Eyeballs

Today I have a digital eye screening for diabetic retinopathy.

Since I probably won’t be able to write much shortly I’m typing this as I walk to my appointment.

The rain that’s been a feature of the last two days has stopped and once again it’s sunny – which doesn’t bode well for my eyeballs afterwards.

Bright light will hurt.

For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m about to have done – it’s an ongoing testing regime for diabetics where you have drops put in your eyes to dilate your pupils before someone takes flash photographs of your retina.

It’s as pleasant as it sounds.

Your eyes are sensitive to light and your vision is blurred for hours afterwards.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes though it’s essential because this test aims to give an early warning about any degradation in the small capillaries and blood vessels in your eyes.

In the long term this aims to reduce the complications associated with diabetic retinopathy – which can lead to premature blindness if undiagnosed.

Since my diabetes still appears to be in full remission I’m hoping that this will be the last time that I have to do this.

I really want to get a letter in the post afterwards saying that everything is still completely clear.

I’m also dearly looking forward to the day where my GP states categorically that I no longer need to be on the diabetic register.

Once I’m off it I’ll have to pay for my NHS prescriptions again – but honestly I’ve barely visited the doctor for any kind of illness since I started to improve my health and fitness two and a half years ago – so this really doesn’t bother me at all.

Although my overall health has dramatically improved (see my list of non-scale victories in my menu) the one that I’m MOST proud of is my reversal of diabetes.

On the 13th January 2014 my doctor first told me I had blood sugar that was way out of control.

I had a HbA1c reading of 94.

At the time I’d been unable to stop going to the loo every 45 minutes, could barely drive home in the time I needed between desperate visits to the toilet and had wet the bed twice because I couldn’t get up to go to the toilet in time.

I could also barely see (although I didn’t realise this was related until a while later) because my vision had become so blurry.

My glasses were making absolutely no difference by then and my job (which required me to be in front of a monitor for eight hours a day) left me with diabolically painful eye strain.

I’d also purchased a 55in TV to play video games on – not because (as most of my peers assumed) I was obsessed with the latest technology – but because looking at anything smaller made my eyes water after half an hour.

I was a mess – but I didn’t realise HOW BAD my eyesight had become until it got better.

(Author arrives at the doctor and goes to get some drops put in his eyes)

The fuzziness is beginning to gradually take over and it’s becoming more difficult to see my phone as I type in the waiting room.

After speaking to the nurse about no longer having to do this it seems that I’m on the screening register for life, unless I decide to voluntarily opt out.

If I do this means that I’ll not be tested again for three years – and I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On the one side I’d love to never have to go through this again – but maybe it’s stupid of me to opt out just because I want to be free of something in my head.

What if in doing so I stop getting tested and miss something that has begun to degrade regardless of how careful I’m being with my diet and exercise?

I’m going to have to think about this at length. I have struggled with my eyesight for many years (because I’m largely unable to see through one eye) and I’ve always been hyper paranoid about the possibility of blindness.

If something happens to my good eye then it would change my life dramatically.

(Things become too blurry to type so I just sit and wait for my test)

Now it’s much later in the evening. The vague nausea and headache that I always get after these drops is beginning to subside and I’m still thinking about diabetes.

I’m annoyed at myself a little for wanting it to just magically disappear in a puff of smoke and I guess I’m having to face up to the fact that to some extent it will probably always have to be a feature of my life.

Maybe that’s a good thing though.

Maybe I’m better off that way – because if it’s an ever present fear then I always have a reminder of what might happen if I take my foot off the gas.

I don’t plan to any time soon.

Anyway.

Enough with the contemplation. I get my results in four to six weeks. Hopefully they’re all clear and then we can move on to my HbA1c test.

Sigh.

I really wish that I hadn’t done this to myself in the first place.

It would have been nice to have grasped what was really important in life before I damaged myself do much – but I guess everything happens for a reason.

If nothing else for others I’m both a cautionary tale AND an example of how to attempt self repair.

I guess it’s much better than being a name carved in granite and for that Internet I’m really grateful.

I’m going to sleep now, happy in the knowledge that I’m well and that when I wake up this cruddy sensation will be gone.

Davey

Elvis is cute

The day stared with a bit of a surprise. I noticed a slip of paper by my front door telling me that a neighbour had a parcel for me.

I nipped over the road to collect it.

Without any fanfare it seems that the guys at Slimming World had sent me a really nice little care package with some bits and bobs for me to try out based on my interests.

In this case my love of cooking from fresh.

They had included a funky Slimming World apron and a copy of their new ‘Take 5’ cookbook – which is currently free in groups with a 12 week countdown.

(Yep – that’s a shameless plug. I believe in going to group and I believe in the recipes and plan. It’s not sponsored. It’s just my honest opinion which happens to match theirs!)

The truth of it is this is something of a timely arrival because while I was in London last week I couldn’t put my recycling out – and because I didn’t do that I now have three weeks worth of plastic waste awaiting collection.

It will be four by the time they collect it next Friday – and this growing little pile of pots that I’ve been diligently washing and stacking in my recycling bin on a daily basis demonstrates that I still have some compulsive behaviour patterns and I that at heart I’m still a creature of habit.

Not only do I feel happy when there’s regularity but I really like cottage cheese with onion and chives from Aldi.

It’s now become my daily treat rather than a kebab (2000kcal) or a bag of chips (1000kcal) and at around 170kcal a pot I think it’s a pretty darned great substitute.

Variety is the spice of life however – so I’m gonna cook something NEW with all their ingredients and tell you all what I think.

Watch this space!

So – how did group go?

Well I had a great time!

All of the ladies were in fine spirits and one of them had even brought along her super cute French Bulldog to say hello.

Meet Elvis.

He’s a happy little two year old who has a real enthusiasm for investigation – and he spent most of the session meeting and greeting people by nudging his way between chairs and sniffing people’s bags, legs and hands.

How lovely is he?!

However – cute hounds aside you probably want to know what went on when I stood on the scales.

My weigh in today went well and was an (expected) gain – but I’m still well within my target range.

To be honest I thought it would be worse because this week has been a bit of a long one.

I was going to say ‘tough’ but that would be overselling it somewhat because it hasn’t been particularly hard in the great scheme of things.

I just feel a little ‘depleted’.

An ever present underlying tiredness when I wake in the morning has led me to eat a little more than I normally would and I also seem to have retained a bit more fluid.

Heat sucks in this respect.

The weather has also made the walk to work and back something of a sapping task and I’ve seen my split times for the miles I’ve covered decrease from just over 15 minutes to over 17 on occasion.

I haven’t walked that slowly for a long time – but crucially I’m still walking. The heat is a powerful motivator to sit down and do nothing – but I refuse.

Mostly because of sheer bloody minded obstinacy my current monthly average distance per day is sitting at an all time high and despite a historic heatwave in the UK that’s been going on for about six weeks by the end of yesterday I was up to 11.4 miles a day for July.

I have to say though that something has been playing on my mind regarding distance walked – and despite promising the PR ladies of SW that I wouldn’t read the comments at the bottom of online newspaper stories about me, one day last weekend I did.

The comment (on the Daily Mail site) was actually the only even vaguely critical one out of many many supportive ones (no-one could be more surprised than me) and I don’t know why it stuck in my mind – but it did.

He looks great, well done! That said, I do wonder where he finds the time. It will take most people 2 hours to cover 10 miles (16k!) ; that is 14 hours a week on top of work, commute, chores, errands and a substantial time spent on cooking from scratch. I am all for an active lifestyle, but for most people it would be easier and more maintainable to aim for 3-5 miles a day and just eat a little less.’

It’s actually quite a nice comment in its own way and what he/she says is all quite true – although the commentator clearly doesn’t realise that my mileage is partially thanks to my commute rather than in addition to it.

(For the benefit of newer readers I walk a total of six miles a day back and forth to work and two miles occasionally at lunch if I have a break.)

I guess it tugged at some buried guilt though.

This is regarding one of the things that I’ve written about a lot – but few I’ve been unable to ‘fix’ and still consider it to be a ‘weakness’.

So far I’ve been unwilling to address portion sizes in any measurable way.

The brutal truth is that compared to other people I still eat a lot.

Many would probably say I eat too much when compared to a suggested portion size – and in truth it’s only possible for me because of two things.

  1. I eat large amounts of speed food.
  2. I do large amounts of exercise.

After reading the comment though I started thinking a lot (too much I suspect) about whether I exercise so much because it allows me to indulge like this.

It made me realise that in weeks like this one when I’m tired and I eat a bit more I always have to try and keep a lid on my worst impulses.

Food and portion sizes aren’t the impulses I’m talking about though.

I’m talking about my tendency to over analyse things and look negatively on what I perceive to be my failings when what I should be doing is looking at my successes.

We all do it – and I’m no different.

The tendency to diminish your accomplishments when you’re feeling a bit tired or vulnerable is a thing I think all people who’ve suffered with compulsive behaviours share.

So as usual I’m outing myself.

The truth sets you free and when you tell the world how you really feel it ceases to have a hold over you.

The truth of it is that I don’t walk everywhere so that I can overeat – I exercise so much because I know it keeps me healthy and because I flipping love it.

If I’m honest I probably need to eat a fair bit to enable what has effectively become my single greatest passion in life.

Walking.

It fixed my diabetes, it saw off my high cholesterol and it dropped my high blood pressure like a stone.

If I didn’t do it then I may still have the poor circulation that caused my oedemas and I may even still have gout.

I’d probably also still have bad eyesight and sensitive skin.

I’d probably not have had the success I did with weight loss.

It’s become so fundamentally tied to who I am now that it’s hard to imagine me any other way.

So – here’s to maintaining, looking at the positives of life, recognising when your mind is working against you and cute little French Bulldogs.

Ooozagubboyden?! Youare! Yezzyouare!

Davey

Pygmy hippo war dick muffin man

Rather unexpectedly I found myself in Germany last night.

It’s not what you think though. I’m not all of a sudden more widely travelled. Instead of me going there, it came to me when a friend messaged me to highlight that content from my Facebook account had appeared in a German news article.

It’s a valuable lesson – as I thought my social media profile was watertight.

It seems not.

I immediately fixed this and now anyone viewing the article will notice that it doesn’t contain any images at all – which makes it look a little weird… (Link)

I don’t care one little bit. They’re cheeky scamps who need their bottoms smacked.

It did leave a wry smile on my face though.

One cant help but love an article about you that starts with ‘Dave Lancaster war so dick…’ and this was primarily the reason my friend pointed it out.

She was doubled up with laughter at the time and it turned out she wasn’t alone. When another friend called me this morning she began her hello’s with a query about how my career as a German porn star was progressing.

It seems my new alter ego – ‘War dick muffin man’ may have international reach – and his appeal might just give rise to totally unexpected opportunities…

Not being a German speaker though I ran the opening paragraph through Google translate (which is always good for a laugh):

Dave Lancaster war so dick, dass seine Gesundheit stark darunter litt. Er selbst wusste gar nicht, dass er bereits so übergewichtig war. Bis er einen Lichtblick hatte.

….apparently means:

Dave Lancaster was so fat that his health suffered greatly. He did not even know that he was already so overweight. Until he had a bright spot.

It’s totally true.

I had a bright spot.

I found Slimming World.

Now I am no longer dick.

Aside from The German press’s rather blunt description of me and its unsettling use of my social media profile I was more surprised by their choice of pinched photo – because clearly beards sell stories in Germany.

There were several others that they could have opted for – but this was the random one they picked.

I must say – it’s been a while since I was this hairy.

In retrospect it’s pretty impressive plumage by anyone’s standards – however I know the real reason that it existed – and it wasn’t because of my love of cricketing legend W.G. Grace.

The truth of it was that shortly after I split with my girlfriend (who had a no facial hair rule) I simultaneously rebelled and started to hide.

I did this partially because I could finally grow a goatee but unbeknownst to anyone else I mostly nurtured it because I thought it would hide the fact that my face was getting fatter.

In my state of denial I genuinely thought it worked for a while too.

It was the perfect crime.

No one would ever know the truth – that underneath that goatee I had a fat face.

Things got more difficult to hide as time went on though. Soon a goatee wasn’t enough and only a full beard would do.

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It’s nice to look back on this and think that it doesn’t matter any more though – because currently I am what I am now and the past is gone.

Thankfully because of this what the press says has little impact.

That’s just as well – because Fox news in the US has no beginning to their sensitivity either (link).

Clearly struggling to remember my first name throughout the shockingly poor grammar of their article they instead chose to utilise a flattering visualisation to enlighten their Trumpian audience to the reality of my condition.

‘Lancaster, who at his biggest struggled into 8XL shirts and had a 66 inch waistline, now weighs a much healthier 196 pounds and has even reversed a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. He was forced to take action two years ago after his weight – which was more than an adult Pygmy hippopotamus – left him suffering a long-list of painful health complaints.’

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Sigh.

I remember all of this from when I was fat.

It’s all very amusing and I’m quite resilient to it now – but back then it practically destroyed me. When combined with my physical difficulties getting about it made me an almost total recluse (link) (another link).

The thing that gets me is that people who are still overweight go through this kind of crap day in and day out.

I’ve agreed to be put front and centre in front of all this. I’ve made the decision to take abuse if it comes my way because I want to show that there’s a better way and that you can succeed against the odds.

On a personal level I also want to be immune to such things and truly exorcise those particular demons of the past.

In many ways (although not all) those particular ghosts are now largely laid to rest – and the casual insensitivity doesn’t really matter.

Back then though it would have – and I bet for many others it still does too.

Such things in those days would probably have caused the very impulses that created the problem to kick into gear and I’d have tried to cope with the pain by doing all of the wrong things in life like eating, drinking or smoking.

If you’re in that boat the truth is that you shouldn’t lose weight because of people that talk about you like a freak or talk down to you – because that’s the wrong reason.

Sure – it may be a catalyst for change and that’s good – but the motivation should be to do it for yourself.

The only reason you need is to be able to look in a mirror and know that because you decided to you’re getting better, each and every day.

You’re slowly re-emerging into the world and becoming incrementally stronger with each difficult step you take.

Progressively things will become easier, your self respect and resilience will grow and you will not just metaphorically, but literally begin to stand on your own two feet, without the need for support from any addictions that have previously diminished you.

Whatever makes you start, if you want a reason to go on, maybe you should just do it to be better – and because ultimately you need to remember how to love yourself.

Or (just maybe) internet you need to learn how to love yourself for the very first time.

Davey

The Wrong Trousers?

I’ve just made a lovely beef stew – and I’m sitting in the garden enjoying the smell of freshly cut grass mixing with the coriander in my dinner.

As I eat I’m thinking about the events of the last week.

My life definitely feels a bit weirder than usual at the moment.

I’m confronted with my own image everywhere in various sizes, shapes and periods of my life. People that didn’t previously know I was ever overweight have seen these and are beginning to realise who I used to be and ask me questions about my route back to health.

It’s been nice to get compliments – but I’ve also faced a lot of really direct questions – which I don’t mind.

It goes with the territory.

As usual the most common one (both online and face to face) is about what I do with the excess skin.

It’s clearly something a LOT of people worry about – but I’ll be honest and say that I’m perpetually perplexed by people’s preoccupation with this aspect of weight loss.

It seems to loom really large in almost all people’s minds.

More worryingly it actually seems to be a barrier to losing weight (or maybe an excuse not to) for some – which I find really bizarre.

Irritatingly it’s also one of those things that continually gets referenced as something that’s ‘worse for women’, or ‘it’s ok if you’re a man’ which is something I always fail to understand.

Men are no different.

Men have feelings too – and we (just like ladies) have to deal with the possibility that people might not find us attractive when they find out what lurks beneath our clothing.

I occasionally worry about the loose skin that I’m left with (it’s impossible to lose 20+ stone and not have any) but I see it the same way as I viewed gastric surgery.

I felt strongly (when faced with this being a distinct possibility) that it’s wrong to be cut open and remove huge chunks of myself – then throw them in the bin all because I lack willpower.

Probably because I felt that way about gastric sleeve surgery (which I came close to having) I also think it’s wrong to cut off excess skin that remains as a consequence of me finally finding willpower.

If I choose to do that then what I’m really saying is that I’m willing to be judged by a prospective partner from a visual perspective alone – and not because I’m someone with a mind and a personality that deserves to be loved.

The issue of skin is in a similar vein to the other comment (or variants of it) that I’ve heard a lot over the last few days.

This goes along the lines of ‘…it’s easier for men to lose weight’ or ‘…men just get on with it and always do better.’

It’s not true.

I’ve seen and spoken to plenty of men (particularly since my story went public) who’ve failed to lose weight or backslid and put loads back on just like I did many times before.

They struggle with self perception and they too worry about skin and how they will look, how they will find love, or how they will retain partners they already have.

I get the impulse to be ‘normal’.

I really do.

I also understand fears about judgement in the eyes of others and that people will recoil in shock when they see me topless or in more revealing clothes.

If I’m absolutely honest I’d dearly love to go swimming – but I can’t bring myself to do it… yet.

One day I will – but that’s something for the future.

Some things come easily – others (like this) take time.

It’s not like I’m in any rush though. There’s a lot to take in and process elsewhere – because not only am I getting an amusingly broad (and often quite strange) variety of people contacting me from all over the world on social media – but the traditional print medium still seems to be writing articles about me.

Since I’d only looked at the newspapers online to see what had gone live about me I’d not realised that the physical copies of the papers differ significantly from their web counterparts.

The Daily Star’s print article on me gave me the nickname ‘the muffin man‘ – referring to my old habit of eating two McDonald’s double sausage and egg McMuffins on the way to work every day.

I must admit I was perturbed by this for a moment – but then I thought ‘…what the hell – who cares? I’ve been public property thanks to my blog for two and a half years now and this is no different.’

What was a bit different however was how I discovered this headline.

I was told at the weekend that I’d appeared on Sky News – and although I missed the live segment today someone kindly sent me a recording of it and I watched the footage.

Not only did I see the Star’s headline but at the same time had the surreal realisation that Anne Diamond was talking about my huge old trousers and suggesting they could be re-purposed by being upended and used as a parasol.

Genuinely I didn’t see that coming – and neither did I expect to be likened to Wallace from ‘Wallace and Gromit and the Wrong Trousers’

I guess there’s humour to be found in every situation and honestly this did rather make me smile.

This afternoon there’s been more of the same ‘surrealness’.

Today I’ve been doing another interview to camera – this time in my garden for the BBC’s social media team – which I’m told will go live some time next week, although I’m not entirely sure whether this will be just on the web or will be on TV too.

Honestly I’m not in the least bit bothered which it turns out to be.

Every single time someone engages me and asks a question because I’m visible to the world it means that they’re thinking about how they can improve their own lives – and because of that there’s real and tangible value to being critically assessed by people who have never met me.

I genuinely don’t mind – I really don’t.

If I struggle to make sense of any aspect of this period in my life then all I have to do is refer to the real people with real lives and real problems that say my story has helped them.

Then it doesn’t matter.

It’s all completely worth it – because I’m helping people – just by not hiding and standing out in front of everyone and everything with no shame.

They’re not the wrong trousers internet.

They’re the RIGHT ones.

I didn’t know that when I purchased them and I had no idea they would be when I put them on – but now…

Now I realise they have power – just like I do – to inspire change.

Davey

Slimming World National Man of the Year 2018 – Part Three

(Part one of this story can be found here. Part part two is here).

So, like the last two posts – I’m at the Ritz Carlton in London.

I know I know. It’s bizarre – but nevertheless I’m there, I have a key and security haven’t dragged me out yet. It wouldn’t be hard if they wanted to though – because I’m exhausted and I simply can’t sleep.

Lets face it – this is fairly typical behaviour at the best of times. I probably couldn’t write a blog if my brain ever really switched off. Content creation would be impossible. Even by my standards though this was A1 MILITARY GRADE WEAPONISED INSOMNIA.

After my friend had gone to bed I’d taken a long hot shower in my insanely massive marble shower at the end of my insanely massive marble bathroom where there was a Batphone on the wall in easy reach of the toilet, shower and bidet.

Sadly even after this and slipping on my super soft Ritz slippers I didn’t feel that it had come even close to making me sleepy.

For a moment I toyed with the idea of using the Batphone to call for a butler to read a bedtime story to me – but eventually decided against it.

It was just me vs the ridiculously nice room at 3am.

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Things kept going through my mind – and as well as being in an unfamiliar place with a strange bed and a ceiling that looked like it belonged in a museum I couldn’t stop pondering the events in my life that had led up to where I was at that particular moment.

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In a matter of hours I would be standing in front of the NATIONAL PRESS and then the world would make whatever it wanted to out of me.

More importantly though I realised that whilst I’d been out at the restaurant a biscuit fairy had entered the room, tidied my stuff up, pulled a little TV remote shelf out of the nightstand, rested a sky remote upon it and left a macaroon on the table by the window.

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This began to turn over and over in my head.

Why a macaroon? what was its significance?

There was one in the drawing room as well and both looked as perfect as it’s possible for a macaroon to be. Maybe it was a test. Maybe it wasn’t real.

I resolved not to eat it.

I don’t trust strange macaroons that appear out of no-where on china saucers.

Besides – I’d already managed to demolish an entire fruit bowl and a bunch of grapes and I still needed to get into a perfectly fitted suit in the morning.

I went to sit in the drawing room in my Ritz slippers and my Ritz bathrobe next to my Ritz champagne to work on my blog.

Maybe THAT would make me sleepy.

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This had no effect, so after another few hours I decided to take another shower and this time turn the temperature up to max.

Other than giving me third degree burns this too failed in its allotted task – and by the time the morning rolled around and the sun came up (despite sitting at the antique writing desk by a picture of Andy Warhol for inspiration) I was no further forward with my blog and no closer to sleep.

By that point I’d been awake for over 24 hours and I wasn’t sure I would be able to tell someone my name at that point if they asked me to – let alone conduct a press interview.

I decided to eat the pink stealth macaroon.

Flipping heck! It was absolutely wonderful!

With a hint of almond sweetness it practically melted on the tongue and turned into a liquid. It was gone almost as soon as it passed my lips, but left a lingering taste that was divine…

Thankfully to save me from my endless reflection (and eating the other one) my cheerful companion woke up and padded into the drawing room from her apartment next door.

I waited until she was sat down and then passed the second plate with the single biscuit under her nose.

‘It’s sooooo nice…’ I said (rather seductively).

‘Ummm…’ she replied, looking at it and (like myself) wondering about the stealth macaroon’s purpose.

‘Just eat it. Twist it’s lid and pop it in your mouth.’ I said.

She looked at me and then at the incognito pastry. Over my shoulder she spotted the completely empty fruit bowl. She knew that this was her last chance.

She needed to eat it now or I would.

She picked up the macaroon from the saucer and twisted it. It’s delicate pink body started to crumble and she quickly popped the whole macaroon into her mouth and sucked.

‘Ohaassgud…’ she said with a mouth full of stealth macaroon. ‘Assrreeeeeeelygud…’ she mumbled as it melted in her mouth.

I placed the saucer back on the table. That was the last of the mysterious stealth macaroons, but its taste was still there and it had stimulated hunger pangs.

Thankfully it was nearly time for the room service meal we’d ordered the night before – and within moments a butler arrived with a hostess trolley and set it up in front of Andy Warhol.

He didn’t blink.

The butler placed two (ironed) copies of the Telegraph next to the television and stealthily exited almost as invisibly as the macaroons had entered.

I couldn’t tell if Andy approved of breakfast (although from a SW perspective it was spot on) and as I sat down he was intently staring at me over my friend’s shoulder. Maybe he too had eaten a macaroon in this chair during his stay – followed by a full English and a copy of the Telegraph.

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Both of us by now were just blown away by the sheer weirdness of it all – and it was all almost we could talk about over the fine crockery and delicious food.

The other topic was that neither of us (it turned out) had slept particularly soundly – and we were preoccupied with the knowledge that this was all a rather unreal experience. None of it made much sense.

At least there was finally some coffee though.

Some things in life remain uncomplicated regardless of the cost of the ostentatious container it arrives in.

The disconnect from reality didn’t stop me from eating a giant plate of strawberries, raspberries and yogurt with a frikkin silver spoon though.

THAT just had to be done.

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We managed to tuck the breakfast away just in time for the PR team to arrive at 8.30 sharp (as expected – they’re very punctual ladies) and when they did they began to unpack laptops, start checking any current news stories that might affect questions I’d be asked and dress the room with magazines and press packs.

For my part I needed to iron my shirt, so as soon as a butler delivered an ironing board and a steam iron I retired to my room to get rid of some creases and try to relax.

If the jacket and waistcoat had to come off I wanted my shirt to be super sharp.

Also, ironing is calming. I like getting rid of creases.

It wasn’t long before more butlers arrived next door with refreshments – and after a while the drawing room was a hive of activity.

My friend periodically popped in and out to take cheeky snaps of butlers and get them to make cups of tea for her whilst I got ready.

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Soon I was dressed and getting more than a little nervous.

I’d not seen what was going on next door and had been requested to remain separate as the press arrived until I was asked to go downstairs.

There’s only so much you can do standing around aimlessly in a suit though. You don’t want to get it all creased by sitting down unless you have to – so you just have to linger about, looking out of windows and trying to appear photogenic.

If you lurk long enough doing this eventually well dressed ladies will be lured toward you and want to get in on the photographic action on offer.

I can’t complain. It makes for a nice memory!

After a little while the press had all turned up and the PR team migrated them downstairs – so we headed down a rear stairwell to the garden.

This hotel had some pretty ostentatious staircases! This one had a grand piano in it…

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I don’t think that there was a single part of the Ritz that I visited during my stay that was any less than completely immaculate and buffed to perfection. I even ran my finger along lots of things everywhere I went to try and find dust.

There wasn’t a single speck.

As we emerged into the daylight I saw a small group of photographers who were all arranged in a bunch facing some neatly manicured bushes.

I was ushered to the front and looked into the array of lenses – and it was then that the endless smiling started.

‘Look here please Dave!’

I smiled and looked. (Flash!)

‘Face me please Dave – give me a big smile!’

I smiled again and looked (Flash!)

‘Down here Dave! THAT’S the pose! Yes, just to the left – and smile!’

I moved to the left, smiled, and looked again. (Flash!)

Before long the waistcoat that I’d chosen became the focus of attention (I blame the world cup – link) and they asked for the jacket to go.

I handed it to the PR team and the smiling and flashing started all over again.

Before long it was prop time too – and I was asked to pose with my old clothes (which I’d been requested to bring along).

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I don’t think I’ve ever had to smile so much on cue. I’ve no idea how long this really went on for – but as the PR team periodically rushed in to straighten a pocket, tie or hem the camera kept flashing and the requests for more ‘BIG SMILES’ kept coming.

It seemed like this went on for more than an hour.

I tried my best to accommodate them without appearing like I was smuggling a coat hanger in my mouth – but it’s hard work to look natural in the glare of flash photography for that long!

Once the initial set of photographers had completed their work a video journalist amongst them remained behind and asked me for a few link shots and then an interview.

This was actually the most enjoyable bit so far – as for the first time I’d been engaged and asked how I felt about it all – and he didn’t have a flash.

It was also rather nice to talk to the young man – who seemed genuinely interested in more than just my immense trousers and asked me a lot of questions.

His video actually turned out to be rather good in my opinion (although for expediency it was heavily edited) and can be found here.

While this had been going on a final photographer had arrived a little late and was waiting in the wings with a massive camera holster slung around her tiny waist like she was a character in Westworld.

Since the rest had gone upstairs to hit the drinks trolly, once the video interview was complete she had me all to herself. This turned out to be (I felt) a slightly more personal set of photos as the sudden peace and quiet set the tone.

Also smiling on cue for just one person didn’t feel quite so weird.

It was quite a relaxing end to the proceedings – apart that is from the need to once again clamber in and out of my old trousers – which required a team of ladies to help me get both in and out of one leg without falling over and breaking my neck…

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Once that was done we all headed back upstairs – and on the way I started talking to one of the young butlers who’d been keeping us all hydrated.

He seemed very interested in my weight loss – and had confided in my friend during the photoshoots that he too had dropped a few pounds. It turned out that he was a very modest young man – and that he had lost a very impressive five stonewhich I congratulated him on.

‘It’s only five stone though’ he said, shrugging a little. ‘It’s not 20.’

‘It’s not ONLY anything.’ I said.

‘Everyone has their own mountain to climb. Mine may have been a little higher – but I bet it was just as hard for you to get started. Be proud that you got to the top! I bet things are better now that you’ve done it.’

He nodded and smiled at me – and we headed back upstairs.

On the way he whispered that we needed to avoid passing too close to the kitchens, where apparently ITV had a camera crew and were filming something else. We had to be quiet.

After tiptoeing past we were soon back up in the suite again – where it was anything BUT silent. The news was on the giant TV for the photographers, and somewhere else in London the Prime Minister was addressing a group of people about something.

She looked tired, and for once I sympathised with her.

I grabbed a coffee and then started chatting to the photographers, who were all keen to ask me questions about my weight loss.

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They were all being surprisingly complimentary and saying that the photos had turned out really well. The young lady who took the last few seemed really keen to show me how well – and lifted her laptop to highlight a particularly cheesy grin that I’d made.

As I talked to them it transpired that some of those present had their own battles with fitness. One of them was worried about a family member, and didn’t seem to be able to help them start the process of getting fitter.

No-one amongst them seemed to think that the life of a press photographer was a particularly healthy one. It apparently involved a lot of sitting and waiting – meaning food usually came in the shape of pastries or chocolate, and the chances to move were limited and sporadic.

Drinking was also part of the culture and the social scene invariably involved more than a few pints after work.

It was hard to stay on the straight and narrow, they confided.

I grabbed another coffee.

I hadn’t realised it – but as we were talking (and they were typing) stories were going live in the press – and the PR team were not only updating their own Slimming World pages (link), but tracking what was happening on the wider internet.

One by one all the nationals started putting stories up.

(Daily Mail, another Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Daily Star )

Then some smaller outlets started joining in too  ( link / link / link )

I was just exhausted though. It was now midday – and I’d been up for a long time.

To make it even more daunting I now had to return to Warwick as well.

One by one the press made their excuses, and I shook their hands as they left – until there was only one photographer remaining.

I excused myself, went next door to pack my suitcase and get changed – then came back in to sit down for a little while as the last one got up to leave and the butlers quietly followed.

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The room fell silent and I looked over at Andy.

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He stared back impassively.

That was it then. My fifteen minutes of fame was at an end.

I couldn’t help thinking how apt it was that he’d been in that room, watching me from within his black and white picture frame – impassively observing the day’s proceedings as his prediction for me came true.

I thanked the PR team and gave them all hugs. They’d been absolutely wonderful – and at no point had I felt that they had anything but my best interests at heart.

Sure – this was PR and it was business – but they’d made it clear that at the heart of the day there was a person – and that he was important to them.

I couldn’t thank them enough. It had been an amazing experience and as tired as I was I had absolutely no regrets.

It had been awesome.

After checking out, myself Angie and my friend hopped into a Taxi and headed for Marleybone station.

We arrived just in time to jump on a train home – where the final surprise was the random guy that I sat next to wanted a selfie with me…

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Bizarre.

After that the surrealness was almost at an end.

When I got home Facebook was practically on fire – and the official SW page seemed to have a counter on it that was ticking around in real time. Their views were clocking up into the tens of thousands already!

After attempting (unsuccessfully) to deal with a well wishing avalanche on social media I eventually gave up tilting at windmills and decided I was ready for bed.

By 10pm I’d been awake for 42 hours and I was practically in a coma.

The day finally ended when my friend sent me a message titled simply ‘you’re clickbait mate‘ with a picture.

Mine was the last face I saw captured on his laptop as I fell asleep.

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Davey

…..

P.S.

The following day life returned to normal– and I couldn’t help but smile at the contents of my boot when I did my usual Saturday morning shop at Aldi before Slimming World.

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The contents of my bags – and my sustenance for the week cost about the same as my fillet steak at Gauchos, and less than my breakfast at the Ritz.

I was comfortingly back to normal.

And you know what normal is?

Going to group, seeing all my friends, telling them about my week, asking about theirs and standing on the scales.

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Yay – still in target, even after stealth macaroons!

Laters internet. Stay frosty…

Davey

Slimming World National Man of the Year 2018 – Part Two

(Although you don’t really need to read part one of this story in order to get the most out of part two – if you feel so inclined you can read it here)

So – In the last post I began my story in the Ritz.

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But how did I get there?

Well – the story regarding that starts a little before Thursday – when (shortly after winning the Man of the Year competition) I had the first of a few mails from Slimming World HQ.

The announcement of my win (they wrote) would be made at a press call in London to the National media. Since they planned to do a photo shoot with some journalists in the garden at the Ritz Carlton a suite would be booked – and as the rooms in it needed to be used I (and a guest) would unfortunately be forced to stay in the lap of luxury on Thursday night.

After much to-ing and fro-ing over e-mail, eventually a mutually agreeable press release was arrived at (they’re very flexible – and they were extremely keen that the story and words were mine rather than something that was generic and ‘advert-y’) and on Thursday morning (in quite balmy overcast weather) Angie, myself and my friend set out from Warwick Parkway.

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(I’m sure you’ll agree that I didn’t appear like a total Diva for bringing along a bigger suitcase than both of my female companions for an overnight stay. A boy needs options after all!)

The train journey was pretty smooth and relaxing – and we actually all got to the station in time to catch an earlier train than I was expecting.

We ended up in London well before 11am!

Since everyone was in need of a little body magic (and my OCD was also kicking in about not having done enough exercise despite getting up at 4am to walk five miles around St Nics park) we started walking from Marleybone station to the Hilton hotel, which was where Angie and the PR team would be staying.

An hour or so later (after stopping for a wee and a drink at a pub on the way) we’d been there and dropped off her (massive) suitcase.

Immediately after we headed off to the Ritz to drop off my (smaller and more reserved) one with the concierge. It was just after midday.

We had originally been given an itinerary that involved a 2pm check in and a 3pm appointment with a stylist in the suite – however the PR team had changed their approach and we now had to go elsewhere.

I suspect that they realised that a virtually bald man without a beard that wears no makeup and doesn’t have a monobrow probably had little need for a makeover and changed their plans accordingly.

We signed in at the Ritz, checked our bags and told them we’d be back later for the room took some shameless selfies then started the next leg of our walk.

The new destination was the rather exclusive (at least from my perspective) salon and personal shopping experience area on the 3rd floor of Debenhams on Oxford Street.

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When we arrived we were still a little early – which gave us a perfect opportunity to grab a bite to eat and check out the store.

Around the back of the building was a small pan-oriental restaurant called Chi Kitchen (link to menu) – and since we had no idea where else we should go with the time (it was around 1pm) we decided to use the lunch allowance we’d been given locally to get something we didn’t normally eat.

I wanted to keep things light. I must admit to being a bit of a creature of habit in the latter part of the week leading up to my weigh in. I know what makes my weight stay the same, and I know what usually results in a loss.

I had no idea what crab in batter with Sushi would do – but it looked flipping awesome!

(this is the ‘Spider soft-shell crab’ – which is sushi rice with soft shell crab tempura, cucumber, oyster mushroom, avocado, asparagus and green tobiko)

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My companions went for some slightly different choices (kung po chicken for Angie and a chicken special fried rice for my friend) which looked pretty nice too!

After we’d had lunch we thankfully still had time to go and buy all of the items of makeup that Angie had realised were left sitting in a bag on her kitchen table at home.

Once eyeliner and mascara had been hastily sourced the brief panic was over and I started abstractly trying hats and jackets on to see what fitted and what didn’t in the menswear department with the ladies passing judgement and making suggestions.

Debenhams is waaaay bigger in London than it is in Leamington, and the variety of styles is therefore  HUGE in comparison. There was a pretty awesome selection of waistcoats in there – and since I’ve never owned one I thought that now may be the time to experiment.

However – when we were met by the stylist – Rachael Fanconi – I quickly realised that she was not only really good at her job, but also an absolutely lovely lady.

Although she mentioned a few high profile clients when I asked about her work (particularly Helen Mirren and Dawn French) I found out later when I looked at her portfolio online (link) that this was the tip of the iceberg.

As well as many many other famous people she’s also apparently dressed Kelly Brook (I’m another step closer!!!) on top of doing lots of makeovers for Slimming World.

She also clearly understood some of the psychologies at play when someone like myself is faced with wearing figure hugging items after a lifetime of trying to hide curves and imperfections.

This can often lead to some real nervousness (it certainly does with me) and she immediately demonstrated to me that she knew how to make the most of what a person has to work with.

I felt like I was in safe hands.

After checking out my photos and reading through my questionnaire (I had to fill one out prior to my trip with my sizes, preferences and things I liked and disliked) it was also clear she had paid attention, and the available selection was filled with nicely patterned shirts and lots of blues and browns – something I really lean towards.

I like something a little eye catching and flamboyant.

The first outfit was pretty casual and I have to say I thought we’d stumbled onto a winner because I thought the whole lot worked REALLY well together – both with and without the jacket!

The shirt was ace!

We moved on however, and I was keen to try on a Hammond & Co blue check suit I’d seen further along the rail.

It was nice… but….

I felt something wasn’t quite right, so it was back to the drawing board. Rachael suggested we go with a lighter shirt and an open neck rather than a tie.DSC04131

Although I liked the shirt I felt there was a little too much blue – and besides – I’d already secretly fallen for the pink shirt and (rather lovely) pink and blue signature silk tie.

Nevertheless we persisted with trying a few more styles.

It seemed that none of the items on the rail suited me and had way too much room in the waist for my liking (boy – what a problem to have!). All of the 38’s were too big but ok in the leg, whereas the 36’s were perfect in the waist but felt like jeggings.

The blue suit had almost been right – but it was a ‘long’ fit and would require a quick tailor turnaround overnight if we wanted it – so Rachel went hunting for a similar one – and came back with a slightly different blue three piece by ‘Racing Green’. She then tried pairing this with a Jasper Conran blue shirt and a dark gold (with blue detail) tie…

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I didn’t like it at all.

It looked like I was going to a business meeting and didn’t warmly say ‘I’m happy to meet you‘ from what I could see. Instead I felt like it screamed ‘I want a job. Let me show you my CV.’

I may be wrong but I think my face said it all – so I went back to grab the original pink shirt and (absolutely lovely) tie to see how that all went together.

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Muuuuuch better!!!

After adding a smart tan belt and some patterned blue socks it seemed like we were good to go – because by now (almost two hours later) I felt like a million dollars!!!

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The wonderfully patient ladies waiting outside for me then sorted out the bill and we left with a few bags.

The next task was to get into the room at the Ritz (it wasn’t ready when we initially checked our bags) and then head out to a restaurant to discuss the events of the coming day over a meal.

We checked in and went up to the room with the concierge leading with the key and a porter following closely behind with our bags.

What awaited us was waaaaaaay beyond my wildest expectations for a hotel room.

This is soooooooo far outside of my frame of reference and comfort zone that it’s hard to describe.

I grew up on a council estate in the 80’s where unemployment benefit in Thatcher’s jobless Britain of the time framed my entire childhood’s points of reference.

People came from nothing and often remained in the same area forever with little else to show for their lives.

I’d been surrounded by poverty back then and had grown up in a rented house where the most violent rows (including the one that finally resulted in my family breaking up) were related to finances and the crippling lack of them.

Although I’ve never coveted or hoarded money (like some from a similar background might) I’ve always been careful to hang on to it and be sensible when I’ve come into it – because it might be gone when I least expect it.

I’ve always had to look after myself in the absence of a parental home I could fall back on in times of trouble –  and I’ve also been single without a family of my own for many many years.

It’s shaped my attitude to when I do and don’t open my wallet.

I never do flashy – and I realised that this kind of environment didn’t sit well in my frame of reference. Being in a place like this just didn’t happen to me.

I had a lump in my throat and I really didn’t know what to do with all the things around me. As bizarre as it sounds I felt I had no idea how to process a marble bathroom that was five times the size of the one in my house.

How did I end up here and why? What on earth was going on?! It all seemed so unreal and alien…

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Nevertheless – I was there.

AT THE RITZ.

I was determined to make the best of the experience.

My friend and I got changed and then headed down to the lobby to meet the PR team with Angie. She (like ourselves) had also thrown on a casually fabulous outfit – enabling all three of us (should we have so wished) to legitimately add ‘swanky‘ to our group description as we strolled to the nearby Gaucho steak restaurant.

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As well as take selfies with my lovely companions this was yet another opportunity to also chat to the ladies from Slimming World HQ – who were all so insanely friendly that I had begun to wonder whether I needed to check if my wallet was still in my back pocket.

Surely no organisation could make this much of a fuss over a guy that has just lost some weight?

But make a fuss of me they did – and as we walked and talked I learned more about their backgrounds, their likes, dislikes and their capacities for retaining odd nuggets of general knowledge – which in some cases were strangely similar to my own.

I’d come face to face with the only other person I’ve met that knew humans are all allergic to pineapple and that because of this it dissolves human flesh. She could also reference obscure Dr Who episodes casually in conversation like it wasn’t at all niche as well as having the acumen and intelligence to comment that MY R2D2 WALLET WAS COOL.

(which it is)

When we arrived at our destination you’d have never guessed that financially Gaucho is hitting hard times at the moment.

I found out before leaving for London that both they and their partner chain ‘Cau’ are entering receivership (link). It’s a shame – because it’s a pretty impressive (although crazy expensive) place.

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The experience started with the waiter coming around with a (instead of cheese) meat board to explain the different cuts, where they came from and what we could expect from them when they arrived on our plates.

This was beef with pedigree and provenance. Some was old enough it seemed to be on the antiques roadshow.

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It was at this point that his little finger hovered over the mighty chunk of fat free fillet steak. It looked instantly Slimming World friendly.

‘This melts in the mouth and is the finest cutthe waiter said.

I looked at it and a quote from ‘Wayne’s World’ instantly began looping in my head.

I had to have that steak.

I’d never had a fillet of beef in a restaurant before.

However, when ordering the waiter threw me a curve ball. How about one that had been marinaded in olive oil, garlic and parsley? The Churrasco de Lomo was spiral cut and would (he said) allegedly appear on my plate laid wide open as if it were a butterfly about to take to the air.

It was the finest food that could possibly grace a tastebud he implied.

He was Spanish. He was also a waiter and that combo worked out really well for Shirley Valentine. It could work out for me too!

I decided to go for it. He looked like he knew what he was talking about when he was handling his meat.

I told him I’d also have the Tuna Ceviche as a starter with the rocket and kale salad as a main side. The steak should be cooked until it was medium rare.

For reader’s future reference the starter was pronounced [se-vee-chee].

This was a profound improvement upon my less than eloquent ordering technique – which comprised of saying ‘the tuna please but I don’t know how to say that‘ whilst pointing my ape like index finger in the word’s general direction on the menu.

Thankfully the Spanish waiter had my back. Shirley definitely knew what she was doing because he did me proud.

He not only taught me a new word – he returned with a symphony on a plate – because when my se-vee-chee arrived it looked the schnizzle.

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What I hadn’t expect though was for the Tuna to be raw.

Angie looked at it and turned away. She doesn’t do raw.

I on the other hand was already waaaaaaaay outside of my comfort zone already so I just dove right in.

Oh boy – HOW HAD I NEVER HAD THIS BEFORE?!!!!

It was flipping amazing!!!! Although it didn’t take many mouthfuls to demolish, each one was a rolling wave of gently unfolding flavours. It was awesome! 

One nil to Spain.

Hopefully they would score a hat-trick and take it home with the second course.

A few moments passed after the staff cleared plates and topped up drinks – and then the main courses arrived.

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I’m not gonna lie.

Spain only flipping won the cup because it all tasted divine.

After this we all sat talking for a while. The press call was described by the PR team in great detail, and then (if I’m honest) I think I talked a bit too much about myself.

It was hard not to though.

Being there with people for a press call about everything that’s happened to me in such an unusual situation brought a lot to the surface.

I told them all about my dream the other day (link) and how firstly winning the competition, and then being interviewed by Slimming World for the video (link) had begun to unravel a problem I’d had with recurring, painful and negative nightmares for literally decades.

I was surprised (I said) at how – even now – there were things that were changing and evolving within me.

It was really really hard to stop myself from just continually thanking them for that – because honestly it’s pretty much all I wanted to do by that point – but instead I babbled on about what had led me there.

Thankfully I eventually ran out of steam, and they too shared their pasts, how they’d met partners, and why they’d come into the line of work they were in.

By the time we left and walked back to the hotel I think it was safe to say that everyone had had a good chat, and I was definitely a bit more clued up about the format of the day ahead.

As we approached the Ritz the PR people and Angie peeled off in the direction of their hotel and my friend and I headed up to the room – but not before taking a couple of sneaky pictures.

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Once in the room, after checking the view from our antique writing desk, I made myself at home (I had finished the day with 16 miles walking under my belt!) as my friend busied herself with the room service menu.

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As for what happened next – I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait for part three internet….

Tune in later for the next exciting episode of Davey goes to the land of surreal!!!!

Davey

 

The Event Part Two

It’s Sunday 15th July.

I’m sitting outside a pub in Warwick with a cold Diet Coke in the fading light of a summer evening reflecting upon the past week. It’s about 9pm.

I won’t be able to post what I’m writing now until late on Friday – but it’s occupying my mind so much that if I don’t at least begin to pour it out onto a page I think I’ll go quietly nuts.

In the last post on this topic I wrote regarding the events of Sunday 8th July at Slimming World HQ and I pulled up short. I couldn’t tell you all that happened at the end (sorry!)

Now the story continues…

(Make sure you read part one before continuing – link)

After we were called back upstairs there was a presentation. The seating had been completely rearranged and now there were around 100 seats in a semi circle surrounding another 10 in a closed circle.

Around the inner ring were another 3 seats for judges (facing into the circle of ten) and a table in the centre with a small directional microphone. I was a little late because I’d been pouring a coffee from the slowest Nespresso machine in the universe.

I hurried to a vacant chair in the audience with Angie and sat down.

The presenter then explained what would come next.

At this point (maybe because of nerves about being a little tardy) I misheard what was happening. One by one we were all called out, and invited up to the front of the hall where a semi finalist award was handed out to in ascending alphabetical surname order.

My impression at the time was that if I was getting an award then I was going home – and when they reached ‘L’ and called my name I stood up with pride and collected it (and a trophy) with a smile.

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It didn’t matter that I hadn’t got into the final.

It was more than enough. It had been a great day and I was just happy to have been there.

I smiled at Angie – saying as much.

‘No you donut.’ She said.

Everyone gets that. Now they announce the finalists!’

I gulped.

It wasn’t over.

‘Next…’ Said the lady at the front of the hall with the microphone ‘…we will announce the finalists in district order.’

Angie and I laughed. This was really tense.

We decided to take a (completely not staged in any way) selfie to mark the moment.

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This was nail biting stuff.

One by one the names were called. There would be two picked from each of the five semi final groups.

The roll call began, and people started getting up to a round of applause and moving to the front. Very soon a guy from the group that I was in was called out and he moved to the front of the room.

I couldn’t call it. I expected one chap from my original nine in particular to be called because I felt his story had been really inspiring (honestly they all were) yet surprisingly he had remained seated.

Now there were a lot of men standing up and alphabetically we were getting very close to W.

Then it happened.

‘…and from Angie Baker’s group in WarwickDavid Lancaster!‘ Came the words.

Angie squealed with excitement next to me.

I was a finalist!

I gulped my coffee and headed to the front where we all lined up for a photo and said our hello’s to each other.

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After this was done we sat in a circle to once again tell our stories.

This was a little surreal – because only an hour or so before I’d been seated in exactly the same seat and had been about to tell the exact same story. This time though the judges were different and we had an really large audience.

An envelope was passed around and I drew out a piece of paper. It had a single number six on it.

I would be sixth to talk to the circle and audience.

That’s not so bad. You don’t have the nerves of being first, and you don’t have the weight of being last either. It’s the best (and worst) of both worlds.

I looked around me. No-one had any cue cards out and my mind was blank.

What did I do? Should I take mine from my jacket pocket – or just talk, and try to cover everything as best I could?

I looked at Angie – but she was focused elsewhere.

I listened to the other guys as they started. I’d only heard one of the stories before and the rest were jaw dropping. Just like in the first round I felt and understood every single little bit of the adversity these men described. It was like I had been there with each of them as they described their journeys.

Then the fifth man finished.

What should I do?

Cue cards or wing it?

I decided to go without them. I’d rehearsed my speech over and over – and I’d only once managed to fit it into the five minute time limit so it didn’t really matter anyway. The fact that I couldn’t remember it or the order in which I’d originally presented it was probably a bonus.

I knew the story. I’d been writing about it for two and a half years.

All I had to do was talk and be honest.

I’d tell you what happened next (and I’m not joking) this five minutes is pretty much a blank. I still can’t remember what I did or didn’t cover (apart from what I started and finished with) and I have no idea whether I missed a lot or managed to fit it all in.

I don’t even remember Angie walking around with my boards.

I do remember that a judge asked me a question but I honestly can’t recall what it was about or how I replied. The whole thing’s still a blur.

The one thing I was certain of by the time it was finished though was that I’d not won.

There were simply too many people with incredible stories from backgrounds and careers that seemed like they would lend themselves really well to being Man of the Year. I could virtually see the headlines for each one of them in my mind – and as we walked out I said as much to Angie.

Each one seemed perfectly made for the award.

Again – it didn’t matter though. If I didn’t win I wasn’t going to treat it as failure. It was still a valuable learning experience and I’d come a long way to stand where I was at that moment in time.

I mean – who gets to go to not one – but two events (the previous ‘Greatest Loser’ one where I came 3rd is here) like this their lives?

I felt like I’d come from nothing – a man wanting to die and seeing no way out of a life he couldn’t control any more – to telling my story in front of a huge audience after losing over 20 stone in body weight.

My life wasn’t going to be different because of a prize or a title. It was going to be different because – through sheer force of will – I changed it for the better.

I wasn’t going to look at it negatively – I’d already won because I had my life back.

The call came to go back upstairs, and once again I grabbed a coffee, sat down and listened to the closing speech.

When I sat with Angie during these moments I learned something new about her. When that girl nervously holds your hand and squeezes things begin to pop. I very much doubt that any pickle jar is safe in that lady’s house because she has the grip of a WWE wrestler – and boy was she bringing it to bear.

As the speech continued and there were multiple occasions for applause she let go, clapped, and then re-applied the grip.

Pop.

Crunch.

Pop.

Then, after several releases, applause and re-clamping the final words arrived.

‘…and now the name of the winner is…’

All air left the room and there was complete silence. You could hear a pin drop.

…..

…..

…..

‘…from Angie Baker’s group in WarwickDavid Lancaster!

Angie screamed.

I started welling up, and looked at the floor.

The entire room was applauding. People patted me on the shoulder from behind and I finally stood, flinging my arms around Angie.

We we both in tears by now.

As we eventually walked up to the stage I realised that we’d both have to say some words, and I really didn’t know how to articulate how I felt.

Words seemed so insufficient – and for once I was momentarily speechless.

I shook everyone’s hand and then said (what I felt was absolutely true) that everyone in that room had won already. They’d given themselves and those that loved them another chance at life. By following the plan, persevering and through sheer force of will they had returned years to their lives, and those would be happier and more productive ones.

When I held up the winner’s envelope I was really holding it on their behalf and I didn’t want a single one of them to feel like they hadn’t made it.

They all had.

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Again at this point things seemed to blur.

Angie also said a few words – and just like me she was fighting back the tears. It was just as hard for each of us to listen to the other without welling up. We’d meant an awful lot to each other along the way – and you don’t find people that touch your life like this very often.

This was a special moment.

For both of us.

After the presentation people milled out of the room, an absolutely gobsmacking number of them came up to hug me, shake my hand, pat me on the back and congratulate me.

It was all absolutely overwhelming.

Once this had finished the PR people arrived – and began to talk to me about the next steps (which I’ll save for other blogs because that’s a whole other set of stories!) and usher me downstairs and then outside for some personal time with the photographer.

For the next hour I was treated like a celebrity. One pose followed another pose until my jaw quite literally ached from smiling.

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Once this was finished there was a strange silence, and eventually after we’d all exited the now empty SW HQ a barefooted Angie and I walked back arm in arm to the car. In her left hand swung a pair of black high heels.

It had been a LONG day and our feet were tired.

Neither of us could believe it – but we’d frikkin won the Slimming World Man of the Year 2018! It was also the very first time our district had taken home the title, which made it doubly sweet from Angie’s perspective. It’s quite a feather in a consultant’s cap and she richly deserved to be recognised.

For my part as I drove us home and we texted or called to tell expectant friends and family about the news I could barely believe what had transpired.

Things like this just didn’t happen to a man like me.

I was convinced in 2015 that I was meant to die early – alone and morbidly obese. Yet against all odds the opposite had happened.

I’d turned what I felt was certain mortality into a fighting chance to live a long and productive life that has a future completely wide open and filled with possibilities.

The coming weeks and months will begin to show just how much though – because now I have to live up to the responsibility of this.

I’ve essentially agreed to be a role model – and I have to speak from the heart when I’m asked about how I did what I did because this isn’t just about me anymore. It’s about everyone still undecided about whether to take their first step to join a group or try alone to improve themselves.

I want to be a positive and energising representation to them of what effort and determination can achieve.

I want to be the best version of me I can be.

Davey

Slimming World National Man of the Year 2018 – Part One

So – the cat is well and truly out of the bag.

I’m Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2018 – and so far it’s been a rather surreal experience.

As I type I’m lying on a huge bed in a suite at the Ritz Carlton in London. To the left of me is an immense marble bathroom with Ritz bathrobes, Ritz towels, Ritz soap and Ritz everythings.

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In the fruitbowl by the bed is a bunch of grapes (strangely not branded Ritz) and next to them are some freshly cut flowers. The room is filled with a delicate hint of their bouquet and I’m pleasantly tired after a hot shower.

Until a few moments ago I was sitting in my separate drawing room wearing a Ritz bathrobe and Ritz slippers looking at a complementary (which remained unopened – it was donated to a worthy cause) bottle of Ritz champagne.

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I think you get the picture. I’m in the lap of (Ritz) luxury.

But why you may ask?

Well it’s because in the morning (in this very suite) I have a press call with the media where my status as the competition winner is officially announced. At this point I discover whether life gets a bit crazy for a while – or not much happens at all and things pootle along in life as normal.

Honestly I’m fine with either – because the attention I’ve been shown over the last couple of weeks has been really humbling. If nothing else happens to me ever then I already feel like I’ve won the lottery.

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But – first things first.

There’s a bit to update you on before we get to that in another post internet – so grab a coffee.

Last Thursday a film crew from Slimming World came to Warwick to interview me.

When they met me outside my workplace the surprisingly down to earth pair of them were in a classic and clearly cherished Land Rover Discovery.

I like a car that gets used.

Far from being an ostentatious Knightsbridge runabout the choice of vehicle (it transpired later) was completely utilitarian – because the driver was a horse owner, and when her capacious boot wasn’t transporting her equine gear it was carrying lots of recording kit. Like all of the people I’ve met that work for Slimming World this transport and their attitude to life seemed to be rooted in down to earth honesty.

The vehicle, the tools it carried – and the people that drove it seemed simple, normal and practical.

Instantly I liked them.

I’d agreed in advance (over the course of several ongoing e-mail exchanges since last Sunday) that our planned video and interview would attempt to capture the spirit of how, why and where I began to take steps to improve my health.

For me some of the biggest strides happened (both literally and metaphorically) shortly after I’d embarked upon my food optimising eating plan and had begun trying to walk around my local park.

It was there (with exercise) that I truly started to turn the tide in my battle with diabetes. To me this represents a period when the world was beginning to present possibilities rather than fears about the future and because of that it’s special.

So, very soon after we’d met I was soon strolling along the river at St Nicholas followed by a cheerful cameraman with a boyish grin. As we walked we talked (little did he know we were twalking) and he was enthusiastically demonstrating and explaining his (rather impressive) steadycam walk.

It seemed that the technique underlying it wasn’t as obvious as one might have first thought. In order to maintain a shake free shot of a (my) moving posterior and feet he’d managed over the years to hone a ‘rolling foot’ manoeuvre. This unusual and clearly well practiced gait allowed his upper body to remain largely motionless while his legs seemed to move almost independently from his torso.

It was admittedly impressive.

He was a living steadycam gimbal – and I couldnt help thinking if the fates hadn’t conspired to make him a thoroughly nice chap intent on filming things he’d have had a wonderful career as a cat burgalar.

As I did my level best to be ‘naturally’ filmed gradually more and more was asked of me, and my artistic range was tested.

I had to master the art of nonchalantly putting one foot in front of another, sitting on park benches, looking thoughtfully at the world around me and then (the most complex and difficult to pull off) kneeling down on cue to take pictures of flowers.

This was something that the team had noticed that I like to do on Instagram – and they felt it was important to re-enact my dynamic pastimes (I’m a frikkin party animal and no mistake) in full 4K 60fps motion.

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I realised quickly I that deep down inside me beat the creative heart of a talented method actor and I even took some actual shots with my phone as I bent earnestly over the flowerbeds.

While this thespian triumph was playing out for all in the park to see (I clearly missed my calling in life) his companion gently teased details out of me regarding my journey and what had motivated it.

At this point its worth noting that I’d been quite surprised (when the video was suggested to me) because of the proposed length.

The social media team had told me in advance that they planned to edit it down to two minutes.

That was three minutes shorter than the speech I’d given (twice) at the Man of the Year semi finals and honestly I’d felt it was next to impossible to cram in everything that I’d wanted to say and do any of it justice.

However – that wasn’t really the point of the video. It was part of a press release – and also a small insight for potential new members into what was possible. I was to be a teaser trailer.

Although I already had a sense that I trusted them I couldn’t help but wonder (out of all the things I had been randomly talking about over the previous week and during the day so far) what would end up in the final cut.

In the park though there was no need to worry – because no audio was being recorded and the proper interview wouldn’t start until we headed indoors.

The indoors in this case happened to belong to my consultant Angie – who possesses not only an infinitely generous nature but a kitchen (and armchair) that was waaaay more photogenic than my own. She had kindly offered to let me use them for the afternoon while the film crew were there.

I’d not only be talking about my journey in her lounge but had also been asked to cook too – with a view to showing how men (it’s not just ladies that join SW!) can follow the plan whilst eating decidedly hearty portions.

From this point onwards I’m pretty much the face of #slimlikeaman (link)

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With this in mind I’d been shopping – and had already dropped off at Angie’s house all of the ingredients earlier in the day for my favourite meal.

First things first however. After we arrived to set up (and Angie had made a discrete exit to the local pub for dinner with her family) I needed to change clothes, and switched outfits.

As the film crew had requested I’d brought a few along – and they liked my white and blue floral shirt – which seemed to match the light of the living room. When I entered it the camera was on a tripod and an arm chair had been pulled out from the wall so that it faced toward the best possible natural light.

It was a sunny day outside – and the room felt quiet and peaceful.

We began.

The interviewer started with asking me my name, where I was from and how much weight I’d lost, before moving onto some more personal aspects of why I’d changed direction in life and what motivated me to continue.

I’ve done quite a few talks to groups, schools, and at SW HQ over the last year and I’m getting more used to this kind of thing. Many of the answers required were variations on themes that I’d previously been asked about many times – and were things that to a greater or lesser extent I’d chewed over in my head ad infinitum whilst writing for this blog.

I was comfortable with it all.

Until she hit a metaphorical nail squarely on it’s metaphorical head.

I almost heard metal strike metal, and felt it being driven into surprisingly soft emotional wood.

It’s remained with me ever since, because it unexpectedly challenged me in a way that hadn’t happened before and I alluded to this in a previous post (link) – but for reasons hopefully now obvious I couldn’t expand upon who posed the question and why.

Quite out of the blue, toward the end of the recording, the interviewer asked me ‘Are you proud of yourself?’

I gulped. As I mentioned in the previous post I couldn’t easily answer.

I guess I did – but for some reason I couldn’t vocalise that without welling up. I locked myself down and clammed up a little at that point because I felt my composure unexpectedly slip into uncharted territory.

You’ll see it at the end of the video (link lower down) and they’ve kindly edited me at just the right moment before I crack.

Combined with the events of the last few days this question has taken on a new significance – because it’s now something I’ve had to confront head on – and I’d go so far as to say that this is one of those unexpected little milestones that come along from time to time.

I think the resultant thought process is something regular readers may have to encounter again further down the line…

Just when you think you have a handle on things eh? There’s always something to learn about ourselves it seems.

After this we moved to the cooking segment – and I immediately voiced my thoughts on it.

‘I watched some of the Slimming World videos online…’ I said to my interviewer.

‘Oh yes?’ She replied – what do you think?

‘Weeelllll…’ I started ‘…I noticed that many people don’t get to cook an entire meal… They just chop up some peppers and onions and that’s it.’

‘Yes…’ She responded.

‘And I’ve brought all the ingredients. I plan to cook a chilli!’

Surprisingly they seemed fine with this – so I started chopping away and talked about the recipe as they filmed.

This is the video – and I’m glad I did cook it ALL because my chilli makes me hungry every time I watch it!!!

At the end of it I started ladling it onto plates for them – and instead of the poor camera crew being stuck on the way home trying to find a Slimming World friendly pork pie at motorway services they got to eat my dinner instead!!!

Angie and her family also came home in the middle of this and they got to try some too!

I thought that the most gratifying thing of all was when the film crew wanted second helpings though – because then you know you have ’em hooked!

I wasn’t 100% certain though until a few days later I got an e-mail asking for the recipe!

It looks like it hit the spot 🙂

Here it is again for the benefit of readers:

  • 500g 5% fat pork mince
  • Can of chopped tomatoes
  • Can of kidney beans in water
  • 1 large courgette
  • Medium punnet of brown/chestnut mushrooms (hand torn)
  • 1 red pepper (deseeded and chopped)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2x red onions
  • bunch of broccoli (shaved with a knife so that it’s roughly cut into small pieces )
  • 1 beef flavoured stock cube
  • 2x teaspoons of cumin
  • 2x teaspoons of paprika
  • 2-3 teaspoons of chilli powder (depending on taste)
  • Fresh coriander
  • half a tube of tomato puree
  • salt to taste

Instructions – throw the chopped tomatoes in with the mince, stir it all in so its mushed up then add the garlic and spices with the stock cube. Then add the tomato puree.

As this is boiling/cooking down add the veg in ‘hardest veg’ order first until it’s all cooking in the tomato/mince mixture (making sure you rip not chop the mushrooms – trust me on this – it will look soooo much better), then just keep stirring it until it all becomes a little softer.

Throw in the kidney beans toward the end (rinsed).

While the red onion still has colour and the broccoli still has a little crunch turn off the gas and then stir in the chopped coriander.

It’s entirely up to you whether you add salt at this point – but I do (probably around a teaspoon – but most of my measurements are guesstimates!

This is a pic of one I did a while back – in this case the ingredients were slightly tweaked – but you get the idea!

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The beauty of this kind of cooking is that if you get the spices right and the order in which you cook the veg (soft last, hard first) then you get a great, tasty result every time!

Anyway internet – that was my filming experience.

The guys were absolutely awesome, and I love their video. 

In the insane world of social media I’m also really stunned by how many people have seen it since it was posted a day ago on the Slimming World Facebook page…

Thus morning as I type this is how their stats look.

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(The link in that screenshot takes you here by the way if you want to have a peek at my profile!)

Anyway internet – thats the first but of my crazy new journey. More to come soon.

You may remember that I’m still sitting in the Ritz…

This story has a lot more to come. See you in part two!

Davey

A quick check in

Phew.

It’s been a busy week – without much time to gather my thoughts and write, so I apologise if I’ve been unusually quiet. The weekend that preceded the last few days was no different – but I’m just trying to go with the flow and take things one by one.

Primarily my goal has been on remaining focused on my new target weight and keeping active – because the end of this week is shaping up to be pretty crazy. Work has been very busy and so has my personal life.

To make sure I can do this I just need to keep things going on an even keel and follow my exercise and eating plans as closely as possible, because if I do everything else seems to be less stressful and eventually just falls into place.

So far thankfully I’m managing to juggle it all – and my new weight bracket seems to be holding fast.

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I’m worried though that the end of the week in particular is going to be one where I can’t do as much as I normally would – and with this in mind I’ve been pre-loading my distance totals.

I’ve already walked my weekly 70 miles in the last five days – so anything more is just ‘gravy’.

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As I’ve walked my constant companions have been excellent weather and excellent people – as well as some excellent swanlings – who seem to be flourishing this year.

Their broods seem to be unusually resilient and instead of the positively brutal attrition rate I saw in 2016 at St Nics (only one out of six survived) this year there seems to be a much healthier local population.

There also seem to be a lot of Herons too!

See if you can spot them…

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There was a time that I thought doing more exercise just equalled feeling more tired – but the bizarre thing is that nothing could be further from the truth. The more you do the more you want to do – and the paradox of it is that you don’t get more tired, you just get more energetic.

I’ve been hitting my targets by doing an extra two miles around the park on the way to work every day, which means that by the time I get home I’ve usually hit around 11-12, which I’m really chuffed with – and at over half way through July I’m currently on target for a new PB month!

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I’ve also been trying to mix it up a bit this week with food. I’ve had a lot to think about – and when this happens it’s difficult not to overeat.

It’s just a fact of life though that there are times that you just have to accept that things will happen around you that you can’t really control. When that’s the case you just have to adapt and roll with the punches.

Control of anything is a pointless illusion anyway.

To think otherwise is just a waste of energy. You can do your best to stack the deck but ultimately we’re all just leaves in the wind.

This is as true of work as it is home life and in both cases whatever difficulties or opportunities you’re given you just have to tackle them head on, put your best foot forward and hope things come good.

Exercise helps.

Good food also does the trick too.

After some lengthy talking last night a friend and I hit Las Iguanas – and I treated myself to a chicken enchilada (I had a voucher!) and a vegetarian bowl of chilli. Theoretically it’s two mains – but I’d been REALLY REALLY good all day in anticipation.

I really enjoyed my food!

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What the hey eh? Life’s for living! I have zero guilt.

I’m just moving right along!

For the next couple of days I’ll be out and about and taking lots of pictures – and hopefully collecting some interesting things to blog about along the way, so you can be assured that a quieter period this week will probably result in more to talk about than usual next week.

Watch this space!

Davey

Experience the world

So far it’s been a busy weekend and I’ve been doing a lot of talking to a lot of people about lots of things.

My brain feels like it’s been flame griddled.

It’s trying to move in a million different directions at the moment – and probably as a consequence of trying to flatten several mental mountain ranges I’ve been getting a limited amount of sleep since last Sunday.

The event at Slimming World left me with a lot to think about.

I’ve been keen to absorb and contextualise the stories that I heard whilst I was there – as well as process the feelings and realisations that remained afterwards.

As you all know – I walk a lot and all of a sudden I found myself worrying that readers might see this as a barrier to their own success.

What I don’t want is for someone reading my blog to say ‘I’m never going to be capable of losing weight because xxxx physical disability prevents me from moving like him.’

If you have ever thought that way – firstly let me apologise if I’ve made you come to that conclusion – and secondly let me try to re-format your way of thinking.

Last Sunday was a real eye opener because something that genuinely left me thinking how lucky I am to be at my current place in life was the number of contestants that had managed to lose similar amounts of weight to me without the same level of exercise.

Many simply couldn’t do what I was doing because they suffered from serious disabilities. Some of these were aggravated or caused by weight – and others completely unrelated.

The massively impressive thing was despite serious mobility problems that were unlikely to go ever completely go away they still succeeded in their goals and managed to reach their targets.

They just followed the Slimming World plan and they saw the results.

In every case that I was confronted with the benefits of profound weight loss were plain to see.

These men’s quality of life was dramatically improved and every single one of them had seen life changing results.

To one this meant the difference between being completely confined to a wheelchair or being able to move about on crutches under his own steam.

It was clear that whilst he still had major challenges in life his health and future outcomes had been massively improved by his efforts to lose weight.

His still limited but greatly enhanced mobility was a gift and he recognised it as such.

I take my hat off to that man and others like him – because I know from personal experience how hard it can be to mentally move from being almost completely immobile to a head space where you start trying to make your way around what appears to be a threatening world.

When you do it’s a fearful place to inhabit.

You feel vulnerable and scared because you’re not in control. You don’t know how far you can go and you often don’t trust your body to get you home again.

It’s painful, embarrassing and sometimes even humiliating when you start – but these men showed me that there’s simply no excuse not to.

I’m not special.

The truth of it is anyone can do what I did. All they have to do is want it enough.

I’m just determined – the same as the other 41 men I had the pleasure to spend time with.

The day we shared provided me with a really serious reminder that I’ve somehow (through a crazy genetic lottery) managed to return myself to a level of health that I probably do not deserve.

Truthfully there are times that I feel a level of guilt about that – because I have close friends whose health suffers for no good reason whereas I’m somehow doing ok.

Life just isn’t fair – and there are times I wish that I could give the health I have now to others that I love.

I’d give anything to repair the problems they have.

I can’t though.

That’s just wishful thinking.

Instead the very best that I can do is keep walking, keep talking, keep trying, and give as much back to those that helped me and those that still need help as I possibly can – and to that end I feel more driven than I ever have before.

This morning I got up early.

The sun was shining and I was aching to get some miles in.

I’ve got a seriously busy week ahead of me – and I suspect that in my case busy will not necessarily translate into active.

I need to get my distances up otherwise my OCD regarding exercise will start tingling like spidey-sense.

First things first – how’s my weight?

Well it’s good.

After further discussion with Angie I’ve again tweaked my target weight and we’ve agreed to set it to 14st on the nose.

In my underpants the lightest I’ve been over the last couple of weeks has been a few pounds lower than the picture below – and quite out of the blue I find myself sitting comfortably in a new weight bracket.

I’m (for the first time in my book but not on my own scales) under fourteen stone!

Yesterday (immediately after weighing in and telling all of the people in group about my adventures at Slimming World HQ) I headed out for a long walk.

My friend with the poorly paw is slowly improving and we’ve now graduated from hobbling around a flat mile in St Nicholas park to a five mile dirt track jaunt to Coombe Abbey.

Going for a stroll is a pretty hot and dusty undertaking at the moment – but the great thing about going to Coombe is the shady bits.

This is just another example of a place that I didn’t know existed until a year or so ago – and now I visit it a lot.

I’m beginning to love the change of seasons and how different the landscape and wildlife looks as the months pass.

It’s a flipping lovely place and no mistake!

Today I’m still trekking about – and I’m on a mission to wander and enjoy the world before the madness of the working week kicks in again.

I want to do as much as possible before I’m jolted back to reality.

Maybe unsurprisingly the start of the day was in St Nicholas park.

It’s somewhere that I’ve been indulging in a rather public love affair with for over two years now – and my amorous intent shows no signs of letting up any time soon.

It’s simply sublime.

As self indulgent as all of this wandering and photography seems there is however a purpose.

I take all of these pictures and talk about my walks for a specific reason.

I want to show anyone reading who is in a similar place to the one I used to be that there’s a world out there.

It also doesn’t have to be viewed on a 65in 4K HDR television from the comfort of your armchair.

It can be experienced in real life as you navigate through it under your own steam, at your own pace and under your own terms.

You can take 100 steps or 1000 depending on your ability.

It doesn’t matter how far you go as long as it’s a little further than the day before.

Every tiny little inch you move will make the next inch easier – until the inches become feet, the feet become yards and eventually the yards become miles.

You can do it internet. Get out there and experience the world you live in and be happy.

Davey

Waking up happy

Moments of success are precious. They don’t always come along with great regularity, so when they do they’re worth noting down and sticking in the ‘bank’ for later.

My non-scale victories page (link) serves just this purpose for me and I look at it from time to time when I’m low.

That way when things seem dark you have evidence that your worst fears are nonsense. You can say (out loud if needed) ‘I’ve come a long way – and despite how I feel today I’m a good person that good things happen to because I try hard.’

This is sometimes difficult to achieve but I’m getting better at this as the months and years pass since the start of my journey.

As evidence mounts to contradict a view that’s been in the back of my mind for many years (that ultimately I’ve been a failure and my life hasn’t amounted to much in the grand scheme of things) I’m finding that the moments where my chin hits the floor happen less and less.

They still occur from time to time – but that’s how I deal with them.

However the waking mind is one thing – because (depending on how disciplined you are) you can control that with rational and practical structures such as the one above.

With practice you can bend your negative self perception to your will and see the warning signs of depression and negativity arriving.

When you do they can be addressed before you get into an ‘I’m crap’ downward spiral.

Once you learn how to – YOU set the tone.

Something that’s difficult to control though is what happens in dreams – and this is where the buried fears we all keep locked away tend to leak out.

Without warning I can wake up after a dream where I’ve caved in to all the negativity that’s followed me around for decades and I’m convinced I’m a piece of crap again.

Often it takes me the whole day (sometimes longer) to recover from dreams like that because they tug at loose threads you can’t always see – but that are suddenly real and raw.

You’re frustratingly sabotaged by a subconscious mind that’s almost completely out of your control and it can be vicious in its self condemnation.

I’ve suffered from recurring dreams for years – and thankfully one by one the worst ones have fallen by the wayside.

I used to dream that I could run like the wind – then realise it was a lie and look down and see how fat I was, suddenly slow to a crawl and become immobile.

At times I’d dream of suffocation and drowning – that I was fighting for life – then wake up to realise my that my sleep apnea was stopping me breathing because I’d turned over – and that I was and I was in genuine danger.

My imagination also continually painted me in public without clothes (usually trousers and pants missing) and I had to try and walk home naked when I was too fat to move.

These dreams were (pun intended) a nightmare.

But they were not the worst ones.

The absolute worst were when my ex girlfriend visited.

If I’m honest I never came to terms with how the relationship ended and those who know me well understand how deeply this affected me.

She appears regularly in my sleeping life and without warning.

The dreams often start off pleasantly because I’m transported back to myself as a younger man and I’m once again in love.

I feel secure and like there’s an unbreakable bond between us that’s as much a part of me as my own limbs.

In that moment it seems like there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together and I’m a hundred feel tall when I hold her hand.

Then she notices my weight.

Then the recriminations start about how I can’t find it within myself to change for her – and although I’m often let off the hook (she was pretty kind usually) I’m left feeling like I don’t measure up and that ultimately I’ll never be to her what she is to me.

I’ll never be what she wants.

Then I wake up and have to face the realisation that even the happy part of the dream is a fallacy.

I’m confronted with the reality that she’s gone – and the security and happiness associated with her love and companionship exits with the fading memory of a face I’ll probably never see again.

I’m alone in bed, sometimes tearful – but always feeling isolated.

Just now though I awoke with a jolt – and I was laughing. I had a smile on my face because the narrative in my dream had radically shifted.

It started the same – she was with me and we were happy – but THEN things changed.

She’d taken my hand, looked into my eyes and said ‘I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved. You’ve really done it.

I hugged her and drew her close before the dream ended and I woke up.

Instead of feeling the way I usually do after she’s been a participant in my sleep I now feel energised.

Something has changed.

Deep down something is different!

Tonight – when I woke up I felt a weight lift that I’ve carried for years.

I think I know why this happened – because someone I’d only just met looked me in the eye and asked me recently ‘do you feel like a success?

The question was an uncomfortable one because normally I try to brush things like that off – but the situation was hard to escape.

I surprised myself when I began to reply because my bottom lip trembled and my voice started break slightly.

‘Yes.’

I replied, swallowing.

‘Yes I do.’

I paused.

‘It’s taken a lot of hard work and effort to get to where I am.’

‘I AM proud.’

I don’t remember my exact words but around that point I stopped talking and marshalled myself so that I wouldn’t cry.

I’d said it out loud though and realised that it’s not something I’ve ever had to confront or respond to in quite the way that she asked me.

Having to admit that I’m happy with my own success was something of a surprisingly life affirming moment and it clearly had a profound impact because it’s now entered my dreams.

Boy do I hope it stays there internet because waking up feeling as good as I do right at this moment in time is flipping awesome.

Yay for waking up happy!

Davey

Not a worry in the world mate

Although I’m not really into football it’s been really nice to see the mood of the country become overwhelmingly positive and filled with hope leading up to the World Cup semi finals.

It’s also nice to know where everyone is likely to be so that you can be absolutely sure the supermarket is deserted when you arrive!

I must admit though I couldn’t help but pay attention to the match and when I’d packed away my shopping actually watched the second half of it and the tense extra time as I did my ironing.

We were clearly robbed – but the team are coming home with their heads held high.

They did their country proud.

There are really rare events in life that seem to capture everyone’s imagination – and for once this isn’t a terrorist plot or something awful, but a moment when hopes and dreams link hands with national pride.

The great thing is that when they do you see people of all faiths backgrounds and walks of life unite behind a single moment.

It reminds you of why it’s so great to live in the UK – because for all of its occasional difficulties and internal tensions regarding its place in the world – I for one love living here.

I appreciate it the more I explore it if I’m honest – but I didn’t always feel that way.

I grew up on a council estate and spent my childhood looking at a landscape created by unemployment and poor education.

My opinion unexpectedly began to shift in this respect many years ago when I lived with an enthusiastic Australian.

Like many from down under you could take the boy out of Australia – but not Australia out of the boy, and I was initially taken aback at how much he loved his birthplace.

It confused me if I’m honest.

I always thought loving your country equalled small minded bigotry. Our national pride seemed to be tied to hooliganism and men in white transit vans with George cross flags.

These people (reinforcing my views) typically stopped by the side of the road to call me a fat c**t and I continually related nationalistic pride to the knuckle dragging light commercial vehicle owners that so regularly gave me such spirited dimensional feedback.

In contrast everything my housemate said about his home land suggested it was a great place to live.

Sure – it had its problems (he occasionally conceded) but his was still the best country in the world.

It would be celebrated whenever the UK weather permitted – and (maybe unsurprisingly) I saw many barbecues and Australian flags in the time we were in eachother’s orbit.

I eventually visited his birthplace on a whim some to see a friend years later and began to understand why he loved it so much.

Although I really struggled to get there (seatbelt extenders and armrests pressing into your thighs for that long isn’t fun) and explore while I was in and around Sydney (I couldn’t very well really) a lot of good came out of that trip.

Firstly I got to catch up with a much loved friend and secondly it left me with several really important memories.

One in particular has always stuck with me and that was when I blundered into a typically cheerful Aussie barman whilst exploring Manly Beach.

‘How’re you doin mate?’ He greeted me as I sat at the bar.

‘Not bad!’ I replied – feeling happy.

His face fell.

‘What’s wrong?’ He enquired earnestly – putting down the glass he’d been polishing with a small towel.

”Ummm – nothing…’ I replied.

I was in a good mood and the sun was shining. I was about to have a beer in a bar by the beach in Australia.

Life seemed good.

‘So why did you say not bad?’ He asked.

‘I don’t know.’ I replied, confused. ‘It’s what I always say when someone asks me how I am.’

I thought for a brief moment.

‘Ok – how are you?’ I asked, redirecting the query.

He grinned behind the bar from ear to ear pulled himself back toward the spirits, extended his arms, looked me square in the eye and said ‘Not a worry in the world mate!

He had me there.

I couldn’t trump that.

I’d replied with a positive negative whereas He’d replied with nothing but a positive.

Was language the key to a national mood?

Not on its own I eventually concluded. It was a symptom of a wider sense that your country is a good place to live – and that it’s people have a place that’s secure and looked after within its society.

That’s why there was national pride.

The phrase stuck with me though – and when I came back to the UK it was still pinging around in my brain.

Why did I say ‘not bad‘?

It wasn’t just me either. Everyone around me seemed to be doing it when I bumped into and greeted them in corridors and doorways.

I eventually confided one day over the kettle at work to an Israeli colleague that I had concerns about the UK and our national mood.

‘At least you’re not from Israel.’ He said.

‘Why’s that?’ I asked.

‘We say – It could be worse!

I laughed. He had a point. Things could indeed be worse.

My housemate and that barman has however kickstarted a thought process within me that would remain for many years – and would eventually become the pillars of my thought process.

We are who we think we are – and what we say we are is what we become.

What I mean by this is that unconscious linguistic bias like this has a profound effect.

By ‘not having a worry in the world’ the barman had placed his reality in a mental picture frame where life was grand.

Nothing would get to him and even if it did he was highly unlikely to stress about it.

In contrast my life wasn’t bad – but crucially it wasn’t good either.

Even so – things could be worse.

Ultimately I resolved to change this and became known at work for a while as the guy that said ‘fantastic’, ‘awesome’ or ‘superb thanks!’ when asked how he was.

A lot of the time I wasn’t. Being me was hard. I had a lot of issues – but dwelling on things and dragging others down never helped me get to the bottom of any of them.

I guess what the World Cup – and a love for your country comes down to (for me) is groups of different people – presented on a massive scale but all with a similar mindset in one area.

I think the understanding we share in this country is that it’s our difference that makes us stronger.

Our diversity is something that empowers us as a nation – and it takes a moment like the World Cup to remind us that even though some of us may prefer the quiet of a supermarket to the roar of crowds in a stadium we all just get along and live our lives.

Together.

When we come together in our streets, businesses and public lives we become a group.

When we form these – just like mine at Slimming World there’s absolutely nothing we can’t do.

Davey

Something I love.

Occasionally something happens at just the right moment in time – and at precisely the juncture that it’s needed in your life to remind you why it’s worth doing something that you feel passionate about.

Some time ago I was nothing but a consumer – and there was nothing about my life that included an act of creation. I created this blog to understand myself better and in part to document the search for the mythical ‘thing I loved doing’.

It terrified me that not only could I not resolve the question in my mind at the time – but that I didn’t know how to begin the process of finding an answer.

Ironically – whilst searching for this within its posts – I realised that the blog itself was the answer and it’s why I write it so frequently even now.

I love it.

I love writing it with all of my heart and when I click ‘Publish’ it’s like I’ve plucked a little feather from my side and sent it careering out into a strong breeze.

I never know where it will land or what it will do.

I don’t know whether it will come back now, or later – or at all.

It doesn’t matter.

The act of creation is enough.

The world contains just a little more of me trying to be the best version of myself that I can – and I know that printed version of me is trying to be honest, open and human while he does.

I’ve often wondered about the impulse to write though.

Is it borne of the need to explain or the need to be understood?

The difference is subtle – but (at least in my mind) the former is an exercise in eloquently pouring out the why – whereas the latter is a need to be read by others, become relevant and maybe also to be accepted.

I don’t want to write solely because I want other people to read it (the purist in me thinks that is pure vanity) but I’ve come to learn that it has to be part of the process.

After all – if you don’t know whether you provoke feelings in others what’s the point of life?

Touching lives in a positive way is what we should all strive to do. The world is a better place if we try to send good thoughts and actions out into it.

So – the thing I’d found and realised I loved became something I wanted others to love too and then (as I improved my health) morphed into a tool to be a positive force in the world.

It’s only a tiny blog and it hasn’t cracked the atom or discovered a cure for cancer – but occasionally I find that it has changed someone’s life for the better – even just a little bit.

This makes everything worthwhile and actually makes me want to cry a little right now because it’s so far away from who I used to be.

A little while ago I wrote this (slightly angry) post about type two diabetes.

https://daveywankenobie.blog/2018/06/16/the-fast-fix/

In it I talked about a programme I’d been watching and my own struggles (and subsequent success) with reversing the condition in myself.

People occasionally keep coming back to my old posts and leaving comments – and tonight I received this from a wonderful reader.

So – as I lie in bed typing this before I fall asleep I’m reminded that there’s a realpurpose to doing it.

My journey started with trying not to die like my mother.

It began in the midst of pain and loss, and a lack of personal awareness. Now it’s enabled me to make a positive difference in other people’s lives and because of that I’m now crying as I write.

I have tears not of sadness – but absolute joy.

Instead of playing video games whilst drinking myself to death I helped by putting myself out there.

Even if it’s just a little bit.

Maybe that little bit will turn into a lot – maybe others will also make similar changes that will affect their journey through life in a positive way.

Maybe that ripple will become a wave.

I really hope so.

Thanks for reading internet. You’re the absolute best.

Davey

The event

(This post started it’s life on Sunday morning. It was early. VERY early….)

It wouldn’t have taken someone with acute betting acumen to have laid odds on me being wide awake at 2.30am on the morning of the Slimming Man of the Year Awards.

I just can’t manage to push it out of my mind. Last night I was endlessly trying to get straight in my head what I wanted to say when asked.

There’s so much to my journey that compressing it into a brief five minute (maximum) talk seems impossible – but compress it I must.

Unlike my usual ‘it’s ok to wing it a bit’ attitude to public speaking – in this case I have one opportunity to show everyone who I am in 300 seconds.

How do I cover all I’ve achieved in such an insanely compressed timeframe?!

I’ve realised now though that when you’ve gone over something again and again until all you can see on the page is a massive wall of alphabetti-spaghetti it’s time to take a break.

There are diminishing returns from pressing on without sleep – but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to nod off mind you…

(…)

It’s now 4am. I still can’t sleep. I’ve just stepped off my exercise bike after a 40 minute hill climb programme – and I’m dripping with sweat. The house is boiling and even though I’ve stopped pedalling my pulse rate still seems to be elevated. It usually drops a lot quicker.

Nuts… I was hoping this would wear me out and calm me down…

Maybe a cold shower will help.

(Has a cold shower)

Well that didn’t help either – so I guess the only thing to do is get up.

(Gets up, potters about, does some ironing. Gets outfit ready, takes a selfie before leaving for the day.)

Despite it being quite pricey (at least by my standards) I decided to buy a swanky new tie for the event.

I’ve been coveting this lovely little piece of silk ever since I strolled nonchalantly past it in M&S the other day and fell in love.

I probably would have gone for the same shirt colour if it wasn’t such a ridiculously hot day.

No-one looks good when they have sweat leaking through a coloured cotton shirt, and although this isn’t really a problem normally I had to be realistic.

It was going to be a long day and I’m human.

Spending a little money is worth it though in this case and I’m glad the people that I asked for an opinion urged (or rather cajoled and pushed) me to buy it. There’s a real joy to being able to walk into a room not feeling like you’re wearing a giant sack to hide your flab – and now I can dress myself with ‘normal clothes’ I want to look my absolute best all the time.

At the moment I like what I see in the mirror.

It took a lot of hard work to be able to say that – but it’s the truth. I feel proud of what I’ve done and who I am – and crucially I feel no guilt about that.

I feel dog tired but also glad to be alive.

A couple of years ago I didn’t think I would be here now and it boggles my mind to think that instead of being buried in a box or cremated and sprinkled over my armchair and Playstation I’m a semi finalist in the Slimming World 2018 Man of the Year competition.

Maybe also because the world is sunny and I can hear the birds outside it doesn’t mean a darned thing that I’ve had zero shut eye. I’m totally jacked up on adrenaline (and a little caffeine) if I’m honest which is just as well because I’ve got to drive to Derbyshire after picking up my consultant Angie.

There’s so much to think about and do!

(Author drives to his consultant’s house and finds a similarly nervous mirror of himself trying unsuccessfully to do the zip up on the back of her jumpsuit.)

Well – initially things seemed to be going well. After sorting out wardrobe malfunctions out we jumped in the car and sat talking in the aircon for a little while before we left.

It turned out that this was a good thing because we’d managed to FORGET the presentation boards we’d put together for the event a few nights before.

 

This would have been a colossal shame – because they took us a really long time to make and we were both rather chuffed with how they turned out.

The aim was to write little bullet points of success and pepper them between pictures that showed moments of pride as well as my improved health and fitness. This meant that if I choked with my speech, dropped my my cue cards or failed to talk through everything in the allotted time that the boards would pick up the slack.

If we’d left this behind we’d have also neglected to bring my old 66in waisted trousers to emphasise how wide my bottom used to be.

Phew.

Catastrophic failure averted.

(Drives to Derbyshire)

Well – there are a LOT of people here. Milling about are a small army of Slimming World staff, consultants and members.

The headcount also includes a celebrity!

I have to admit I was kind of hoping that the planets would finally align and it would be Kelly Brook (sigh… Kelly…) but it wasn’t to be.

I’m practically a clone of the type of guy she usually goes for too…

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Instead it seems that something called the ‘World Cup’ is popular at the moment (football is quite niche but some of you may be familiar with it) and in honour of this they introduced ex England international John Barnes to some very excited guys and encouraged us all to line up for pictures.

I was dreading the inevitable question. I don’t have the first clue about football.

John Barnes (ex England international) smiled broadly and warmly shook my hand, looking me directly in the eye as he did so.

He enthusiastically congratulated me over my success – and then it happened.

‘Where are you from?’ John Barnes (ex England international) said.

‘Warwick’ I replied, knowing exactly what was coming next.

‘What team do you support?’ John Barnes (ex England international) said.

I didn’t have a Scooby Doo.

‘Errrrm…’ came my initially blank response.

‘Villa or Coventry I bet!’ John Barnes (ex England international) interjected.

Ohthankgodhegavemeahintthankyouthankyouthankyou!

‘Cov.’

I said nonchalantly and John Barnes (ex England international) put his arm around me as the camera whirred into life.

Click.

The next guy in the line moved up, I shook John Barnes‘s (ex England international) hand again and shuffled off, now a bit lost in the little crowd of happy faces.

I couldn’t tell who was who. Consultants mingled with members and since all of them have themselves been on the Slimming World journey (they’re just normal people) it’s often difficult to tell who’s who. Since it was MAN of the year though I could discount the ladies – but otherwise I just couldn’t call it.

There were forty two of us in fact – according to the speech that followed my photo opportunity – all with a combined weight loss of (drum roll) FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY EIGHT STONE AND ONE AND A HALF POUNDS!!!!

(Photo taken from the slimming world Facebook page – link)

With stats like that it’s worth remembering that every man in this photo could have had a (perfectly proportioned) wife or girlfriend with him and we’d have weighed the same as we did individually when we started our routes to health and happiness.

Wow!

(That of course excludes the celebrity – an ex England international – and the lovely man to his right who is Tony Westaway – the 2017 man of the year link)

Once all of this was done the next thing was to move into groups of 8-9 and start the semi finals. My name was in the first group and as we were called out we all slowly filtered out of the room we were in and moved upstairs to the conference center.

As we sat in a circle (the order of our speeches was chosen at random) we took it in turns to go through what had brought us to be sitting there, at that moment in time.

Good grief.

I had a HUGE lump in my throat after the first guy and I was fifth out of nine.

By the time it came to me I could feel my heart racing and my mouth drying up. I took out my cue cards and the lady started her stopwatch.

My previous run throughs had come in either just on target or just over – and as I went through my points I realised that I’d slowed down. I wanted to emphasise things – but this wasn’t the time or the place.

The lady with the stopwatch indicated the four minute mark (where did all that time go?!) and out of the corner of my eye I saw Angie walking around by the judges with my boards and them pausing to look.

I only had one thing I knew I had to say so I skipped two cards ahead, hoping the bits I was missing would be covered by the pictures and words in Angie’s hands.

Then, just like that it was over.

I’d done it, almost without my lip trembling and without crying – which honestly this material and it’s associated feelings often makes me do. There was nothing for it now but to answer a question or two from the judges and then listen to the stories of the remaining semi finalists.

I couldn’t call it.

EVERY word that I heard from these wonderful men was spoken with disarming conviction and contained obvious memories of hidden inner pain stretching back to their early childhoods.

They could have been coming out of my own mouth.

Bullying, bereavements, disability, failing health, giving up on life, hiding pain with food, loneliness, isolation, hopelessness….

They’d seen it all. We all had.

No-one had more of a right to win than anyone else.

They all deserved the award.

By the time it was over, trembling I got up and left the room with Angie – grabbing a drink and a couple of Hi-fi bars as I passed the refreshments table. There was nothing to do now but wait until we were called back into the hall.

In the meantime we would have an hour to chat and get a (food optimised) healthy lunch. Which was great because I was completely famished!

If only all canteens and restaurants were like this!!! All of the meals had syn values and everything was made the Slimming World way. The facilities were gleaming and spotless – and the staff soooooo helpful and friendly it was a pleasure to eat there.

As Angie and I chatted over this guilt free gourmet feast it seemed that neither of us had any idea which way it would go – and in fact we both had different perceptions of which ones the judges would think worthy.

I was convinced I was going home – but it really didn’t matter.

I’d come along, experienced the event and it was not the first, but the second time that Slimming World had welcomed me onto their premises and treated me like an absolute rockstar.

There was no shame in going home empty handed – not when everyone else there was a hero in their own right.

As Angie excused herself to visit the toilet I began chatting to the ladies on the table nearby. They were judges and it was clear that the choices they had to make were difficult ones.

If I’m honest I didn’t envy them. It looked like an absolutely heart wrenching set of decisions to me and I wasn’t responsible for the task.

I tried to aimlessly natter as best I could – but by this point I was so tired I wasn’t even sure that what was coming out of my mouth made sense. The only thing keeping me going was the endless supply of fresh coffee in the canteen – and BOY was I making spirited use of it.

Then the call came. It was time for everyone to head back upstairs….

But that dear reader is (for the time being) where this story pauses – because Slimming World have asked that the participants in the Man of the Year competition do not reveal in public or on social media who the winner was so that it preserves the special plans they have for him.

So – far be it from me to spoil the event in advance – and you have my apologies for the cliffhanger.

I’ll revisit this story when Slimming World announce their choice for Man of the Year 2018 to the media…

Davey

Making hay

It’s next to impossible to not be carried away with the peaceful and easy feeling that the current spell of warm weather has brought to the UK.

Recently Scotland recorded the hottest day in its history (link) which was measured at a scorching 33.2C degrees in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, and the forecast for Warwickshire is similarly toasty for the next week or so ahead.

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To use a well trodden phrase I’m ‘making hay while the sun shines’ and getting the most I possibly can of my usual twalking companions’ willingness to get out and about and my own desire to enjoy the outdoors plus (when necessary) de-stress.

Usually I count my walking weeks (and work toward my 70 mile objective) from Saturday to Friday – and already I have enough in the bank to take my foot off the gas a bit, but so far I don’t feel the need, because I’m just loving life.

Every day currently just seems to come pre-loaded with a reason to bounce out of bed. Most days have seen me begin a little early and take a longer route than I actually need to so that I can make the most of the world while it looks so beautiful.

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A reader asked me recently some practical questions about walking to work (in an attempt I assume to replicate my behaviour) and queried what I do about sweating, ‘beetroot face’ and the need to shower after doing so much exercise.

You may notice in the photo above the sun is shining and I’m wearing noting but a dangerously light coloured blue cotton shirt.

Truthfully this used to be a big consideration – and in the job I had before this current one (when I was a little heavier) this was a daily concern.

I’d already lost a lot of weight and in August 2017 I had started walking to work (two miles each way in that case) for the first time (link).

I remember being quite paranoid about how i’d look when I arrived in the office and was wearing a white tee-shirt under all of my shirts to soak up any sweat if it happened. At that point I was four stone heavier than I am now (12th August 2017 – 18st 8lbs) but still pretty proud of where I’d managed to get to in terms of fitness and put some before and after photos in my blog.

In the full length shots the comparison is from 7th Jan 2017 (25st 2lbs) and the portrait shows me at 34st in April 2016.

‘Beetroot face’ is something that stopped happening (I don’t remember exactly when) but from memory this wasn’t something directly related to weight – but increased fitness.

I guess in answer to the reader’s query I should say ‘if you need to take spare clothes and shower and/or change at work then do it. If you’re worried about looking hot and sweaty then just remember the embarrassment is in your mind – not other people’s.

I know only too well that random passers by can be spontaneously and surprisingly cruel (link) (more links) but when it comes to the people that know you all they’ll see is someone trying to better themselves and they’ll be supportive and encouraging.

If not then you work with assholes and it’s time to find a new job.

It’s as simple as that.

Your goal (as difficult as this can be) is to have a better life and to be healthy and happy. To reach that point you don’t need to look good or impress people with how effortless it is because it’s not.

It’s flipping hard and I take my hat off to anyone trying to convert sedentary fat into muscular fitness because it’s not an easy path to take.

It is however the right one  and over time it gets easier – so keep going.

If you do then everything opens up – and in my case the flower that blossoms is literal as well as metaphorical. While you’re out and about you get to see not only yourself but the world around you growing.

Yesterday evening I was finally able once again to do a full circuit  (around 3.5 miles) of the golf course at Leek Wootton with my friend.

Regular readers may remember my companion as a lady with a poorly paw. Not so long ago this regular partner in crime of mine took a tumble whilst we were twalking in the Hickey Hills back in March (link).

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For a few weeks now (since she got the OK from her doctor) we’ve been taking baby steps on flat surfaces in order to try and build up her capabilities again. Now I’m glad to report that she’s getting to the point where uneven surfaces and some gentler gradients are once again possible.

There’s been a lot of frustration on her part associated with the length of time that the injury has taken to heal – but honestly I’m amazed that it’s done as well as it has, given that ‘a ligament tear’ actually turned out to be ‘a ligament that pulled a chunk of bone away with it too when it tore’.

Ouch.

But now we’re out and about again – and what a time it is to be doing it!

Yesterday everywhere seemed to be heavily populated with butterflies and moths. No matter where you walked the hedgerows were thick with the Red Admiral and Cabbage White varieties.

Even before I’d started the twalk, sitting on my recycling bin when I returned home was this little guy.

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I’m seeing a few varieties this year that I’ve never noticed before – and the milder weather may well be the cause – because while I was looking this up (it’s a Scarlet Tiger – link) I realised it’s predominantly found in the southern parts of the UK.

It’s almost as pretty as the Cinnabar (link) I found near work a few weeks ago – but not quite…

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Hopefully I’ll find more as the weeks go on – because I’m just loving blundering into these little guys!

Who knew moths could be so vibrant and colourful? I’ve only ever noticed the irritating little brown ones fixated on lightbulbs before and these couldn’t be further apart if they tried!

Anyway – I better get on internet. I have another busy day ahead of me.

Whatever you’re trying to do to improve yourself – keep doing it – and to anyone reading that feels like they’re approaching the deep end – just keep swimming!

Davey

Hopefully not a knobhead

So far Sunday is shaping up to be an ideal day. It’s only 10am and I’m on my third coffee.

Annoyingly on the first day of every month Apple Watch usually provides me with a bespoke and tailored monthly objective to work towards – but today it’s remained oddly silent.

Apple Watch challenges are uniquely tailored to their user – and over the year or so that it’s started asking me to complete them I’ve realised that it’s intent is to maintain or slightly increase my activity levels.

The more I do, the more it gradually wants me to do.

It’s like being poked with a virtual stick every day (this is literal rather than metaphorical – as it has haptic feedback) and nagged by a persistent friend to get up of my bottom and do something.

Since it will probably arrive at a random time I’ve already started covering my bases.

If it’s distance based I’ve made a start. I have 5 miles in the bank.

If it’s calories burned through exercise I’m ok there too. I have an additional 500 just sitting there ready to be heaved into the cumulative pot.

If it’s cardio based then I’m on 67 minutes.

I’ve got that covered too.

It’s not going to surprise me and I refuse to get caught out like it’s managed to do to me before.

When I miss an objective on the first day it leaves an irritating gap in my little symbols and there’s no way of filling it forevermore.

This makes a little alarm ring continuously in the back of my mind that I can never completely switch off. It’s a bit of a curse in some ways but a total silver lining in others.

I was thinking about my behaviours this morning when I couldn’t sleep and decided to play a video game to while away the time.

I used to be hopelessly obsessed with my XBOX Live Gamerscore.

For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, every single piece of software on an Xbox (although there there are exceptions) has between 200-1000 possible points you can earn for actions within a game.

When you unlock an achievement there’s a satisfying little ‘ker-plop’ noise that becomes quite addictive. It’s something that you come to love hearing.

I used to consider my score to be a badge of honour – and amongst my peers this became quite a competitive pursuit.

For a brief period I was first amongst my work colleagues – then a respectable second, and finally an irritating third.

However I still kept building it up – and the number above represents MANY MANY hours of time spent sitting in my armchair developing carpal tunnel syndrome (no joke) in my thumbs.

One game alone (Destiny) accounted for nearly a month and a half of my life 24 hours a day 7 day’s a week.

I played it for the equivalent of 44 days solid.

This was just one of many such obsessions. While it was by far the biggest time sink I encountered on the Xbox, when considered alone it pales into insignificance compared to the hours of my life I’ve wasted playing everything else.

However I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy playing video games – because I do. I also (despite what you may expect) don’t consider gaming to be childish or irrelevant. Kept in moderation they still have the ability to join people together in vibrant and long lasting communities. In my experience these often spawn friendships that otherwise would not have existed.

What I enjoy more now though is the real world and my place in it. What I’ve thankfully managed to do is take the irritating obsessions that used to control my life and re-purpose them.

They now service something far more worthwhile and they drive positive rather than negative behaviour.

As a reader (if you’ve been following this blog for a while) you may have wondered why I’m so obsessed with the miles I walk.

You may also have pondered over why it has to be around 70 miles a week.

You need look no further than this element of my personality for an answer – because I tend to get fixated on even numbers and things that are divisible by two.

10 and 70 fit nicely into this category – and it doesn’t stop there because even now I find it really hard to put one of something in my basket at the supermarket.

I also like regularity – and in the past have tended to find structures that work for me then repeat them over and over. Consequently I tend to look for patterns in everything and get quite analytical about random pursuits – although I never quite know what’s going to affect me this way.

While this kind of behaviour initially enabled me to become obsessed with bad things (like RPG game mechanics, drinking and Dominos Pizza two for one offers) it’s also something that now fuels the opposite.

I guess in many ways I now understand how someone can become a tennis star or an Olympian – and why they’re driven to do the same thing day after day after day after day just to maintain their capability or marginally improve.

It’s what lifts my head off the pillow and keeps me going every day.

I get it now.

I really do.

I need to average ten miles a day and NOTHING else will do.

(Author finishes his coffee and carries on walking.)

Finally!!! Ever since my new sunglasses unceremoniously snapped in half two weeks ago I’ve been looking for another (less fragile) pair that suits me.

I really liked the ones I recently bought and was gutted when they randomly fell apart.

I’m hyper conscious that I don’t want to look like a self involved mirror shade knobhead – so I asked the girl in the shop what she thought before I bought the ones that I liked.

‘Do I look like a knobhead?’ I asked.

She stared at me, sizing me up before deciding how to answer.

‘Give it me straight. I have a no looking like a knobhead policy so you can be honest.’

She smirked and then tilted her head looking thoughtfully at me.

‘No.’ She said, sounding conclusive. ‘You don’t look like a knobhead. They suit you actually.’

‘Absolutely sure?’ I asked.

‘Yep. Not a knobhead.’ She concluded.

I handed over my credit card. This was good news.

Confident and happy I set off not feeling like a knobhead.

Of course this is all subjective but I think I’ve managed to stick to my NLLAK policy – and while I’ve been doing it I’ve walked another five miles and found a couple of the things I’ve been looking for.

I’ve been searching for two A1 presentation boards – and finally found them in a local art and stationary shop – and unlike other places they weren’t stupidly expensive. You’ll find out in a while what I need them for – so until then you’ll just have to scratch your heads and wonder…

(Author continues with his day)

Crikey.

I’m home now and the house is HOT! I’m sitting here typing this and positively melting – but this is partially because I’ve had a positive day exercise wise, and its still not over.

I’ve nailed almost 13 miles and I’m just about done ‘pre-loading’ for days during the week where I can’t make the full 10 miles happen.

I’m now going to have a bite to eat (I’m thinking stir fry veg with 5% fat beef burgers) and then decide what to do with the evening…

I might go to the cinema – or I may just stay in and play some guilt free video games.

Choices choices internet…

Davey