Zip, Zilch, Nada, Nowt.

The weather forecast isn’t good today – and I’ve been up since well before 6am trying to get a head start on my exercise goals.

It really doesn’t look like I’ll get much of a chance to do more later on…

I’ve now got just under six miles under my belt though – which is good, because (from where I’m sitting now at around 8.30am) just making my way home with a couple of small detours will result in most of my usual ten miles being completed well ahead of my usual daily time.

As I type the first tentative spots of rain are beginning to appear – but for the moment the park is dry.

I feel really good today – and that’s always enhanced by making a positive start when you get up.

Yesterday’s result was a weight off my mind – and although I ended up with a ‘relaxed’ conclusion to an otherwise on plan dietary day I feel comfy in my trousers and my clothes are nice and loose around my waist.

I like that feeling a lot.

For many many years all I felt was the constant sting of a belt or straining waistband cutting into me and now I really appreciate wearing clothes that fit – and don’t necessarily need anything hold them up.

It’s still an unusual sensation to walk out of the house without a belt – which in the past I wore not just to hold my trousers up – but also in case I burst through a waistband button or tore a zip.

It happened a lot – but it doesn’t happen any more.

Aside from my feelings of personal comfort It’s also been a serendipitous start to the day because at 6am when I was putting a bag of rubbish in my wheely bin I spotted an elderly neighbour walking her dog that I’ve not seen for quite a few months.

I must admit I’d been worried about where she’d gotten to, as I used to bump into her when I was walking all the time and recently she’s been completely absent in my local area.

Thankfully she seems to be doing great, is fit and healthy and was in very good spirits!

As I stood outside my house in my socks talking to her and patting the head of her insanely friendly dog she said that she’d recently been trying out some Tai Chi at the local community centre.

‘I can’t get on with it.’ She stated emphatically, shaking her head and laughing with a glint in her eye.

‘It’s all this, and this…’ she said, slowly waving her arms about in the air above her head with a rather peaceful motion.

‘I need some more… y’know… ooomph!!!

She pumped her fists by her head as if she was raving on a dance floor and looked determined.

I smiled.

‘I know what you mean!’ I replied.

‘I’m not sure Tai Chi would do it for me either!!!’

We said our goodbyes and she moved slowly on, leaning occasionally on her walking stick as she made her way back to her house and talking to her furry companion.

The main thing is that she’s ok and in a good place. That’s great news and it’s a bit of a weight off my mind.

(The rain begins in earnest and I’m forced to move on from my park bench)

It’s now later in the day and outside the window of my house cars are driving past. As they go by I can hear the sound of the rain mixing with the splashing of puddles under their tyres.

All I can smell is baked potatoes.

There are a couple of medium sized ones in the oven and I’m about to make myself a salad to go with them. I’ve managed to get just about nine miles under my belt – but not without getting a darned good soaking in the process.

As I walked back from town the heavens opened and for a while I just stood under a tree eating a small punnet of plums that I’d purchased from Tesco.

I find it amazing how your mood dictates how you see the world.

Maybe a week ago the grey skies and rain would have inspired me to do little else but climb into bed, pull the duvet over my head and try to forget that the world ever existed.

Today, with a better perspective it just looks… Alive.

The whole world is becoming green again, and with the disappearance of the seemingly endless heatwave that turned everything into a straw coloured husk the UK feels… well… a bit like the cold, damp place that we all know and love.

Anyway – I need to have some lunch. Once I’ve done that I’ll decide what comes next for the rest of the bank holiday.

At the moment I have absolutely zilch to do.

Zip.

Nada.

Nowt.

Mind you, the way I feel now (warm and tired from my exercise) that’s actually not a bad thing at all. 

I’m just going to relaaaaax…

Davey

Six month milestone

Well – it’s Saturday.

For a long time now this particular part of the week has been something of a refuge for me and attending Slimming World an activity that I’ve genuinely looked forward to.

Today I don’t really feel like that though because August has been (at least from a mental perspective) one of the most difficult I’ve experienced yet when it comes to remaining on track and keeping focused on my long term goals.

For the first time in my Slimming World experience this month I’ve consciously avoided going to group because I’ve felt down and like I’ve screwed things up.

I’ve not felt like facing anyone to talk about this (and other things) and I’ve hibernated.

This stops today.

I’ve tried really hard this week to turn things around and I need to focus on that fact. Despite what the end result may or may not be I’ve won a victory on my mental battlefield even if it turns out that the war isn’t yet won on the physical one.

Whatever happens on the scales this morning I’m going to get the support I need to deal with it and then move on.

For the last week I’ve been (mostly) pescatarian.

I have really good results with weight loss when I lay off red meat in particular – and this usually also has a positive impact on both my mental well being so there’s more than one reason for the glimmer of hope rattling around my head.

Oily fish is something that I’ve long known has a direct correlation with upswings in my state of mind and when I consciously increase it in my diet the effects can be profound.

My advice to anyone asking whether they too need this in their diet is that you avoid Omega 3 at your peril.

It’s a fine balancing act though. Things like salmon and mackerel can be quite calorific – but like an avocado (also calorific) it’s a good use of syns if you’re careful with how you use them.

Fish is a protein too – so it keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

It doesn’t stop me worrying though.

Although I knew what I weighed a few days ago I’ve tried to steer clear of the scales and I have no idea how heavy I am this morning.

As I write (it’s 7.30am currently) I’m trying to not let my mind play tricks on me.

I’ve got three hours before I stand on Angie’s scales and time is moving very slowly.

The annoying thing is that today (well yesterday actually) represents exactly six months at target – if that is I’m still there.

It would be pretty annoying to reach this milestone (something I always hoped would be a triumphant half way point to diamond target member status) and be outside of my range.

It’s a real possibility though – and I can’t call it.

I have a pair of scales downstairs that could tell me – but I really don’t want to stand on them.

I’m as nervous as hell, and if I do and it’s bad news then I’m just going to spend the time kicking myself.

I’m trying to resist – but I may not be able to. Today is (no joke) going to come down to whether I have a spirited visit to the smallest room of the house, or a (ahem) less successful morning routine than usual.

(Author potters around, has a couple of espressos, goes shopping and spends a little while playing video games to take his mind off matters before going to group)

Ok. I can’t lie.

I cracked and stood on the scales before I left.

I was pacing like a panther in a cage wondering about what would happen – and the news on my scales of ultimate accuracy matched Angie’s in group exactly.

In my usual weigh in clothes I am still in target after six months – although closer to the upper end of my range than I’d like to be.

I’ll be more honest still.

This represents a significant loss compared with this time last week when I was busy trying to get things under control.

Whilst it’s a two pound gain on the page in my SW book the reality of these numbers is that last week I really screwed up. In contrast this week I did really really well and I’m immensely proud of myself.

That’s not meant to be self aggrandisement or grandstanding.

This result means a lot to me.

I’m also going to try my level best to carry on with the same mindset over the coming bank holiday weekend and not relax into three days of constant snacking.

If I do I’ll just end up with yet another flipping mountain to climb and I’m sick to death of how that’s made me feel for the whole of August.

So – this is me, planting a flag in the ground and saying that August is soon to be in the rear view mirror and September will be be better.

I know already that it has its own challenges in store and on paper it’s probably going to be just as difficult (if not more so) than this month – but the last thing in the world that will help that is comfort eating.

I’ve not come to this conclusion alone mind you – and today was great for more than one reason.

I spent some time talking to my consultant Angie after group and went through some of the things that have been going on.

I feel a lot lighter for having done so and I’ve agreed that more often I’m going to come to group but maybe avoid the stress of weekly weigh in’s and allow myself to get the support of being there without the stress of standing on the scales every single week without fail.

Many others have a week off and it’s perfectly normal.

It’s about time I started treating myself the same way I view them – because the only person I consider abnormal when I see this behaviour in action is me.

If I give myself nowhere to hide and my expectation of is nothing short personal of perfection week after week then I’m doomed to eventually disappoint myself no matter how hard I try.

This isn’t sustainable and it’s not healthy.

That’s not to say I want to reduce my focus though – because in order to overcome challenges in life you need to be as healthy and fit as possible – so that’s my aim.

To weather any coming storms and come out a bit damp but otherwise OK on the other side.

At the moment the stormy allegory is less of a metaphor and more of a reality however.

It’s absolutely battering it down with rain outside – and I’ve taken refuge in a pub to have a coffee in town.

I was hoping that today would be a good one for walking but sadly it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the reality of my Saturday.

Instead I’m going to listen to the world, take the win that’s sitting in front of me, remain focused and maybe watch a movie instead later on.

At the half way point to diamond target member status I’m feeling more myself again internet – and that’s as good as it gets.

Davey

Batteries

‘It’s all about batteries…’ my friend said.

She checked her rear view mirror, indicated, overtook the car in front and after doing so merged back into the left hand lane.

I looked at the sky.

It was starting to rain and there were spots of water on the windscreen.

Batteries… Right… Not sure where she’s going with this…

‘When you’re down and you find that one area of your life has flat batteries you can draw on other areas that have fully charged ones.’

Ok…

‘They keep you going.’ She said.

I nodded.

‘Uh-huh.’ I replied.

‘…but the problem is that if you have flat ones in other areas too then there’s no power anywhere and that’s when you start to feel run down.’

Hmmm…

Maybe she had a point…

‘You may have a point.’ I said.

We were on our way to the Peak District – but if I’m honest at the time it didn’t really matter we were headed.

It turned out to be a fantastic day for walking – and while drizzly weather was a mixed bag at times it was mostly warm and breezy – meaning that the scenery could be experienced in its natural state (damp, cloudy and dramatic).

IMG_7171

As delightful as the day in the countryside turned out to be (for me at least) it was pretty immaterial – because although we both love the outdoors we go on our road trips for another reason entirely.

We’d been looking forward to the day out because it meant that we could get some completely uninterrupted twalking time in.

It’s rare that there’s a moment of silence when my friend and I go away for the day together – and I often find insight is never far away as we chat.

I really needed it.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and the truth is that I’ve largely been hibernating in my personal life for a few weeks.

It wasn’t until this weekend that I chose to admit to myself that my behaviour has been out of character (for ‘new Dave’ at least) and took steps to address it.

Whilst withdrawing a bit hasn’t stopped me doing exercise and going about my life I know that deep down I’ve not been myself.

I’ve desperately wanted to shy away from groups of people (even those that that I know well) consciously restricted some activities or one to one interactions, found myself playing video games for the first time in many many months, bingeing on Netflix and YouTube and (possibly worst of all) making frivolous purchases of things I don’t really need to cheer myself up.

Then of course there’s eating.

Once more I’ve struggled to find an off switch – and no matter how much walking you do, if you eat huge amounts of (even healthy) food you’ll put weight on.

I know I certainly did – and at the moment I’m once again trying the best I can to turn around a crappy result on my home scales before I return to the ones at Slimming World on Saturday.

This is the second time in three weeks that I’ve found myself trying to turn things around and it’s a new phenomenon that I could really do without.

Maintenance came easy to begin with – but it isn’t at the moment.

Maybe a few months ago when I hadn’t experienced the very public success that came out of the blue in the Man of the Year competition I might have felt differently – but now all I can think about is not only a personal failure, but letting other people down too.

To underline this even the Slimming World app is a stark reminder that I can’t log onto the website to look for recipes without being reminded of it.

So – although my silence over the last week has been for multiple reasons other than this I guess I have to admit (once again) that I don’t have all the answers in life and that despite trying to be a role model that champions continuous attendance – last week I couldn’t face going to group.

The whole week before last Saturday was definitely off plan and I really couldn’t bring myself to face the music.

That’s not to say I ordered a pizza or stopped off at the kebab shop – nor did I buy or consume any alcohol or demolish several tubs of Haagen Daas.

Almost no crap passed my lips.

In my diminished frame of mind I was still eminently capable of emptying my kitchen cupboard, fridge and freezer though.

All of them are now largely bare thanks to a concerted effort last week to soothe an imaginary vacuum inside me, created by emotion.

Unsurprisingly it proved to be absolutely impossible to fill up with food and frivolous purchases or Netflix.

Furthermore the realisation that two and a half years into my Slimming World journey I still have the capacity for epic self sabotage frightened the hell out of me and at the time it pushed my mood even further down than it was before.

However – I know I’m being cryptic.

I apologise.

There’s a real tension between my social media life ( where I’m intent on being absolutely honest about how I feel – which is very important to me) and being open about why I feel that way – because while I’ve chosen for much of my day to day experience to be very public there are some things that just can’t be – leaving me in a situation that’s difficult to reconcile when I write.

So for the moment this is as honest as it gets.

I’m out of target at the moment.

This is my current weight and a few days ago it was a few pounds more.

I might have won a competition – but in common with the vast majority of other people that read my blog – I falter and stumble just like everyone else.

The main difference between who I used to be though vs who I am now is that while for a brief period I may be filled with hopelessness and doubt I know that I can change things in a positive way for myself when I decide to lift my head because I’ve done it already.

It doesn’t matter how many times I stumble because that is not the measure of me or anyone else in life.

The test is how quickly you can recognise problems, how quickly you seek help and how hard you try to fix them.

I’ve seen this time and time again in social media feeds from other Slimming World members and just like some people look at me for inspiration I too look for it in them.

It’s never far away – and I find it in both from fellow members and close friends.

So – some of my batteries may be depleted internet, but you can be assured that I’ve taken all the necessary steps that I feel are needed in my life to kick start their re-charge cycles.

Normal service will hopefully be resumed soon.

Davey

Lots of twalking

Despite the weather taking a dip recently it’s still been more than clement enough to make sure that I’ve been out for a few evening strolls and kept up my twalking quotas up.

I’ve always found that whilst I love walking I adore chattering to people about nothing in particular even more.

Monday evening was spent with an ‘off piste’ friend wandering around the paths near some fields and quarries in Wolston.

It’s a really lovely place (like most of Warwickshire) and you can be assured that when she gets a bug for exploration you’re going to see parts of it that you otherwise might not have looked at.

Things always go a little off the beaten path when we go out together – but I absolutely love the randomness of walks that contain comments like ‘that’s the way to go’ … ‘I think’…. followed a few moments later with ‘erm that wasn’t where I thought it was…’

Often the outcome is being faced with a fence, huge bush, or in instance like Monday a really picturesque little view of some sheep near a river, which was where we ended up sitting on a log for a while to chat and enjoy the view.

I’m not entirely sure however whether the four mile walk was calorie neutral or in fact burned anything at all because we spent the VAST MAJORITY of our time eating blackberries – which were practically dropping off the bushes locally.

Apart from the occasional one with a slightly tart flavour they were all bursting with sweetness and were so soft to the touch it was difficult to pull them from the bushes without turning them into a juicy paste between your thumb and forefinger.

It’s a lovely place to walk in the dusk though – whether you’re filling your face or not!

When Tuesday came along I agreed that myself and another friend would simply wander into town and have a healthy bite to eat while we twalked.

I’ve never been to Ask in Warwick – and until I walked in (I’ve passed it MANY times) I hadn’t realise how many seats there are – as well as an outdoor patio area. Inside there’s a huge roof light and it makes it a lovely place to sit and eat.

The food was relatively reasonably priced (it’s all a matter of perspective I guess) but thankfully had some rather tasty looking salad options.

If you go to their website and look for vouchers there are loads though – and my fast thinking mate found one for 25% off (during the week) before we went in!

I decided to go for the salmon salad and we also had some olives and the (rather non slimming friendly) zucchini in batter as a starter.

There’s nothing like taking a speed food, wrapping it in batter and then deep frying it!

I’m of the opinion that it would probably be a better choice to just order chips if you fancy something naughty as the portion size is quite small – but hey ho – you only live once!

The one thing I will say is that I originally asked for my dressing already on the main dish but I’m glad they screwed up and put it in a little cup on the side.

It was basically just olive oil with balsamic vinegar and a few leaves floating in it – and wasn’t particularly tasty when I dipped in an exploratory finger – so from a diet perspective if you eat here remember the following rule.

ALWAYS ON THE SIDE AT ASK!!!

My usual option after dinner is coffee – but this week I’ve been suffering with a rather irritating medical issue and the doctor has advised me that caffeine is likely to be an aggravating factor in this.

Those who have EVER read a single post of mine or met me in person will know that telling me to stop drinking coffee is probably the best way in the world to stress me out and wind me up – but there we have it.

That’s now a thing too.

I’m supposed to cut down on coffee.

I have a mild resurgence of gout in my right foot. A nodule that had grown on the joint of my big toe below the nail a couple of years ago has for some reason decided to choose now to go all fiery red and angry again.

So far it’s not disrupted my walking (I love you ibuprofen) but it’s not comfortable and in the wrong shoes it’s a real nightmare.

This meant that last night’s walk (around Warwick Racecourse) with another friend was of its usual three mile length but the normal caffeinated Americano conclusion at a local Warwick hostelry was replaced by a far more cultured cup of tea.

I have to admit I cheated a bit with the above photo (I forgot to take any pictures last night – that’s from a previous visit) because they’ve now surfaced the whole walking loop with tarmac and gravel – making it far nicer for the legions of mobility scooter users that you see around there most of the time.

It’s not so great however if (like my friend) you choose to wear walking sandals. The stones are tiny and almost impossible not to kick up into your feet.

He looked like he was carrying a bag of gravel around for much of the journey and I really felt for him.

So – that brings me pretty much up to date.

I’m nearing the end of a 45 minute hill climb program on my exercise bike because outside when I woke up the rain was absolutely battering it down and for once my rather stoic attitude to walking regardless of the weather faded and I decided to take the car.

It’s fixed and it cost me £653 so I might as well use it occasionally!!!

Exercise however needs to be completed somehow and taking the car to work does not mean ‘lazy’.

If I sit at my work desk without a full set of rings completed on my watch then my OCD will be ringing alarm bells all day long!!!

Anyway internet. I have four minutes to go and I need a shower too!!!

Laters!

Davey

Cinema day

I’m feeling loads more like myself today – and oddly it seems to have coincided with a suddenly rainy cold snap.

I’ve suddenly realised that although I haven’t suffered at all with the heat (it’s amazing how much better I feel in hot weather now I’m thinner!) I think I’ve been carrying around a lot of excess water.

This may explain some of my struggles in the past seven days where my weight has fluctuated like a yo-yo.

Yesterday – almost immediately as the temperature dropped I found myself going to the toilet like a racehorse that had swallowed a swimming pool – and whaddaya know – today I feel as light as a feather!

I’m also sick of giving myself a hard time so today (just like yesterday) is all about being nice to Davey and not him grinding himself into the flipping floor with walking and guilt.

Every day recently when I’ve fancied going to the cinema I’ve talked myself out of it – and as a consequence there are loads of films that I really wanted to see but haven’t gotten around to.

If I don’t hurry up they won’t be showing any more and that would mean seeing them on a small screen – which just won’t do when it comes to big budget action movies.

First on the agenda today is The Incredibles 2.

I flipping love Pixar films. They just contain a totally ageless joy that other animated films can’t quite seem to replicate – and this one has been on my must see list for a while.

It’s on at 10.10am – and I’m heading out now to see it.

It’s raining but who cares?

I’ve spent the last couple of years building an all weather wardrobe and it’s time to pack away the Hawaiian shirt, stick the shorts in a drawer and break out the walking boots, fleece and my waterproof coat.

Sigh.

Hello rain.

I think I’ve actually missed you!

(Author walks to the cinema, watches his film, drinks coffee eats some sugar free sweeties and emerges into a drizzly Sunday at midday)

Yaaay! That was flipping awesome!

Is there such a thing as a bad Pixar movie?

I think not!

This time Elastigirl gets to take centre stage and we get to see Mr Incredible stay home and look after the kids.

Jack-Jack starts developing powers, Dash and Violet get more to do and the whole thing is just as exciting and funny as the first one!

It’s highly recommended!

No it’s time to go for a walk and get a coffee.

Next on the list is Ant Man and the Wasp.

This is at 3.25pm. I’ve got 2.78 miles in the bank so far – so I have plenty of time to make a dent in my walking goals for the day.

You didn’t think I could sit still ALL day long did you?! 😏

(Author goes for coffee)

Well – I’ve wandered around town and I’ve got a couple more miles under my belt – although no serious exercise – but I don’t really care.

I’m caffeinated and I’ve had some spectacular luck with bargains on the dead and dying counter at Tesco – meaning I’ve been both frugal and on plan today.

Town is quite busy at the moment – which is rather surprising given the rain.

The weather seriously can’t make up its mind at the moment though and between precipitation and clear skies – and it’s not swinging either way.

Time to go and queue for another ticket in the cinema.

(Author watches Ant Man and the Wasp)

Yay! Another great sequel!!! That was also an improvement on the first one and I really didn’t expect that!!!

It has no links at all to Avengers: Infinity War until the first of the two hidden endings – leaving it on a real cliffhanger!!

Nuts. Now I want to see the next instalment!!!

I was planning to go for Mission Impossible after AMATW – but I think I’ve reached the limit of my ability to sit in a cinema.

It’s nearly two hours long and I need to walk.

(Author walks, and eats absolutely tons of tasty blackberries on the numerous bushes that seem to be absolutely everywhere!)

At the moment the things falling off bushes and trees are absolutely everywhere and I’ve taken home loads of apples and blackberries over the last two weeks.

It’s hard to see why anyone would pay a couple of pounds a punnet when you can wander around with a couple of plastic bags and fill your pockets completely for free!!!

I decided in the end (even though I’m only just over 7 miles for the day) to just chillax and slowly meander home.

Once I did I put my feet up with a huge salad and some Luke Cage on Netflix.

It’s amazing how nice a freshly grated carrot and balsamic salad tastes with beetroot and olives.

Of course the mint sauce, tuna, orange pepper, lettuce and cucumber didn’t hurt either.

When I make a ‘Netflix and chill’ salad I really make a mondo one!

So internet – that’s my day.

Nothing deep.

Nothing profound.

No soul searching.

No guilt.

No worry.

Just a lazy rainy Sunday relaaaaaaaxing in the cinema 🤗

I hope yours was as great as mine!

Davey

Fallible

When your day starts with spilling hot coffee all over your back and shoulder (a feat in itself when the coffee in question is your own) it’s difficult to tell whether it’s a portent of things to come or bad luck just helpfully getting itself out of the way before the good luck arrives.

I try and be positive – so I prefer to think that it’s far more likely to be the latter and so far the day isn’t disappointing me.

The morning didn’t start too badly though – and after some food shopping I headed to an earlier Slimming World group than usual.

The weather forecast suggests that at 6pm it’s going to start raining and that it’s not going to stop again for the rest of the weekend.

I wanted therefore to make the most of the clear skies while they lasted – which is why at 10.45 (when I’d normally be on the scales) I was already on a train to Birmingham.

Before I continue though I feel that I must be completely honest.

I’ve found the last two weeks probably the hardest yet with regard to staying on plan.

My worst comfort eating impulses have been triggered over the last two weeks since I last weighed in – and I’ve known for a few days that I’ve been out of target for the first time since I reached it in February.

Up until now I’ve not had a problem maintaining – and with some small exceptions it’s been a relatively natural thing to do.

I accidentally discovered ‘maintenance’ eating before I reached my goal weight and had to dial back my eating to push myself over the finish line before going back to what I felt was a comfortable norm.

I dropped a bit more weight in the same way just before the MOTY competition, established a new 14st target with Angie and then once again just carried on as normal.

It all seemed to be working perfectly until shortly after I came back from London I hit a (totally unrelated) mood dip.

Life things (as they always do) just happened and I felt sad.

Such events (in terms of my eating plan) hadn’t been too bad before – and I’d largely moved away from guilt.

However now if I comfort ate I suddenly felt that wasn’t just letting myself down I was letting down Slimming World, all of the other people that could have won instead of me, my friends, my group, everyone that knew me and anyone that’s picked up a newspaper article about me or commented on my blog.

Before anyone tries to re-educate me I know that feeling this way is complete nonsense and that I’m putting pressure on myself to be perfect when I don’t need to.

I don’t even have to weigh in any more than once every eight weeks as a target member rather than the weekly one I aim for.

I get it.

I totally do.

Logic doesn’t always work so well in such instances though…

Rationalising what’s going on seems next to impossible inside an unsettled mind – and when you’re struggling to smile and finding it hard to lift your head off the pillow NOTHING makes any sense.

You just feel like a failure.

The difference here is that more than ever before in my life I write and I talk about these things.

I do this both with my audience here and with close friends that know me and call me out on any instances where I’m talking nonsense.

So all week I’ve been standing on the scales in the evening and sending my friend a picture of the good or bad results (it’s been up and down) as I’ve tried to pull things back round.

As well as sending me unexpected presents she’s been talking me down from my emotional ledges (as I’ve occasionally done in the past for her) during this time – and rather than not wanting to be a burden I’ve just kept telling myself that this is what friends are for.

We share the good times and the bad.

No-one is an island – and we need friends and groups to be at our best.

When we can’t see what’s in front of us they help us sort truth from the lies that we tell ourselves in dark moments and order everything so that we can move forward.

Attending group this morning was an extension of this – and even though it wasn’t my usual timeslot the same kinds of friendly faces were evident as soon as I walked through the door.

I love going to group. It never fails to cheer me up.

The relief when I stood on the scales (in my mind at least) was like a waterfall washing over me because I was back to where I needed to be.

Once again I was bang on target.

(Author gets off the train and wanders around Birmingham looking at trainers before sitting down for a little while in the museum and art gallery to continue his blog and rest his feet)

So far the weather is holding steady and the sky is blue. It’s pleasantly cool with a nice breeze and I feel good.

I still haven’t made up my mind how to spend a JD Sports voucher that’s burning a hole in my pocket but I have some ideas…

I feel like I need a treat.

Something that makes me feel… silly and vibrant.

A big, ostentatious pair of trainers designed for someone much younger than myself seems to fit the bill.

I don’t want to overplay this – but my weigh in result wasn’t easy for me to accomplish – because I spent the vast majority of my week convinced that (for some reason unbeknownst to science) I’d completely lost the ability to lose weight.

It’s nuts I know – but when you get into a strange headspace you can tell yourself any number of things that are total bobbins.

You can look in the mirror – and although ALL of your clothes fit PERFECTLY a mean voice in the back of your mind still says ‘you’re putting it all back on.’

Why we all seem to have this capacity for self torture is totally beyond me – but it’s important for me to say to everyone that’s also struggling that they aren’t strange – and they’re not at all weird.

I know this because throughout the entirety of an interview about my recent success with a local newspaper earlier this week for the article in the image below (link) I felt exactly as I’ve described above.

I didn’t feel successful at all – but the headline later in the week ultimately suggested something totally different.

Unexpectedly I’m also in the Coventry Telegraph (link) too.

Anyway…

Negative thoughts aside I’m back on track – and this morning, having stepped on the scales and silenced my inner demons for a while I feel more positive.

I’m also currently looking at a neon cement mixer and the sheer absurdity of it just makes me smile.

I have no idea why this cheers me up – but I guess that’s the point of modern art.

It’s meant to provoke a feeling and then challenge you to examine and understand why – which is a pretty good thing to do when you need to change your point of view.

In an art gallery you never quite know what’s around the corner.

In one room there’s a gaudy neon post-modern juxtaposition and in the one next door you’re confronted with religious iconography.

In the room following that there’s a landscape.

I guess that it’s a good metaphor for how my week has been.

One minute I’ve felt overwhelmed and unable to cope – and then when I’ve consciously stepped outside of the thought process and moved elsewhere my mood has changed.

However it’s not happened by magic and it’s required hard work.

If anything my result on the scales is a reminder that nothing occurs by accident – and that things worth having (that are truly important) require you to develop new support structures and coping mechanisms.

Ideally once you have they will be capable of recognising (and reacting to) moments when you’re slipping.

If there’s a message underlying this entire post that I’d like every reader to take away it’s that it’s OK TO FAIL and that the first step if you do should always be ask for help.

Just keep swimming.

Davey

Chariot and heroes

So it’s probably time I gave you all an update on my fallen friend.

Those reading my blog recently will have no doubt read (with growing horror I’m sure) about my elderly Passat’s near death experience when it died on me 120 miles away from home in Weston Super-mare at the weekend.

After a tense drive home with several misfires I was convinced that the RAC’s suggestion that this was caused by a faulty crank sensor rather than something more serious was off the mark.

Surely it couldn’t be that simple?

It never is.

This was a delicate time for my ageing chariot too – and although it’s never polite to discuss a lady’s age I feel in this case it’s appropriate.

Ms Passat was born in 2003.

I purchased her after she’d travelled 14,000 miles.

I didn’t particularly WANT a VW if I’m honest – because it was more expensive than the Mondeo at the time – which was getting really good reviews.

I’d visited the Ford garage and climbed into a really nice ‘Titanium’ variant of the line and was marvelling at how nice it was inside.

It was just what I wanted.

Until I tried to put the seatbelt on and it wouldn’t stretch around my waist to the clip.

The salesman at the time seemed to think this was completely irrelevant – or thought I was joking – and wanted to go in for the hard sell.

After giving up trying to make him understand how pointless it was buying a car in which I couldn’t drive legally I left the dealership feeling quite forlorn.

Half a mile down the road however was a VW garage selling a Passat that was only a few months old.

I knew nothing about the car or the brand, but when the seatbelt easily clicked into place I was practically ready to hand over my wallet there and then.

When the salesman reached over me and turned on the blue dashboard lights I couldn’t sign quick enough.

I bought it immediately based solely on my ability to do up the seatbelt and the blue lights on the dash.

It’s no joke.

That’s as in depth as I got.

To me buying a car had become like buying trousers, because it didn’t matter how much they cost or what they looked like as long as they fitted and I didn’t feel a complete fool.

Back in 2003 when my car rolled off the production line I’m sure she had little understanding of the burden she’d have to bear as her life wore on – but stoically carry it she did.

All 34.5 stone of it – and it wasn’t easy for her.

The first signs of unusual wear and tear came when I wore out the upholstery on the driver’s seat from the constant pressurised movement of me trying to drag myself in and out of the car.

Initially this was replaced under warranty – but then it returned outside of warranty and became a ‘feature’.

It’s still there now.

Then I broke the mounting underneath the driver’s seat, which scarily and unceremoniously snapped whilst I was on the M40.

It had to be tig welded by a friendly mechanic who strengthened it for me – and assured me that a baby elephant couldn’t break it – even if it did manage to pass its test and steal my automobile.

Then some years later I snapped my steering wheel in half – which I can only guess was slowly breaking in two as I steadied my bulk on it over and over again as I tried to fit into the driver’s seat and get comfortable.

I barely had 1cm of metal holding it together when the incredulous mechanic showed me how bad it was.

I drove from Warwick to Redditch to go to work with it like that – too embarrassed to call in with the truth that I’d snapped my steering wheel and that I could fit the whole of my hand into the steering column.

So – I have some rather emotional attachments to my car.

It helped me when I needed it most – but honestly also it became something of an enabler.

With a car I didn’t have to walk and my lack of exercise compounded my problems.

Now however the opposite is true because if I can keep her alive she enables me to go further afield than I otherwise would and prompts exploration rather than isolation.

When I delivered my car to the mechanic’s tender mercies yesterday I’d not had anything done to it for almost exactly a year, and it was also due an MOT and a service – as well as the crank sensor replacement.

The sensor alone (with fitting) was £144.

Would it be worth it?

They wouldn’t know until they’d replaced it whether another engine code would come back and there would still be another issue to fix – but then there was also the added cost of the MOT and the unknown cause of the misfiring during Saturday’s journey home that was yet to be diagnosed.

Would it pass? if not what would it fail on if not and how much would that cost?

How much was too much?

Well it seems that the cost (for the moment) was £653 – which (whilst it may sound a lot) I consider very reasonable.

The MOT required (ironically) the crank sensor, two new front discs, a brake calliper and a pad – whilst the service was basically oil and spark plugs.

The stuttering appeared to be a cracked breather hose in the engine – which is now temporarily taped to see if it cures the stutter.

If it does then that’s a mere £46 to replace!

In essence a year’s motoring has cost me £700 in mechanic’s fees, £200 in car insurance, £240 car tax £30 RAC membership – and between £30-£40 per month (let’s say £480 per year per in a rough worst case scenario) in petrol.

My MOT pass certificate (yes it DID PASS!!!) shows my cumulative mileage.

In just under a year my car has driven 3,032 miles.

That’s much less than the 10-12,000 it used to do.

I work that out to be about 55p a mile – which oddly (from memory) is the exact amount my old employer used to give as a mileage allowance before I was made redundant.

If I got rid of my car and took an Uber in order to get my shopping back from Aldi (a four mile round trip to get my weekly shop – for which I always use my car because of the frozen food I buy) it would cost me between £5-7.

The last time I took a return bus to Leamington from my house (also a four mile round trip) I believe it was around the £3.50 mark.

In contrast (I checked today) in the exact same period I walked 3,605 miles.

That didn’t cost me a penny.

Wow.

How life has changed! The balance is finally right.

So – my car – once a victim of my worst excesses now lives a life of privilege and relaxation.

This elder stateswoman of the highways rests in the sunshine most of the time whilst I wear out my shoe leather instead.

It deserves to be pampered – and whilst I love it – I no longer need it to live.

All I need is a walk around the park with friends and a beautiful sunset.

That’s enough internet.

Davey

P.S.

The day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention that I’ve still felt down this week.

Honestly I’ve been struggling.

Quite a bit if I’m honest.

However I have good friends.

REALLY good ones.

Today I came home and inside my door was a little parcel, wrapped in paper with pictures of puppies on it.

Taped to the back of it were these words.

Wondering what it was and who had sent it I opened it up.

Inside there was something that instantly made me smile, because it’s the little things that mean everything.

I don’t want a lot from life.

I try not to waste money and get pleasure from the world around me – not from expensive possessions.

So my friend had bought me a colourful and thoughtfully themed present that I could use and re-use again and again – and every time I do I’ll be thinking about her kindness, thoughtfulness and the fact that she went out of her way to buy something little that she know I’d love to make me smile again.

Sometimes all a boy needs to feel special is a super hero carrier bag.

X

Who needs ice-cream?

Early on Sunday morning (at 9am)  I found myself sitting listening to the clock bells ringing in Warwick town square. The world was slowly waking up around me – and as usual I was already a few coffees into my day.

Although it’s something I used to do a lot I no longer understand any more how people can waste their weekend by lying in bed.

I guess that not having a hangover 24×7 (it’s now over two and a half years since I drank any alcohol) and actually being capable of getting a good night’s rest without my old sleep apnoea makes a massive difference.

Now the mornings are light I’m usually up and out of bed by around 6am at the absolute latest.

These days on a Saturday or Sunday by 9am (if I’ve not already started my day) I’m of the opinion that three hours have been wasted.

Thankfully this wasn’t the case yesterday because I’d already managed to get four miles under my belt before I sat down to listen to the bells and planned to do a lot more before the day was done.

On Saturday when I went to Cheddar Gorge I’d made something of a tactical error though and the following day I was suffering a little.

Before heading out to the wilds of Somerset I’d neglected to apply suntan lotion to any part of my body – and despite carrying it in my bag throughout the whole frikkin day – due firstly to the hill related fun and then the car related stress I forgot all about it.

I ended up getting home that evening with a bright red head and rather pink legs.

This had faded a bit by the following morning and was just a bit itchy. Given how sunny it was I had a rather lucky escape.

Yesterday I was determined not to make the same mistake twice and made sure that I proactively applied lots of lotion to my head and arms before leaving the house.

Furthermore I wore long cargo trousers to give my pink shins a break and secreted a travel tube of suntan cream in one of the bigger pockets near my knee for later re-application.

This proved to be a good call because on Sunday it was a HOT day.

Originally I’d planned to make my weekend a ridiculously intrepid one – and Sunday was supposed to be much like Saturday.

I had originally intended to go far afield yet again and have another day of exploration and adventure.

Unfortunately my car had scuppered that plan completely and was sitting close to death parked outside my house.

Until I could get in front of a mechanic (it’s been booked in for tomorrow) my options were limited.

I could have jumped on a train to somewhere – but I also needed to do some shopping. When you don’t have the luxury of hopping in your vehicle and quickly nipping to the supermarket to get frozen food and heavy items this becomes a bit more time consuming.

I was therefore left with the the unenviable task of carrying various items from distant supermarkets (Some things I can only get from one place – others I can buy from a nearer supermarket) in the blazing midday heat.

By the time 3pm had arrived I must admit that I was feeling pretty worn out – which was when the second ‘hangover’ from Saturday began to make itself known.

Whilst I’d been giddily running up and down the hillsides at Cheddar Gorge I’d not paid any attention at all to tiredness in my legs – mostly because I was enjoying the sensation of feeling the burn.

I was much more interested in how quickly they would recover and how soon I could get my breath back and power forward.

However – my quads (from the downhill segments) had clearly taken a pounding – and as the day wore on I found that I had less and less to give in my legs.

By around 3-4pm my quads had pretty much siezed up and I retreated indoors where it was hot and stuffy – but there was also a nice comfy sofa and a massive pouffe.

Time to chill with the fan on.

Although it’s not a particularly cheerful topic I’ve found myself unexpectedly addicted to a Vietnam War documentary on Netflix recently.

It’s a rather epic series – with around 10 episodes, some of which come in at the two hour mark – so it’s an undertaking not for the faint hearted if you plan to have a look.

However – if you’re at all historically curious it’s a fascinating (albeit grim) look at the potential for hubris in people with great power and the devastation they can cause to the lives of so many when they choose to go to war.

It’s also a fascinating insight into how decisions made by people with the best of intentions can sometimes have the absolute worst of outcomes.

Maybe I should be watching something different to this though – because I’m very much aware that my mood is still one of reflection and introspection rather than relentless buoyancy.

I’m far from down but I also wouldn’t categorise myself as completely upbeat if I was pushed to describe my mood.

Mostly because of this if I’m being completely truthful the last two weeks have been a bigger struggle than most I’ve experienced since I started Slimming World with regard to eating.

I’m (as always) making good choices whenever I can – and food optimising with a passion – but I’m finding that I’m having a harder time than I normally would recognising the moment when I should be flicking the eating switch to the ‘I’m full up now’ position and calling it a day.

The only way to deal with this and not decimate any progress I’ve made is to nibble wisely – and as such I think I’ve probably eaten the weight of a Shetland pony in gherkins and pickled onions over the last few days.

It’s not ideal though because I like to feel in control – and it’s been a long time since I felt that grip slip so noticeably.

It’s not nice – and it reminds me of darker days, which does little to improve my frame of mind.

However – Saturday was a definite turning point – and as stressful as my car breaking down was it took my mind off what had been bugging me for a while.

There’s no such thing as a bad day or a good day – even in extremes.

There’s only perspective.

Often it takes time to formulate that view but it’s possible to view almost everything in a good light.

Sure – things may go wrong but it’s only your perception of an event like a car breakdown that makes it a bad day.

The guy who gets to fix your car earns a living, and the industry associated with making the parts you use to repair it ensure people have jobs and can support families.

There’s often two sides to every coin and the yin to my particular yan was that I had to fill up my brain with nervous energy and think my way around the potential problem I was faced with – and try to find a way around it.

If I hadn’t been able to drive it home I’m sure I’d have found some way or another to overcome and persevere.

It’s just who I am now and I love that deep down I feel a strength that years ago used to be fear.

Today the theme of trying to regain equilibrium has persisted and as I sit here at 10pm writing this I’ve just completed a near six mile evening walk with a friend around the park and am now resting in front of the TV with a full belly.

In that belly is a delicious food optimised dessert made with sweet and succulent blackberries that I picked off a bush on the way home, mixed with some frozen fruit, fat free yoghurt, oats, a banana, cinnamon and stevia.

What isn’t to love about a life where I can walk all day long, pick some of my dinner from a bush, mix it with delicious and wholesome ingredients and feel full up at the end of it?

Who the hell needs ice cream when this is the alternative?

Not me that’s for sure.

Sure – on a day like today the idea seems like a nice one – and when I’m low it seems like an easy choice, but doing that will not improve my mood.

Making the right choices, talking to friends, going out, seeing the world and keeping fit will do that for me – and THAT (dear internet) is what I choose as my antidote to stress and worry.

Davey

Cheddar and head gaskets

I feel like I’m emerging from a dark tunnel this morning.

I’m going to be honest – although I don’t really want to – because I know it’s good for me.

My mood has been in the toilet this week – and since last Sunday my chin has pretty much been scraping along the floor.

I may have hidden it from some – but I’ve shared my feelings with a few and tried where possible not to hibernate. It’s really difficult though because now more than ever I feel an extra little layer of pressure (that no one but me has applied to myself) to be extra perfect.

All of a sudden I don’t feel like I should be fallible – particularly when the world and it’s dog is suddenly coming to me for advice – but I’m trying to remind myself that I am, and that it’s ok to feel vulnerable.

Advice (by the way) is freely given – and no one should feel like they can’t ask me.

I absolutely love helping people. This isn’t about that – it’s something deeper and rather personal – so forgive me if I keep the specifics out of my blog. All you need to know is I’ve shared my problems rather than bottling things up and that I do have people to talk to when I need them.

My support structures are solid but I still need to withdraw and feel down from time to time.

Maybe because of a need to retreat and recharge today is a little different from my usual Saturday because I’ve decided to take a break from the norm. I’m not going to group and instead I’m heading out to somewhere I’ve always meant to visit but never gotten around to.

Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills.

Currently it’s 7.30am and I’m the little blue dot on the map. I’m heading for the red one.

I’ve stopped at the motorway services because I need caffeine and there’s a Starbucks – so I’m currently in Davey’s happy place (despite looking a bit thoughtful).

(Author finishes his nectar of life and continues on his way)

Well.

I’ve had an interesting day.

Currently I’m sitting in Weston Super-Mare watching yet another steaming coffee cool. Oddly I’m in quite a good mood – but by rights I really shouldn’t be because this was the scene less than 20 minutes ago.

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However – I’m getting ahead of myself a little. At around 9.30am this morning I arrived at my intended destination.

Cheddar Gorge.

Originally I’d intended to be 100% the consummate tourist today – but when I wandered down to the visitor centre after parking I realised the cost of investigation was a little higher than I felt I wanted to pay.

It seemed that £19.95 didn’t get quite the views I wanted (the lookout tower is apparently still closed) so I instead carried on with plan B.

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This was a walk I’d spotted on the mendip hills tourist website (link) for a circular trek with allegedly lovely views that was around five miles. It started opposite the National Trust visitor centre – just a little way down the road from the bandits who wanted £20 for a cave.

As soon as I started up the path I realised that the guide wasn’t kidding. It was definitely a steep one!

The family in front of me in the first photo quickly ground to a halt – and shortly after the start I found them a short way up the hill sitting on a rock whilst puffing and panting.

Dad was looking at the floor dripping while his wife and kids looked up into the woods, trying to gauge how far they had to go.

Normally I don’t like diving straight into a steep incline without a good walk beforehand – but today, maybe because of the long drive (that had unexpectedly taken me through the heart of Bristol and wedged me in traffic for a while) I was in the mood to blow away some cobwebs.

Despite feeling a little out of breath myself I decided to just feel the burn and see how far I could go before I had to stop – but the surprising thing was that I didn’t have to – I could just keep going!

When I reached the top I’d managed to get a pretty good sweat on and if I’m honest I felt pretty darned awesome. The view however seemed underwhelming.

For fifteen minutes of steep hill climbing I’d really been hoping for a whole lot more…

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I mean – it was nice but it wasn’t brilliant…

I turned around and continued.

The guide wanted me to keep the stone wall to my right and then go through a kissing gate, so I complied. Before I knew it I was walking along the top of the gorge with fields to my left and a wooded hillside covered in hidden sheep to my right.

The sun was really beating down by now and I was feeling pretty warm – but the whole place was relatively deserted. I just enjoyed the view as I walked and tried to take some pictures of butterflies – who continually refused to comply.

They just fluttered off into the distance before I could get close enough to take a picture of them with unfolded wings.

Just after the last one escaped the path started to descend again, and it seemed a little less rockier and uneven than the one that I’d been faced with on the way up.

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So I started jogging down it – just to see if I could.

Oddly it didn’t seem to be a problem, so I carried on – and found that it was surprisingly exciting to be judging the ground ahead in a more compressed timeframe than I was normally used to when walking.

Looking for the appropriate foothold and occasionally slipping a little before getting some traction was rather fun – so I carried on to a little fork in the route at the bottom of the hill and stopped to check the pdf on my phone.

There was a gate to my left and a path to my right – but which to follow…

It looked like the path was the right way to go so I carried on, climbed over the stile a little further down and found myself (as the route said I would) on the road passing up through the gorge.

I turned left, followed it for a short way and then on the right found another path leading up again on the other side of the gorge.

I might be wrong – but this way up didn’t seem so steep – and it may be because the road I crossed was also heading up meaning that I didn’t go down quite as far as I’d originally climbed.

As I made my way up I said hello to a lady as I was passing and headed through a gate marked to Draycott and kept dutifully to the right again.

Then – all of a sudden the view opened up and I finally got the vista that I’d been waiting for.

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This looked absolutely stunning and you could see for miles and miles – with what looked like Weston in the distance.

Over to my right was the edge of the gorge – so I decided to prop up my phone and see if I could get a shot of myself standing on the edge.

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I do love the fact that Apple Watch has a built in remote control for the camera on my iPhone! How cool is it that I can just wedge it against a rock several metres away and then control it with my wrist?!

While I was doing this the lady that I’d passed earlier caught me up and I said hello again. We exchanged pleasantries and names and started chatting for a while.

It turned out that she was a Geography teacher from Sussex and on a whim she’d borrowed her sister’s camper van to get away for the weekend. She was staying nearby and as we both dried out on top of the hill (it was a sweaty day and my shirt was soaked by then) and I ate an apple whilst drinking my coffee we talked about our lives.

Sometimes you can meet a total stranger and just talk about anything. I think the fact that you’re unlikely to ever see them again means that there’s no reason not to be friendly, say hello and just engage in conversation.

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She seemed like a lovely person – and we decided to carry on down the hill together ( I of course stopped to take more photos along the way) and continue chatting. She was planning to buy a motor home of her own soon and as we walked she expanded on this topic whilst I shared my love of blogging and my success with Slimming World.

It turned out that she loved to knit, and had not long finished making a jumper – which she said was they most technically accomplished thing she’d managed to date. She told me how it hung together and how you sewed it up at the seams once you’d finished the pattern.

I also admitted that as a young boy I rather enjoyed embroidery – which isn’t something I expected to be relaying to a stranger on the side of a hill in Somerset!

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Before long we were at the bottom of the hill, and after shaking hands we bid each other farewell and wandered off in our own individual directions.

I headed over the road to sit and eat some lunch (apples purchased from Waitrose in a moment of indulgence at the service station).

The river looked like it was pretty low and the water level seemed like it would normally be a lot higher. The small pond that it formed when low was covered in green algae – which looked really nice!

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After polishing off my exceptionally tasty pink ladies I wandered along the road to see what the shops were like now they were open.

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I think that it’s safe to say that nothing in this little village was destined for the mouth of someone on a healthy eating plan.

If it wasn’t filled with sugar then it was made of cheese, and it wasn’t made of cheese it was filled with cider.

If none of these were enough then there was shop after shop after shop all filled with every imaginable kind of chutney and marmalade and variety of home made ice creams. If none of those took your fancy then the fish and chip shops (yep – plural) would definitely hammer the last dietary nail into your commitment coffin.

I tried a few tiny cheese samples on itty bitty biscuits and a few mouthfuls of chutney and left it at that.

I’m trying to be good at the moment.

By the time I’d walked back to the car it was around 2.30pm and I’d decided that I wasn’t going to waste the rest of the day. Weston Super-Mare was nearby and I might as well go to the seaside for a little while before heading home. The sun was still beating down and the sky was blue.

It seemed like the perfect idea.

When I climbed into my car I turned the key in the ignition and oddly the engine turned over but didn’t start.

I pressed the accelerator and it sprang into life.

Weird… It’s never done that before…

I set the sat-nav, exited the car park and headed for Weston 11 miles away.

It wasn’t all that far ahead that I noticed there was an orange EPC warning light on the dashboard. There also seemed to be a noticeable loss of power.

Then the engine warning light also came on.

I immediately stopped the car and grabbed the handbook from under the steering wheel. This seemed like there was a problem with the engine, and a potentially serious one at that – according to some frantic Googling – which I did immediately after.

Thanks to the wonders of Sat-Nav once I’d read up on the potential for automobile armageddon I was also able to search for a VW dealership and amazingly (it was 3pm in the afternoon) there was one less than two miles away!!!

My luck was in!

I started the car again and headed for their dealership.

However – after I’d parked up and headed in it soon became apparent that after midday the servicing area of the premises was closed – and the salesman confirmed my worst fears.

No-one would be able to help me until MONDAY.

Crap!

However – I do have breakdown cover (a very basic package) so I decided to call the RAC.

After a long wait on the phone to get through to them they informed me that the projected time for a tech to get to me was 6.30pm. I looked at the time. Nearly 3 hours to wait and I couldn’t stray too far from the car in case they came early.

Thankfully there was a Costa and an Aldi nearby so I could grab a few bits to eat and get a coffee in the meantime.

(…)

After a while I was seated with a coffee looking at booking.com.

There wasn’t a single hotel room to be found anywhere in Weston. The whole place was absolutely rammed – and the nearest location with any space was over twenty miles away.

(gulp.)

This could mean a night on the beach.

I plugged my phone into the socket in Costa. It wouldn’t do to get a flat battery now – and I was running low after taking lots of pictures along the way.

What the frick was I going to do?!

I looked at trains.

There was a station nearby – and I could get to Bristol – but then where? I guessed I could just about get to Birmingham in time if I set out now – but by the time I’d gotten there all the trains to Warwick would most likely have ended and I’d be stranded in Birmingham without a car instead of Weston.

Furthermore I’d still somehow have to get back to wherever I decided to leave it on Monday – and every road around me had double yellow lines and parking restrictions with big clamping signs.

What to do?

I knew that all of my friends were busy and even if they weren’t it was a bit of an ask to expect any of them to drive 120 miles to pick me up and then drive back another 120 to take me home.

Aldi however was selling tents… and sleeping bags… and camping mattresses… and pillows…

Maybe I should go and buy some before it closed? If I did then the cost would probably be around £80…

Not cheap – and none of it looked particularly portable either…

Then the phone rang. It was 4.25pm and the roadside assistance was unexpectedly only five minutes away!!!

I quickly unplugged my phone, screwed the lid onto my coffee flask, slung my rucksack over my shoulder and headed out to meet him.

As I arrived he was just pulling up – and within a few minutes Andy (a reliable sounding name) had his laptop plugged into my car.

‘Head Gasket’ he said grimly.

My heart sank. That didn’t sound like it was going anywhere. What the hell was I going to do?

He carried on looking however, and then said ‘Hmmmm’…

I like ‘hmmm’. It’s much better than ‘that’s absolutely wrecked and you don’t stand a chance.’

‘Let me see if it’s just the sensor.’ He said out loud.

‘I’m not sure it’s the engine. Maybe if I unplug it the engine will ignore the warning and come out of crawl mode.’

He proceeded to fiddle under the bonnet, unclip the sensor from the wiring loom inside the engine cavity, switched the car back on, reconnected the sensor, tightened the screws and started the engine.

The warning lights were gone!

‘I can’t say that they won’t come back.’ He said. ‘The sensors can fail over to another one if they’re broken – but this will probably still come back. It’s totally up to you what to do. You could drive it and it will be fine – or it could be a real problem and you may make the problem worse.’ He looked at me – and I told him about the lack of anywhere to stay locally.

‘I may be able to find you a hotel room for the night if you want to let them have a look on Monday?’ he said helpfully.

‘I might know someone that could help…’

I knew at that point that he couldn’t tell me whether or not I should drive it – just that he didn’t know for sure that if I did it would completely kill it or not.

He outlined the options.

Since I didn’t have full breakdown cover a tow all the way home (120 miles) would come to £240… That didn’t seem good.

If I could get a hotel room 20 miles away they were all showing up at around £200 for two nights as well, since all of the cheap ones were already gone.

Or he may be able to find me something locally…

The alternative to all of these was try to drive and hope I didn’t end up with a smoking ruin at the other end or pay through the nose…

I decided to chance it. Andy told me that although professionally he was unable to agree or disagree personally if it was him he’d have done the same. This at least gave me some measure of confidence that I wasn’t being a complete fool.

He helpfully suggested I wait until the motorway traffic cleared so that I didn’t get stuck in it and I agreed. I shook helpful Andy’s hand and bid him farewell, knowing what I’ve always known.

Firstly that breakdown cover is worth more than gold at the right moment and secondly that it was time for more coffee…

Which is where you find me now. Sitting in Costa, biding my time.

However – now it’s time to set out!

Wish me luck….

(…)

(….)

(……)

(………)

(…………)

Phew.

Back home.

However the car is NOT well at all.

There were several misfires along the way – and a ridiculous loss of power on hills. Either my car is dying and it will cost a fortune to fix (it’s so old it may not even be worth it) or it’s a sensor. My gut feeling is that it’s not the latter.

Balls.

However – if I’m honest I’m not unduly distraught.

It’s an inconvenience – but frankly this is not the end of the world that it might have been a couple of years ago. I no longer rely on my car at all, and there’s absolutely nothing in life that I can’t do these days without one.

If it’s dead then maybe I should just let it die and look at alternatives. The world is my oyster and I refuse to let a bucket of bolts get me down. I can make do with public transport for as long as I need to – and it may be a bit refreshing not to have one for the first time in many years.

We shall see!

Anyway internet. I’m absolutely pooped. It’s been a long day!!!

Time for beddibyes!

Davey

P.S. – I forgot to say.

I was interviewed by the BBC the other day – if you want to have a look at the (rather average) video that came out of it – then you can find it here.