Guilty pleasures

I know that I said I wasn’t going to – but I couldn’t resist. I weighed in at an earlier Slimming World group on Saturday anyway – even though I didn’t need to.

Initially I’d thought that I wouldn’t have the time – but my house guest for the weekend – a fellow blogger from internetland – was still sleeping soundly in the spare room when the clock ticked passed 8.30 and I felt an itch.

It’s odd – but whereas my itches to do naughty things used to start like this, now they’re often for good stuff – and I found myself thinking ‘I could just sneak out and weigh in… No-one would be any the wiser and I’d be back before anyone woke up…’

Bizarrely this was the kind of thought process I used to apply to surreptitiously sneaking off for a crafty cigarette many years ago – and inexplicably it felt just the same.

Could it be that I view weighing in now as a ‘guilty pleasure’?!

If I do then that’s news even to me – because there are definitely times that I certainly do NOT relish the idea of standing on the scales.

I think what may be different today (and for a couple of months now broadly speaking) is that I feel like I’m in control.

I understand better what my body is telling me now that I’ve stabilised my weight – and in contrast to the ever decreasing downhill slalom that I used to engage in I can now sense when I’m heavier or I’m lighter – and in almost all cases I’m invisibly and unconsciously adjusting my behaviours to compensate.

That’s not to say I’m perfect and that I don’t miscalculate – but the more I do and the more I take it on the chin and learn from it instead of beating myself up the more I’m happy that it’s not going to happen again.

It’s probably a good idea that I weighed in anyway because the rest of my Saturday proved to be rather ‘foodie’.

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Since rain was forecast for the whole day in Malvern (which is where the original plan was to go) we’d decided to do something infinitely more relaxing and go for a walk on Sunday instead.

That meant that we could see Avengers Infinity War in an early showing (my second one!) and this time around went for the 3D version – which I have to say was pretty cool.

If I’m honest though I didn’t feel that seeing one over the other added or subtracted anything from the experience. It was just different. If you see it in 2D or 3D I think you’ll get just as much out of it either way.

A little surprisingly (given that this is a nearly three hour film) I’m pretty pleased to say that I loved it just as much the second time around.

By the time it finished we still had enough time to go charity shopping – but not before hitting Las Iguanas.

Not only is this my favourite place at the moment – but my bloggy friend is vegan and they have a pretty good menu there to cater for that.

She decided upon a ‘Moqueca De Palmitos’ curry. This is Butternut squash, palm hearts & spinach in a creamy coconut curry with charred red peppers, garlic & fresh tomatoes accompanied with spring onion rice, sweet plantain, pico de gallo & a coconut farofa.

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I’d already decided that Saturday would be a ‘flexible syn’ day I tried wherever possible to make smart choices and this restaurant is pretty good for enabling you to do that.

I had the mushroom quesadilla as a starter and the vegetarian burrito as a main. I know the guacamole is something of a syn fest but it’s also a really healthy food and I think it’s important to spend calories on something worthwhile.

I left the cream where it was though!

Since we’re both Slimming World oriented it’s nice to go out for a bite to eat and be thinking about food in the same terms – and it’s safe to say that both of us were pretty satisfied on all levels with our lunches.

After this we did pretty much every charity shop in town – with my friend picking up a nice skirt on the way. For my part I snagged a cool pair of camo combats, a swankly Hugo Boss tee-shirt and a nice short sleeved summer shirt.

Result!

By the time we’d arrived home it was almost time to go out for the evening meal that I’d planned.

The last time my friend visited me Warwick’s only vegan restaurant ‘Fusca’ (link) was closed (they don’t do evening meals on a Sunday or open at all on a Monday) and I’d made sure this time to book a table in advance.

It’s a really nice atmosphere in Fusca – which is underground and extremely cosy. The staff are both friendly and keen to engage you in conversation!

I have no idea what the syns on any of this came to but I’m hoping it wasn’t too bad!

My starter was the roasted pepper, spinach & courgette pakoras served with citrus salads, sweet chilli & yogurt.

My main was a middle eastern inspired vegetable nut roast with baked seasonal greens, seared apricot, tomato, red wine & balsamic reduction with a side of Sweet Potato chips.

I almost had a dessert but at the last minute pulled back from the brink and stuck with coffee.

After a lovely evening both of us headed home for an early night so that we could get some shut eye before a Sunday twalking session.

Overall internet it was a lovely chilled day out with pretty much all the right decisions made about all the right things for all the right reasons!

I really rather like being a target member.

Maintenance is (so far) pretty darn cool 😎

Davey

Cognitive Miser

I don’t really do late nights any more if I can help it – not unless it’s a special occasion anyway.

Then my brother suggested a while back that we pre-book a one minute past midnight showing of Avengers – Infinity War on Thursday morning.

I almost said no.

A midweek late night with a normal work day afterwards?! What planet was he on? The film – to add insult to injury – was not a brief Hollywood 90 minute jobbie either. The showing he was looking at finished at 3am!

When I started writing this post it was 7.30am after the film and I’d had an hour and a half of ‘not quality’ sleep with mostly fitful bursts after that. I had a day of work ahead and I was still suffering from what appears to be an endless head cold but WOW!!!

I mean… just… WOW!!!

What a movie.

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It’s now Friday (I was too frazzled to write anything more) and I’m still buzzing.

(You will note that the author fell asleep half way before completion because it’s now Saturday)

If you haven’t done so already you NEED to see it. I’m going to go again at some point this weekend.

I’m also in a good mood at the moment because there are days and weeks where I look around at the constituent parts of my life and realise that I’m actually right where I want to be.

This week I’ve been surrounded not by wealth or material things but by people and conversations. There’s been a lot of walking and a lot of talking. There’s been so much in fact that I haven’t actually had much time to write anything of significance – so for that I apologise.

The vast majority of my time has been spent making it from A to B.

Honestly the weather has not been my constantly smiling companion. In the mornings of some days it’s been teriffic and for the first time in aaaaggggessss I’ve broken out the sunglasses on my way to work!

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Then on my way home I’ve instantly regretted my summery approach to clothing…

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It doesn’t matter though.

It never matters these days.

As the time has passed since my last post I’ve been struck by how happy I am and what a good place I find myself in lately.

I’ve been acutely aware that the sub-title to my blog – ‘learning to live life’ – has never been so prescient, and this week I’ve been completely swept away by events in a calendar thats been unusually stuffed with little events.

I’ve spent time just experiencing and enjoying them and my usually constant need to evaluate and think through or write them down has (for once) taken a back seat.

For the most part that is – because I’m still me after all – and I still like to mull stuff over.

Someone asked me this week in the middle of a chat ‘do you think you’ll ever drink again?’

I looked at them and didn’t answer immediately.

I thought about it for a moment, musing on the events they’d been describing about nights out – and imagining some of the fun that I too could have. For a fleeting second I also had a flashback to many years ago of a younger (and pretty rose tinted) me, drinking with friends in the pub and in this memory I was also having fun.

Then – almost as soon as those thoughts had arrived – I came full circle and remembered that all this filtered out the fact that the enjoyment eventually became numbed, along with everything else.

After that all I felt was increasingly deeper unhappiness as my world shrank around me.

‘No. I don’t think I will.’ I replied.

‘Not even one?’ he asked.

‘Nope.’ I concluded.

I walked home with this final ‘nope’ hanging in the air like an invisible punctuation mark and the thoughts it provoked led nicely into one of my week’s earlier conversations where a friend of mine casually hit me with a term I’d never heard of before – and it stuck in my mind.

It’s ‘cognitive miser’.

Oddly this phrase been remarkably relevant given many topics for discussion with other people this week (some friends of friends are making very bad life choices that make no sense) and I ended up reading more on the subject and telling others about it.

I like to share when I find something stimulating.

It turns out that I’ve always been intimately familiar with this theory of psychological behaviours because it’s how I went about the majority of my own life.

(From Wikipedia):

It is (…) a unifying theory which suggests that humans engage in economically prudent thought processes, instead of acting like scientists who rationally weigh costs and benefits, test hypothesis, and update expectations based upon the results of the experiments that are our everyday actions. In other words, humans are more inclined to act as cognitive misers using mental short cuts to make assessments and decisions, about issues and ideas about which they know very little as well as issues of great salience. Fiske and Taylor argue that acting as cognitive misers is rational due to the sheer volume and intensity of information and stimuli humans intake. However, other psychologists also argue that the cognitively miserly tendency of humans is a primary reason why “humans are often less than rational”.

So – in essence (if I understand this theory correctly – and I’m no psychologist) we as human beings are pre-disposed to take the fastest path to an answer based on previous similar choices because this reduces cognitive load.

Often this can come across as inflexibility because when we give knee jerk responses (I liken this to a burn reflex) it can seem as if we haven’t really thought things through and have just reacted on impulse. The answer that we might give because of that isn’t always the best one for us at the time – it’s instead the one that we’ve learned works in most situations.

I used to do this all the time when opportunity arose. I reacted without thought because deep down I felt afraid of the world. I lived with a constant sense that I was hemmed in by my life – but because I didn’t want to continually think about that my cognitive miser took over to protect me from difficult and upsetting choices.

My outward voice became negative because my inner voice was saving me pain or embarrassment. I ceased to question why or how and instead defaulted to ‘No’ as an answer to almost every question.

It protected me.

Maybe in some respects I’m still very much a cognitive miser, because where a man who was endlessly stuck in the same negative thought processes once stood there’s now one that does the same thing with newer, more positive structures.

There a lot of things I’ve re-trained myself not to think around and that I just react to.

For instance I still say an automatic ‘no’ to lots of potential decisions, making the same pre-formulated, potted and easily deployable snap judgements that I used to – but these days they’re for a different reason.

Now instead of saying ‘No’ to spending time with friends the no’s are always to cake, kebabs or alcohol. It goes further though because ‘Yes’s’ are also miserly. I know without thinking for a single moment how I’ll respond in certain situations.

‘Absolutely I’ll go for a walk or climb a mountain – YES!’

I don’t think my processes have changed – but how I use my miser definitely has.

Anyway – I’m packing him back in the box for the moment and getting on with my weekend.

For the next couple of days I have a guest staying over and we mean to make the absolute most of the time available. There’s going to be lots of twalking and lots of coffee, a bit of cinema, a few meals and hopefully a good time being had by all.

I’m going to be ‘living life‘.

I also won’t be weighing in at group today because of this – but just because I’m not going to be there it doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring anything. I stood on the scales of ultimate accuracy this morning to make sure I’m still focused – and this is what they said…

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I’m still perfectly inside my target range!

I’m might still learning to live life internet but I’m also learning that I love it.

Davey

Loud shirts are back baby!

Sadly I still feel rough as hell but on a day like today I’d be a complete muppet to stay in bed and be ill.

It’s absolutely flipping gorgeous outside at the moment and I’ve been up early (armed with tissues) walking around in the sunshine and feeling generally pretty good about life.

It doesn’t take much convincing for me to wear a loud shirt – and today is no exception, because ever since I received a really generous gift for my birthday (given to me by a kind extended family member who posted it all the way from Indonesia) I’ve been dying for the right weather to break this bad boy out – and TODAY WAS THE DAY!!!

Let the summer commence!!!

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I’m meeting my brother and sister in law for a coffee and whilst I’ve been idling away the hour prior to our scheduled appointment I’ve been walking around the parks of Leamington – which are currently a riot of colour.

With flowers like this everywhere it’s next to impossible to not feel super positive about life.

It did help that the day started pretty well in socialmedialand too – and quite out of the blue I was tagged in a post relating to a photo I made a while back for a Slimming World award that didn’t exist – and had to be created.

The Club 50.

Just like most things on the internet it’s next to impossible to create something that no-one has thought of before and this is no exception.

If you head over to Instagram here (link) you’ll see what I mean.

They’re a bunch of people who’ve totally turned their lives around by doing this (and often quite a lot more too) – and it’s genuinely a wonderful feeling to unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of a bunch of positivity that strikes such a resonant chord.

People can do so much when they put their mind to it – and they can also be pretty generous and awesome at the same time too. For all the downsides to social media (Donald Trump I’m looking at you…) things like this just make me feel like part of a much bigger community of like minded people that otherwise would probably never get to hear of each other or ever connect.

Ain’t life cool?

(Goes for coffee, does a bit of shopping, comes home and finishes the gardening postponed from yesterday)

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After a really good nattery catch up (and some pretty flipping nice coffee at Corleone’s in Leamington) I decided that I’d go and see if I could find some bargains – and I did.

I got a superb pair of 36in waisted long leg shorts for a fiver (which replaced the cargo ones that were too big for me and had to be taken to charity a month ago) and a really cool pair of lightweight cotton pyjama/lounge trousers for the summer.

What’s more, by the time I’d walked home the grass at the front of my house was nice and dry so I spent a while completing its first haircut of the year.

Unbelievably when I stepped out to retrieve the mower from my shed the back lawn (trimmed yesterday) had some fully grown dandelions in the middle of it already!!!! How flipping fast do those things grow?! They’re the flower equivalent of bluebottles! It’s astounding how quickly they spring up (no pun intended)…

Anyway – the next order of the day is food. At the moment there’s a chicken & chorizo chilli stew bubbling away in my slow cooker – and frankly I’m Hank Marvin.

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I’m not gonna lie.

I’m gonna eat all of it  and since I put way too much chilli in it this morning I’m also probably going to regret it dearly. However I also have some nice cold natural yogurt and some frozen berries on standby for dessert, so there’s going to be a remedy close to hand.

Whilst I eat this I’m also going to be watching (through chilli tears) the new ‘Lost in Space’ series on Netflix (It’s pretty good so far!) and basically just loving every last minute of my Sunday afternoon – which I plan to make as chilled as it can possibly be internet!

Davey

Plumping up the pillows for birds

I had a lot planned for the day when I started writing this post – and it started really well despite some very disturbed sleep.

I got up, did my shopping as usual and then planned to do the year’s first mow of the front and back lawns. To be honest they both really needed it – and since the last time I looked out of the back curtains things had started growing flipping everywhere.

Now – to be honest I don’t have a need to have a perfectly manicured lawn or perfectly trimmed borders. All I want is a pleasant and well maintained space that’s easy to look after rather than a continuing eye sore that becomes an epic task.

The back took a little longer than expected – but thankfully it was a way better starting point than I began with after years of neglect (due to my weight problems) in the spring of 2017.

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This took literally weeks of hard graft to sort out and many many trips to the tip.

The major downside now though is that I’ve pretty much removed from my borders any potential hiding places for bird life – so the chances of another naturally occurring blackbird nest are pretty slim.

Honestly though the garden is still full of little visitors (including frogs – which narrowly avoided the mower today – yay!) so there must be something I can do…

(Still ruminating on this the author visits Slimming World)

It was quite a busy meeting today – and one of the long standing members finally reached her target weight so there were smiles all around. She seemed a little emotional but also really happy too which was lovely to see.

All the time she’s been losing weight she’s had two jars with 50 marbles – each of which represented a pound that she either needed to lose or had already lost. Every time she lost another one she moved a bauble across to the other receptacle.

Today she went home and moved the last two marbles into the nearly full jar and put her target member certificate next to it.

It just proves that whatever plan you’re on (whether it’s Slimming World or otherwise) the power of coming to a group is apparent. In this lady’s case she was also losing weight with her partner – so they had both spurred each other on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We’re better in groups – and a little friendly rivalry between two people never hurts either.

Visualising things is really good too – and it reminded me of the tricks I used to use in my own journey to spur myself on.

She may be interested to know that she’s almost lost an entire bag of cement!

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Either way it was wonderful to see her so happy!

For my part I wanted to be on the lower end of my target this week because next week (once again) I won’t be weighing in.

I have a special friend coming to visit me next week and we plan to be intrepid and super outdoorsy – so the next time I step on the scales will be two weeks from now and I’m going to have to be super good in the meantime.

Thankfully I’ve been on point this week – and I had a nice loss. This took me to my lowest recorded Slimming World weight!

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The plan after this was to mow the front lawn and then head off into town to do interesting things – but then it started raining – and on top of that honestly today I feel like poop.

For the second week in a row (last week I had what I think was a stomach bug and took two days off work) I’ve felt really sub par. I’ve currently got a head full of snot and it’s the main reason that last night I didn’t get the rest I needed – so today I resolved to use the car (grrrrr) to go and get what I wanted.

This (surprisingly) didn’t involve a charity shop.

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Since I don’d have a space in the bushes any more for the birds I thought that I’d try and promote a bit of wildlife with a bird box, roosting pouch and a feeder. Hopefully they’ll attract some visitors in the coming weeks, and maybe even get used!!!

If the birds have any taste they will. I think that my ‘beach house bird box’ looks the schnizzle! Only time will tell internet!

Anyway. I’m going to go away and die quietly, drowning in my own snot. It’s been nice knowing you all.

Goodbye cruel world!

Davey

Two years have passed…

It’s 2am.

I’m having one of those nights where my mind just refuses to switch off and after a few hours of restless sleep I’m left mulling over the events of my week and things on the horizon.

Whenever I’m like this my mind seems to be moving at a million miles an hour – and the thing that initially woke me up isn’t always the same one that ends up keeping me awake.

Although I neglected to mention it at the time an anniversary passed recently – and when it did I wasn’t sure quite how I felt about it, so I decided to let it pass quietly rather than bookending it with blog fanfare.

On the 16th of April it was the two year anniversary of the day that I joined Slimming World and first stepped on the scales to find out that I was 34st 8.5lbs (link).

The moment is indelibly etched in my memory and is unlikely to ever be dislodged by other things – but I’d be lying if i said that the feelings it provokes in the present day are exclusively to do with a sense of triumph or success.

In many respects the opposite is true – because in much the same way as it’s impossible to understand how nice daylight is without considering night – I can’t really think about who I am now without also remembering who I was then.

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Feeling a flush of success in my case also sadly comes with a tangible sense of loss – and when I consider all that I’ve managed to achieve it’s often hard to forget that I also failed to do it for so long.

I could have done so much more with my life if I was driven to change much earlier.

It’s a largely negative thought process mind you and I’m absolutely 100% fully aware of the fact that the past is immutable – so why think about it at all?

The phrase that I commonly use to describe this mental loop (that so many people I know often also find themselves in) is ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ – because almost no good comes from it.

I feel like I should say absolutely no good comes from it – but if I did then I’d be lying. There’s a big part of me that allows this to happen because (rightly or wrongly) it’s of the opinion that this pain and regret is part and parcel of what enabled me to succeed.

There’s another phrase that fits with these thoughts quite nicely – which is ‘those unwilling to learn from history are doomed to repeat the failures of the past’.

Learning is one thing though. Punishing myself is another – and I try not to do this.

Maybe I’m wrong but I honestly think that it’s healthy to have these particular regrets continually in the back of my mind.

Maybe they keep me focused. Maybe I need them. Maybe without them I would be tempted to have a cigarette, open a bottle of wine and order a pizza. Maybe without these regrets I’d have neatly brushed under the carpet all of the memories associated with the pain and shame of my situation and I’d have re-enabled my ability to self destruct.

Maybe I need to hold onto this pain…

Or maybe this is fear talking and I should just let it all go – and in doing so trust that my coping mechanisms these days are radically different to what they used to be.

I suppose that this duality of thought is a reflection of who I feel I still am – because in some respects the behaviours that existed before in me – such as my capacity to over indulge and my willingness to use food for the wrong reasons are still there.

I keep them at bay with other obsessive (possibly also negative) parts of my personality for the most part and I’m hyper aware that essentially when I chose to change what I did in essence was re-purpose the worst parts of some compulsive behaviours to service me in positive ways.

Oddly I find that being addicted to something is very similar to NOT being addicted to it, because in the same way that I used the continually think about eating junk food now I continually think about eating healthy food.

‘Portion control’ in my case has never contained the word ‘control’.

To me they’ve always been just ‘portions’ – and I’m very aware that I still eat a LOT.

The wheels remain on my particular bus however because instead of thinking about intense junk food flavours all the time I’m obsessing about what kinds of wholesome and tasty things I can eat and therefore have almost completely deferred dealing with quantity as a problem.

This is (for me) where the ‘control’ lies.

If I can’t change one then I change the other and use the most stubborn, compulsive sides of my nature to hold things I don’t feel able to modify at bay.

I obsessively eat lots of good food and I also exercise a lot.

So – this is why it’s often easy (especially in the middle of the night) to convince myself that I haven’t really changed all that much.

I have though.

The expression on my face in the picture above says more about who I was than any words can hope to manage.

The truth is that whilst occasionally I’m filled with regret and sadness the rest of my life is filled with happiness – and maybe I can appreciate it all the more because I know what it’s like to live with it’s complete absence.

Two years has flown by internet and so much has changed for the better.

I can only imagine what will happen in the next two…

Davey

Culture Vulture Part Three

Firstly, if you’ve not caught up with my travels so far you’ll find part one here (link) and part two here (link).

I’ve been exploring London – and so far I’ve already visited the British Museum and the Tate Modern. Normally I hate the place – but I’m trying to be open minded.

After stopping for a coffee at Starbucks and watching some bubbles outside I’m now on my way to the Natural History Museum via Big Ben.

I’m being a shameless tourist and I’m taking photos of everything.

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According to Google Maps the NHM was 31 minutes away – and I since usually walk a mile in around 16 minutes, this should have been a quick journey.

I’d resolved not to use public transport, lifts or escalators for the duration of the day. London is flat and accessible enough to make walking everywhere I needed to go easier than most places.

However one thing that I hadn’t reckoned with was the sheer volume of people walking along the South Bank on a Saturday afternoon.

When I arrived early in the morning the streets were largely empty, and consequently I made good time – but by 2pm the pubs and restaurants on the South Bank were crammed. People were spilling out onto the pavement everywhere and there were multitudes of them with pretty much no urgency to go anywhere at all.

It felt that their only reason for breathing was to continually slow my now sedate pace of progress.

As I walked I found it pretty much impossible to get any kind of speed up – and since I’m now a fairly brisk walker I find this quite irritating when I’m on my own. If I’m with people I rarely notice how fast I’m going because I’m usually chattering – but when I just have places to get to (in this case before they close at 5.50pm) I get a little impatient.

After some pretty glacial progress I was getting quite huffy, and in order to turn my frown upside down I decided to take a time out, give up trying to pass or walk around people and just stop for a little while.

There was also some cool graffiti to look at (which in my view looked way better than some of the art in the Tate Modern) whilst I waited for a break in the legions of people.

This unfortunately never came – and after around ten minutes or so I gave up hanging around for a lull in the traffic and accepted that things would just take a while. I slowly made my way forward, past the London eye and the colourful living statues (taking ever decreasing baby steps forward) until I finally made my way onto Westminster Bridge.

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It had taken me an hour and twenty minutes to walk a mile and a half to Big Ben – which was unfortunately barely visible thanks to its current renovation and repair.

Since I’d eaten pretty much all of my carrots and apples between the British Museum and the Tate I decided to nip into what is quite possibly the most cramped Tesco Metro in the UK opposite the houses of Parliament and grab some other bits and bobs to munch.

I had a few miles to go yet and my stomach had begun to rumble.

It’s basically a long corridor with shelves either side and tills at the end, and they only let you in one door and out of another. As shopping goes it’s rarely as unpleasant as this.

I felt like a sheep being forced through a dip – but still I managed to get what I needed.

Once I’d loaded up with provisions I headed off again – soon finding myself in St James’s Park – which seemed like as good a time as any to have a sit down and recharge my batteries.

By this point my feet were beginning to ache – but even so I was still really rather enjoying exploring.

As I watched the world go by and double checked the route ahead two young German girls asked whether it was ok to sit next to me on the bench.

As they sat down chatting in their own language I was just unwrapping my lunch. As with my bag of carrots at the British Museum earlier it may be considered by some as… a little unconventional – but from a calorie and energy perspective it was just right.

Although there was nothing unusual about my piri piri chicken pieces I was also indulging in a guilty pleasure of mine.

As I chomped down on it I heard the conversation stutter and slow next to me as the Germans looked at me out of the corner of their eyes.

I didn’t realise that I had this craving until I wandered through a field and decided to experiment around a year ago.

I just grabbed a fresh corn cob from a nearby plant (naughty I know) that was warm from the sunlight, ripped off the leaves and chowed down.

For anyone that’s never eaten raw sweetcorn on the cob – I highly recommend it. It’s a free rather than speed food in Slimming World terms – but it tastes SO much better than the cooked alternative.

Plus it makes Germans look at you like you’re odd – which is always amusing.

I gnawed my way through two of these, popped my rubbish In the bin and moved on – directed solely by the voiceover from Google Maps.

Doing as I was told I crossed the river and as I did I glanced to my right – and noticed that I could see the London eye in the distance.

My progress may have been slow (it was now 3.40pm) but I was making it nevertheless and appeared to still be moving quick enough to get to the Natural History Museum.

Pretty soon I was passing a rather quaint little residence that’s maintained on a shoestring budget.

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Honestly – it’s a wonder they can afford a gardener.

Maybe they fund it with the nearby public toilets – which had now gone up from 30p at Marleybone (already a criminal price) to 50 frikkin pence  around the back of the palace on the way to Knightsbridge.

Honestly – how anyone can manage to afford to go to the loo in London is beyond me. Treating yourself to a tinkle a couple of times a day would led to a bill of £365 per annum – which is £205 more than my water bill comes to EVERY YEAR!!!

Of course – I’m not the intended audience for this shameless chiselling.

Foreign tourists with consequence free odd shaped coins to throw away and people that drive sports cars are the ones that use such facilities.

By now I was in the land of the rich and shameless and realised I was a man with a charity shop tastes wandering through Knightsbridge.

Everything I was wearing probably cost less than a latte in one of the hotel or casino lobbies nearby.

Here the shops were exclusive and ridiculous. Money was no object and the designer clothing passers by were wearing and the acres of fake bosoms visible everywhere seemed to paint a picture of excess without consequence.

The traffic profile too had suddenly (and very noticeably) changed.

There were still the environmentally friendly Toyota Prius Uber taxis and ubiquitous London busses everywhere – but now, mixed in with them were also petrol guzzling Range Rovers, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and boat sized Bentleys.

The people driving these (it seemed to me) were unphased by the local congestion charges and were so well off that it really didn’t matter to them what they drove or how much it cost them to move from A to B.

Getting there in shameless opulence was all that mattered.

Here it was totally OK to park in a bus lane as long as you did so in a ridiculously expensive Ferrari.

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I decided to duck into a nearby wine bar and use their toilet for free.

Screw them. I refuse to pay.

Siiiiiighhhhh……

Rarely has an act of defiance been so satisfying on multiple levels.

As I ducked out without buying a single thing and rushed off in the direction of the NHM I noticed a shop opposite Harrods that made me smile.

Regardless of the excess on view everywhere in this small Mecca for the uber rich there was one place intent on selling absolute CRAP – and you have to love them for it. When faced with the likes of Harvey Nichols just over the road these guys were enthusiastically peddling the worst tat imaginable.

I wanted to hug them when I saw it. They were my heroes.

It was like someone was raising two fingers to wealth and without a care in the world saying ‘buy a cheap crappy Royal wedding keyring – it’s way more fun than the expensive crappy things over the road.’

Then – mere moments later I was finally at the NHM. I had arrived JUST IN TIME to see what my friend promised in part two.

THE ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAUR!!!!

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Except…

I couldn’t see it….

I’d been sold a lemon!!! This dinosaur was of the boring ‘historically relevant’ variety, not the cool ‘stamp all over you in an animated Jurassic Park style frenzy’ kind.

Try as I might I could find NO ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAURS!!!

However I had arrived with just under an hour left before closing time – and since I now had a rather annoying blister on my left foot I thought that I might as well have a look around before heading back to the train station.

For the most part it was fun – but I don’t think I’ll go back.

The annoying thing was that I’d passed the Victoria and Albert Museum on the way and almost gone in there instead.

Sigh.

Oh well – you never know until you look.

I headed outside and stood by the Science museum looking at my GPS map. I only had another 2.1 miles to walk on my blister and then a mile and a half walk back from the train station in Warwick to home.

Nearly there!

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I carried on – making my way through Hyde park, and along the busy streets to Marleybone.

As luck would have it I arrived at the Station with just 5 minutes to spare before my train and immediately hopped on for the 90 minute journey back to Warwickshire.

The train chugged out of the station bang on time.

Whist I watched the world pass by I also engaged in my final hearty snack of the day – which I’m sure the lady from Birmingham next to me loved because I sat thoughtfully crunching away on celery for a whole hour and a half next to her.

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When I finally arrived home at around 7.30pm (14 hours after leaving the house) there was still the small matter of an evening meal to take care of – and nothing seemed like it would hit the spot at that moment better than some roasted vegetables and butternut squash crinkle chips.

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This barely touched the sides – as I was famished!

All in all I’d walked around 19 miles, burned nearly 4000 calories and cranked out around 35,000 steps.

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I think internet I may have been wrong about London.

Sure – it’s not perfect – but it’s alive and diverse. There’s annoyance and fascination to be found in equal measure and from the laughing policeman I met genially greeting all of the people in St James’s park to the dodgy looking ‘yoofs’ on scooters I passed (as quickly and quietly as humanly possible) in Hyde park there was never a dull moment.

I was amazed that I crammed so much into a single day – but also that I managed to do every last bit of it on foot.

Not bad for a guy who couldn’t walk to the end of his road a couple of years ago!

I think I may have to go back and have a look at the rest…

One day…

Maybe…

Davey

Culture Vulture Part Two

Firstly, if you’ve not caught up with my travels so far you’ll find part one here (link)

So – you join me on a day trip to London – a city I previously vowed never to go to again thanks to some bad personal experiences, and a whole boatload of long held and probably pointless negative opinions.

I haven’t told you yet (my mysterious and enigmatic reader) but I’m actually rather enjoying myself. At this point I’ve just departed from the British Museum and I’m on my way to the Tate Modern.

It’s a really nice day today too – which helps.

I have some really chilled out tunes (LTJ Bukem’s album – Journey Inwards) on my headphones too which drowns out the traffic a bit and sets the tone.

By the time I arrive at the Tate Modern it’s 12.35.

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It’s full disclosure time. I’m laying my cultural credentials on the table.

I’ve been here before.

When I did I found myself faced with Tracy Emin’s ‘My bed’ (link) and like many others came to the conclusion that I didn’t consider it art.

Since then whenever considering ‘Modernism’ from an aesthetic perspective I find it leaves me feeling spiritually… well… rather under nourished. However, here and there (very occasionally) I find myself drawn to something a bit leftfield and it piques my attention.

Also, I’m trying to be more open minded in general.

The one thing that I did think last time though was that the cathedral like space of the Tate Modern was in itself a work of art – and despite my expectations I found that the brutal concrete post modern aesthetic that runs through it like Blackpool in a stick of rock is what I wanted to experience again.

It’s still there. In spades.

Last time it was a challenge though. The very scope and scale that makes it so visually pleasing to the eye is also the main thing that limited my enjoyment during the previous visit.

Frankly the place previously tired me out.

I really really struggled with climbing all of the stairs whilst navigating from one end of this huge building to the other (It’s nearly 35,000 square metres) and from the bottom to the top and back.

There are eight or nine floors depending on how you look at it, and more if you count climbing up and down the other side of it too.

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I guess that moving through the space however is part of the experience here though and this time I vowed not to use a single escalator.

The lifts when I passed them proved hilarously amusing however – and every time I strolled by one there seemed to be a variety of oddly shaped people – mostly with with really strange hairstyles and some with very ill fitting (but clearly expensive and exclusive) garments crammed into them waiting for the doors to close.

It seemed to be the theme that despite there being many lifts only one appeared to be arriving and no-one wanted to get in or out – or use the stairs. They just bunched ever closer to the back wall and eachother and waited for the door to close as if an invisible force field was pushing them further and further in.

As I watched I didn’t see a single door close on one of them – and initially I began to wonder if this too was an exhibit. I was the only one in a well populated museum climbing up and down these cavernously beautiful spiral staircases and I couldn’t understand why.

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Finally admitting that I’d eventually have to go and look at some art I eventually found myself in a room themed around objects and architecture.

Aesthetically this was a mixed bag for me. Some I liked, such as the hanging pagoda style installation themed around science fiction (it’s related to Isaac Asimov – who knew?!)

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The rest seemed to me me like they were just bricks and cement – and I found it hard to view them as anything deeper than that – despite them actually being very inoffensivebricks and cement.

Others however seemed to be a little more amusing (at least to me) and it’s hard to argue against the need for a giant pink ice cube in anyone’s living space.

If I resided in a massive glass of lemonade then I’d get one immediately.

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However – whilst I may not appreciate the effort it took to stack crates on top of burnt wood and buckets or cement piles of bricks together (despite the interested crowds and conversation they seemed to be attracting) I was immeasurably impressed by the effect created inside an innocuous looking mirrored box in the corner of the room.

The only way to do this justice is with a video – and even that doesn’t really compare to just being there and looking inside.

Having had a ‘hmmmm – what does it all mean?’ moment I almost looked at the card on the wall, but then stopped myself.

I resolved instead to read nothing about the works I saw from that point onwards and instead just try and process how they made me feel.

In some cases the word was disgusted.

In another room there was a grainy VHS video of an artist in Brazil who had paid three prostitutes addicted to heroin to have a tattoo of his choosing on their backs for the price of a fix.

The going rate apparently for a shot of heroin worked out to three blow jobs.

I know it’s intent was to provoke – but it’s not art.

I moved quickly on (past some rather nice metal shapes on the floor bordered by pictures of agriculture) to the next room.

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This was absolutely packed with pictures of a man who had taken a photo of himself every day for a yearand then put them together in a time lapse.

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I know that part and parcel of art is to subvert and provoke, as well as to layer meaning – but honestly this all seemed to me like a giant waste of some guy’s time.

As a study of how time changes an individual I can see it’s merit – but otherwise I couldn’t help but think that he could have been doing something far more productive.

The problem with this (maybe rather limited) perspective though is that a few minutes later I turned a corner to another scene that someone spent absolutely AGES creating (once again for no point other than aesthetics) and despite myself I found that I rather loved a room full of pebble like burlap sacks roughly sewn into organic shapes.

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It really does make one question how we should apply the word ‘art’.

Sure – it doesn’t really take much skill to photograph yourself every day (even I can do that) but who’s to say that it’s any less or more important in the grand scheme of things than a Ming or Quing Vase?

A vase doesn’t make me smirk in quite the same way as some of the more suggestive things I found as I wandered through another door into another slightly darker room.

As I made my way through the building ( as well as feeling progressively more worn out) I realised that what I appreciated the most about the whole endeavour was space and the more minimal and cavernous something was, the more I appeared to like it.

The mirrors showed an effect that went on forever, and the rooms that contained (apparent) simplicity in a large format rather than condensed confusion were the ones that I gravitated towards the most.

I’d even go as far as to say that if i possessed a huge loft apartment and infinite resources then I too might be tempted to whitewash the lot and empty a builders yard into it to see what I could make – but in the absence of this possibility coming to pass I think I’ll have to stick with my two Buddhas at home.

Having walked around almost the entire building though I not only felt very satisfiedthat I’d done it all under my own steam, but also quite tired.

I’d also run out of coffee.

Then, all of a sudden I received a text from a friend and opened it to have a look.

‘Check out the natural history museum.’ it said. They have a really cool robot dinosaur!’

Well. What can you say to that? My friend knows me well. A ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAUR?!!! Shut up and take my money London!!!!

I looked at my watch. Nearly 2pm.

Hmmm.

I could pass Big Ben (I enjoy huge clocks almost as much as I loved the giant knockers and massive helmets in part one!) on the way and then move on to the train station. Surely it wouldn’t take that long to get there…

It didn’t look far at all on the little map on my phone – just a few dots stood between me and a ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAUR!!!

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Join me for part three internet to see what happened next!

Davey

Culture Vulture Part One

I’m a real creature of habit and it’s been a very very long time that I’ve not published a post on a Saturday so let me first of all assure you that the lack of an update yesterday was a good thing – and I’m not dead or in trouble!

Sometimes change is a positive thing.

Doing the same thing over and over has recently enabled a lot of success – but in the past that also caused me a lot of problems too – so yesterday (feeling a little blue and having taken two sick days during the week) I decided to mix things up a bit and do something I wouldn’t normally do.

Go to London.

My internal narrative told me continually that I don’t like the place – that it’s noisy, crowded, stressful and dangerous.

I was instead going to go to Cornwall or the East Coast.

Maybe some of my feelings about London are true – but I suspect that (as with many other things in my life) this perspective mostly developed for largely subconscious reasons – so I decided to break from my occasionally narrow perspective and try it again.

Also – driving to Cornwall was an expensive eight hour round trip with a large price tag for overnight accommodation (London in contrast is £30 for a return train ticket) and this is something best not done on the spur of a moment. The plan instead would be to do something both cultured and interesting with my day – so I resolved to visit the British Museum and then take in the Tate Modern too.

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I started early (after two hours sleep because I was a teeny bit excited) by getting up at 4am. I got ready, drank lots of coffee, walked to Tesco for provisions – and then on to the station before hopping on the first train from Warwick at 6.47am.

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When I arrived at Marleybone (which I’ve always thought is quite a nice place) my first impression wasn’t great – mostly because at 8.10am there was a guy just outside urinating in a phone booth. To add insult to injury – rather than it being of the fashioned ‘red box’ variety it had a screen that started at waist height and the only thing hidden from view was his face…

Oddly I could sympathise with his sense of urgency though. A particular theme of my own day had started and I was grinding my teeth about transport for London wanting 30p of my hard earned money for a wee in the station.

I resolved to wait till I find a Starbucks…

I’d decided that rather than use visual GPS maps on my day out I’d choose turn by turn guidance in the Google and Apple navigation apps and see which worked best for me.

The Apple one has little haptic feedback taps on your Apple Watch as you walk that tell you which way to go as well as an audible voiceover (present in both) that cuts into your music to tell you which way to turn when you get close to a junction.

This is when I love having the benefit of owning an iPhone, an Apple Watch and Airpods, because they all combine together in these sorts of situations to form a complete whole that no other technical solution I’ve found does.

When used together they are irritatingly good.

Both apps during the day performed pretty well for the most part – but I found the wrist tapping in Apple Maps a bit pointless after a few miles and moved pretty much exclusively to Google Maps with it’s voice overlay, which overall seemed to do a better job of what I wanted from it.

As luck would have it I soon found one in Regent’s Place Plaza on the first leg of my journey and I stopped off to relieve myself and refill my flask with some hot coffee.

I’ve absolutely no idea where this continual need to go to the loo comes from…

As I wandered along the rather exclusive looking streets nearby with my nectar of life I found myself on Bedford Square in Camden. I had begun to notice that (as with many things in London) that keeping up with the Jones’s – as well as serious ‘one-upmanship’ was alive and well.

Number 2 was clearly proud of its very bold polished brass door number and neatly trimmed topiary.

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However next door number ONE wasn’t above flouting its clear numerical superiority and showing once and for all who was boss.

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Even though I’d stopped to indulge my secret passion for looking at front doors I was still slightly ahead of schedule. The exhibits at the British Museum didn’t open until 10am – and when I finally arrived at 9.35 I still had time (in the largely empty atrium) for some breakfast (a bag of carrots).

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I have to say that I really rather love this place – and I think I’m going to have to come back. To start with the Ancient Egyptian, Syrian and Greek Exhibits I thought that would definitely be my favourites – particularly the wall reliefs, carvings and the full sized architecture.

But then I started finding myself drawn to the pottery – in particular this teeny tiny (about 6cm tall) greek perfume bottle.

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I then realised that this kind of thing really piqued my interest and quite unexpectedly found myself lingering much longer than I expected to amongst the nearby Roman pottery collection. The intricate details on these exceptionally lovely little items really caught my eye!

Honestly though these were pretty small fry compared to the main event because I then moved over to the Asian area of the Museum where things really started to take off.

I have to say that Asian and Indian art never ceases to astound me with its cultural intricacy and diversity.

Although I’m not in the least bit religious I have two small buddhas in my house. I can’t explain why but they always calm me down when I look at them.

Imagine how a giant one makes me feel!

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The simply overwhelming number of deities and figures of worship in the nearby halls was just wonderful. The passion and artisanship that went into creating these masterpieces of devotion and contemplation is just mind boggling to me.

However – the pottery once again just took my breath away. The skill that it must have taken to create some of the brain bendingly delicate items just beggars belief.

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However – I think the absolute stand out items in the whole museum for me were the Ming and Quing Dynasty glass tile reliefs and Cloisonne incense burners.

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In contrast, whenI reached the ‘age of enlightenment’ part of the museum, things seemed a whole lot more stuffy then elsewhere.

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On the bright side however, my front door fascination was definitely catered for in this area – alongside my willingness to stare endlessly at HUGE KNOCKERS – which could have totally managed to bump number one Bedford Square off the top spot if they were installed by number two.

Maybe somewhat appropriately placed the nearby there was a large helmet – which was a similarly impressive example of metallurgy.

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This piece brought me neatly back to the entrance – and I stepped outside into the now bright sunlight to eat the rest of my carrots and munch on an apple. After almost two hours on my feet at the day’s first culturally enhancing pit stop I was now headed to another.

The Tate Modern.

I was a really rather enjoying my culture vulture status!

Join me in part two for pictures of bricks in stacks and you can decide with me whether they’re art or not!

Davey

Sleeves

Sometimes motivation is in short supply.

It’s 5.30am and it’s definitely one of those times. The house is cold and it’s pouring down with rain outside.

Today I’ve got to travel by car and therefore whether I like walking in the rain or not I simply don’t have the option – unless I feel up to strolling to Banbury and back (which I don’t.).

This means that my only option is really to get my cardio in before I leave the house – and that means I have to use my exercise bike.

I’ve come to the conclusion over the last couple of years that whilst I can definitely be someone that’s very driven in a lot of respects one of the things that I still don’t do very well is working out alone.

I can happily walk for miles and miles without anyone around – but I don’t really see that as exercise because I’m going somewhere – whereas in contrast lifting weights or sitting on a static bike just seems a bit… pointless.

Don’t get me wrong – I know there’s definitely a point to doing this kind of thing – but it seems like such a waste of time when I could instead be outdoors.

I guess when I reflect upon it this is probably the key differentiator between the two. Most of my love of walking is probably a reaction to not being able to go out and about for so long.

Nevertheless – the situation is what it is and I’m actually glad I have the option to use my exercise bike. If I look at the plusses it’s a moment where I can just listen to some music, do some thinking and write for a while as well.

I’m currently pedalling and listening to The Sound of the Smiths.

I never used to like them as a band very much – and oddly back when they were popular I genuinely hated Morrisey’s voice.

I still find it mildly objectionable – but Johnny Marr’s guitar somehow makes him a bit more palatable now I’m older and I can appreciate the lyrics a little more – despite completely failing to get on board with his rather drab take on life.

The period when I first heard these songs was grim for the most part – and maybe that also has a bearing on the way I view the music. I rarely look back on when I grew up with a sense of rose tinted fondness.

Someone that I shared that period with recently said to me that he’d been chatting in a forum on the topic and a contributor had commented ‘if you enjoyed the 80’s then you weren’t there.’

It’s true.

The miner’s strikes. The Falklands. Maggie Thatcher. Poll tax. Greenham Common.

The list of grim crap is pretty long.

I like being alive now. For all its problems to me the world has never seemed so vibrant and open.

Maybe it’s just my current mindset however because you’d have to be blind and dumb to think that the world doesn’t still have its fair share of issues.

Back in the 80’s though I grew up with a sense that the future held little to no promise – but now I’m of a different opinion because it seems to contain endless possibilities.

I’ve always thought in the past that when people said ‘life begins at 40’ that they were just doing their level best to try and find a way of coming to terms with getting really really old.

Perspective is a wonderful thing though – and now I’m (ahem) ‘over 40’ I have to say that a phrase never rang more true to me.

By the time you get to this stage of life things start to make more sense. You begin to lose the need to be a people pleaser, and you become more aware of who you are and what you want from life.

Furthermore you’ve probably made some progress already and you’re not desperate to get on a property ladder, pay for university or take out car loans.

You’re now also at the time of life (hopefully) where the world is open for exploration and you can see it with the eyes of someone that understands not only their motivations but those of people that they meet too.

It’s (at least in my case) a good time to be alive.

As I’m following this train of thought my attention drifts and I find myself staring at my arm – which looks odd, and my pedalling momentarily slows. It’s definitely my arm though, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

It’s just that I sometimes no longer recognise the parts of my body that seemed so familiar to me a couple of years ago, and often I still do double takes when I look in the mirror or get dressed.

As I cycle it looks like parts of me are alien landscapes.

I’m still not used to seeing my muscles and veins so prominently under my skin and when I do it genuinely takes me by surprise.

I’m not sure I really like the way my arms look – but there’s no denying that they show evidence of a level of fitness that’s never been there before. I suspect that even when they were covered in fat that my veins and arteries were never so big previously.

I know that even though I’m undecided about how they appear I prefer their current state to the previous one.

Sigh.

Sometimes being in my head is hard – and being comfortable with how I look is (at times) even harder.

Today I’m going out feeling good about myself – but I’m still going to be wearing long sleeves. Being happy with who I am is sometimes not quite the same as showing everyone I meet exactly what I look like under my clothes.

Thankfully for me being happy doesn’t mean I need to wear a swimsuit or a vest top. It just means feeling good inside, energetic, switched on and full of life.

Anyway – now my exercise program has ended and it’s time to go out, a little bit fitter, still in sleeves.

Laters internet…

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Davey

Symonds Yat

I hadn’t intended today to be a trip down memory lane – but quite unexpectedly it was.

My regular twalking buddy had suggested that we go for a walk around Symonds Yat after she’d been exploring there herself recently – and since I’m no longer one to pass up an opportunity for a walk in the countryside I eagerly agreed.

I’d never been there before and it seemed like a really good opportunity to explore.

I picked her up at 7am and since the roads were extremely quiet we made very good time. As we drew closer to our destination (by now it was around 8.30am and quite deserted) I found myself surveying the surroundings with an ever increasing sense of deja vu – but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why.

Ignoring this we parked up, paid and displayed and had a look at the available trails.

The longest yellow one ‘The Highmeadow Trail’ seemed to be the one to go for. It appeared to take in some really nice views along it’s rather meandering 11 mile route – and at five hours with plenty of gradients also appeared to be capable of giving us a good workout.

We started out at the top of the visitor’s car park and headed for the nearby cafe and it’s viewpoint across the River Wye – which from a geological perspective is rather interesting.

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Although it was cloudy for pretty much the whole day today the rain mostly held off – and the absolute worst we experienced was a fine drizzly mist.

This made the view a bit hazy – but no less wonderful.

It’s a truly lovey place to stand and soak in the scenery!

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I couldn’t help wondering what it would look like on  realy nice sunny day with some blue skies to compliment this rather wonderful view of the valley and it’s meandering waterway stretching into the distance.

We both agreed we needed to come back on a better day. This has to to be experienced at its best!

After a couple of pics we headed off down the trail and immediately we came to the conclusion that the going underfoot was going to be pretty treacherous today.

Although initially most of the paths were well maintained they were all extremely damp – and it was clear that several days of rain had not made for the best underfoot conditions. Almost all areas with any kind of gradient could truthfully be described as ‘ex-waterfalls’.

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As we continued downhill to the Wye I looked closer at a photo of the map in the car park that I’d taken earlier.

On the route we were planning to take that there was a big warning label…

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When we reached the river it didn’t seem like it was short of a few gallons..

Somewhat unsurprisingly therefore, when we arrived at the hand ferry there was a large sign proclaiming that it was cancelled until further notice. 

Undeterred by the setback we decided instead to double back and continue following the river before we picked the trail up elsewhere.

After all – how hard could it be?

I had OS maps on my phone and it shouldn’t be that difficult to follow a waymarked trail with the aid of GPS.

However – many miles away a friend who usually helps me get completely lost was eating her easter egg and thinking about me…

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As she thoughtfully munched she must have silently begun to unconsciously project her ‘navigatory vibes’ across the great distances of time and space in our direction…

I was blissfully unaware of this distant and unwitting sabotage however as my companion and I happily made our way along the riverside chatting away and just soaking up the fresh air and moist atmosphere.

No-matter how much I was enjoying the company though I was really getting a sense that I’d been here before. I just couldn’t shake it at all – and it was only as we rounded the bend of the river to a physical bridge and started walking over it to have a look at the view (and take a shameless selfie) that I realised ‘Wye‘ (pun intended.)

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Looming large there was suddenly a memory from my past – which I have no idea how I managed to forget.

I’d stood on this exact spot before – and what’s more at home I had some of the few remaining photos of me as a younger man at the tender age of 27 during a brief camping trip in the area (which I ferreted around and found this evening).

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I’d been with a group of friends and had walked with them to a nearby pub for dinner. When we did we’d passed over the bridge and then walked together along the river.

I remember this at the time being a rather exhausting and uncomfortable stroll on what was a rather warm day.

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Honestly – although I enjoyed the company and spending time with friends I don’t remember enjoying being there at all (even though it was undeniably pretty) and from memory I had a real sense of reluctance when it came to going anywhere that day.

I had my usual back pain if I remember correctly (my stomach made this something that was continual even back then) and just wanted to get back to the car and go home. I was so eager to go that I never registered the name of the place I’d visited and frankly was just happy to leave.

Today though I was in a much better frame of mind and just wanted to explore.

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Forgetting old memories we headed back along the path and took one of the branching signposted paths that we thought would take us the right way.

Somewhere back in Warwickshire however a KitKat Chunky was being thoughtfully munched upon…

I have no idea how we managed to do it – but for around two hours we clambered through mud and bracken, climbing up and down gullies and slopes (stopping briefly to take a picture at the oddly named and innuendo laden suck stone – which must have launched a million suggestive chat up lines) and ultimately got completely lost.

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After a rather picturesque but also slightly boggy traversal of some woodland we realised that we’d emerged (at around midday) EXACTLY BACK WHERE WE STARTED. By this time we were both a bit hungry and decided to make our way back down the river and eat our packed lunches at a picnic bench overlooking the Wye.

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I have to say though internet – despite getting a little turned around in the woods we both thoroughly enjoyed the day.

It’s so often the case that the days where things don’t go quite to plan, and you end up a little off the beaten track (or off piste as my chocolate enhanced friend would say when we’re trying to figure out where the hell we are) are the days that you remember as jolly good fun.

Throughout we talked, laughed, nattered, gossiped and just set the world to rights as we made our way enthusiastically through puddles and undergrowth.

It was a grand day out internet – and one that I thoroughly enjoyed!

We’ll be going back and no mistake. Hopefully next time there may also be a vague odour of chocolate in the air…

Davey

Pumpkins Deli

It’s been a busy week – and after a very relaxing Bank Holiday weekend I’ve spent the last few days mostly catching up on things that I didn’t do whilst I was engaging in my epic blogging marathons – as well as trying to increase my walking.

I’ve recently dropped back from my previous 70-75 miles a week this month to around 60-65 on average. The weather has been pretty crappy and honestly I’ve been faced with a choice of walking in the rain on my own or getting stuck into some writing whilst drinking coffee in the warm.

My flesh in this case has been weak.

Being soaked and cold is often a tough sell.

Honesty though I’m just proud that I’ve managed to maintain my exercise to the level that I have. However my next step (now the clocks have changed) has to be starting to do something significantly more productive (and active) with the lighter evenings.

In the spirit of this resolution yesterday I twalked into town with a friend so that we could have chat and a bite to eat in Las Iguanas. Last time we went there the vegetarian chilli was just unbelievably awesome and I’ve been fantasising about having it again ever since.

It was just as delicious as the last time!!! If you haven’t tried this absolutely wonderful dish I’d recommend it!

(I’ve no idea of the syn values – but it all looks like speed and free food in the bowl – I’m guessing the soft burritos aren’t though…)

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Now – I wouldn’t have previously gone out for a meal on the night before weigh in day – but now things are a bit different. My new objective is not to go continuously down, it’s to kind of yo-yo within a range of 6lbs.

I’m also reminded just how flexible your body can be when it comes to weight – because yesterday morning I stepped on the scales of ultimate accuracy and I was 14st 6.5lbs. This morning I was 2lbs heavier – and fat doesn’t appear that fast overnight!

Nevertheless – wherever the gain came from I’m still within my target range (which is between 14st 4lbs and 14st 10lbs) so it’s all good!

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So – my pendulum like losses and gains for the last seven weeks appear to be working for me so far. I’m still where I need to be and what’s more I’m loving life.

Whilst I may have had a ‘blow out’ on Monday I REGRET NOTHING!!!

This is just life now – where (like ‘naturally slim people’) I enjoy myself and then get back to normal.

I’m trying to ditch all guilt and just get right back on track.

The great thing is that my ‘blow outs’ are actually me eating too many things that are actually good for me rather than pigging out on pizza or kebabs. My mindset regarding what I should and should not eat hasn’t changed one little bit– and because of that I’ve still been avoiding all the naughty things that have endlessly placed (by colleagues celebrating special events) in the canteen at work.

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As readers may remember – my ever generous employer has also been getting in on the act and when I returned to work on Tuesday has placed an Easter Egg on my desk.

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I actually used to rather like KitKat Chunky bars (although I never ate them very often) but even so I still couldn’t bring myself to eat it.

Initially I didn’t know what to do with it – but then a kind volunteer stepped forward (well actually she kind of hobbled toward my general direction) to take one for the team and consume it for me.

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Lord only knows she deserves a treat.

The poor lamb is now in her fourth week of incarceration thanks to the injury she sustained on our walk a month ago (link).

I can report that apart from being slightly stir crazy the invalid is making a gradual recovery – and over short distances can now make her way around without crutches.

However the boot won’t be coming off for another couple of weeks, and we wont know until then just how able (or unable) to walk she’ll be.

I suspect it will be a while yet – but in the meantime I aim to make sure she doesn’t forget me and I have been regularly inflicting myself on her for coffee when I can.

Today she suggested that we go to Pumpkins Delhi (link) in Brinklow which is a lovely little family owned cafe on the village high street with a nice friendly atmosphere and a surprisingly extensive menu.

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It also serves as a nice little storefront for some locally produced produce too and you can buy quite a few things like full sized cakes and jars of honey as well as slightly more eclectic items like ceramic buttons.

The latter were SO nice (and reasonably priced at £2 a sheet) that my friend couldn’t hep but buy a couple of them.

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It’s always nice to support little cottage industries like this and since they were so delightful I’ve included a photo with the maker’s contact details in case anyone else wants to enquire about them for their own home made creations!

The food and coffee were pretty nice too.

Although there was probably a little more mayonnaise involved in my dinner than I should have allowed I have to say that my baked spud was cooked to perfection and their home-made coleslaw was delicious!

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Tomorrow I have some lengthy walking planned anyway – so I’m definitely going to be burning at least some of these calories off.

I have an incentive anyway – because in other news Facebook served up a timely reminder for me the other day. In one of its ‘xxx years ago today’ memories it added a photo to my timeline for approval that my brother had taken of me ten years ago.

This photo at the time represented something that I was quite proud of – and it was actually the lowest I’d been in weight terms for a LONG time. I’d actually lost around 10 stone to get there.

I was so happy with it in fact that I put it on a dating website (although nothing came of it) which strikes me as amazing when I look at it now – because the shirt and jacket I was wearing were both 5XL sizes.

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In contrast now I usually wear a large – with no numbers or X’s.

So – that’s my motivation to keep burning the calories and having fun while I do internet – because nothing tastes as good as my life feels at the moment.

Davey

Chocolate made me feel awesome!

I don’t think that I’m a guilt free zone when it comes to overeating by any stretch of the imagination – but what I am is a serious believer that you just have to accept that occasionally you’ll have a ‘relaxed day’ and that they’re just as important from time to time as one where you’re completely on plan.

On Bank Holiday Monday (in contrast to most other days in recent memory) I decided to consciously take 24 hours out from walking and exercise. Instead I just vegetated at home with Netflix and far too much food.

Quite unexpectedly today I feel great!

Maybe I really needed a day where I just put my feet up and completely relaxed…

I know that I will definitely have to be very good indeed until Saturday to make sure that I’m not outside of my target range – but that’s OK because I think (even if only because of the resultant positive state of mind) that it’s good from time to time to feel as if you’ve been really naughty.

Whilst I may not have eaten any junk food as I slumped on the sofa yesterday I certainly ate well past contentment throughout the entirety of my Netflix marathon and honestly felt a bit like a barrel by the time I finally hit the sack at 10pm.

Doing this not something I necessarily advocate – and I rarely engage in this behaviour myself – but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have the capacity in me to hit the ‘pig out’ button occasionally and just go for it.

The difference this time around is that I often (if I’m being totally truthful) take instances like this and attack myself for not being perfect – but what’s the point?

If I get annoyed with myself for having a day off then the next stage is a negative mental loop where I overthink the consequences of my behaviour. This typically results in a conclusion I’m ‘failing’ somehow and is usually followed by an extremely unproductive internal dialogue about self worth and regrets about past behaviours.

Instead today I chose to just accept that I enjoyed a day off like 99% of the rest of the UK, had fun watching TV and eating nice things and today I’m back at it again, walking and having a lovely healthy salad with some delicious pan fried sea bass (in butter fry light) to make up for it.

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As I type I’m wondering how many people did the same over Easter, enjoyed themselves too much and then afterwards felt so guilty about it that they just decided to carry on overeating because they’ve ‘already wrecked everything’?

I remember doing that a lot in ‘the bad old days’ and it always turned a bad 24 hours into an even worse week – which morphed eventually into a terrible month.

In my case these ended up resulting in lost years because I could never break the self destructive cycles I found myself in.

Sometimes it’s not so easy to switch the hunger back off though. I totally get that.

Especially as today – on my first day back at work after over a week off  (and a blow out yesterday) I returned to find this sitting on my desk.

My very kind employer bought one for everyone in the building while I was away – for which they should be applauded. Despite it being chocolate (and therefore completely evil) it’s nice to have an employer that pays attention to the little things that make people feel wanted.

It’s really cool to find an unexpected gift sitting on your desk thats come completely out of no-where – and therefore I take it completely in the spirit it’s intended.

However it’s not getting eaten.

I’m not quite sure exactly what I’m going to do with it yet, but it’s going to be something that’s nothing to do with the inside of my tummy.

It’s already manage to serve another more interesting purpose however, because this Easter egg sparked a whole new train of thought after I left work with it in a carrier bag. As I was walking home thinking about who I could hand it on to (that would appreciate a lot of chocolate) something suddenly occurred to me.

Pretty much everyone in my life these days is into fitness, healthy eating or is a member of Slimming World (or all three) meaning that I can’t currently think of anyone to give my egg to anyone that I know without sabotaging them…

How flipping awesome is that?

I’m surrounded by like minded people and our willingness to live better lives mutually inspires each other’s behaviour ALL THE TIME!

That is soooooooooo cool internet!

Life is awesome and (really unexpectedly) today it was chocolate that made me feel this way!

Davey

What else happened this week?

Wow.

It’s been a cathartic week in blogland for me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so driven to tell people how I arrived at where I currently am in life.

Mentally it’s been a little exhausting though and truthfully at times a little upsetting.

Although much of it has been shared before I’ve never attempted previously to condense so much into such a relatively small space. I’ve written 550+ posts in the two years that I’ve been blogging and fitting everything that’s been important into 5 (admittedly lengthy) posts has been a real challenge.

In many respects I feel I didn’t do some of it justice.

Some things have been left out to save space – but for the most part I’m happy with what parts one to five represent.

I genuinely hope that people enjoy reading them – but more than anything else I hope that they help.

Although I’ve had a week where I’ve written more than ever before I still have an itch to scratch.

Gradually more and more people have been prodding me since yesterday afternoon across the internet and social media asking how I got on with my weigh in on Saturday.

It seems I’ve created a weekly need in some quarters to read exactly how much I weigh!

You’ll be glad to know (and thanks for asking) that things went well and I managed to lose the gain from last week.

I’m now back down to my lowest weight and still firmly in target range.

My first month of maintenance is done. Only eleven to go for my diamond target membership!!!

Whilst I’ve been writing my episodic blog I’ve also been out and about. A lot of my time has been spent in coffee shops writing – but where I can I’ve been doing a lot of walking too.

It’s not always been easy because the weather has been awful this week.

On Wednesday I walked the whole Stratford Greenway and back – and for the first half it was pretty grim.

Honestly though sometimes walking in the rain is nice – and when you’re twalking with good company it’s rarely better.

Myself and my companion chatted about a lot – and even though I ended up with a 12 mile blister the day was really satisfying!

I’ve also been eating very well – and even experimenting a little bit with new things – mostly because they’ve been reduced when I’ve walked into the supermarket.)

These two pictures represented a really nice meal.

I’ve been trying mixing up vegetarian and pescatarian food this week (I find I lose weight quite quickly without red meat) and I picked up some fresh sprouting lentils to pop in a Quorn stir fry.

It turned into an absolutely delicious meal and simply has a stock cube and some soy sauce in it with crushed garlic for a little flavour.

You also can’t go wrong with weetabix and some banana and blueberries if you’re feeling a bit hungry.

I find that spending a few syns on Weetabix (I’m supposed to have more healthy extras to maintain anyway) and a large helping of unsweetened almond milk is a great way to fill up at the same time as staying on plan.

Finally this one is something of a cautionary tale mixed in with a recommendation.

I knew what I was eating before it passed my lips (you don’t lose the weight I have without checking things before you put them in your mouth) but if I hadn’t looked at the app when I picked it up in the shop it could have been a bit of a shock afterwards.

This healthy and extremely tasty pouch was mixed in the picture with some speedy cauliflower and broccoli rice (which I stir fried beforehand with a chicken stock pot) and frankly it was delicious.

However according to the app this innocent looking portion (300g) sets you back 13 syns.

Now – don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying ‘don’t buy this’.

I’m actually saying the opposite – because I think you should purchase food like this.

It’s good for you and it’s infinitely better than wasting 13 syns on chocolate. The whole meal really filled me up and tasted wonderful. I strongly recommend you try it!

Finally on Friday (mostly in order to take my mind off food before my weigh in) I decided to go to the cinema.

I went to see ‘Ready Player One’ and it was absolutely flipping awesome!!!

This was just as well because I got an absolute soaking on the way there. The rain was practically arriving in literal buckets and left me looking like I’d wet myself twice (opening up some potentially interesting gynaecological questions about how this might have happened) when I arrived.

For an hour I just sat cold and wet in the cinema foyer waiting for everything to dry out.

The film was worth the wait though.

I hadn’t realised how long it had been since I’d seen a ‘proper’ Speilberg flick – and just how much wonder and joy they can evoke.

This is truly a movie that not only can stand alongside the likes of ET and Back to the Future – but actually surpasses them in many many ways.

Visually it’s stunning. Without a doubt you’ll be blown away by what he’s managed to bring to the screen. The special effects are incredible.

It must have been a licensing nightmare to make though because there are so many pop culture references layered throughout the film that I felt I’d need to watch it many times over in order to spot them all – and even then I’d probably still be picking up something new.

So there we have it internet – although it’s a little late that’s been a flavour of my week outside of my episodic blogs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the slight change of pace as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them because it’s been a genuine pleasure.

On top of that the feedback on social media and in person has been heartfelt and humbling when it’s been given so I’d like to say a collective thanks to everyone that’s given me feedback.

You rock internet. Thanks for reading.

Davey