’m not chasing colossal figures any more (I wasn’t to begin with – but they seemed to just happen) but I have some plans in the very near future that would be a LOT easier on my knees if I could drop another stone relatively quickly.

According to Apple Watch I’ve been doing the same (if not more) in the garden as I would have been if I’d been walking – however it measures arm movements as step counts and if I’m not running an exercise programme on it then it only checks my pulse every 10 minutes.

It’s translated my chopping motion while I bag stuff up into steps and I think it’s worked out my calorie burn based on that (seemingly endless) reciprocal movement that I’ve been doing with my arms lately.

So this week I’m laying off the garden. It’s under control for the time being. I’m getting back to something that’s more of an aerobic exercise that makes me out of breath instead of developing biceps and triceps.

You may ask what the reason for this sudden focus is – and the answer is that I’ve finally stopped abstractly talking about climbing up Snowdon and actually booked a date (including the hotel) with a friend to go and do it.

I’ve mentioned when this is to a few people but for the time being I won’t be putting anything on my blog in case it changes for any reason.

Either way predominantly doing my garden for exercise in the run up to this event won’t cut anything but grass. I need to increase my fitness and most importantly strengthen the muscles I will use for downhill walking.

After my Malvern trip (link) I was crippled for days with cramp in my thighs (although encouragingly in the days following there was little joint pain in my knees) from the various descents.

Originally (partially because of this) I’d thought about doing Snowden one way only and getting the train down – but it turns out that this has to be booked well in advance and I don’t want to be rushing up a mountain to find I’ve missed my journey back.

Plus I’d like to say that I did the whole thing.

Comfortably.

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This is not the first time I’ve done this mountain however. I did it around two decades ago. The above picture is me (sigh… hair… how I miss thee…) on the Miner’s Track around 2/3rds of the way up in either 1998 or 1999 (?).

The last attempt was successful but I was woefully unprepared. I was horrendously unfit, did no exercise prior to my ascent other than walking to the video shop on the pier near my flat in Aberystwyth occasionally, took nothing with me on the day – and ended up limping down in the dark with my companions.

Then I had to drive everyone home.

I know from a Weight Watcher’s report card that stretches between late 1998 and early 1999 at the time that I was somewhere in the region of 24-26 stone – but it’s really hard to tell exactly how big I was. It’s quite a range and I’ve no exact dates to work it out with.

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To put it simply – although I completed the climb I was a mess during it and crippled afterwards – so this time I’m going prepared. I’ve been quietly collecting bits and pieces (on a seriously tight budget) to take with me so far and I’ve been reading up on specific exercises to strengthen downhill muscle groups.

I’ve also borrowed some walking poles from a kind friend which apparently really help in the knee department on a descent.

Thankfully my companion for the climb is also the type that likes planning ahead. We’ve been walking together for many months now and know each others fitness levels pretty well – so I think we’re a good match for the challenge.

So – watch this space!

In other news, whilst in search of the perfect cardio heart rate today I walked (without knowing it was taking place) into the Leamington Peace Festival. I presume that they meant peace in terms of ‘an end to conflict’ rather than ‘peace and quiet’ as it was a rather noisy affair – with lots of reassuringly hairy people wearing tie-dyed hemp clothing in attendance.

There were some nice stalls and lots of funky live music playing in the background – and given the weather everyone looked pretty happy to be there, baking away in the sunshine with what seemed like large quantities of beer and cider.

All in all they seemed pretty peaceful!

I couldn’t help thinking though that the people there (who brought with them a distinctly hippy vibe) would be the kind of people who believed in peace anyway – particularly the guys at the ‘free hugs’ stand where you could go and drink in the milk of human kindness with no strings attached.

I can’t imagine those with more radical and narrow minded views giving up their normal day of hating everything and everyone that’s different to them to attend. For those that did though I applaud you. Amongst the stands I saw a lovely mixture of faiths, philosophies, ethnicity, genders, ages, and sexual preferences.

Heartwarmingly they seemed to all be getting on very well together.

One can only hope internet that they get their way – and we all get peace (and quiet).

Davey

Ankles then and now

Some years ago I had a catastrophic hard drive failure on my PC that wiped out most of the digital photos I’d taken over a period of about 6-7 years. At the time I was really upset that pictures of people I loved had been lost – but at the same time strangely happy that the slate had been wiped clean when it came to images of me. Although at the time I didn’t keep many of myself the ones that had survived manual deletion were still horrid.

The worst thing about such photos is that they were usually captured at special events like Christmas parties, birthdays, weddings or other celebrations. The pictures that I lost told a story that often stood apart from the happiness any particular event though and usually represented to me the negatives of any given moment rather than the positives.

They were a reminder of how out of place I had come to feel in society – and the complex web of compromises that my ever diminishing life had become because of chronic obesity.

This morning when I awoke (stupidly early after a crappy night’s sleep) I decided to import all of my photos from my camera and organise them. While doing so I started to review some older ones from 2007 onwards.

I like very few of them.

I found one of me, pint in hand (back when I still drank) and arm in arm with a work colleague at a Christmas party in 2012. We’re both smiling but I know I’d been standing at the bar for over an hour and I was in crippling pain. I was in so much discomfort that night I ended up getting drunk enough (which was my preferred pain management drug at the time) to give myself a five day hangover. It was as close to alcohol poisoning as I think I’ve ever been.

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I don’t miss drinking. This photo is a good reminder to me of why.

In another photo I’m at my friend’s wedding in 2014 – again arm in arm. She looks lovely in her vintage 1920’s wedding dress, whereas I look like I need another invite solely for my stomach. Again we’re smiling and look happy. However, after it was taken outside the church we had to walk to the nearby village hall 300 metres or so downhill along a country lane.

I had to do this with a guy who was super fit (he’s in the army). In contrast to him I could hardly walk, let alone stand up. I was shaking like a leaf and about to fall over when we reached the hall. I had to sit in my car with the air conditioning on until my heart stopped pounding before I could go into the reception.

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I’ve edited friends out of photos because I never post images of people without their permission – and I haven’t asked them if it’s ok – although in truth I doubt they’d mind. They seem really happy that we’re spending time together and maybe that’s their recollection of that moment.

For those of you new to the blog these are more recent photos of me…

However there was one particular photo that stopped me in my tracks. I’d forgotten that I’d taken it. This is of my lower leg on October 15th 2014. The second one (for comparison) I took this morning – the 17th June 2017.

(I apologise to those that don’t like feet.)

I regularly suffered with peripheral oedemas in my ankles (swollen skin due to water retention – NHS link) and it used to collect while I was seated. In my case I think it was mostly because of the pressure of my stomach on my thighs but also because my heart was struggling with my inactivity and the burden of around 35 stone.

That foot (and another just like it) is in my boot in both of the above photos – but you can’t see it. I however could always feel it.

The skin at times was so tight and so painful that it felt like it was going to burst open. At it’s best it just constantly itched as the skin stretched and it often had a mild burning sensation. I also regularly suffered with cellulitis (NHS link) because of it and the skin all over my lower leg became red and inflamed. It made me physically sick and I used to lie shivering in bed when I had a bout of it come on. The only way to clear it up was antibiotics, and over the course of a few years I had to take a couple of weeks off sick from work because I got so ill.

Often I’ve said in passing to people that I sometimes do a double take because I don’t recognise my legs or feet – and I’m sure that they think I mean that I haven’t seen them because my belly was in the way – but that’s not it at all.

In my mind I still have to squeeze my foot into a boot that barely fits because of the problem I used to have, but in reality I now wear shoes that didn’t fit before and thick chunky walking socks most of the time. It’s odd to look at my feet now because they don’t look like they belong to me.

I spent so long with feet like the picture on the left that the picture on the right doesn’t compute in my mind.

It’s when I look at things like this that I know every moment of restraint when it comes to food is worth it. Every extra mile I’ve walked has been for a good cause – and every week I go to Slimming World and stand on the scales is a victory – whatever the result.

(Author stops writing and prepares to go to weigh in.)

Well it’s still coming off! If I’m honest given the exercise I’ve done this week I feel half a pound is a little undeserved – but it’s also very hot. My watch strap is noticeably tighter and I’m sure fluid counts here.

Plus I’m not in the business of undermining success. It’s a loss and I’m taking the win. Focusing on the pictures and difference above is all the incentive I need to take everything going in the right direction as a positive.

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I’ll try harder this week and see what I can come up with.

In the meantime I’ll have a bite to eat. I have a Slimming World fry up in mind. I don’t normally have them – but Angie’s suggestion to improve weight loss this week was to mix things up a bit and get some food variety on the go, so I’ll be eating different things this week to see what happens.

Beans, bacon medallions, tomatoes, mushrooms and egg… Mmmm – I’m salivating already!

I think I’ll also go for a walk shortly – but I may just wait for it to cool down a bit. It’s an absolute scorcher!

Davey

Allotment ivy

Although I have come to hate it with a passion there’s absolutely no denying that ivy is great for relieving stress. Not content with working on my own garden I agreed to help a friend out on his allotment today – and it’s nice to finally be physically able to return some of the help he and others have given me over the years when I’ve been incapable.

When taking on his allotment he inherited a plot where successive owners seem to have ignored a continuing problem with this weed of a plant and instead covered it with layer upon layer of black plastic and nylon sacking.

Someone did the same on my garden’s borders and so far I’ve not pulled this horrible (and rotten) stuff up to see the full horror of what lies beneath. If today is anything to go by it won’t be pretty…

In response to its treatment on the allotment the ivy went underground, growing even stronger and even more sinewy. It continued (now hidden from view) to migrate further along the ground, working its way through the black sacking and then under and through everything else.

The stuff is like a virus.

Although we had already cleared a small spot in this picture there was clearly a LOT of work to do along the fence line – which was where it was all coming from.

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I have to say I’m rather jealous of the ease that things can be disposed of on this particular allotment plot. In my case ripping all this down would then result in lots of chopping and stuffing a recycle bin or bags for the tip.

Before starting at the allotment I took another 6 of my own sacks to my local one this morning – bringing the total number of them (stuffed full of garden waste) I’ve now shifted to a rather mind boggling 75 sacks

Each of these theoretically contains 95 litres – so if I had around 75 in each then that means 5625 litres of rubbish has so far been pruned or pulled out of my garden (and thats not counting the huge green bins)

Also – to fit the bush branches I’ve lopped into these has taken a LOT of pruning. The pile I created from the remaining section where the blackbird was nesting took somewhere in the region of 15 (approx) bags. I also started counting last night (during this seemingly endless and mundane task) how many cuts I have to make to the average (rather large) branch in order to fit it into my wheelbarrow before I start putting it into bags.

I lost count after 100… It’s a LOT.

Basically it takes tons of chopping. For the last two days alone I’ve done nothing for around 3.5 hours but a continuous chopping motion. However – without a chipper I don’t see any alternative. It all has to be moved somehow.

On the bright side it’s been absolutely stunning for exercise. So much so that today we were happily pruning away for a 3-4 hours before I excused myself to go and get some lunch at around 2pm.

It’s always nice doing things together though. As my friend said today you get more than twice as much done with two of you working in tandem. It’s the ability to share the load, have a natter and a laugh in the process that makes the difference – and boy did we clear the end of his plot.

 As always this kind of wholesale removal of ivy uncovers lots of creepy crawlies – and a young robin was following us around all day. It was quietly watching what we were doing and then hopping in when food was available.

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This little fellow was such a feature of the day, and so comfortable with our company that at times it seemed like he was posing for photos – and as you might imagine I’m not really one to complain!

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When we’d had enough we sat back (me in my newly purchased £4 folding camping chair from the recycle centre that would never have fit my ass six months ago) and looked at our handiwork.

Although there was still a lot t do it looked much better than when we’d started!

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At this point I took a selfie – not realising that half a tree full of bits appears to be stuck to my head – but hey ho!

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I can’t help noticing that I look a little tanned at the moment – and I’m just loving how capable I feel. It was a big thing for me a year ago to feel like I could walk anywhere and move through the world unaided.

I feel like I’ve cracked that now.

However what I hadn’t really thought too much about until fairly recently was what I could do from a hard work perspective in the world.

I don’t mean drilling holes in the road or working on building sites (although you never know) – I mean that I always thought that I hated this kind of thing. I’ve said over and over that I didn’t like gardening and I didn’t like DIY.

What I really meant though was that I didn’t like the way they made me feel both physically and emotionally.

Nowadays they seem to be having absolutely the opposite effect – and I’m genuinely enjoying the hard work that they represent. Sitting back on that chair looking at the blank fence panels felt awesome. Helping my friend felt awesome. The coffee tasted sweeter, the air smelled fresher – and it made me happy to be there.

Later in the evening another friend happened to send me a picture taken in 2012 of me holding her then newborn baby.

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It reminded me that when I held her son in my arms I couldn’t sit properly on her very large leather sofa.

I couldn’t rest him on my lap because  at the time I didn’t have one.

I couldn’t turn around to put him down.

I couldn’t lean forward with him.

I couldn’t stand up from the sofa and hold him while I did so.

I couldn’t do anything but have the baby handed to me and then after a while hand him back.

Things are very different now internet – and if ivy continues to make new Davey possible then I accept it’s challenge. I’ll pull it and dig at it and tear at it for as long as it takes. This is not only so that I can continue to feel the way I do now – but eventually so that when I hit my target I’ll look back on this moment with a wry smile and think about what I did to get there and what I learned about myself along the way.

Davey

Banded demoiselle

Yesterday I walked into Sainsburys to get a coffee and unexpectedly walked out with a bag of clothes that I’d purchased because they were half price.

This in itself is really not unusual I suppose – as clothes from shops like Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys are now cheap enough to make buying them little more than impulse purchases for most people. When the items are half price it’s even easier to make a decision.

What’s unusual about this for me is that I walked out with a bag containing pretty much an entire outfit that I could wear immediately if I chose to.

Although I’ve made spotty purchases here and there from high street shops a lot have been (in my view) slightly aspirational, and were things that I’d ‘shrink into’. This is the first time I’ve been able to go in, take a range of clothes from a sale rack, try them on and just buy them knowing I could wear them the same day if I chose to.

However – almost as importantly – I got two tee shirts, two long sleeved tops, a pair of denims and a lightweight raincoat for £37. This is £3 cheaper than the cost of ONE SHIRT from a specialist retailer when I was in the 4-8XL size range. 

Given how tight money is currently I can’t overstate how awesome this is!!!

I think in all honestly my exercise is helping immensely in this area. Even though according to the scales I’m not flying down in weight any more (my current average is around 2lbs a week) I do seem to be dropping in inches, and I’ve noticed in particular with my gardening a pronounced difference in my upper body. My legs and stomach are also noticeably more at home in my trousers – where I’m forever tightening my belt.

It’s really encouraging progress!!!

Mind you – although I have the garden (amongst other things) to thank for my good news my horticultural endeavours have now moved from a pastime where I could see sweeping visual changes to what’s becoming less rewarding grunt work. Now all the bushes have been cut back I have digging and tidying to do, and ivy is the work of the devil.

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In the process of rescuing my trees I’ve stripped tons of the stuff away from their trunks and roots. I’ve also now cut a clear band completely around the middle of my larger tree and severed all the vines theoretically keeping the leaves and tendrils further up alive.

Not so long ago the trunk looked like this…

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Cutting a band around the middle is one thing though. Getting the rest of the ivy off the tree higher up is another thing entirely.

After hacking through one particularly thick vine yesterday I was amazed to see it peel off the tree into the canopy above me. It came away surprisingly easily. I continued to pull it outwards while it slowly tore away from the branches over my head.

Then I pulled.

Nothing.

So I wrapped both hands around it and pulled a few more times with significant force.

Still nothing.

I then wrapped the vine around my right arm and lifted my feet off the ground, swinging on it like Tarzan.

Twenty stone of chubby man just hung there without a single creak from above or indication that I was anywhere close to breaking anything ivy related. I gave up in the end, and resolved to come back later when it had died.

In the meantime I busied myself with chopping up vines and branches to take to the tip – which now stands at a total of 69 sacks of refuse and counting. I’m not sure the frogs or birds love me any more though, as I’m removing all the fun places they liked to chill out in.

This little guy nearly got bagged and tagged yesterday – but at the last minute I noticed him. He had a narrow escape and would have been heading for the mulching plant if he hadn’t blinked at me from between the leaves.

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Today though (at least for the morning) I left the garden to it’s own devices and went for a walk. It’s been amazingly sunny all day today – and quite draining if you’re not in the shade.

I’ve been drinking water like I had a camel’s hump to fill today and I’ve needed every drop. I’m also pretty sure that despite liberal application of factor 50 suncream my newly shaven cue ball like head may have burned a little. It’s all tingly.

It’s been worth it though.

Initially neither myself or my friend were sure where to go – and had been poring over an ordnance survey map to see if anything jumped out that looked interesting.

(warning –  for one particular reader the next photo may prove unduly arousing.)

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In the end (partially due to time constraints) we decided to go for a walk I’ve done a few times before (link) but that my companion today has never seen – which was along the Grand Union canal and the Offchurch Greenway.

It’s a lovely little five mile walk and easy to do in under two hours if you have a good pace. Today though I was probably a little slower than usual mostly because I was entranced by how the seasons seemed to be so swiftly moving on. Everything was changing so rapidly!

What was once a swan nest on the canal bank the last time I passed…

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Is now a family with four large cute and fluffy swanlings!

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The canal is also home to other juvenile residents, and as well as ducks there were quite a few fledgeling moorhens skittishly darting about in the water – all under the watching gaze of parents sitting by the banks.

However – for me the CROWNING GLORY of the day was not only spotting several banded demoiselles but actually getting close enough to one to take this photo.

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If I had any lingering doubts about whether I should have bought a camera or not then this picture washed them all away. It’s probably one of the best photographs I’ve ever taken – let alone one of the most beautiful.

Step aside swanlings. There’s a new king in town!

Anyway internet – I need to get back to the garden. I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow, and I won’t be able to get to it at all.

 

‘It’s a boy!’


My companion were sitting quietly in a bird hide discussing the view in front of us.

In particular we were focusing on the two families of mute swans on the opposite bank of the nearby lake. Once more we were visiting the grounds and wildlife reserve at Coombe Abbey – but today were both of us were armed with proper cameras and not just our smartphones.

‘I’ve no idea how to tell which is male and which is female…’ I said abstractly – reflecting on a serious gap in my knowledge regarding one of my favourite animals. In front of us as I looked through my viewfinder a small flotilla of them passed serenely by with four little swanlings in a row.

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My friend fell silent – looking at her phone, and I was momentarily distracted by an unexpected flyby of a heron, heading for a small island on the lake to the right of us.

I just managed to point my camera and focus in time as it passed me by. I looked at the camera photo viewer and smiled looking at the result. I’d managed to capture it in mid flight and it was only a teeny bit blurry!

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My friend touched my shoulder. ‘It’s the size of their knob.’ She said, giggling a little.

I looked around smirking. ‘The size of their knob?’ I said.

‘Yes – the knob on their noses. If they have a big knob it’s a male and if they have a small knob it’s a female!’ She replied, and carried on scanning through the article.

‘…but not all of them have big knobs…’ she continued, despite me obviously starting to titter next to her.

‘If they don’t have a big knob the only way to tell is to stick a finger up it’s bum.’ She said triumphantly – seemingly satisfied with Google’s explanation.

‘What will you find up it’s bum if it’s a male then?’ I asked, now laughing.

‘I don’t know..’ she said ‘…you just have to stick a finger up it’s bum!

Immediately I envisioned an offended swan on the end of my finger shouting ‘**** off!’ in a manly voice – and THAT being the indicator of whether it was a daddy or a mommy.

Since I rather like smutty humour I spent the rest of the afternoon chuckling away to myself thinking about invaded swans swearing at their inappropriate investigators in a male Glaswegian accent (their offence in my imagination seemed somehow Scottish) whilst a guy in an overcoat holding a clipboard nearby duly noted that this was a male swan and no longer of the ‘mute’ variety.

Although today was overcast and cooler than my last visit the plants and wildlife were no less fascinating than they were before – and all were somehow subtly different.

Although the herons were hard to capture on their island (even with 30x zoom) I managed to get a couple of shots of them and the geese nearby – who continually floated past in little armadas of orange and brown.

They weren’t the only ones around that day though and I spotted another few I’d not seen before.

Now – I’m not 100% sure about this – but I think (from looking at the RSPB site) that the little grey one with the insect is a Pied Wagtail (although it could also be a Water Pipit) that the large goose is of Egyptian descent while the lovely little guy with the flash of blue on his wing on the log is a Jay.

It’s also been quite a nice day for flowers and fungi!

All in all a most amusing and relaxing day of twalking and bird watching was had by all concerned!

In other news – I’d like to thank my audience for their kind comments regarding my recent emissions issues.

There have been many helpful suggestions for how to stem the gaseous tides – which I will look into and take into consideration. Low stomach acid, artichoke tablets, and brewers yeast have all been suggested as potential culprits and may well be valid.

However the kind offer of ‘a big cork’ by one reader will probably not solve the issue at hand, so I’ve discounted that one.

If things get really bad internet I can always pretend to be a swan and hope that (thanks to my small nose) a kind ornithologist is nearby to help with the blockage…

Davey

Windy day

The effects of dramatic weight loss are (I’ve found) often unpredictable – and throughout my journey I’ve experienced a variety of odd feelings, strains, tensions and pains. I’ve put a lot of this down to my body weight shifting and stressing different muscles and ligaments in the process.

Around the 11-12st mark I started getting a lot of lower back ache while walking. It’s been following me around for a while – but for the most part thankfully it’s now gone.

I’m left instead with another quite bizarre malady.

Epic farting.

I first noticed that this was a feature of walks when I realised that a side effect of rapidly shrinking buttocks was that I could no longer clench with precision and silently allow any offending visitors to exit unnoticed.

It’s led to a few (ahem) ‘noisy moments’ and occasional shifting of the blame to ‘creaky trees’ or ‘naughty dogs’ (sorry Boris).

Although my regular companions are good natured enough to just find this funny I’ve been trying (without much success) to discover exactly what in my diet has caused this – since nothing has changed. I’ve read online many competing theories for what will cause such rampant flatulence, and some sites suggest broccoli is a leading cause. Others lay the blame at the feet of garlic. Some point the finger of suspicion at onions – and the gaze of others falls upon beans.

The problem is that I love all of these things and they’re really good for me. They also happened to be pretty much everything that I picked up in the stampede of cheap food at Tesco last night.

So I cooked them all up with some soy sauce, salmon and prawns, extinguished all naked flames and tucked in anyway.

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Trust me when I say that the duvet covers were billowing last night…

Either way I’ve decided to just say ‘sod it’ and carry on eating the healthy food I love and continuing to fart until whatever is happening inside me goes along it’s merry way and the next odd bodily quirk arrives.

In the meantime I apologise to all in advance for any unusually strained expressions and occasional unfortunate noises. I will though continue to let havoc fly in the great outdoors as much as possible.

The weather has been almost perfect for this today.

It’s been pretty breezy – and although the afternoon has perpetually threatened rain – all the bad bits held off at all the right times. While the sun was shining first thing this morning (now the blackbirds have moved on) I was also able to trim back the last pesky section of bush in the garden and expose the view all the way down the left hand side to the shed.

Once again – here is a ‘before’ shot followed by a ‘current’ one.

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I started this on the 21st May – so it’s taken almost three whole weeks to get to this point and a lot of hard graft. It’s still a work in progress – but it’s definitely coming on. I’ve got another large pile to dispose of on the right hand side (probably on Tuesday as I have plans tomorrow) and then I need to take care of the ivy on the back of my tree before I start thinking about digging out roots embedded deeper in the ground all over the place.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve started abstractly dreaming about the order in which I need to do things out there now so I’m pretty sure this is becoming something of a minor obsession.

In order to have a change of pace from this today I’d agreed to go for a walk with a friend – who is (like me) focusing on getting a lot fitter, and making progress with her couch to 5K app. Although I decided to delay starting mine (we began at the same time) she’s been able to carry on and is doing pretty well by all accounts.

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We’ve been twalking together for quite a while now – and as we briskly strode today (just over eight miles in a loop to the Harvester for lunch and back) remarked upon how when we’d first done that route many weeks ago we’d felt pretty tired by the time we’d got to the restaurant.

This afternoon we didn’t – and it’s rather amazing how with a little friendly rivalry over step counts (she’s shorter than me and I suspect usually wins because of her teeny legs) and heart rates on our respective fitness watches we’ve both noticeably improved.

Compared to where we started we’ve both got faster and are regularly walking much longer distances together.

In fact today we took a slightly more scenic route both to and from our destination and even found the two remaining swanlings (from an original brood of seven) in St Nicholas Park pottering around by the opposite bank.

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We also spotted these strange little beasties ALL OVER a nearby mossy wall just sitting and soaking up the sunshine. I have no idea what they are – and can’t remember ever seeing one before.

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Does anyone in internetland know what they are? I can’t find them in my online searches – and although it won’t keep me awake at night I’m quite curious as to what they are and why I’ve never seen one before…

Anyway. I just had another garlic and veg stir fry – this time with some chicken and Slimming World Chorizo style sausages.

I’m pretty certain that from a rear burping perspective this won’t be a great outcome internet – so I better go and strap myself in for a wild ride.

Davey

Swedishly frugal

It”s 9.50am on Saturday and I’m listening to Classic FM. I have my feet up on my POÄNG footstool and I’m in my POÄNG armchair, feeling very Swedish. I’m also feeling very frugal as – thanks to some patient bargain hunting – I managed to get both 2nd hand for a total of £14.

This compares very favourably to buying them new – which for the particular combination I purchased would have been £135 (although the covers do need a run through the washing machine).

However – to an extent this purchase is partially aspirational, because although the chair is rated to support a weight of 170kg (about 26st 10lbs) I’m convinced I’m going to break it, so I’ve propped the back of it up against the wall. It’s going to be a while before I have the balls to put the armchair in the middle of a room and sit there bouncing up and down like everyone else does…

The problem that I still think that my bulk will break most things I sit in – because it always used to. I’ve broken so many pieces of furniture over the years (and car seats) that I gave up counting how many had turned to splinters and sheared metal.

It’s a really difficult mindset to get out of at the best of times.

Last February I was attending some group therapy sessions – and the room was filled with these same POÄNG chairs in a big circle. At the time I was around 35 stone (222kg). I remember myself and another large lady having to ask for office chairs so that we could sit amongst the other attendees.

Unfortunately this made us about 2ft higher up than everyone else. On top of the rather stressful reason for being there (I was looking for support whilst giving up drinking) it was just one more thing to feel self conscious about.

I had a similar issue when I started Slimming World a few months later (link) and walked into a room full of little red chairs intended for an infant school. At the time I was convinced they’d collapse. Now I’m just used to them – but that took quite a while.

At this precise moment though putting my weight on a chair is a secondary consideration and I’m thinking more about stepping on scales – which I’m really not in the mood for. Still – sitting here worrying about the damage I did on Saturday (link) won’t solve anything. I need to get going!

(Makes way to Slimming World)

Well I’m still making steady downward progress – and I’ve lost another pound and a half. The Slimming World site’s progress chart shows that I’m levelling off a little – but still heading in the right direction.

I’m actually rather happy with the current pace. On average I’m losing about 2lb a week and that suits me perfectly. That’s 104lbs a year and would see me reach a weight of 15 stone in 37 weeks.

I may lose it faster, I may lose it slower – but it’s nice to know that at this continued pace I can get to where I want to be by approximately Feb 24th 2018. I think this mindset is much better than sudden dramatic losses followed by a slow week where I never really know what went wrong. That’s an emotional rollercoaster that I want to get off and never get back on again.

Besides – I’ve come to the conclusion that rushing is pointless. I plan to continue going to Slimming World every week once I reach my target anyway. It really doesn’t matter to me in the long term if its a pound a week as long as it’s coming off.

Everything in the right direction is better than standing still or putting weight on!!!

(Author leaves Slimming World for his next appointment.)

After group I headed over to see my friend and have a mooch around his allotment.

Previously I’ll be honest and say I could never really get my head around why people had allotments – especially if they had gardens – but there’s something supremely relaxing about going to one and just soaking up the calm.

You’re surrounded on all sides by things that are growing – and the whole area is both quirky and old – yet full of life and promise at the same time.

 

The variety of the plots and things that people are planting is fascinating. Everywhere you look there are different little shoots starting to flower and bud – birds hopping in and out to forage for food, and the odd crazy looking scarecrow and other strange methods deployed for deterring slugs or mice.

The other wonderful thing about this particular allotment is that there are quite a few little redbrick buildings on the plots. These apparently have preservation orders on them and can be used as sheds, but not modified in any way. They all have pretty unique characters, and I’m told that people used to live in them when they were first built so that they could guard the food on their plots.

 

They all added a lovely visual calm to the place that perfectly complimented the peace and quiet of the plots – most of which were like self contained kingdoms with large hedges and mature platings and sheds.

After the tour we stopped off at my friend’s allotment. Until today I’d never tried Chard – which he’s mentioned he’s been growing a few times. Having tried it I’m still not quite sure what I think of it. He refers to it as ‘peppery’ – but honestly I can’t quite classify it. It’s not sweet and not bitter – but on the cusp of both…

Chard is the red and yellow stalked leaves in the picture – which apparently grow voraciously and can regularly feed a family if pruned and managed well. It’s supposed to be highly nutritious. Its certainly beautiful and crunchy too!

 

My friend was keen to give me some things to try – and I walked away with some topped garlic (these taste like super hot garlic spring onions), a lettuce (it’s so fresh and greeeeeen!) a few leaves of red, orange and white chard, and a good handful of strawberries.

All Boris wanted to eat was grass.

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Despite my continued patient questioning over many many months Boris is still unable to answer the philosophical conundrum I keep posing for him. He just looks at me – and seems unwilling to voice any potential conclusions that he’s silently reached.

Until he comes up with a response I guess I will never know who is a good boy then…

I live in hope that one day he’ll share his stoic wisdom.

(author leaves with his veggie bounty and heads off for his next appointment)

Well – it’s now late evening. Much later than I usually post, so apologies to those who’ve already enquired how the weight loss went this week!

I’ve just been to see ‘The Mummy’.

Honest one word review time.

‘Mmmmmmsookay.’

I don’t think it’s absolutely the best film I’ve seen recently – but also far from the worst. Tom Cruise is as always watchable, running away from lots of things just before they blow up, doing ridiculous stunts and making everyone wonder if somewhere, locked away in an attic there’s a rotting picture of him getting older day by day.

Does the guy never age?

I’ll say one thing for him – whether he’s a scientology nut or just an average Joe he looks after himself. They mummy however? She’s really let herself go. That’s one lady SERIOUSLY in need of a manicure…

Anyway – I now have some Chard and strawberries to eat while I make a salmon stir fry.

I popped into Tesco as I walked home from the cinema and blundered into a (quite literally – there was pushing) feeding frenzy at the reduced food counter. I picked up 6 punnets of raspberries, and loads of stir fry veg trays for 8p each!

Tonight internet I’m going to dine like a (healthy) king for next to nothing whilst sitting on my cheap Ikea chair feeling Swedishly frugal.

Davey

And then there were none…

Today has been my longest day gardening yet – and even if I do say so myself I’ve done a LOT. I started at 8am and finished just after 3 when I finally stopped for lunch. The weather has been changeable – but (despite dire weather predictions) it’s been a pretty nice day to put in some hard graft. The sun has been appearing on and off all day with only a little bit of rain to spoil things occasionally.

When I started doing this three weeks ago everything was aching all the time and I really felt the burn in the evenings – however now the work involved is becoming pretty routine. My arms and shoulders are definitely getting used to sustained gardening (seven flipping hours of it no less!) which they’ve never really had to before.

Visually however this had been a less than spectacular day and the garden doesn’t look massively different from yesterday when I stand back to see where I am. Most of the hard work has been chopping up what I’ve already cut away (this took a gruelling four hours) or removing buried rubbish and ivy.

About two years ago in high wind the ancient fence collapsed by my shed (it was also helped by the neighbour who decided to push it over and put a new one in its place without asking) and since I wasn’t really mobile enough to clear it up I just left the remnants next to the new fence to go rotten.

Although it wasn’t really how I planned it this has made its removal a lot easier for the most part – as it pretty much falls to bits when you push it into bags. Although the area by the fence is not completely finished I think I’ve made a good start.

With the branches from yesterday and the bits of rotten wood and ivy that were knotted together I’ve not only managed to pack solid to the brim my green recycling bin (which was emptied this morning and immediately re-filled for the third time) but taken another 6 bags to the tip, bringing the total to 62.

However – regardless of what I’ve been doing – throughout I’ve only had one thing on my mind.

The blackbird nest.

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It was abandoned when I came out this morning. Overnight high wind had pushed the branch that I’d laid over it as cover last week onto it’s side. It looked like it had forced the female blackbird away from her eggs and she was no-where to be seen.

I hurriedly removed the obstruction and checked the eggs.

They seemed intact.

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I started work by the shed – wanting to stay as far away as I could.

I was initially worried that maybe a predator had killed the female bird overnight. It had been awful weather. Had the exposure affected her? If she was on the ground had a cat or fox got her? I stopped what I was doing and looked around under the bush where the nest was.

There was no sign of a struggle. There were no feathers on the lawn.

And then almost an hour later I heard her usual song. She was on the roof, taking a bath in the guttering!

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However she seemed to have absolutely no interest in returning to the nest and when she’d finished her ablutions was instead spending her time preening herself and sitting in the sunshine nearby.

The male blackbird stopped by their nest in the meantime, had a quick look in and immediately flew off again. From that point onwards he was absent for the rest of the day.

I tried not to think about it. Maybe she would return to the nest…

I Googled how long eggs can be left after an incubation period has started. Not long it seems. If she didn’t come back soon there would be little hope.

In the meantime there were lots of other spirited residents in the garden to take my mind off the matter. I noticed that going in and out of my roof is another little family of house sparrows.

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These little guys are amazingly quick and nimble when they fly about and I’m glad they seem to like where they live as I read that they’ve declined in the UK by 70% (almost as fast it seems as a Conservative majority in parliament) since I was a child. Back then they seemed to be everywhere.

The one in the picture below with the black bib is the male – and his mate is a light brown colour. She’s been close by to him all day – and paying close attention to what he’s doing as he collects materials for what seems to be a nest in the eaves of my roof.

He’s been particularly interested in stripping the dead ivy on my back wall, and pulled several little straw strips off before retreating to his home.

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Between the two little sparrows the garden felt like it was a hive of activity. They were continually fluttering around and performing tight turns and fidgety changes of direction in mid air.

When they weren’t doing that they were singing and taking dust baths.

My movement of rubbish has also produced a number of frog sightings today – and there was quite a variety to see. Today there were three distinctly different sizes and colours. My particular favourite is the little yellow one climbing the wall. Shortly after the photo he nearly hopped over my head to make his getaway.

Admittedly I’m not sure what variety these are (I could just look them up I guess) but I think they’re all really pretty – although I know one of my close friends in particular doesn’t share my opinion.

For that reason alone I apologise for the following gratuitously close up frog shots.

After taking these photos I headed off to the tip to drop off the refuse I’d created before the tip closed for the day. When I came back I immediately looked at the nest again.

Disaster

The eggs were now punctured. From the outside.

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There were no signs of life.

So – it looks like on this occasion my intervention and maybe bad weather too have put paid to this little clutch of potential blackbirds. It seems that they were never meant to be.

This genuinely made me sad – but I guess like the swanlings who disappear so quickly this is just life. Nature is cruel – and the blackbird (who was still sitting in the sun nearby) was just getting on with things.

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She seemed healthy and I can only hope that her mate is off somewhere constructing a new nest for her to populate.

Fingers crossed internet.

Maybe – just maybe – there will be little baby sparrows instead…

Davey

And then there were two…

It’s been a really mixed bag of moods this week – and having spoken to a few of my friends I don’t think I’m alone in this. As I mentioned previously my Saturday was all about eating everything I could lay my hands on. Today I’ve felt rather similar if I’m honest – and my attempts to avoid food have propelled me once again toward the garden, in the hope that if I do a bit more every day it will eventually look like a paradise on earth.

In reality I suspect it will just look a lot less scruffy – as I don’t have the money to put down any new turf or anything – but I may sew some grass seed once I’ve finished raking all the ivy out of the lawn which is flipping everywhere!

My success diverting thoughts about food have been mixed today. Every time I managed to get into the swing of things it started raining heavily and I had to give up and retreat inside – closer than I really wanted to be to the fridge, which was occasionally raided when I wasn’t really hungry.

This has been partially because when I’ve retreated indoors I’ve also been abstractly browsing for local jobs – and coming up largely blank.

I applied for one that I really wanted a few weeks ago – but the (frankly infuriating) online application process randomly deleted both the job and my application a week or so ago without explanation. Much to my surprise the job was re-advertised today – but when I went to apply a second time the site told me I had already done so and showed me my previous application, which somehow is once more alive and well (despite being ignored for almost four weeks.)

So when I’ve been filling sacks with refuse it’s at times been through gritted teeth. On the plus side though I’ve now upped the total to 56 bags taken to the tip and have several more ready to go. My arms and back are suffering this evening though. The chopping seems endless at times.

When at the tip today I was watching a guy with a small trailer and a Land Rover offloading loads of the massive branches that I’ve been spending hour upon hour chopping into twiglets and packing into sacks.

Although part of me (particularly from an exercise point of view) is enjoying the hard work it’s become pretty boring now – and I honestly never ever want to cut another branch into little bits ever again.

At least until tomorrow when I’ll definitely have to go out and do it again.

It would be nice if there was a little more variety to the task at hand – but at the moment it’s just what needs to be done and I don’t aim to give up. This (almost) daily push means that it’s looking better and better though and is now a far cry from when I started.

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Eagle eyed viewers will note the large pile of pruned bushes that I’ve dragged over to the right however. There’s still a lot of clipping to be done in that mound – and also to the left with regard the tops of all the border branches still remaining. I envisage them eventually being a more manageable 5ft or so in height and growing out into the garden no more than around 1-2ft or so.

Out of shot to my left is the bush with the blackbird – which I can’t touch until they’ve finished nesting, but eventually it too will need to go.

For the time being though the female blackbird is still there, sitting, watching and waiting – and lets me get quite close now. Although she always seems poised to make a fast getaway there’s never an indication that she’s scared of me – and thats just the way I want to keep it. I’m respectful and quiet while I’m out there and try not to invade her space.

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On the subject of my tweety residents though there has been a sad development. When I first accidentally uncovered the nest I looked inside and there were four eggs.

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Today the bird left the nest for a little while, and as neither male or female were around I had a quick peek inside.

Something has stolen TWO of the eggs!

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Given that less than 50% of chicks (according to the research I’ve done) typically survive this means it will be a small miracle if there is a positive outcome from this state of affairs – however I live in hope.

I raked up the earth by their bush before I went in today just to make sure that there was something to eat close to the surface. I hope that they found something for lunch because they deserve a break. Things would probably be very different if I’d not chopped away their cover.

Anyway – things are what they are.

This evening I’m cooking a large chunky soup in the hope that its size, warming effect and low calories will finally stop me wanting to eat my mattress (plus pillows and duvet) and allow me to relax a bit. I know that strictly speaking I’m supposed to be avoiding large portions, but today I honestly don’t feel resilient enough to be austere.

I just want to get the average mood of an average rainy day filled with average tasks and with average employment opportunities out of the way and wake up tomorrow with a sunnier frame of mind.

Of course I guess we all know internet that since tomorrow is a Friday instead I’ll most probably just be continually stressing all day long about whether or not I’ve lost any weight this week.

Sigh. I’d better go and stir my stew.

Davey

Nature is awesome!

For the most part I’m in awe of nature.

Apart from cat sh*t – which despite me not owning one seems to appear in pretty much the same place outside my shed with annoying regularity. Despite me knowing the likelihood is almost certainly nearby it never seems to stop me from stepping in it.

This does little to endear me to the little f****r that keeps on doing it. Still – there thankfully are other things to distract me. Once again I’ve been working on the garden – and the weather today has been perfect for it.

I took another 9 bags off to the refuse tip today, meaning I’ve now managed to get rid of 51 sacks of bush and ivy during my clear up. The garden isn’t sitting still and letting all of this happen however. It’s growing all around me and pleasing little things keep popping up to catch my eye as I work.

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I also had a spot of luck at the recycling centre while I was dropping off my clippings. I always pop into the charity shop to see if there’s anything useful – and found this sun lounger (practically brand new from what I can see, and barely used) for the princely sum of £6!

I honestly would have never contemplated buying or trying to sit in anything like this previously. Not only would I not have been able to get in and out of something thats barely six inches off the floor, but I would have absolutely destroyed it with my weight. However now, new lighter Davey may for the very first time be able to enjoy relaxing in a shady corner of the garden with a good book.

This is a pretty darn cool non-scale victory!!!

While I lay back in tester mode, gingerly listening to the fabric move and the frame quietly creak and settle (I was still convinced I’d turn it into a pile of bent metal and torn cloth and was pretty nervous) I noticed my avian neighbours moving about in the bush in front of me. Mr blackbird was back so I edged out of the lounger and manoeuvred myself to another spot for a look.

Earlier in the day mommy had still been on the nest, watching me carefully as usual.

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Now she was gone – and in her place daddy was keeping watch on the nest.

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I carried gardening – making sure not to spook him – and he sat watching me as I clipped and trimmed away.

I forgot about them after a few minutes as I was intent on removing as much of the ivy around the base of my tree as I could. It’s been consumed by it from the base up – and I’ve become a little worried that if I don’t stop it growing and peel off whats already there that it will kill the (rather large) tree and I’ll be left with a dangerous situation.

Previously the base was pretty overgrown.

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But now it looks a bit better.

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I thought (given all the ivy higher up) that this was suspiciously easy, so I peered around the back.

I really really wish I hadn’t.

There’s a hell of a lot more to do on the other side – and the vines and roots attached to the neighbour’s side of it are something that are going to require a lot of work. I’m also not sure I can do it from my side – so for the time being I decide to carry on with my bushes.

While I was doing this Mr Blackbird decided to come quite close and hunt around my clippings, so I moved away to let him forage for food, and filmed him while I sipped my coffee.

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What I watched next is something I’ve not seen close up before.

 

I REALLY urge you to watch the below one minute video. It shows how the female blackbird has been able to sit in one place for so long without moving and actually brought a little tear to my eye while I watched it happen.

Despite cat sh*t nature is totally awesome!

Anyway – I’m visiting a friend in hospital shortly so I need to rush off and have a shower before getting my baked potatoes out of the oven.

Laters internet!

Davey

 

Garden progress report

A reader asked me the other day how my garden was progressing – and the answer is ‘a little slower than before’.

The weather this week really hasn’t leant itself well to gardening and has stopped my unbroken run of being out there every day doing a little bit of something. However I still managed 9 in a row before taking a break. Today I’ve been out there pruning for a couple of hours, but the twin scourges of rain and backache have made me retreat indoors again for the time being.

Since I began working to return my back garden to a usable state I’ve taken 42 bags of finely chopped clippings to the tip (along with PACKING my huge green recycling bin twice) and after today have another 7 bags ready to go by the back door.

Doing it all manually has honestly become something of a grind though.

I’m still enjoying the process of tidying everything up – but there’s little fun to be had in chopping big sticks into smaller sticks over and over again to fit them into refuse sacks.

Cutting a branch off is the easy bit – preparing it for transportation is a complete ball-ache. It’s all coming on though, and I have a sense of satisfaction when I see yet another sack join its comrades for the short journey to oblivion.

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On the plus side I haven’t needed my dumbbells at all since I started. Everything is firming up nicely in the arm department and I’m no longer suffering with any aches and pains related to what I’m doing (other than my back).

For those with terminally short memories this is what it looked like before.

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And this is what it currently looks like today.

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The reason that there’s a huge clump on the left is that’s where the bird’s nest is sitting. It looks irritatingly messy I know – but there are worse things in life so I’m just working my way up towards the shed instead of the house.

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There’s also a part of me that thinks I kind of deserve to chop it all up by hand after letting it get so far out of control in the first place. Maybe if I do this I’ll remember more acutely the huge hassle it’s left me with and do a little bit here and there in the garden more regularly.

Another (lazier) part of my personality wants to go ‘all industrial’ on the foliage and just buy a chainsaw plus a shredder to get rid of it. However with the nearby blackbird nest already teetering on oblivion I daren’t use any power tools. The poor little girl is clinging onto her eggs with barely any cover now despite the wind and rain – and if I drive her away with electricity and noise I’ll never forgive myself.

My new camera does a much better job of showing how she’s being bounced around in the wind – which really worries me. I’d have barfed multiple times if I was her (It must be like being on a ferry) but I guess if any creature can cope with a breeze then it’s a bird…

She doesn’t seem to be leaving the nest at all lately – which I hope means that the eggs aren’t too far away from hatching. According to the RSPB site (link) they are probably on track for a week or so from now, with a period of feeding and nurturing for a couple of weeks afterwards (if they survive). The chicks will need the cover of the remaining bush if they’re to stand a chance at life:

‘The female incubates alone, and the chicks hatch 13-14 days later. Only the female broods the chicks, but both parents feed them. Chicks in gardens are fed on earthworms when they are available; woodland chicks are fed mainly on caterpillars. (…) The chicks are ready to fledge at 13-14 days, but if the nest is disturbed, they can leave and survive as early as nine days old. This ability to fledge early is an important anti-predator adaptation. The young birds creep and flutter from the nest, and remain in nearby cover for the following few days. They are flightless at first, but within a week will have learned to fly.’

I’d been wondering where the male blackbird had gone – as I’ve not seen him at all for a few days. I realised this afternoon though that he was nearby all the time.

VERY nearby as it happens.

He’s been watching from afar on the chimney pot and has been singing away to his mate below for ages while I’ve been working. I think I captured it in the video – but there’s a lot of wind noise too…

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So dear internet – the garden is still taking shape – minus any changes around their home.

Davey

Focusing on the little things

When I wrote my downbeat and reflective post on Sunday I hadn’t seen the news about Saturday’s terrorist attack in London.

I have now – and if ever there was a need to try and see the brighter side of things I think it’s today. It would be wonderful if everyone with hate in their hearts suddenly woke up tomorrow and decided that they were going to stop trying to kill each other – and just tried to see the beauty in life – but I don’t think they will.

One can dream though.

My personal problems seem insignificant as I type this evening – but honestly it’s not all because of the horror on TV regarding this pointless atrocity. I went out on Sunday morning primarily with the intention of re-framing my perspective – and taking the time (quite literally) to just smell the roses.

The retail therapy I mentioned in my last post was related to me buying something (although admittedly not a necessity) that would help me focus on the little things and make sure I went outside.

I bought myself a new camera and then went hunting for nature.

Maybe the most obvious things to take pictures of are flowers – but in this case it’s not really the best time of year for them. A lot are wilting – but there are some that are doing just peachy – and lots of busy little bees are out there in force gathering up their pollen.

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I couldn’t help but chase squizzels around too – and although I missed this gorgeous little guy posing in front of me eating a nut of some kind (my camera was in my bag dammit!) I just caught him at full zoom as he made his escape to higher ground.

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He wasn’t the only one that caught my attention. I also spent a while by the pond in Jephson Gardens watching a particularly shouty duck – who was clearly having some kind of domestic row with his partner. I’m not sure which one it was that forgot to buy milk – but he was definitely letting her know about it.

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Elsewhere life continued at a slightly slower pace – and further down the food chain on a leafy road just outside Leamington a more leisurely creature was in search of a salad for lunch, having just survived a torrential downpour under its pearlescent cover.

However gravity seemed to be something of a pressing concern in this newly moist environment and it was clear that this teeny traveller might have packed a bit too much  in its rucksack for the journey ahead. It was slowly sliding down the leaf as I watched, leaving a trail of shiny slime in its wake.

It was still clinging grimly on as I walked away and absolutely refusing to let circumstances get the better of it…

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Upon arriving home I opened the back door to check on my garden blackbird – and interrupted what appeared to be a smash and grab attempt. When it saw me the brazen thug ran quickly from the scene of its foiled bird’s nest heist and clambered over the fence, pausing briefly to be caught on camera…

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Although I love all animals this particular one better stay away from the birds in my garden if it knows whats good for it’s backside.

Thankfully mommy blackbird stayed quiet and still throughout – and is still there doing her duty.

I also think she’s getting used to being photographed…

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So that was my Sunday, and in the end it was a good one.

I’m glad I spent my time peering into a viewfinder.

In none of these images do I see the horrors that mankind can inflict upon eachother – and similarly I don’t see any of my own inconsequential worries.

All I see in these photos is beauty – from a day where I walked around seven miles (mostly) at a leisurely pace, stopping every so often to look closely at a bug or a petal and to sip my coffee whilst listening to the wind, the birds, and occasional rain as I sheltered under trees.

Are you feeling the same as I did on Saturday afternoon? Are you down in the dumps and wondering what the point is? If you are then maybe you need to zoom in on the little things as well. Take a picture of something – or if you can’t internet – just go outside, look at the world – and appreciate how wonderful it is.

Davey

 

 

The thought

If yesterday proved anything to me it was that just when I think I have a handle on life – and that I’m sorted and happy – a chance thought comes along, yanks the rug out from under me and leaves me feeling profoundly blue.

Yesterday morning I felt like I was on top of the world and my post at the time reflected this.

Then – I changed my clothes. My shirt didn’t fit. In fact it looked way too big.

There are worse problems to have though right? A year ago I’d have donated a kidney to have to deal with that particular hardship.

Then I started trying on smaller clothes.

Items that are more ‘fitted’ now all seem to highlight that underneath my clothes (and above what is becoming an increasingly fit underlying person) is a flabby and increasingly sagging exterior that’s no longer padded out with bulk.

Then the thought entered my head. I italicised and coloured this to indicate that it’s a big one – because it is. The thought goes along the following lines – although there are several subtle variations on its themes.

‘Who are you kidding? What’s the point? You’ll never look normal. You’ll always be a mess.’

This thought process hit me like a brick around a decade ago when I was lying in bed on holiday in Cornwall. Back then it was the precursor of a number of awful life decisions that saw my eating and drinking habits return to ‘davepocalypse‘ levels of excess.

I’ve written about it before – which (I realise all of a sudden) was oddly almost a year ago to the day (link).

Honestly I’ve lived in fear of this mindset returning. It’s come from nowhere many times in my past and served help me sabotage myself over and over. It primarily has its roots in a long held and warped self image that effectively tells me because I’m physically and visually imperfect no one (particularly a prospective partner) will want me.

It doesn’t take into account my personality, my mind or my other capabilities. It’s all about what I look like – so before you think ‘he’s not remembering any of these things’ that’s something I’m completely aware of.

The problem has been in the past (despite knowing that it’s a skewed opinion of myself and that this thought process is an unbalanced and distorted one) that it’s tough to shake. When I’ve hit this stumbling block previously I’ve found it very hard to work through.

However if (as I’ve done a lot of times before) I avoid dealing with it or acknowledging it’s importance then it has a progressively corrosive effect.

So – at the risk of writing a ‘downer’ post – I’m trying to be honest and purge it onto the page (or in this case my WordPress app). I’m also going to openly admit that yesterday afternoon and evening was firmly what Slimming World refers to as a ‘twighlight day‘. This is basically when you’ve weighed in and then the brakes come off and you stuff your face.

Thankfully I don’t do pizza, kebabs, McDonald’s, alcohol or processed food anymore – so the excesses I used to indulge in didn’t happen but I still ate a LOT of food. The vast majority of ‘nice’ things that were in my house are now represented by a bin full of wrappers and pots.

As I type I’m aware that I feel intensely annoyed that comfort eating is still part of my emotional lexicon.

If there was any chink of daylight to be found during yesterday’s dark mood, in the middle of my morass of self pity I decided that sitting inside the house with the curtains closed eating was probably a bad idea so I metaphorically slapped myself and got up to go for a walk.

I can’t understate how much exercise is my current salvation.

It’s all too simple to close the curtains, turn on the TV, and sit with a large tub of yogurt and a spoon eating despite your brain telling you it doesn’t need any more. Getting up and doing something to change your mood is the only way to change that and sometimes you have to force that impulse into being – because when you’re down it’s not there naturally.

I didn’t want to move and felt like my sofa was covered in velcro – however I ended up aimlessly walking along the canal in between Warwick and Leamington – and by chance met up with one of the few things that could have possibly lifted my mood.

Little fluffy baby creatures.

A fellow blogger over at Hayleyslims (she has a nice writing style – check her out) who is a self confessed ‘crazy bird lady’ (maybe as a nod to my ‘swanlings‘) refers to these are ‘geeselets‘ – which naturally I rather like.

These little guys and their lust for life just make me smile – and wish that I could be as uncomplicated as they are.

I very much doubt, swanlings, geeselets or blackbirds wake up in the morning and think ‘do I look fat in these feathers?’ They just get on with the business of staying alive and looking after those that they care about.

Maybe this is why I adore them so much.

Nature has a way of stripping away all of the meaningless bullsh*t that we complicate our daily existences with and presents the world on its most fundamental level. It’s about the basics of survival and living from one day to the next. When everything else is removed all that’s left is a lust for life and the impulse to just live it to the fullest extent every day.

Sometimes it’s hard – even brutal – but it’s also beautiful in the extreme.

All told I was out walking for a few hours.

I’d be lying if I said that by the time I got home everything was better, because it still wasn’t. Not completely. I ate another large punnet of cherry tomatoes, a small tray of chicken pieces, a 2nd tub of cottage cheese, 6 apples, a banana, some frozen berries and the rest of a tub of fat free yogurt.

By the close of the day I guesstimate I’d eaten (broadly speaking) around twice what I would eat on an average day, and I went to bed still feeling a bit raw whilst avoiding all of the mirrors in the house.

So – how do I feel today?

A little better.

The blackbird was still on her nest in the garden when I checked this morning – and watching me closely as I peeked in to make sure everything was OK. After making sure she was well I walked into town and engaged in a small amount of retail therapy.

It’s started raining unfortunately though (it was sunny when I came out) and I’ve retreated into a coffee shop, which is where I still am writing this. I do feel somewhat cleansed now – having written it all down (yet again) and I’m hoping that having done so I’ll be able to gradually move on today and get some perspective. I’m certainly going to try – but it’s not going to happen on it’s own. I will have to make it happen.

I’m definitely not having another afternoon and evening of comfort eating though. That’s just NOT going to happen.

I refuse.

I’m absolutely never ever ever ever going to go back to the way I was, and this blog is my method of ensuring that. The ability it gives me to look back on previous posts and old pictures to remind myself that I did this to myself in 9 months the last time is hugely beneficial.

I can clearly remember the self loathing that putting all that weight back on in 2008 generated and I know that what I felt so acutely yesterday and to a lesser extent today is the tip of the iceberg in terms of how low I can make myself if I turn inward.

Therefore today is all about nature, life and looking on the positive side of things – regardless of whether it’s raining outside. Every morning the sun comes up and the world keeps turning. This is all the reason I need to be happy, because there’s something in every moment these days to be thankful for.

All I need to do internet is keep that at the front of my mind and put one foot in front of the other.

Repeatedly.

Davey