Separated by carpet

Sometimes a bad day is a bad day. There’s absolutely no avoiding one when it really hits and occasionally it might seem like the fates are intent on conspiring to make you feel miserable.

At other times however there’s more going on – and people often fail to see the truth.

They can make and then perpetuate their own misery – becoming trapped by it as the years roll by.

Yesterday was a nice day.

By that I mean it was hot, oppressive and full of thunderstorms or rain but heat doesn’t bother me any more and I like rain.

I love the sound it makes when it’s really heavy.

I started the day getting burned though – and quickly realised that going out in a teeshirt without any sun cream was a bad idea.

It seemed cloudy enough – but clearly cloud is only half of the picture and today my forearms are still itching.

It didn’t matter at the time though because I was wearing red.

For those who are newer readers I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with this colour and avoided it in case it singled me out for bullying. This used to be a common occurrence (link) but one day it seemed to stop (link) and since then I’ve adopted red as my favourite colour (link).

It’s not so much because of what I look like wearing it – but more about how it makes me feel.

I feel strong when I dress in red because of its symbolism.

IMG_4670

Strength was definitely needed at the start of the day too – because I was walking around the Warwick food festival.

Although I could probably eat a lot of the things there and work them off I’d already had my ‘Saturday off plan’ (which is becoming something of a regular thing).

This post weigh in day of weekly culinary relaxation only works if I’m willing to then draw a line shortly afterwards.

If I carry on eating then I doubt it will stop in time for next weekend’s weigh in.

As lovely as all the food looked I don’t think a massive frying pan full of sausages is for Davey any more…

IMG_4697

So I kept walking.

My objective (as always) was to build the miles and keep going until the scales (at least in my mind) were balanced – and around 8 miles later I sat down for a rest.

I was in a good mood. I’d done lots of exercise and I’d smashed my daily goals.

Fortuitously this happened just before the heavens opened – and as I sat in the window of a friendly hostelry drinking a coffee whilst watching the rather Biblical deluge outside I started listening to the couple next to me – who were also looking at the same scene.

The lady and her partner were separated from me only by carpet – but in attitude they couldn’t have been more different.

The woman looked angry.

Her whole body seemed to be coiled and ready to strike the first person to enter her personal space.

The skin on her knuckles was whiter than the rest of her hands and both were being clenched and unclenched.

‘She doesn’t deserve that job. I make her life possible by working for her. She’s a waste of space.’

The man nodded and sipped his wine. He looked tired and drawn and although generally slender had a large beer belly.

‘I hate her.’ Said the lady, also drinking wine, slim and in possession of a rotund middle.

A waitress came over to tidy the table that they were on and the lady whispered something to her – most of which I missed.

‘…and don’t think I’m being funny with you – it’s not your fault. It’s your manager’s.’ She looked behind the waitress, motioning at an unseen space behind her where no-one stood.

‘No-where to be seen. Makes me sick…’ she finished as her words once more returned to audible levels.

The waitress nervously smiled, said sorry for whatever the problem was and shuffled away.

‘It’s the same everywhere.’ The lady hissed to her partner, after the waitress had retreated. He remained silent and continued to look out of the window at the downpour – which by this time had turned the street into a shallow river.

They exist because of us.’ Said the lady under her breath. ‘They wouldn’t have a job without us.’ She concluded – by this time almost growling.

The man stoically looked out of the window – and I turned up my playlist.

I was buying some summery tracks on iTunes and making a happy collection of tracks to walk home with while I waited for the rain to subside.

I had an umbrella but I like to walk without one and feel my arms swing back and forth.

I had my feet on the low windowsill in front of me and was flexing my toes in my trainers to the beat of my music.

People were rushing by outside in soaking wet tee-shirts and many were laughing at how ridiculously drenched they were. Above the volume of my headphones I could still hear peals of thunder as flashes of lightning briefly illuminated the suddenly dark street in front of me.

The heat was ebbing out of the afternoon with each raindrop though and the air was slowly beginning to cool.

I looked across the carpet to my right again – and could see the pursed lips of the woman silently moving as she talked to her companion.

I could no longer hear the words but her body language spoke volumes.

Whatever private hell she’d constructed in her mind was still in full flow. Her obvious feeling that someone else in life had what she deserved was busy consuming her.

The man sat in silence and I wondered how many times he’d heard this speech or a variation of it.

He looked like he knew that the quickest way to bring it to a conclusion was not to react, and instead just to let it flow over him whilst waiting for a change in the wind.

I’ve seen that face before – in my childhood home as my father, my brother and myself waited for the storms surrounding my mother to subside and for blue skies to re-appear.

They rarely did though. The skies mostly remained cloudy and we were always separated by this.

By carpet.

Just carpet and perspective.

That was all that stood between us.

A stretch of worn rug, trodden on by thousand of feet and aged with time – but combined with her outlook on life it might as well have been an ocean for the gulf it presented.

I was pulled back to the present as I re-focused on the scene in front of me, watching this bitterly unhappy woman looking through the same window with a totally different way of viewing the world.

She was bitter and her eyes showed that this emotion was no stranger to her life. The lines on her face bore little evidence of smiles and she seemed to be drinking her wine with anger – to fuel and enable her mood rather than to relax it.

All of a sudden there it was.

The end to the rain.

This event passed her by as she continued in her angry rant – and I doubt she saw the first shafts of sunlight hit the pavement in front of her.

She was still there and still angrily hissing through her teeth when I left half an hour later – and her husband/partner/friend still hadn’t said a word.

She’d not once asked him for his opinion – or sought through him another way of looking at the situation.

The only monologue she could hear was her own and she’d made at least two people unhappy in the process – as well as herself.

I marvelled at the energy it must have taken to remain that angry.

As I walked away and the physical gap widened between us I felt the cool breeze that had replaced the humid heat.

Everything looked fresh, and damp trees slowly dripped themselves dry onto the pavements below their shade.

The world felt renewed somehow – even though it was just the same but a little damper.

I walked home thinking about the gulf between myself and this woman – and how some find the gift of perspective whereas others never do.

I’ve no idea what causes people like my mother or her to remain rigidly unmoving and bitter throughout their lives – or what makes them so inflexible or incapable of change.

I’m glad that it’s not how I feel about the world though.

I’m glad I’m not angry and that I don’t feel continual resentment about what other people have and the things I don’t.

The truth is I have enough – and that’s all anyone needs. I am healthy and I am alive – and EVERYTHING else is a matter of perspective.

The past doesn’t matter – and neither does the future. I can influence it but I can’t control it and to think otherwise is folly.

It’s also better to live with an absence of want. If someone earns more than me then I wish them all the best and hope that it brings them happiness.

Money and possessions have never done this for me though.

I feel happy with a red tee-shirt that cost me £2 in a charity shop not because it’s a material possession – but because of the mental and physical change it represents.

It makes me feel happy because I worked hard to wear it and I chose to not just sit there and feel bitter that I couldn’t.

I got up and made my life better because I didn’t want to be like my mother – sitting at the opposite end of that carpet and separated from her by nothing.

Davey

Like minded company

‘How far into town love?’ Said the lady by the boot of her car as I strolled past the hotel car park.

Her friend turned to hear the answer as well and I removed my earphones as I walked up to the small wall between us.

‘Which town?’ I asked. ‘You’re in between Leamington and Warwick – which one do you want?’

‘We don’t mind. We just want to go shopping,’ She replied.

‘Whichever has charity shops!’ Said the other lady enthusiastically.

I smiled.

Well.’ I started.

‘If you follow this road (Regent Street) the first one you’ll find on the left is Save the Children. If you cross directly over the road after that then you can hit the Red Cross. After that go a couple of doors down for the RSPA (they only take cash) then a few doors down again for Sue Ryder (my personal favourite).’

They looked at me – and then at eachother – a little surprised.

‘If you then go back over the road and cross the street you’ll see the British Heart foundation in front of you on the left – but that’s not the end. Double back on yourself, then you’ll see the Myton Hospice on Bedford Street and Cancer Research on the corner.’

They looked at eachother.

‘If you carry on up the road and look to your right down Warwick Street you’ll see Oxfam – and if you head down past the Royal Priors you’ll see Marie Curie, Scope and ANOTHER Myton Hospice.’

Total silence.

‘If that’s not enough then at the bottom of the Parade opposite the town hall there’s the Salvation Army and the Cat’s Protection League (they order the whole shop by garment colour!) and Barnardos even further down.’

Still silence. They looked at eachother.

‘We seem to have asked the right man.’ One of them finally laughed.

‘Everything I’m wearing is from charity!’ I said, striking a brief pose and motioning to my apparel. I took a large carrier bag out of my pocket and pointed enthusiastically at it.

‘I never leave home without a carrier bag – just in case I find something in a charity shop!’

‘Us too!’ They said – also taking out their carrier bags to show me. It seemed we had all recently shopped at Tesco.

‘Snap!’ I said.

‘Is it easier to drive or walk? The shorter of the two asked.

She was dressed in light and airy linen clothes and looked like a kindly person. There was a twinkle in the eyes behind her glasses.

‘It’s way easier to walk. Parking is a pain.’ I replied. ‘Would you like me to show you?’

The two ladies giggled and nodded. ‘Lead the way!’ The shorter one said enthusiastically.

We headed off down the pavement and began to chat as we strolled.

I was clearly in like minded company, so we began to compare the bargains we were wearing – all of which it turned out were pre-loved.

We all shared a weakness for M&S clothes and also rather liked the quality of the Sainsburys TU brand. Although not quite up there with M&S it was both reasonably priced and very hard wearing for girls AND boys we concluded.

The taller lady in darker clothes was miffed. In the rush to leave she had neglected to bring some things that had remained in the boot of her car. Since her friend had driven instead this meant that somewhere in Northampton (where they had travelled from) there was a car boot containing a large and irritatingly unopened bottle of Baileys.

She’d also left her coat behind – although the latter seemed to be a much less of an annoying omission than the former because it was turning into quite a nice day.

As we walked toward town we began to talk a little about what we did for a living and what had brought them to Leamington.

They were taking a day out from their stressful lives and had randomly decided on the spur of the moment to stay at a hotel, do some shopping and have a few gin and tonics away from home.

The blonde lady dressed in light airy linen worked in education and the other in a black tee-shirt was a carer. Both specialised in dealing with people suffering from dementia – but at very different stages of the condition.

They seemed like nice ladies – and for about 20 minutes we walked and talked. The carer lit a cigarette as we chatted and thoughtfully puffed away as we shared thoughts about work and life.

She was worried about a lady she was looking after and didn’t think that she was making her life any better. She was getting worse and there was little that anyone could do. It was playing on her mind and the fact that she had to syringe feed her in the mornings was a real cause for concern.

She was terrified that the woman in her care would accidentally choke.

Her face seemed to reflect the weight of more worry than her companion and I noticed that in contrast to her heavy frown lines the shorter woman maybe had evidence of more smiles alongside the blue eyes behind her glasses.

She was listening to her friend and nodding understandingly until a pause came and she described what she did for a living.

Her job (although related more to education) meant that she too specialised in dementia – but as part of a research project. Working with a local University she had for a few years been dealing with recently diagnosed people – often scared and confused by the radical changes in their lives.

One lady she knew (she was very young – a mere 50 years old) had become unexpectedly violent in a shop lately and her family were struggling to come to terms with it all.

Another older woman she regularly interacted with was beginning to lose the ability to communicate and it saddened her to see the rapid decline. She clearly liked the lady that she was talking about.

‘She’s lovely. So nice. Very proper. Doesn’t like swearing.’

I nodded – listening.

‘If anyone in her family uses bad language then she writes them a letter!’ She said, shooting me a stern look. ‘Doesn’t like it at all.’

She shook her head with mock seriousness to underscore the point and I laughed.

‘It’s a generational thing!’ I said. ‘These days it’s rare to meet someone that offended by language that they’d send a letter. You might get a frowning emoji from someone in a text but that’s about it…’

‘Maybe an unhappy face or two as well.’ I concluded.

‘Yep. It’s a thing of the past.’ She laughed. ‘It’s all texts these days.’

Her friend nodded as she reached the end of her cigarette.

Then, all too soon we were at Save the Children and they were both excitedly peeking through the window.

‘Well – I better get to where I need to be.’ I said. ‘I hope you two enjoy your break – and it was lovely to meet you.’ I shook their hands and we exchanged names as they thanked me for the brief tour of the town.

‘Have fun bargain hunting!’ I said and bid them farewell as they disappeared into the little cave of wonders. I headed on my way, in search of reasonably priced coffee and a baked potato with cottage cheese.

But what of Davey internet? Did he find a bargain?

Naturally! He found a lovely summery shirt!

But is he still a shameless poseur and selfie taker?

Mais Oui! Voici le chemise à fleurs!

IMG_4666.jpg

Au revoir!

Davey

Post holiday maintenance

Since ‘keeping it real’ is a (sort of) theme of my blog I think it’s only fair to share where I have been this week with weight and maintenance.

I’m still really focused on remaining in my target boundaries (which is 3lb either side of 14st 7) – and when I weighed in two Saturdays ago I purposefully pushed myself down to the lower end of my bracket – which meant I weighed in at 14st 5lbs.

img_3993

This was because I knew that I was going away for the following weekend and had already decided that (despite planning to exercise a lot) I really wasn’t going to worry too much about syns or counting calories in the period leading up to that.

I wanted a week where I switched off from it all – and as it turned out I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Whilst away I made good choices where I could (cutting the fat off my bacon as well as having no sausages or hash browns at the breakfast buffet) and went back for seconds when the mood took me.

In short I (mostly) food optimised, but I still overate compared to my usual fayre. I had second helpings at breakfast and I wasn’t shy when it came to having full fat mayo on my coleslaw.

So, having a relaxed weekend where I knew I didn’t have to weigh in meant that I (completely expectedly) put a few pounds on – and when I stepped on the scales upon arriving home on Sunday evening they said that I was 15st 1lb.

Now – although initially it seems a lot I know from experience that this in itself isn’t cause for panic.

Neither is this extra weight all fat.

The important thing here (for the benefit of fellow maintainers) is not to just say ‘screw it’ and carry on eating.

Plan what you’re going to do to fix things and just get on with it.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts weight gain (at least in my case) seems to comprise of a number of things. I tend to eat a lot of bulk quite late in the evening (massive salads and lots of veg for instance) – and this has big bearing on my weight depending on the time of day I weigh myself.

Although I had a full stomach I felt that on Sunday evening, RIGHT AFTER my holiday it was completely necessary to stand on the scales and deal with what they said – because hiding from it would fix precisely nothing.

So – I took it on the chin and moved on. When Monday afternoon rolled around I was already just under 14st 11lbs.

IMG_4633

The next step was to get some appropriate shopping in – and to make sure that I wasn’t going to overeat during the week.

I decided that I’d be predominantly focusing on fish and ‘speed’ vegetables and to keep me on point I’d also be taking a photo of the scales and sending it to a friend every day.

I sent the first photo and then headed off to Aldi to do some shopping. I got loads of veg (a LOT of gherkins!), fat free natural yogurt, some frozen berries and cottage cheese.

If I have no bad food in the house then I can’t eat it – no-matter how hungry I feel. My top tip is buy your shopping, know what you can and can’t consume in order to have a good week and then just eat the lot in whatever order you want with a clear conscience.

JUST DON’T BUY ANY MORE AND YOU’RE SORTED!

Before retiring for the day I had a pretty epic tuna and mackerel salad followed with a big bowl of yogurt and frozen fruit and later on some weetabix, blueberries and a banana.

This hit the spot and by Tuesday (after a day with plenty of walking) the scales had dropped a little more.

IMG_4646

One thing that I’ve learned the hard way is that if I don’t keep up with my exercise then I don’t get these kind of drops.

Although the winter temporarily slowed me down a bit I’ve managed this month (thanks in no small part to the improved weather) to get more distance in and my current walking average is back up to just under ten miles a day.

I can’t overstate what a difference it makes to my sense of physical and mental well being when I’m doing this.

On Tuesday evening (broadly speaking) I consumed more or less the same kinds of food and had an early night to make sure I was well rested.

I’ve found that not getting enough sleep is a real killer when it comes to appetite. If you’re tired then you’re hungry and if you’re constantly hungry and unable to do anything about it then you’re miserable.

If you’re miserable you’re far more likely to give in and stuff your face.

Wednesday saw me walking a bit further than usual (thanks to hooking up with a friend for a jaunt around the park) and by the time I returned home once more things were again looking better.

IMG_4649

I know (thanks to being a bit obsessive about such things) that my lightest ‘weigh in clothes’ (don’t we all have a set?) add around a pound and a half to my Slimming World scale weight – so in order to be bang on my target I needed to come in at around 14st 5.5lbs.

At the end of Thursday (by then having walked around 40 miles since I first weighed in and consumed an average of approx 2000 kcal per day) the scales looked even better still.

IMG_4652

Then progress faltered.

On Friday the weather changed (it poured down!) and my usual walk to work turned into a drive.

I made sure I spent some time on my exercise bike in the morning before I left the house – but even this didn’t seem to make a difference. Even though I’d consumed a reasonable amount the day before and didn’t eat to excess the scales decided to irritatingly go UP.

IMG_4655

However – this is also one of the potential pitfalls of regular daily weigh in’s (which I don’t really recommend). You’ve got to be careful you don’t just focus on the numbers and keep your eye on the prize. Rather than reaching for something bad I angrily started chopping salad.

IMG_4656.jpg

So – as I type it’s now 6.30am on Saturday and I don’t know what the scales downstairs will say.

I need to go to group either waybecause I don’t want to give myself the excuse of leaving it another week and putting any back on.

Ideally I wanted to be in the mid range of my target rather than the upper half.

The worse case scenarios that I’m OVER it.

I’m actually a little nervous now.

(author goes to group)

Well – the scales were kind this morning – and when I had my final weigh in they said that I had somehow just squeaked under the line and was just below 14st 7lbs.

IMG_4658

This means that I’m still safely in range at Slimming World and I’m pretty much bang on target!

So – there we have it.

A week of chilling on holiday, with relaxed off plan and on plan eating followed by a week of being back on plan!

Whatever you’re doing internet make sure you stay the course and focus on your goals. Don’t get disheartened and enjoy yourself along the way!!!

Davey

Betws-y-Coed

If you’ve been reading for the last couple of days you’ll no doubt know that I spent much of my weekend exploring Wales. In my first post (link) I was investigating the sublime and eccentric faux Italian village of Portmerion and in the second one I spent the day wandering aimlessly along the length and breadth of Criccieth (link).

All good things come to an end however, and on Sunday morning (after a hearty hotel breakfast) my companion and I made an early start back in the direction of home.

Warwick is around 3.5-4 hours journey away, particularly if (like me) you prefer to drive like a cautious pensioner.

In order to break up this rather bum (and bladder) numbing distance we had decided to have a look around the surrounding area of Betws-y-Coed, which is on the way home and around 50 minutes drive from Criccieth.

Like Portmerion on Friday I’ve been there before – but never to do anything that was exercise or walking related. Like most of my experiences in Snowdonia from my ‘past life’ – my view of this pretty little bolt hole came exclusively from the seat of a car or the window of a restaurant.

Not this time though.

I was going to go for a flipping good walk and no mistake!

After parking up (before putting on my rucksack) I headed to the nearby rest room. Here I was confronted with a London-esque 20p toll gate to enter the toilet.

I hate these.

Behind me a guy sounded like he did too and tutted whilst he looked for change in his pocket. He was about to turn around and find a tree when my inner samaritan took over. This element of my personality (which is almost universally absent when faced with extorting public conveniences) was feeling oddly generous and decided on the spur of the moment to fund both of our ablutions.

I placed a coin in the slot, grabbed the door, opened it and turned (with a smile on my face) to make a friendly invitation to join me. In a moment of lightning foresight I just stopped myself from saying ‘have a pee on me!‘ and retreated from my planned comment – realising that it could be completely misconstrued.

I resorted instead to ‘I’m feeling flush – help yourself‘ and opened the door wider to let him in.

After I’d avoided a potentially embarrassing public toilet scenario my companion and I checked the tourist information boards near the river. This picturesque setting was the starting point for all of the area’s formal circular walks.

IMG_4547.jpg

It seemed that there were several routes. Three were listed as ‘strenuous’ and one as ‘easy’. The longest ‘yellow’ route totalled about 6.5 miles, but the projected time would take a little longer than we’d planned – so we instead decided upon the shorter 5 mile ‘blue’ route (info here if you fancy visiting yourself).

Almost immediately upon starting we were heading up a rapidly increasing incline into the treeline above Betws-y-Coed.

IMG_4551

Sunday was (thankfully) a much cooler day than Friday and Saturday – and the path ahead was heavily shaded.

This was something of a godsend because (despite liberal application of suncream over the last couple of days) I’d got a mild case of sunburn on my forearms. I’d once more covered them up though and was wearing long sleeves just to be sure.

The weather was pretty warm even without the sunshine mind you and in next to no time (thanks in no small part to the steep slopes – it’s almost a mile of uphill walking to start with) both my companion and I were getting a bit sweaty.

We momentarily stopped for a breather and a drink.

The forest (like most places we visited whilst in Wales) was practically deserted – and all that we could hear around us was the sound of birds, leaves or water.

This part of the world is absolutely magical.

As we twalked time seemed to fly by – and almost without warning (thanks to the walk being really well signposted we didn’t have to worry about navigation at all and could just stroll and chat) we’d emerged from the woods into larger, more open tracks that led into picturesque (almost Swiss alpine-esque) views.

IMG_4568.jpg

Since things are being born and growing everywhere at the moment it’s practically impossible to go anywhere in Wales without finding a place filled with our wooly Welsh brethren – and this day proved to be no exception.

These continually vocal residents of the surrounding hillsides were never shy when it came to instigating and continually engaging my companion in conversation – who for her part seemed quite adept at keeping them talking.

‘Baaaahhhhh.’ she said – directing her query to the largest of the nearby sheep, who was looking us in the eye whilst thoughtfully chewing grass.

‘Barrrrrrrrhhh.’ She continued, expanding upon her previous point.

The sheep continued to look at her, as some lambs approached.

‘Bahhhhhhbbbaaaarrr’ my friend said with matter of fact candour.

The chatty lambs joined in – and a longer, more in depth discussion began.

‘Barrrhhh’ They all concluded after some back and forth.

‘I speak sheep better than cow.’ She advised matter of factly as I laughed about her conversation – and speculated upon what she was had been saying without realising to the assembled congregations in the fields.

Once my friend had tired of explaining her motivations for enduring my company to the clearly intrigued sheep we carried on – and soon returned to a covered area of the woods.

We were now heading downhill again.

IMG_4589

Everything here was covered in a deep green mossy coating – and the whole landscape looked as if someone had been brought in to re-carpet the area solely for the benefit of visitors.

Looking into the woods as we walked by one could be forgiven for thinking that with nothing more than a pillow and a warm night that it was possible to bed down amongst the trees and get a good night’s sleep.

It probably wasn’t though.

If nothing else the nearby waterfalls and rivers would keep you awake – and soon we found the source of the nearby noise as we once again found the river that we’d started our walk from.

At this point we took a slight wrong turn (elongating the walk by around half a mile) and instead of walking down the river bank ended up hearing along the road back to the village.

This was (it turned out) no bad thing however, as the roadside path took us past the Pont-y-Pair inn & hotel (it’s just on the right in this photo – link) which happened to be in the middle of serving Sunday lunch, so we popped in to have a look at the menu.

IMG_4620.jpg

After being told about the (very very reasonable) cost of dinner by an absolutely lovely lady publican behind the bar we elected to stay, sit for a while and recuperate.

The walk had been quite an energetic one – and had (at least according to Apple Watch) burned an amount of calories that would allow me at least a few roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.

IMG_4635.jpg

IMG_4625.jpg

After ordering a drink I decided on the roast pork with apple sauce, whilst my companion elected to have the chicken.

Honestly – dinners rarely taste better than when you know you’ve worked for them, and I love nothing more than eating a (relatively) guilt free meal after a load of exercise.

If anyone is visiting this area, on the strength of the frankly excellent service, reasonable price and quality of food on offer I’d not hesitate to recommend this pub. It gets my thumbs up and no mistake.

Once we’d sat and relaxed for an hour it was finally (sadly) time to leave Wales and head back home – which we did.

By the time we’d reached home both of us were a bit tired but very happy at how the completely unplanned weekend had worked out. Almost everything had slotted neatly into place, and seemed to vindicate anyone with a belief that the best excursions are the once with zero structure.

All in all internet today I feel great!

I put a couple of pounds on in Wales though thanks to the fine dining I occasionally indulged in (I had loads of mayo in my coleslaw!!!) and the rest of the week will be all about me bringing that under control.

I’ll be eating lots of salad and doing lots of walking to get back into my target range for Saturday.

Fingers crossed it goes to plan!!!

Davey

Criccieth

After a truly lovely afternoon at Portmerion on Friday (link) the next thing to do was get to our hotel, have something to eat and see the lay of the land.

As it turned out both the hotel (The Lion) and the location (Criccieth- which was chosen almost completely at random) were really nice!

Although we’d planned to explore a little, after eating at a nearby restaurant (we went for an Indian meal where I had a rather tasty Chicken Shashlik) we both decided we were a bit pooped and that an early night was called for.

We’d retire to our rooms and start fresh in the morning.

The next day (after a relatively on plan breakfast – I trimmed the fat off the bacon and left the hash browns and sausages alone) we headed off to the nearby Criccieth Castle – with the intention that we’d have a look around and then wander along the coast.

However the castle (at 9.30am on a Saturday) appeared to be completely closed!

Sadly there was nothing for it but to carry on toward the beach – and this (it turned out) was actually a rather good thing.

Although we didn’t realise it at the time the tide was slowly on its way in – but for the moment it was quite far out and we could amble slowly along, hopping from rock to rock, looking at the sea and just generally exploring.

The weather had (for the second day in a row) come up trumps and it was absolutely impossible to not get slightly lost in the calm of a day where we found ourselves in yet another unspoiled area of natural beauty that was largely deserted.

I can only assume that the rest of the UK was glued to the royal wedding – which seemed to be a theme for the rest of the day too.

As we sifted through the pebbles and drift wood whilst soaking up the ambiance we slowly made our way to the North End of Criccieth beach until we reached an estuary and abruptly found ourselves cut off.

At this point we decided to hop onto the coastal path back toward town – which we ended up sticking to (with one or two deviations) for most of the afternoon.

By the time we had made our way back the castle had opened to the public – and thanks to my friend being a patron of CADW (link) we managed to get free entry which was a bit of a bonus!

Initially I was simply entranced by the view of the beach we’d just walked along (which was now mostly under water) and we found a spot where we could just sit back for a few minutes to appreciate the sunshine, the breeze and the passing gulls – which we were suddenly eye to eye with as they flew by.

To be honest life doesn’t get much better than sitting back and looking at miles stretching into the distance – and knowing that all of them are ones you’ve just walked along and climbed over.

The castle is derelict (destroyed around 1400 by the English to crush the uprising of Owain Glyndwr) but probably all the more beautiful for being so.

The view commanded from its ‘Engine Tower’ (where local historians believe there was a trebuchet capable of shelling the beach or surrounding area) is just great. The whole area opens up when you stand there – and you can only imagine what it would be like if the two story tower that once housed the artillery was still present and you could stand on its battlements.

From where we stood, far away in the distance was out next destination. We would follow the promenade along the sandier part of the beach and then rejoin the coastal path.

But not before a bite to eat.

We sat in the shade for a while and tucked into lunch – which in my case was a baked potato with tuna and some coleslaw.

The path we were following ran parallel to the coastal railway – which for the whole time we were there barely seemed to showcase a single train.

I could have been tied to the tracks for most of the day completely without incident.

The lovely thing about the absence of passengers or freight was that we could just enjoy the peace and quiet and the incidental details of hedgerows and bushes alongside the path.

It wasn’t long before we’d reached the far end of the trail and after climbing up a small hill found ourselves overlooking a much busier beach filled with cars, camper vans and some rather mysterious looking coves cut into the rock.

The view from here was also fantastic – and it seemed that it was almost impossible to look in ANY direction without a sharp intake of breath and saying ‘wow!’

We sat on the rocks – around 100metres above the beach and looked down on the people below whilst we chatted about what to do next.

Since there was absolutely no plan to any of the day’s activities we just decided to sit for a while, enjoy the sunshine and then wander back into town for an evening meal.

This time however we’d take the beach route and walk along the shore line instead of the coastal path – which as we came back down the other side of the hill showed just how far we’d walked from the castle.

The beach is absolutely unspoiled – and the water quality is fantastic.

It’s so clear and blue when the weather’s nice that you’d be forgiven for thinking you could just reach down and drink a handful – but sadly you can’t.

What you can do though is gaze endlessly into little limpet pools when you find them and look for teeny tiny creatures (of which sadly there weren’t any willing to pose for a photo.)

Once we’d made our way back to town and had a quick shower (it was a warm day!) we headed out again to an oddity that we’d spotted earlier on in town.

A convenience store, video rental outlet and kebab shop all in one!

The Criccieth Star is something of a little miracle.

I’ve NEVER before seen a standard corner shop with a fast food outlet directly opposite the guy on the till – yet here it was!

Furthermore the kebabs on offer were the griddled shish kebab kind rather than the awfully unhealthy doner variety. I chose to go for a large lamb one with salad and my and my friend chose to go for chicken.

The plan was to eat it on near the sea with some drinks – and honestly it turned out to be the perfect place to munch away.

It was getting a little colder by this point so we headed back to the hotel. Since we were both a little pooped (we’d been walking for around 9-10 hours!) and were nodding off a bit we both headed off to our respective beds.

I however couldn’t sleep.

It seemed a waste of a day to go to sleep so early – so I nipped out for one last walk and sat watching the sun go down by the beach with a friendly seagull.

As I strolled back to my room later that evening (after having a natter with a nice Welsh lady in the petrol station) I was feeling pretty blissed out.

Considering almost none of our trip had been regimented or planned we appeared to have once more fallen squarely into the hands of Lady Luck and she’d adeptly caught us with a smile on her face.

I couldn’t help but wonder what we’d get up to the following day and if our good fortune (and the weather) would hold out!

Tune in tomorrow and find out internet!

Davey

Not a number

At the moment I’m in The Snowdonia National Park – and I couldn’t have chosen a better time to visit. At the moment the weather is absolutely divine.

It has (rather amazingly) been nearly a year since I was last here when I climbed Snowdon (link) and for some time I’ve been meaning to come back to this beautiful part of the world and explore it a little more.

If I’m honest I’d been wondering (now that I’m significantly lighter and a good deal fitter) what it would be like to do it again – and had toyed with the idea of climbing it once more.

However, after some careful consideration my companion and I (whilst driving down) decided that despite the wonderful weather forecast and the fact we’d packed all our mountain gear that we would instead do something different.

We resolved to explore elsewhere – and just let things happen by chance.

It seems that this is much easier to accomplish in this part of the world than most – and almost as soon as the words had passed our lips I misheard the satnav and made a wrong turn.

As I did so we happened to see a sign for Portmerion.

I’ve been there before – many many years ago – but truthfully I can’t remember too much about the event. I vaguely recall being with my girlfriend at the time and also that I was unfit and uncomfortable.

I didn’t explore the place much at all from memory – In fact if I’m honest I pretty much walked in and straight back out again.

What an idiot I was! This place is flipping incredible!

Designed and built by Sir William Clough-Ellis between 1926 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village it’s probably as visually unique as anything you’ll find in the country, let alone Wales – and on a superbly sunny day it’s fabulous little coloured houses absolutely sparkle!

It’s also well known as the set of ‘the prisoner’ and has a bust of its star Patrick Mcgoohan (who sadly died in 2009) a little way inside it’s main entrance arch.

I couldn’t help but take a selfie with him. Neither of us are a number!

Every time you turn a corner here your eye is drawn to some quirky little detail or eccentricity- and you soon realise that whilst this elegantly styled village is Italian themed it’s most certainly not exclusively Italian inspired.

1BDA65B9-2B42-47E5-9FDC-BD7A7692A8BE

William Clough-Ellis has wanted to create something that built both on and in unspoiled beauty – but that didn’t work against the natural landscape, instead using it’s surroundings to enhance both them and it.

Consequently one of the most appealing aspects of the structures here are the way that they seem to spring out of rock formations as if they’ve naturally grown from the protrusions.

Every tiny little element appears to be framed in some way by another – and it doesn’t matter which angle you look at things from they all seem to cohesively work together as a whole in order to create an absolutely jaw dropping set piece.

Amazingly however this is not the end of it.

Much to my head shaking annoyance I realised (whilst we looked around) that heading into the wooded hillside were little formal paths that invited yet further exploration.

I was annoyed because this was yet another tangible example of my past limitations and world view.

I can get so frustrated with myself and get temporarily lost in a sense of lost opportunity when I find myself in such moments because I was unable to do or appreciate any of the things in the past that I do now.

I really wish I could have taken a trip back in time and kicked the old me – and made him realise that he needed to change but I can’t.

I suppose in many ways that’s a good thing – because if I had then I wouldn’t have ended up with the child like sense of wonder that I had yesterday as my companion and I explored the largely deserted woods on the hillside and investigated the little pagodas and viewpoints that (just like the village) seemed perfectly natural, yet also cunningly contrived to showcase a tree, pool, bush or rock-face in its absolute best possible light.

Photos of course can’t really do this justice.

Some however (I think) manage to capture how you can get swept away by the incidental detail of the place.

It’s really not hard to find yourself at one with nature and getting stuck into some spirited appreciation of it.

You really need to come and see the place for yourself – because it’s natural beauty is astounding.

After walking for a mile or two around the woods (it really didn’t seem that far !) and hugging several bits of scenery we eventually found ourselves faced with a truly spectacular vista.

All too late I think we concluded that arriving here at 2.30 in the afternoon was a massively missed opportunity.

I’d never realised just how much there was to see – and the paths along the bay and around the woods seemed like they would stretch on forever.

I could have spent another lifetime looking at the sublimely quirky little pottery and preserve shops – whose individual (and rather pricey) wares were really lovely to browse around.

By heck though – they don’t half know how to charge for a can of tuna at Portmerion!

The cafes were better value however and served delicious (and dare I say it rather Italian strength) coffee and home made ice cream (I watched my companion partake jealously from the sidelines) to complete the whole ambiance of having a drink in such twee surroundings there were birds absolutely everywhere – none of which unfortunately stayed still long enough to be photographed sadly.

Even the tableware was unique to the environment!

Anyway – I must get on. I have another adventure to have today!!

Laters internet. I’m off to explore!

Davey

Alive

Although I’ve been in a positive place this week I’ve also been quite reflective as well.

I’ve found myself (unexpectedly) considering ‘what it all means’ and what my place in the world is – and I’ve also been considering how feelings regarding bereavement change over time.

When my mother passed away a couple of years ago I really didn’t want a funeral. She’d been objectionable enough in life to leave me with a rather blunt and bullish approach to what I should do with her body after death.

I’m quite matter of fact about some things and not overly sentimental where perhaps I should be.

At the time I didn’t want a funeral. I really didn’t see the point.  As far as I was concerned the person I knew (who had been almost universally horrible to me for many years) was dead and gone. Wasting money on a coffin and service seemed like something society expected rather than an event I needed.

It was a racket and I didn’t want to get involved.

The decision wasn’t mine alone though – and it was this fact that led me to modify my original stance and lean toward a more accommodating solution.

The truth of it is that whether you realise it or not when someone dies you’re grieving.

That may sound obvious to many – but I don’t think to me at the time it was – because the emotions that I felt were not the ones I’d typically associate with grief or a sense of loss.

I know now that grief is a very flexible concept. For me (regarding my mother) it had no form that I could quantifiably define – and instead of being the stereotypical sadness that I expected was associated with the loss of a significant other (particularly a parent) it was far more complex.

Grief in my case turned out to be a mixture of many emotions I’d have never normally have linked with death. In no particular order these included:

  • Relief
  • Happiness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

The funeral we eventually agreed upon was a cremation. It was to be a simple affair with a eulogy read by an non-denominational speaker and a coffin that disappeared after a few songs and empty words into the embrace of a furnace.

At least that’s how I saw it in my mind before I was part of it.

Sitting there I was struck that we were all in the same place remembering the same person for the different reasons. Most of the feelings in the room I suspect were quite negative – but mixed amongst them were also tears – and unexpectedly some of them were my own.

Once the day had passed I didn’t dwell on it too much (at least I don’t think I did) and instead busied myself with other mountains that I had to climb. I had been (up until two days before her death) a highly functioning alcoholic and I was around 35 stone. Real personal change was needed if the next funeral wasn’t going to be my own.

I focused all of my attention on ‘moving on’ and ‘getting better’.

This was worth it – because I definitely achieved what I set out to do. I smashed my goals and successfully turned my life around.

I’m still sober after almost two and a half years) and I’m over twenty stone lighter

jan 26th8ebacc00-f812-41bc-ad06-79fd3fcc88c8img_2029

However, while this has been undeniably beneficial from a health perspective maybe it came with a cost in other respects – because now I’ve achieved my target I’ve been left thinking (not all the time – but in more reflective periods) ‘what does it all mean and who am I now?’

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling like this at such a time – because with any kind of radical life change it’s impossible to not consider who you’ve become in relation to the world around you.

How do I fit in with the people and conventions that surround me now?

Things were one way for so long that they defined me as a person.

For all the insights that I can tangibly and quantifiably say I have gained into myself over the last two and a half years there are still certain areas of my life that are frightening when I consider them and because of that I’ve avoided dealing with them.

To a greater or lesser extent I tend to bypass them completely and maybe because of that from time to time rather more acute feelings surface.

That there are definitely elements of me that I consciously or subconsciously put on hold so that I could focus on what I needed to do.

Through necessity I placed them in hibernation whilst I marshalled other more useful aspects of myself and brought them to the forefront.

Maybe now then it’s natural for thoughts regarding love and loss to come back into my mind – because it’s no longer clouded with an obsessive need to lose weight. This week therefore I find myself (both in my dreams and waking thoughts) back at a graveside – faced yet again with the loss of a parent – and quite out of the blue I feel sad.

The complexity of grief is such that I don’t feel this way because I miss her (that’s probably never something that will come to pass) but because it took so much pain and so much heartache over so much time for so much good to happen in my life.

I’m drawn back to her funeral and I think that I now realise its purpose.

It’s a day that can never be undone. It’s a moment that will never fade and it served as a full stop. It was the ultimate punctuation mark that life provides to enable a carriage return and a new paragraph.

Without it I think I would be a poorer person because I’d be left with a gap where an end point should be and I now know how crucial it was to make sure it took place.

A funeral may not offer closure at that moment in time. It may not even do it in the medium term – but feelings are funny things and many of our emotions are complex tapestries woven from years of ever changing memories.

Now, in the warm light of a sunny morning a couple of years later I feel blessed that I attended that day and happy that I congregated with others to remember her.

It doesn’t matter any more how we felt about each other in life – and it doesn’t matter how anyone else there felt about her either.

It was an end point and it had to occur so that the healing could begin and people could start to move on. The truth of it is that we are all linear beings and we define ourselves based on the passage of time and events along the way to the inevitable.

If we choose to hide from or ignore them it doesn’t mean to say that the feelings associated with the event go away – it just means that you don’t deal with them.

So, yes I’ve felt a bit sad this week – and yes I’m sorry that things ended the way that they did – but that’s a good thing because this signposts growth and moving on. It means that my mind is busy spring cleaning itself and continually re-formatting what it needs to be for the tasks ahead.

It means I’m alive internet.

Davey

Sausages and weight loss.

The human body is sometimes an opaque conundrum – and you can really tie yourself up in knots worrying about is confusing behaviour.

It really seems to do what it wants – and sometimes regardless of what you expect to happen your body goes awry and does the exact opposite.

I’m of course talking about weight (let’s face it – what else occupies my mind on a Saturday?!) and how it fluctuates for no apparent reason.

I’m writing this mostly because of some of the crestfallen faces around me in Slimming World today. These ladies were faced with a maintain, or even a gain that they genuinely seemed to think was completely unfounded.

I’m right there with them because sometimes my body is a complete mystery to me.

When the weather got warmer this week my weight suddenly went up.

Quite a lot in fact.

It’s true that I relax a bit at weekends now – but what happened seemed completely unwarranted.

When I stepped on the scales on Tuesday they reported a gobsmacking 15st 1lb. This came as a bit of a rude surprise – which is me really understating the situation.

This left me considering (right up until this morning) whether I was actually going to weight in at all or instead take a week off to fix things.

I only need to weigh in every eight weeks now I’m a target member – but because I live my ‘journey’ in public there’s sometimes a lot of (self imposed) pressure to go and do it anyway.

I feel like I’m cheating readers out of the truth if I don’t – which is probably the wrong way to think about things – but I’m paranoid about being honest with all I go through related to weight loss and maintenance.

So I have to be transparent with you all.

It seemed a lot.

An awful lot.

It hit me a bit hard.

I immediately got into a worried mental feedback loop about how on earth I’d manage to balance the books before Saturday.

However when I calmed down I realised it wasn’t the end of the world and I didn’t panic.

Instead of going into lockdown mode I carried on eating normally.

I just ahead with my planned meals – which are usually speedy salads and fish toward the end of the week anyway.

Then the next day the scales said 14st 12.5.

The day after they were at 14st 10, and after some walking and a rather light day of eating yesterday they dropped down again to a far more reasonable ‘normal’ Saturday weight.

Now there’s absolutely NO WAY that I’ve lost over half a stone of fat in the last 3 days – so this leaves mostly water or undigested food as the prime culprit.

It’s this that I’d like the people who read my blog to bear in mind – but planning ahead like this is a tricky proposition if you’re a Slimming World or Weight Watchers member that’s not yet at target – because when I was losing weight I was an evangelical advocate of never standing on your own scales at home.

If you’re not at a maintenance weight I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t caution against weighing midweek.

The only scales that should matter are the ones in your group on the day you climb on top of them.

However if (like me) you’re trying to stay in your range and understand how (or why) your body ‘normally’ works the way it does (in my view) they’re an indispensable tool – which is personally how I use them.

This morning after just getting on with things as normal for the rest of the week (standing in my pants) I was faced with the certain knowledge that things were a-ok.

Instead of having to worry about a colossal gain I was instead looking (bizarrely) at a loss!

I see this kind of ebb and flow a lot on the scales now (although not quite this extreme) and I’m beginning to recognise just how ‘normal’ it is.

However I still need to be aware of what’s going on (I can’t bury my head in the sand) which is why on a Tuesday or a Wednesday I ‘check in’ with the scales to see what’s happening and decide what I need to do to re-adjust.

Sometimes I need to eat a bit more – sometimes a bit less.

I know from speaking to other target members I’m not alone in this.

Typically (like those others in my group who have also reached target) my weekends have become more relaxed and my weekdays are where I balance the scales. For the last three months I’ve found that this (at least in my case) works.

So – I’m pretty sure that what the scales show is NOT fat.

This is what I’d like all of the crestfallen people that didn’t get the result that they wanted on the scales this week to remember.

They should remain focused on the fact that (whatever result they had) that few seconds on the scales is just a snapshot – and if you stay the course and carry on as you were the overall trend will always be downwards.

I know the power of this because one of the people I’m referring to in my group (just like me) announced today that his doctor has told him that he can also stop taking his diabetes medication.

He’s discontinued his metformin and I couldn’t be happier for him.

We now BOTH manage out diabetes with diet and exercise alone – and this is the power of positive choices and keeping a level head.

The lesson (as always) is…

Just.

Keep.

Swimming.

For my part after group I swam off into town for my usual Saturday caffeine hit and I’m currently in colourful company.

Coffee may be cheap in Weatherspoons but at the weekend my fellow clientele are often a little more fruity than the denizens of Starbucks.

As I started typing a table of middle aged ladies celebrating someone’s birthday sat down with drinks.

One of them (after much merriment and loud chatter) got up to take a group photo.

As the group fell silent and smiled at the camera in unison I caught her eye and asked ‘would you like me to take a photo with you in too?’

‘Oh no dear.’ She replied. ‘I only have nude photos taken of myself.’

I think this comment would have been really useful when I wanted to lose weight a few days ago because almost as soon as the words left her mouth I nearly lost control of my bowels – mostly because she was looking me unwaveringly in the eye.

Feeling very much like a deer in car headlights I withdrew nervously from the conversation and looked at the floor.

Her camera (I suspect) has seen a lot of action.

As I type she’s loudly comparing the large sausage with her dinner to her vibrator at home – which apparently is coming up short in comparison – with the sausage streaking away in a clear first place.

I suspect her weapon of choice at home has an easier life however as it’s edible competition is currently impaled upon a fork and being waved in the air.

Sadly all I can think at the moment about this airborne phallic pork product is ‘that sausage probably has a lot of syns in it.’

Maybe this is why I’m still single – or possibly this is why I don’t have a sausage on my dinner platter and why I’m still in target.

So internet – my advice is don’t worry (unless you’re confronted with a well oiled sausage wielding lady with a camera) and if you don’t get the result you expect this week just keep swimming.

Davey

Not recognised

I’m not sure that I could have chosen a better week to have off work – and quite unexpectedly (given the weather over the last few months) the time that I’ve had to myself over the Bank Holiday and following week has been pretty much perfect from a weather perspective.

I’ve carried on tidying the garden (the flipping ivy is back!!!) and making sure it looks neat and tidy – and even though I have quite a bit more to do around the borders and bushes (I actually rather like the shade from the colourful overhang on the left and am leaving it alone until the blooms disappear) it’s all happily under control.

IMG_3960

There have been some lucky escapes in lawnland however – and thankfully I had the mower on a high enough setting to pass completely over this terrified little frog who hunkered down and escaped trimpocalypse by what must have been millimetres.

IMG_3953

You’ll all be glad to know (well almost all – I do have one quite vocal ranidaphobic reader) that this little fellow was just fine and after figuring out I didn’t plan to do him any harm he hopped off into the cover of a nearby bush where there were no mulching power tools to threaten his existence.

As well as tending to my own green spaces I’ve also out and about in the ones past the end of my front path – wandering up and down the canal, around the park and into Warwick, Leamington and Kenilworth day after day.

This has been both with and without company and I’ve either been enthusiastically twalking the day away instead or listening to chilled out music as I stroll through fields watching the seasons change around me.

IMG_3979

Everything is growing again. The meadows are full of beautiful little flowers and little baby creatures are starting to appear here and there.

The canal in particular is alive with baby ducklings hopping in and out of the water and then back to the safety of a protective wing.

IMG_3932

Butterflies are also all over the place and the sun has been so warm, and the breeze so gentle that it’s been possible to get in really close here and there just in time to take a quick snap.

Amazingly this close up shot was taken with my iPhone.

IMG_3879.jpg

This gorgeous little specimen just sat there accommodatingly posing for me before fluttering off to find the next snap happy walker.

I absolutely love this time of year because on a personal level it reminds me of when my life started to open up again. I began walking round the park for the first time two years ago in weather just like this and every time I see little babies tucked under their mothers wings I’m transported back to those times again.

It makes me feel wonderful on multiple levels mind you – and the new generation of birds is just part of it.

The hot weather used to be a real problem and when I started walking in May 2016 it was a very very sweaty experience.

In May 2017 I was still looking very much like I’d encountered a child with a water pistol during my walks unless I wore a teeshirt under my shirt (which I was always careful to do) but now I’m as comfortable as a man can be (I barely perspire at all these days) and today went out with a gilet just in case the sun went in.

These photos have almost exactly a year between each of them.

Clothing wise this year I’ve also been able to branch out into relatively new territory on the really hot days (wearing shorts in public still feels very alien to me – I didn’t used to wear them even as a child unless I was forced to at school) and after a few spots of luck charity shopping in the mid part of the week I feel that I’ve found some pretty nice (and seasonally appropriate) items to wear.

IMG_3946

I was dressed this way yesterday as I was strolling slowly around St Nicholas park with a friend (recently injured and slowly on the mend thankfully). As we passed the boat house by the bridge I spotted a lady (and her delightfully yappy Finish Laphund – it’s so cute and fluffy!) that I haven’t seen for a while and enthusiastically greeted her.

She immediately recoiled and clearly didn’t recognise me.

This has been a bit of a theme this week – and even those that know me really well have wandered past me without clocking who they’re right next to. It happened to me on Wednesday, Thursday and again today while I was waiting for a friend in Warwick.

Although it was kind of fun for a while I’m a bit over the whole ‘I didn’t recognise you’ thing now. People only seem to figure out who I am when I get up close and smile, which was what happened with this lady.

In her case though it had been much longer since I’d seen her last (around 8-9 months) and she seemed quite shell shocked.

‘I didn’t recognise you until you smiled!’ she said.

Her companion (someone who I’d also seen semi regularly in the park) also let out a gasp.

This is the weight loss man!‘ the lady reminded her. The then penny dropped for her companion too.

‘I saw you in the Warwick Observer a while back!’ She said to me.

‘Yep!’ I replied.

Sometimes people just need a moment to look me up and down. I find it’s better to just let them have a good gander and then they can ask the usual questions.

‘How much have you lost?’ She finally said.

‘Twenty stone and two point five pounds’ I replied.

Then the other thing started.

I’m used to the questions about how much I’ve lost or whether I have loose skin or the ‘do you feel different?’ line of enquiry – and for the most part have developed standard responses. However, when people start going down the route of ‘you don’t want to lose any more do you?’ and start telling me point blank NOT to lose any more I’m a bit flummoxed.

I don’t really know what to say if I’m honest.

People saying that I don’t need to lose any weight, stating that they’re worried that I’ll try to lose more – or even telling me not to carry on is still really alien to me.

However thats apparently now a ‘thing’. People have moved from queries about ‘how on earth?’ to cautionary statements that effectively boil down to ‘No more! Thats enough!’

They all mean well though and everyone I speak to is universally happy for me – which is a wonderful thing to encounter in often random and very unexpected places. After time I suppose the novelty will wear off, I’ll bump into most of people that I’ve known for a while, have this chat (or a variation of it) and it will eventually stop happening.

Maybe I’ll miss it – maybe not.

I’m not sure.

I have to admit to being in a bit of an odd place mentally with this whole process at the moment – because I’m now very much aware that having achieved what I always wanted I’m now left with ‘normality’ – and that is altogether a very different thing to deal with.

If I’m honest I often don’t know how I really feel about weight loss no longer being the sole focus of my life.

Things seemed really simple in many ways when it was the guiding force of every day – and I’d cultivated a rather healthy obsession with a very compelling subject. Self improvement as a hobby was continually tangible and easily quantifiable.

Every week seemed to bring something new to experience and presented some kind identifiable step forward in my sense of well being and health. Now – in contrast – I just feel continually great. There are still some things I would like to change about myself – but for the most part I’m insanely happy with who I am currently.

This is of course flipping awesome – and I am in no way complaining – but at times it’s hard not to feel a tad deflated at the end of what has been a really long road.

Annnnd there we have it.

The paradox of the human condition.

When we want something sooooooooo badly that it hurts we often aren’t exactly sure what to do with it when we’ve got it.

Thankfully there’s no rush to do, feel or decide anything about anything.

Life is good intenet. It can come to me as quickly or as slowly as it wants to because I know that I can deal with it – whatever shape it takes.

Davey

Victory for sobriety

It’s funny how your mind decides to lie to you from time to time.

Mine is currently telling me half truths and outright fallacies surrounding daytime drinking in the sunshine – and serving up half baked romantic memories about how nice it used to be.

It’s at times like this that I have to metaphorically give myself a slap and remember what things really used to be like – because when you feel both fit and healthy it’s easy to forget the reality of it all.

It’s once again an absolutely smashing day in the UK and I’m sitting outside a pub with a coffee at midday. I’m wearing a cool pair of shorts, a short sleeved shirt, and I’m enjoying the sunshine.

This is more than enough to make me happy these days – but even though it’s been almost two and a half years since I stopped drinking there are fleeting moments when I genuinely miss it.

However – it took a lot of time and effort to become the person who today walked two miles into town for a coffee instead of a beer and it never hurts to be reminded of that.

I’ve been following a relatively new blogger’s posts lately (link) which – although far removed from the way I feel these days about drinking – have actually been really cathartic to read and served to remind me that my current state of mind didn’t happen by accident.

This blogger is coping very admirably with what (for the moment) is a very new phase of life – and that’s being completely alcohol free.

For the most part I’m thankfully past all of the mental noise associated with being locked into needing this particular drug to manage everything about my life – but very occasionally I’m drawn back to thinking about it being part of my day to day exstence.

There are lots of people sitting in the sun with cold beers nearby and the warm air is filled with an easy going lunchtime chatter. Lots of smartly dressed people with ID badges have nipped out for a break from the heat of their offices to indulge in a quick glass of wine and a plate of chips.

One could be forgiven for looking at them as the sole reality of drinking – and for many people it is. Their relationship with alcohol is casual, probably well managed and its consumption infrequent.

Others interspersed amongst them are in considerably more relaxed attire – and seem to be easing into what will probably be a lengthy day of drinking.

These people too are probably handling their relationship with alcohol quite well and for the most part they look fit and happy. They’re almost certainly just enjoying a day off work like I am – but you never have to look far to find someone for who that’s not the case.

Nearby there are other examples of what can become the reality of life for far too many people who can’t find the strength to say no any more.

If you’re not inclined to pay attention to the impact of alcohol on those sitting on street corners asking for spare change very nearby then it’s hard to miss the thousand yard stares and poignantly lonely expressions of men and women sitting deeper inside the pub in total silence.

They look tired, on the wrong side of too many hangovers to count and are probably here regardless of whether the sun is out or it’s pouring with rain.

I sometimes wonder if others see the same things that an ex drinker does in the people around him because I can’t help but look for the signs I used to see when I looked at my own face in the mirror.

Mostly it’s the eyes and hair I pay attention to. Both seem to show the most telling indications that things aren’t well inside or out.

One yellows and becomes progressively more bloodshot whilst the other just becomes more unkempt and begins to silently document the mood of someone who has begun to care less and less about themselves.

Thankfully my particular moment of fleeting weakness has passed.

Whilst I wasn’t anywhere near to choosing a pint over an Americano it’s always good for me to write my way through the impact of potential life choices and not ignore the reality of what they can mean.

Although I’ve come a very long way in the last two years I would be foolish to not remember occasionally that I’ve climbed out from under various rocks in the past and shown a rather unnerving capacity for eventually crawling right back under them.

Whilst I feel like the self destructive side of me is very much under control these days I’m also of the opinion that it’s that way because (unlike before) I choose not to forget the past and instead regularly confront it.

Sometimes I could probably be accused of torturing myself needlessly – but honestly if re-living the painful parts of it every so often means that I don’t repeat the same pointless mistakes over and over again then I’ll continue to do it whenever I feel the need.

When I leave my coffee mug on the table internet I do so walking in a straight line, in control of my senses and have a clear head.

I put yet another tick against yet another day that’s yet another victory for sobriety and progress.

Davey

Under boards and bridges

Whilst in a department store idly browsing today I overheard a lady explaining herself to her six or seven year old daughter.

‘But why do you need so many new clothes?’ The insightful infant asked, with her hand on her chin whilst staring at her mother’s overflowing basket of tops and skirts.

‘Because it’s summer!’ Said the lady, playing fast and loose with the seasonal truth.

‘It’s been winter forever and no-one has anything nice to wear any more. They all need to buy lots of everything so that they can go outside again.’

The young girl nodded thoughtfully and inspected some swimsuits.

I wondered briefly whether this was the logic the lady also used to justify her credit card bill at the end of the month – which by my estimation would be at least a couple of hundred pounds – even if this was the only shop she visited for the next few weeks.

In contrast everything I was wearing totalled up to less than the cost of one of the items in her basket.

I have to admit that my infinitely more thrifty approach to shopping gave me more than a smug sense of satisfaction as I wandered away from the pair, who were by that time discussing whether or not a top would make mommy look ‘mumsy’ or not.

The toddler seemed to think not (although in my view she was the wrong person to ask) and the relatively hideous floral item was placed alongside all of the others in the basket, adding to a beleaguered Barclaycard’s burden.

Today I’ve also been (unsuccessfully) looking for short sleeve shirts and shorts in my own kind of haunts – and I don’t seem to be alone.

All of a sudden (now the sun is shining) everyone appears to have exactly the same idea.

All of the outrageous Hawaiian shirts and flamboyant cargo shorts I had in my mind’s eye that were everywhere a month ago now appear to be totally absent from charity shops – and I’m glad I bought the summer shirts when I found them during the colder months of the year.

That’s not to say I don’t occasionally treat myself to a full price item. Yesterday I finally got around to buying a new pair of sunglasses – which I’m of the opinion is one of the few things that you just have to buy when you find some that suit your face – which I think I did yesterday.

Nothing says ‘I’m loving the weather’ more than a new pair of shades!

The world looked so wonderful today that it was almost impossible to not be carried along with the easy cheer of the people wandering around Warwick and Leamington In the sunshine.

I started walking quite early this morning – after finding myself wide awake at 3am. This unfortunate state of affairs was primarily due to my enthusiastically imbibed neighbours practically falling out of their Uber outside my bedroom window after a night out on the town.

I don’t begrudge them their fun though.

Live and let live I say.

Instead of trying to get back to sleep I thoughtfully scratched my bottom in the dark for a few minutes and then wandered downstairs to make myself a coffee.

This theme has continued throughout the day – and after starting with two large Americanos in Corleones with my brother (link) I then wandered (via the department stores in town) to Starbucks a couple of miles away.

En route to my next watering hole we stopped off at a really cool store at the bottom of Leamington called Underboard (link).

D42204C5-DCF5-458D-AE75-3EEED0ADB7CB.jpeg

This is pretty much a geek Mecca, and it turned out (quite unexpectedly) that my brother knew the owner – who enthusiastically chatted about the many items in his shop – including a rather swanky bespoke arcade cabinet that came with an absolute TON of built in games.

If money was no object I’d have probably bought one then and there – but sadly it is and as reasonable as the price for the hardware and games was, it was a little outside my comfort zone…

There were many other quirky little bits and bobs though that weren’t – and if you’re local I urge you to go and have a look around, particularly if you want a Princess Leia bun beanie!

I have to say (since I have a bit of a potty mouth at times) I’m also a big fan of their sweary cards. The only sad thing is that I don’t know anyone that’s getting married in the near future…

After leaving here and exhausting the Starbucks refill policy I strolled to the nearby Lidl to get myself a picnic lunch before winding my way along the Grand Union Canal and then down the river to St Nicholas park – which was filled with a lovely variety of cosmopolitan people and accents.

This little stretch is absolutely delightful in the right light – and for some reason I’ve always found myself strangely drawn to one of the bridges along this waterway.

Every time I pass under it – whether it’s in the rain or sunshine there’s a kind of calm micro climate under there, where birds congregate and nest. They’re either splashing themselves in the water underneath or roosting amongst the rusting girders above.

It’s hard not to go into shameless selfie mode when the weather is this nice – and frankly I didn’t feel even vaguely like stopping myself.

I don’t have many full body shots taken without me holding a camera, so I propped up my phone and used the viewfinder and remote timer on my Apple Watch to take a couple of pictures while the light was nice.

When I reached St Nicholas park the atmosphere was busy – and the place was filled with people jumping in the river, having barbecues, snogging on the grass, drinking prosecco and just generally enjoying themselves.

I prefer the quieter areas though – and around the newly planted flower beds there were just a few people sunning themselves on the grass and reading books.

After eating my picnic by the river (yes I did have all of those apples) I decided to wander into Warwick town centre and have a look around.

The usually sleepy square was alive with people sitting in the sun today – but I personally didn’t want to tempt fate. Although I wore sun cream today I still have the skin of a sensitive peach and whenever possible I defer to the shade.

When I get burned the consequences are dire and the after effects last for AGES.

Thankfully lots of people outside Weatherspoons in Warwick equaled loads of seats inside.

Since the idiots who own this chain of pubs still haven’t seen the error of allowing me an infinitely refillable coffee for £1.25 I spent another hour or so there getting yet more caffeinated in the cool of the airy (and relatively empty) space inside Lloyds before wandering home, which is where I sit now listening to some blissed out and relaxing tunes while I look through my photos.

Sigh. I love sunny weather now internet.

I used to hate it.

How things change….

Davey

Something in my eye

It’s irritating when you get something in your eye.

It’s been bugging me for about 30 minutes now – but thankfully it’s not serious – and if I’m honest the fact that it’s there in the first place is cause for celebration – because this particular irritant is frikkin sun cream!!!

Yep. You read that right readers.

Davey is wearing sun cream!

The sky is blue and I’m dressed to capitalise upon the weather. For the first time this year I’ve gone out in nothing but a thin shirt and a pair of shorts – and I’m loving it!

This involves a rather large set of mental gymnastics to be completed on my part however as I’ve quietly become something of a cover up king since reaching target.

I’m still horrendously self conscious of loose and stretched skin on my upper arms and my thighs, which means that anything above the knee or too far above the elbow is completely off limits in my mind.

I’ve bought a few nice tee-shirts lately that would be great for this weather but honestly I just can’t bring myself to wear them because I consider the sleeves to be too short.

It may be vanity but I’ve spent far too many years feeling out of place or weird – and when I’m wearing the right clothes I don’t feel that way.

Honestly I just feel awesome.

So – I don’t see it as a problem currently. Just like the rest of the world I buy clothes that I feel compliment my shape and imperfections. Consequently I step out of the door with a smile on my face just like the rest of the world and feel damn good about myself when I do.

I’ve got a lot to smile about too – because I’m still on track with my attempts to be a diamond target member at Slimming World.

For the 11th consecutive week in a row I’ve been comfortably in my target range and getting used to the level of exercise and food that I need to do/consume in order to remain there.

The key to this appears to be two things so far.

Firstly I’m very much enjoying having a ‘flexible’ day where I don’t worry about syns at all (usually Saturday) and secondly I’m also making sure that my exercise remains consistently high.

It’s fallen back a little lately thanks to the frankly appalling weather we’ve had – but I still seem to be doing way more than nearly everyone I know.

Regardless of that I still feel I need to do more.

Not because I feel I’m failing in any way – but instead because it makes me feel so darned great. Most of the time I’m like a coiled spring and absolutely buzzing with energy.

I rarely need an alarm clock to wake up, still only need about six hours sleep, can walk to and from anywhere I set my sights on, and constantly maintain a sub 15 minute split time for many miles.

My resting heart rate is also pretty much stuck at 40bpm, my monthly average cardio per day for May is 109 minutes and my walking distance is 8.4 miles.

That’s a little lower than it used to be but I’m not too fussed. I’ve also been using my exercise bike more and that isn’t present in the distance totals.

Thanks to an unexpected defrosting incident when I left the freezer door ajar the other day I had to cook a lot of mackerel this morning (I love oily fish) and instead of hammering a box of hi-fi bars in the meeting this morning I brought some food with me (a tub of mackerel, spicy cous cous, garlic, leeks, red onion and mushrooms) to have as my post weigh in brunch.

The intent was to mix things up a little bit (Angie my consultant always advises that variety equals results) and it worked – but with side effects.

Although it was absolutely delicious it’s left me farting like a gorilla that’s been force fed an orchard of prunes.

On my walk into town today I’ve been more than usually jet propelled and think I must have cracked the spectacles of a young man standing behind me at the traffic lights about an hour ago.

With that kind of gas attack it’s a wonder I wasn’t hit by an American guided missile – however thankfully (ironically named) President Trump is clearly too busy Twittering about porn star scandals.

Sometimes things just escape with little warning when your butt cheeks are a lot smaller. It’s a fact of life these days…

Sigh.

Anyway. I must get on and get my miles up internet. There are lots of places to walk to and browse around while I listen to chilled out drum & bass and enjoy the sunshine.

I’ve been in my happy place for nigh on an hour now (Starbucks in Leamington has been refurbished!) and if I remain here too long the sun might get the hump and go away.

Davey

Primavera

I was listening to a programme on the radio the other day which was discussing the finalists in a design competition. Although the award had been created by a fashion house, the items being judged were not clothing – but instead were themed around handmade objects.

These had to be utilitarian but also demonstrate a flair for the unusual in their appearance.

Many had been had been ‘subverted’ in some way to make them appear unique or even out of place – such as pottery finished with Ferrari red spray paint to disguise the true nature of its hand made origins.

The discussion about these unique and beautiful pieces shifted slightly during the interview and began to centre around what made them part of a ‘design’ category – instead of being simply considered as ‘art’.

The response from the gallery owner was (at least to me) somewhat unexpected.

(I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember his exact words)

‘Art is useless.’ he said. ‘These items are useful and therefore are in a different category. They may have been created with artistic flair – but they exist for a purpose aside from just their aesthetic merits.’

I had one of those moments where a tiny lightbulb lit up inside my head.

It made perfect sense to me why all of a sudden this sub classification existed and I mentally kicked myself that I’d not seen this before.

Painting hanging on a wall = use-less

Beautiful vase with flowers in = use-full

This was particularly poignant because earlier that day I’d been considering (quite out of the blue) why I was so unexpectedly drawn to a piece of furniture that I’d seen in an online gallery of Lexus design award finalists (link).

d1

I couldn’t help but initially think ‘those arm rests will be a nightmare to clean!’

But then I browsed through the gallery. The material wasn’t glued onto the arms of the chair. It was structurally part of the chair.

d2

What the creator had done was to skilfully sandwich thin pieces of veneer and material together, creating an absolutely delightful ‘hairy’ armrest that was completely integral to the item in which it sat.

Rather than two separate segments of furniture being slotted or stapled together, these two completely different elements had been fused together to form an entirely new one.

The resulting furniture was both strong and soft in all the places it needed to be and possessed an artistic flair that immediately resonated with me.

The thought that immediately followed this flush of appreciation was ‘this chair should have been in the Tate Modern when I visited the other week!’ (link)

d3

The Israeli designer (Yael Reboh) called these ‘Primavera’ – which seems quite apt given the word’s multiple meanings relating to wood and spring – although maybe less so in relation to pasta…

Yael Reboh

Nevertheless it left me feeling that I’d been looking at the output of an artist.

When I’d finished listening to the radio programme later that evening however I realised I’d been enamoured by the efforts of an artisan.

Although I’d always know the meanings of the words for some reason my mind had never fully crystallised upon the concepts that separated art and design – and just appreciated both as art.

In that little flash of understanding I was reminded that the only fact that you can know for sure in life is that you don’t know everything – and that’s a really wonderful thing to have pass through your head.

It’s probably a relatively pointless item to add to my library of ‘things I learned while I was alive’ – but it’s nice to be reminded that even tiny little thoughts can mushroom into larger ones and promote subtly different ways of looking at the world.

Everything we see has more than one perspective and even though most of us like to think that we’re open minded it’s extremely easy to settle into a life of ‘known certainties’.

As I mentioned in a blog a few days ago we can all be cognitive misers (link) and I guess (somewhat irritatingly) I just proved my own point.

Flexibility has come in numerous forms this week – and none has been more enjoyable than my approach to syns.

From a Slimming World perspective ‘flexible syns’ involves doing away with the guilt of having a ‘foodie’ day where you indulge yourself and just moving right along to get back on plan as soon as possible.

In my case it’s been a foodie week and I’ve really had to pour on the effort towards the latter part of the last seven days – with yesterday seeing a total of 17 miles of Warwickshire’s pavements pounded in an attempt to get rid of some excess calories.

IMG_3679

I started pretty early – and decided at 5.30am to get up s that I could spend an extra hour walking to work. After all – it’s now light at ridiculous o’clock – and when the weather is also relatively warm and sunny (with a fair bit of diffuse cloud) it’s criminal not to use it to do something worthwhile.

I haven’t spent enough time in my beloved St Nicholas park lately.

It really is one of my favourite places to be.

I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing three laps, bumping into someone that I know quite unexpectedly and stopping briefly for a little chat.

By the time I arrived at work I’d walked over six miles and I felt great.

When I consider how exhausted I used to feel just climbing in and out of the car at my heaviest weight when I drove to work I still can’t get overjust how different things are now.

IMG_3385

After I walked the three miles back home from work that afternoon I was greeted by a friend and immediately we embarked upon another 7 mile walk to Leek Wootton and back.

I barely bother counting any more – but I couldn’t help notice that evening that Apple Watch reported a total calorie burn of around 4000+ for the day and just over four hours of cardio based exercise.

The human body and mind are an incredible combination – and when both are open to change and progress it’s amazing what they can do in tandem.

That said I think I’m still in for a gain on the scales tomorrow (I ate a lot of nice things this week!) but hopefully it won’t be too bad and I’ll still be in my target range…

Anyway – I’m going to have an early night internet. I have a full stomach (a yummy mackerel fillet salad is to blame) and I want an early night under my belt.

Laters!

Davey

No has beans

I emptied the bin. Nothing.

I emptied the recycling. Nothing.

I checked the pockets of all my clothes. Nothing.

I checked all my coat pockets. Nothing.

I checked down the back of the sofa. Nothing.

I turned three rooms upside down in my house last night and I still can’t find my beans.

This really really doesn’t matter.

They’re just little McDonald’s cards of beans that I’ve been collecting from discarded coffee cups to get free drinks.

They satisfy my inner Womble like little else and every time I pick up a cup I also put it in the bin, meaning that not only do I eventually get a free drink but I also make the world look a little bit tidier.

On Saturday it also proved to be quite useful because on the way to my second showing of Avengers Infinity War (I may have mentioned in passing how awesome this movie is) I picked up a cup, and with my usual level of glee reached into my pocket for my wallet (containing a nearly complete second card) and realised I’d left it (and my phone) at home.

I’d prebooked the seats and needed either my wallet or my mobile to see the film.

Once again I felt that the universe was listening – and because I picked up the cup I just had time to rush home and get them before the showing started.

I would probably have missed it entirely if I’d arrived at my destination without finding some discarded rubbish.

I took the cup home and dropped it just inside my front door, leaving it there until later in the day when I came home again, attached the bean to the card, and popped the cup into my recycling.

At that point, somehow both cards disappeared.

I can’t explain it.

I almost never lose anything and as completely inconsequential as it is (I’ve basically misplaced rubbish that I picked up and I have tons of coffee in my kitchen) the fact I can’t find the two little cards I had has been driving me mad.

I’ve been dreaming about it all night and trying to retrace my steps and think what could have happened.

There’s a frustrating blank in my memory that seems to be completely empty no matter how much I try to fill it with what happened.

Even if they don’t turn up it doesn’t really matter in the great scheme of things – but at 5am I’m wide awake and I still have an scratch proof itch in my mind.

I think it’s less about the cards and more about the fact that I can’t remember what I did that’s driving me quietly insane.

On the plus side the thing that made me realise they were gone was another (very kind) friend has also been collecting beans when she finds them for me – and because she knows the little things in life please me last night she’d brought another card over.

That’s not to say she’s a complete angel however – as I’ve had to be a good boy in order to get it.

If I wind her up via text (we tend to do this to each other a lot) she’s not above getting the scissors out and engaging in threatening behaviour until I stop poking fun.

The scales have so far been balanced in her favour thanks to these shameless threats.

On the bright side at least four little replacement beans are securely in my wallet and I can once again poke inoffensive fun at her when the mood takes me.

She’s a good friend – despite her shameless hostage taking.

In other (almost certainly far more important news) last night was probably the shortest and slowest walk that I’ve been on for a while – but oddly also the most satisfying for ages.

The reason?

My twalking buddy that’s been off her feet has (maybe due to the carbs I’ve delivered while she’s been convalescing) been quietly recovering.

It’s been almost two months since she tripped whilst we were on a walk and the poor dear has been absolutely gagging to get out and about again.

It’s probably fair to say that her husband (a wonderfully attentive nursemaid that’s recently been very well trained to respond quickly to a crutch being banged on the living room ceiling) is also very pleased with her progress and willingness to leave the house.

Whilst he’s been fanning her with a giant ostrich feather and serving her grapes with cups of tea she has (for the last few days) been engaging in flagrant exhibitionism and sending me the most salacious photos.

I’m sure you’ll agree.

That’s one gorgeous hammock.

One can only take so much teasing though and last night I put her to the test.

The two of us and my other (hostage taking) twalking buddy met up for a teeny tiny sub one mile round trip stroll to the Roebuck Arms in Warwick for a coffee.

Our twalk had an average pace of around 30 mins a mile – but made all concerned really really happy because things are finally getting back on track for her.

It’s going to be a slow recovery (she was in a little bit of pain when we reached the pub) but hopefully we’ll soon be exploring the countryside again in search of new adventures!

So – beans and hostage takers aside there’s plenty to be thankful for.

Summer seems to be slowly arriving and life is once again full of well lit possibilities.

There are plenty more coffee cups to be found internet – and plenty of walks with wonderful friends on which to find them.

Davey