Catfished by Dengar

It’s been a weird last couple of days.

Firstly – after having blocked ears for an entire day last week (that spontaneously cleared up the day after) I now know that what developing was the start of a really icky head cold.

My nose is streaming, my head is pounding – and very unlike me – I barely left the house yesterday.

I feel sick.

Everyone gets ill mind you, and it’s been almost a year since my last cold – but this meant my Satuday (weighing in, walking and other plans) got completely derailed.

Honestly that’s not always a bad thing – because I barely spend any time in my house at all during the day. In some respects it was nice to just sink into my armchair with some tunes, a blanket and a video game.

I’ve been exploring the bargain bins after my stellar Beastie Boys find the other day and my new favourite album (coming in at a frugal 95p) is Northern Star by Groove Armada (link).

https://youtu.be/6kY8N-rvFwM

I completely missed this one too when it was first released and it’s flipping excellent!!!

It’s great to walk to and the tempo swings from upbeat bouncy tracks to thoughtful chilled electronica.

I particularly recommend ‘Fireside Favourite‘.

Being ill and sitting at home has affected my exercise stats for the month though and I’ll admit to suffering from a bit of irritable OCD because of this.

Yesterday I missed out on an Apple Watch achievement to double my move goal every day for the whole of September by about 200kcal.

Still – it’s just a silly little badge on a silly little app and I’m being silly caring about it.

On the flip side these kind of things motivate me and keep me focused – so I’m not going to stop caring.

The obsessive side of my nature has created as many opportunities for me recently as it used to create problems – and as long as I keep it directed towards tasks like this I’m hopefully not going to go far wrong in life.

That was the relatively normal bit of my day.

Later in the evening however things went all ‘parallel universe’ and I was contacted by a random person on my public Facebook page.

Since the whole MOTY thing happened I’ve created another public one, hidden my private profile and separated the two with very good reason.

As soon as I hit the media an avalanche of friend requests started.

Quite a few were genuine and in some cases I accepted them in the spirit of openness because the people seemed nice and I felt I could genuinely help them.

There were also very odd ones that I did not accept.

I’ve had friend requests from gun nuts in America, a ‘high priestess’ from Jamaica, a surprisingly large number of women from south east Asia and (whilst being very open minded) a few gentlemen that are… maybe a little more amorous than I generally expect in my everyday life.

However – it’s nice to be wanted, regardless of who wants you.

It doesn’t mean I have to reply though and more often than not I don’t.

There are however some things that pique my attention and prompt a response.

It seems that my easy going relationship with the internet has taken a turn for the surreal without me noticing it was happening.

Late yesterday evening I was contacted by a lady informing me that she’d been scammed after a four month online relationship, and that someone had taken her for a lot of money.

The twist?

They were using images of me from my Facebook and Instagram pages to pass off as themselves. They’ve clearly deployed them to attract at least one lady that I (now) know of.

Apparently my pictures have been sent en-masse to a woman in America and unbeknownst to me I’ve been in a relationship with her since the start of the summer.

After telling me this (bearing in mind that I’m intensely skeptical at all times) she then asked me ‘have you ever posted a picture of yourself online in hospital?’

‘Ummm… no…’ I replied, wondering what was coming next.

Then she sent me this – which I assume is the picture that the scammer used to convince her to part with her money – presumably to pay for for his fictional medical bills.

Honestly at this point I had no idea what to say.

How on earth do you react to a (badly) photoshopped image of your face pasted into a guy in a hospital bed?

If nothing else I couldn’t help but think that I look a bit like Dengar – a bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back – which (although I probably shouldn’t) I find oddly amusing.

The lady earnestly reminded me that I too was a victim in this whole sorry affair (I was polite and sympathetic throughout) but honestly the more I thought about it during and after the conversation the more I decided that the mantle of victim just didn’t fit.

Sure it’s very unsettling that someone is using my face to scam people – but I’d be foolish to think I can stop anyone doing anything like this.

Sure – I can immediately lock down my life and shut up shop on social media – but where will that get me?

Thanks to my own blogging and the Slimming World publicity I’ve received in the national and international press related to my award it’s going to be practically impossible to put this particular genie back in the box.

For the time being at least the benefits I’ve experienced from my very open social media presence (that’s generally brought only a wealth of human positivity to my doorstep and has at times also helped others facing similar challenges too) are something that I’m unprepared to give up.

So – am I a victim in the way that this lady suggests I am?

Not in my view.

Stuff happens.

I move on.

Unfortunately though she’s a victim (if indeed I believe all this – which I’m not sure I 100% do) and I hope she gets redress – but I’m going to carry on posting and not be consumed by fears about what if’s.

If it’s not my image being used it will be someone else’s – and it’s nice to know that someone finds me attractive enough to pay my fictional medical bills.

I continue to believe wholeheartedly that pushing positivity out into the world is still the right thing to do.

Blogging and honesty changed my life and I’m damn sure that there’s waaaaay more good than bad to be found in the world.

So – if you are getting private messages from a guy that looks like a Star Wars bounty hunter in a hospital bed please do not send them any money.

If on the other hand you want to send it to me then go right ahead – but bear in mind that I’m not going to join your cult, enter into a same sex relationship, travel to the Philippines, join the NRA or help you make America great again.

What I will do internet is keep on writing about who I am, how I feel and what goes on in my mind and my life.

After my head stops banging and my nose stops running.

Davey

Scrumdiddlyumtious xin

As weeks go this one has been flipping great and I definitely feel like I’ve reconnected with the countryside over the last few days.

Although I never really ‘disconnected’ from it I’ve been walking the same routes (by necessity) day in and day out for many months.

Now all of a sudden I’m off the leash and it’s a great feeling.

It’s been a while since I walked any completely new routes locally and today I headed out through the fields and country lanes of Hampton Magna and wound my way the long way around to the Hatton Arms.

The weather was glorious.

Today I also felt like I had more than usual to twalk about – and I realised that despite not thinking anything had been sinking from what I’ve been reading lately (it takes a while to get your brain into a gear thats relaxed enough to absorb new concepts I find) I surprisingly appear to have a head full of Chinese (pop) philosophy.

I’m particularly taken at the moment with the fact that the Chinese words for heart and mind are one and the same – xin.

I’ll be honest – this didn’t mean much to me when I read it the other day – but I made a note of it just in case and came back to it a few times. Like tealeaves diffusing their flavour into a pot of boiling water the idea behind this has begun to slowly percolate into my thoughts and colour my perspective.

Probably without always realising it I’ve more often than nor tried to separate the logical side of me from the emotional side when I make life decisions. I try whenever possible to make what I consider to be rational choices.

Emotions are for friendships and personal interactions – not your path in life.

At least so I thought – because when you consider it more deeply it makes very little sense to think of heart and mind as separate.

The heart after all is merely an organ designed to pump blood. The way we generally describe it in conversation is little more than an esoteric container human beings have constructed to intellectualise emotion. In reality we all know that logical and emotional choices take place in one area – the brain.

Any flutters we feel in the heart from adrenaline are actually caused by the mind, rather than the other way around – yet we persist with these arbitrary conceptual descriptors and are continually attempting to draw lines between two sides of our nature that we have artificially torn asunder.

Furthermore they are often worse than separated because we regularly paint them as being at war or in opposition. Given a particular circumstance we have learned to believe that one has value and the other does not.

You leave passionate emotion out of the workplace and you leave logical coolness out of romance.

Maybe a better way (my most enlightening book suggests) is to continually train ourselves to make the best emotional and rational choices by combining the two continually.

Your emotional intelligence is important. Gut feelings have value.

If something at work feels wrong but seems like a sensible course of action then maybe ignoring the ‘irrational’ or unquantifiable side of your nature is something that you do at your peril.

The philosopher Mencius believed that it is our capacity (if learned and used) to follow the heart/mind (xin) rather than go along blindly with either the senses or the intellect that will enable us to prosper.

Cultivating your xin by continually combining logic and emotion during actions with others is what fosters your ability to decide well. Good decisions are made when the heart and mind are integrated.

I probably bored my friend to death with my chatter as we walked – but he persevered despite a poor night’s sleep – and soon we’d twalked our way onto the canal towpath heading back toward Hatton Locks.

Blocking our path (and bringing me back down to earth) was a ferocious sentinel – who threatened to love and sniff us to death unless we stopped to tickle her tummy.

As you all know I find it hard to tolerate dogs (😏) but on this one occasion I relented and allowed it to slow my progress.

You can tell by the look in it’s eyes that we were moments from death.

It was a close call.

After a lucky escape we stopped for a coffee and I couldn’t help but pluck a few apples from a nearby tree – which were warming in the midday sun.

They were absolutely flipping scrumdiddlyumtious!

The difference between the taste of fruit plucked fresh from a branch vs one that’s been sitting in a supermarket is impossible to describe.

There’s a crispy freshness in something that’s alive and bursting with goodness that just can’t be beaten.

However – I did try to enhance the pleasure – and we all know that there’s only one way to accomplish that.

You add coffee.

After sitting for a while and chatting we headed off along a different route home (via Budbrooke) which was a slightly shorter path back to our starting point.

It’s often tempting to always look at the horizon when it’s this lovely – and you can see home in the distance – but I generally find it difficult not to look at all the little incidental details in the grass.

I spend a lot of time looking at my feet.

As I was passing a particularly green clump I noticed a teeny tiny mushroom – which seemed to have its fins/ridges on the top rather the underside.

I’d not noticed one like it before.

As it turned out the underside also had a familiar mushroomy pattern on it – but it was so delicate that it snapped clean in two when it was touched.

How wonderful!

Either way I love finding little things like this that previously I just never took the time to stop and look at. It makes me feel connected to the world around me and completely invested in the corner of it that I live in.

Throughout most of the day today I could see the spires of the church in the centre of Warwick as well as the castle in the background. I’ve seen it from so many angles and so may perspectives since I started walking that I’ve realised it’s completely burrowed into my psyche.

It’s nested there and functions as a beacon – providing a sense of place and direction that few other things do.

I know I’m always close enough to home to feel secure if I can see it – and even if I’m wandering through a new place nearby I’m never lost. Sooner or later I turn a corner and catch sight of it in the distance. No matter how small it might look I know I just have to walk a little further and I’m safe.

Sigh.

Days like this need to be savoured.

My xin is balanced and I feel good internet.

Davey

Sounds of science and silence

Whilst being all windswept and interesting is nice I didn’t finish my day yesterday with many miles under my belt.

It might seem like a lot to most but when I’ve stopped at around seven I’m never happy with myself.

To be honest I also probably ate a little too much in the evening – which has lately become a real battleground where my willpower faces down the munchies.

On the bright side the things I (over) eat aren’t awful by any stretch of the imagination – and the worst that’s likely to happen is that I will develop a sudden and probably terminal allergy to plums and gherkins.

It’s not the only thing that’s likely to finish me off mind you – because stupidity is far more likely to get me first.

I failed to secure the lid of my kettle (which is directly beneath the handle) on Sunday morning and as I was pouring boiling water into my cafetière the lid fell off and the steam burned my knuckles.

It could have been far worse.

Although my hands cooked faster than cabbage I very nearly dropped the whole kettle full of boiling water – and at the time my legs and feet below were completely bare.

Oddly I didn’t react on instinct though and with presence of mind held on – even though the impulse to throw it across the kitchen was huge.

Phew.

It’s one of the few things that make me wonder whether living alone long term is a great idea – because when you have a hurty hurty boo boo the only person there to patch you up, commiserate and kiss it better is YOU.

Sigh.

I don’t need a partner just to apply plasters – but maybe getting a paramedic lodger at some point in the near future would be a good call.

However – I digress. Although my hand is throbbing (it’s well looked after and covered in plasters) today I’ve felt really alive.

Whilst I may have been irritated by my sub-par distance yesterday I’ve learned to relax and let stuff like this go – because I find if there’s no enthusiasm or fuel in the tank on one day it will almost certainly be there the next.

Listening to your body and not pushing the issue allows it to recuperate and get stuck in the following day, or the day after that.

I positively bounded out of bed this morning after a great nights sleep and after hopping in the shower (ouch – hot water on knuckles!!!) I headed out in the direction of the park.

It looked smashing at 6.30am.

Yesterday (whilst mooching in charity shops for books) I found The Beastie Boys Anthology for 50p – and I realised that whilst I’ve heard one or two of the most popular hits I’ve never heard any of the rest.

This is a bargain considering its original price label (we used to pay an awful lot for music!!!!) and how much it still costs on iTunes.

I ripped it to my iPhone and cranked up the noise on CD 1.

Oh wow.

The Beastie Boys.

Who knew?

When I was younger there was no way my mom would have ever allowed this in the house – and although some (ahem) naughtier kids in my school were all over this phenomenon in the 80’s it kind of passed me completely by.

I never once felt the impulse to rip anyone’s VW badge off their car and turn it into a necklace.

Oddly I’ve missed out on trending moments in music like this a lot.

I completely bypassed most of the back catalogue of Oasis, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses in the 90’s only to re-discover them circa 2005 when everyone else had moved on.

Still – if nothing else it means there are many bargains to be had and much to still discover.

It turns out that the Beastie Boys are great to walk to.

With their direct support before 9.30am I’d managed to get 7 miles under my belt, go for a coffee and pop into a couple of shops before my friend arrived at my house.

We’d arranged a walk to a garden centre outside of Stratford and I couldn’t have imagined a better day for it.

With barely a cloud in the sky for the majority of the day my somewhat risky strategy of wearing just a light cotton shirt and combats really paid off.

Rather helpfully some gas contractors had also closed off a lengthy stretch of the country lanes that we were walking along – and that meant absolutely zero traffic and perfect peace and quiet.

There were butterflies too. Lots of them.

Apart from the occasional tractor in a field and workman in the road this was how it looked for pretty much the entire route.

The round trip walk we did was just under six miles – which is a major major victory for my friend.

Back in March she unceremoniously face planted in a visitor centre car park in the Lickey Hills and tore some painful things in her left leg (link).

Almost seven months later she’s still working her way back to fitness and bit by bit we’ve been increasing the range of our walks and slowly building back in gradients.

Today represented a lengthy graduation from park walking that I think she’s been itching to get stuck into for ages.

We’ve yet to experiment with truly ‘off piste’ uneven terrain – but we’re getting there – and the eventual hope is that we will manage to conquer the Lickey Hills together as we planned to do way back then.

Soon.

The half way point at the garden centre was not the baked potato heaven I’d hoped for however – and the people going there seemed to consume little else than cake, biscuits, sandwiches, crisps and pastry.

In the end I decided against this and waited until I reached home – which was something of an anti climax – because after 13 miles of pavement pounding I realised that I then needed to walk to Tesco.

A mile is a mile mind you and I really don’t care where they come from.

As always the car keys remained at home and I walked there and back, getting some fruit and soup mix (guess what I’m making tomorrow 😊).

Overall it’s been a busy and tiring (but extremely enjoyable) day.

Not only have I been out with a friend and twalked about lots of interesting things but my stats are satisfyingly back on track for the week!

Boom. 17 miles in the bag internet. I’m back baby!

Davey

The Malleable Self

It’s true that human beings can endure a lot.

In my case for the last couple of days I’ve been a total martyr.

When I woke up yesterday I’d already endured a lie in (I woke up at 5.30 – but actually forced myself to go back to bed) and by the time I set foot out of the house to endure a day of walking I realised that I’d also have to endure the sunshine.

Warwickshire has been bathed with some wonderful light over the last couple of days and my favourite canal bridge (yes I do have one and it’s surrounded by ducks, swans, sheep and other lovely things) looked lovely with the reflection of the water on its underbelly.

As I passed underneath I made a point of stopping to drink in just how fabulous it looked.

A picture doesn’t do it justice.

Sometimes only your eyes will do.

Watching the reflections of the light in this exact spot as they danced across the underneath of this particular bridge is continually hypnotic and captivating.

Honestly I could have sat there all day and looked at it.

It was that nice.

Despite the weather having rained almost constantly for a couple of days it really doesn’t take all that long for the world to return to a blue sky paradise with dry towpaths and serene floating wildfowl.

Unlike me however (as they floated past me under the bridge) they seemed to be rather aimlessly making their way to somewhere or other.

In contrast I was walking with purpose – and despite the lovely spectacle – for once I was hunting for insight rather than nature.

With this in mind I’ve been in and out of the library, charity shops and Waterstones a lot over the last few days and have been making a few select purchases – many of which are likely to crop up in this blog over the coming days.

I decided early on this week that rather than rush headlong into any sort of new commitments I would instead attempt to re-frame any perspectives that may consciously (or unconsciously) be getting in my way.

I’m aware that behind my generally relaxed mood there’s a gentle throb of fear in the back of my head, and it’s rooted in worries about the choices that I’ve made recently.

Have I stepped in the right direction?

Should I have turned left instead of right?

What do I really want from life?

Why do I want it?

It’s all a little overwhelming when I try to think it through if I’m honest. Although the weather is nice and I’m free to walk where I please at my own pace I’m continually aware that there’s something I’m trying not to face up to.

It’s the knowledge that my freedom is an illusion.

I’ve not created anything more by leaving my job than yet another vacuum and once again I’m faced with the task of figuring out how to fill it.

The question currently at the forefront of my mind therefore is what to do next. I can’t live without money – but I’m also desperate to feel fulfilled. So far what I’ve been doing to earn a living hasn’t scratched that particular itch, so something has to change.

The fact that I still seem no closer to figuring myself and this out is irritating in the extreme.

Maybe this annoyance is even more acute for my readers who may sense a hint of deja vu whilst noting wearily in the margin that it’s not the first time that I’ve grappled with this.

The only reason that I’m not buried by the weight of the problem this time around is that it’s far from the only thing on my mind. My inability to find an answer to the question of what I want from life is being pushed aside by another continually reoccurring conundrum.

‘Who the hell am I?’

I can’t currently answer any of this (which is driving me mildly nuts) so instead I’ve decided not to try. Instead I want to just let realisations arrive in their own time – and to let my mind to relax into the problem naturally.

Since I’ve once again given myself the (maybe self indulgent) gift of spare time I might as well utilise it.

Therefore this week (as well as walking lots and trying to get back to my target weight) I’m reading – and this is my current book of choice.

It’s essentially a collection of Chinese philosophy but presented in such a way that it neatly relates it to our modern existence – which (the author argues) is far from the Age of Enlightenment we think it to be.

We’ve inherited so much structure and order that we have convinced ourselves we have the answers to everything – but it’s an illusory hubris.

In reality we’re largely unaware of why many of the social conventions we cling to exist (why do we say please and thank you?) and what their presence in our lives may or may not be doing to us.

Instead of an enlightened age we just live in one of many ages. We certainly don’t have all the answers – because if we did our neoliberalist society (considered to be the peak of evolution) would be a blissful paradise – which it clearly isn’t.

However – I digress.

There’s more to this than thinking profound thoughts about societal structures – because if nothing else it’s nice to relax with a book for a change.

To just breathe.

As I thumb through this one’s pages with a coffee at my side I can feel my pulse dropping. My mind is gradually easing out of its self imposed knot of worry while I sit cross legged with it resting on my lap, filtering out the world around me and disappearing into it’s concepts.

I’m currently lost in the ‘The Malleable Self‘ – which to an extent I’m already familiar (and in complete agreement) with – and it touches upon what I feel is my core ‘problem’.

Who am I?

The quote that’s sticking with me at the moment is this one:

‘The danger is that what we discover is only a snapshot of who we are at a particular time and place. We read self-help books, meditate, write in our journals, and then diagnose and label ourselves: I’m a free spirit. I’m a hot- head. I’m a dreamer. I fear intimacy. I moved around too much as a child and now I’m skittish when meeting new people. My history of destructive relationships is due to my cold relationship with my father.

By embracing these patterns, we allow them to harden. Such labeling begins in childhood: this one is studious; that one is temperamental. These labels drive our behavior and our decisions, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a result, too many of us wake up one day feeling stuck inside a narrow definition of ourselves.’

In my case I often feel trapped by my own core beliefs of what I should be in life – and what it means to be a ‘productive member of society’.

I’m fundamentally disappointed with myself at the moment because once again I feel like I (just like everyone else) should accept the reality that work isn’t a joy for anyone.

It’s just a necessity and that’s just a fact of life.

I used to see myself as dependable – someone that would work steadily in a job until he (or it) ended but I don’t feel that way any more.

I feel that my ‘failure’ to accept something that everyone else seems to be completely fine with is a personality ‘flaw’ that’s been there for a while and it’s widening like a fissure in dry earth.

It’s definitely not a thought process that’s unique to me and I’m certain that we all struggle with existential angst from time to time. In my case though my life (maybe more than most people’s) has changed so much recently that I feel at times like I’m standing on a continuously moving train.

Whenever I look around me the landscape appears to have unexpectedly shifted – and my view, along with my perspective on what I can see has changed radically.

Instead of seeing a full stop on the horizon where my (untimely and early) death used to sit now I see a long life.

That may sound wonderful – but thinking I was due to die before my time for so long developed a very short term way of thinking. I never looked to the future and existed only in the present.

I never spent the time that others did planning for the future or dreaming of what I could or wanted to be.

The process is still largely alien to me and I find that when I engage in it my mind begins to shut up shop and typically wanders away to ponder easier considerations. Mostly because of this I feel like I’m continually attempting to find the elusive core of who I am, what I believe in and what I want.

It’s unsettling to find that I still can’t categorise or nail any of them down.

However – maybe I shouldn’t.

Maybe not knowing is actually something that’s liberating rather than problematic…

Could it be that constant re-invention is the secret of a life well lived?

By attempting to narrow my definition of myself am I actually be limiting my capacity to find happiness rather than increasing it?

Do I really need to know who I am – or is it impossible for anyone to say for sure?

Maybe we’re all constantly shifting, seeing the same view change on the same train – and continually re-balancing our perception of where and who we are in life just to survive.

Maybe ‘knowing myself’ is impossible because ‘I’ do not exist. ‘I’ am just a collection of thoughts at a brief and passing point in time.

Hmmm.

I’m going to continue reading…

Davey

 

Edging back to target

Saturday has been uncharacteristically sleepy so far.

Thanks to a really late night and waaaaaaay too many cups of tea and coffee in the pub while my colleagues were downing Jaegerbombs I secured a whole two hours sleep – which meant that when I returned home from Slimming World this afternoon and had I bite to eat I pretty much immediately fell asleep in my armchair.

It was a nice thing to happen though.

The rain outside was (and still is) drizzling quietly away – and there wasn’t much to do otherwise.

It was cold out there, and my house was warm – meaning that when I awoke from my nap I felt both refreshed and cosy.

If I’m honest I was also pretty happy.

This is mostly because despite some questionable emotional eating choices during the week it seems that (broadly speaking) I’ve been good enough for the scales to be kind to me.

Of course it’s no accident.

Although I’ve made mistakes and chosen to eat a few things I shouldn’t have I’ve also been filling my slow cooker with speedy soups throughout the week, making salads, eating low calorie fruit in smaller quantities and snacking on speed instead of free food.

When I went out for my leaving meal last night in Ask Italian I also chose a smaller, lighter meal than I could otherwise have gone for.

sure – it had both cheese and garlic bread – but life is for living.

I also had a nice garden side salad with this (not pictured) and it was pretty much the only meal I managed to get around to yesterday – although I did eat quite a bit of fruit from the healthy ‘last day haul’ I purchased for my workmates.

It’s also been rather amusing to see the text chatter today amongst my ex-colleagues about the night out yesterday evening – and the stories of their various hangovers.

They range from the apocalyptic to mildly inconvenient.

Me – I don’t have one at all.

In contrast to this I am genuinely excited to be exactly a month away from 1000 days of sobriety.

What an incredible thing!

It’s so close now – and a life where I was practically unable to live without alcohol seems both distant and unreal.

This post (link) is from March 2016 – and in it I’m still wrestling with the feelings associated with how to categorise my drinking and trying to find coping mechanisms to remain on the straight and narrow.

I’ve since conceded that I was an alcoholic – but back then (before joining Slimming World in April 2016) I wasn’t quite so willing to admit that.

Now everything seems so different and so full of possibilities…

Whilst the world may be filled with rain this recent photo best describes how I currently feel.

Standing on the top of a hill that I’ve painstakingly climbed, enjoying the view and wondering which bit in the distance to go and look at next.

Ultimately anyone can be whoever they want.

They can turn their lives into the image of whatever they visualise in their minds.

Once you believe you can do anything – because whilst flesh may occasionally be weak the most powerful organ in creation is the brain.

If you can convince yourself something is possible (even if you just admit it may be a possibility) then it almost certainly can be.

You only need to start somewhere.

Unless you think you can fly.

I urge you not to try that.

The sudden stop at the bottom is reportedly problematic.

Davey

So long and thanks for all the fish

As has been the case for many nights in succession my sleep has been broken beyond repair and at 2am yesterday I once again found myself lying in the dark listening to the wind outside as I stared in the general direction of the ceiling.

From the perspective of my mood and emotional state it’s been a difficult month – because amongst other things (as mentioned in an earlier blog) in mid August I made the decision to leave my current job.

I did so with with a real mixture of emotions.

Everywhere I go I try hard to form meaningful relationships with people.

Sometimes it happens.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

In this case it really did – and quite out of the blue (almost a year ago) the universe unexpectedly guided me in the direction of a workplace where I met a lot of individuals that were well outside of my normal comfort zone.

For many years my confidants and peers have been almost exclusively my own age, and broadly speaking have just happened to share many of my core values and many of my opinions.

Often they also worked in the same industry that I used to.

When we bonded it was usually on a platform of shared memories, growing up in similar eras and similar tastes in music. We watched the same films in our youth and we collectively experienced and referenced the same world events.

The role I stepped out of yesterday was simultaneously familiar and yet also completely new.

It was an industry I’d never worked in before and for the first time in as long as I can remember I’ve been constantly surrounded by youth and enthusiasm.

Initially I was worried that we would share very little obvious common ground – but a lot can change in 11 months.

In many ways this has tied neatly into the transformation that has happened in my own life – because two years ago I doubt I’d have been able to relate to the people I now count among my friends.

This wasn’t because I struggled to talk to people of any age, but instead was due to the depth of my personal shame.

For so long I felt that I’d squandered the promise of my own youth – and has taken a childhood where everything was possible and turned it into an adulthood where I felt capable of nothing.

Back then (even as a grown man) I was bullied in the street and mocked by strangers. I was called names continuously when overweight – often by men in passing cars – and it always came when I least expected it (link) (another link) (yet another link).

Even though I’d previously been a team leader I had also always felt deep down that I didn’t measure up. I could never understand why anyone would respect me and on an almost daily basis felt like a failure and an impostor.

How could people respect someone who had let himself go in such dramatic fashion?

I didn’t respect myself so why should anyone else?

Things change however – and to underscore how dramatically on Tuesday, as I crossed the road some ladies in a car pulled up next to me and wound down the window.

In the past this sort of thing caused a tangible physiological reaction in me.

Adrenaline and fear.

However instead of calling me names these lovely ladies leaned toward the open window and collectively said ‘Dave you’re our hero!

Even though a lot of people know me these days I find it difficult to place all of the faces I’ve met through Slimming World and via my blog or Instagram.

I must have looked a bit quizzical – because they quickly said ‘You don’t know us…’ and then repeated ‘…but we just wanted to say you’re our hero!

All three of them were smiling and happy.

‘Thanks!’ I stammered – a little surprised. ‘Glad to be of service!’

I let them carry on with their day after making a brief (probably daft) quip about chips – but the moment moved my mood from dour to one of surprised elation.

My pulse had quickened and I felt excited.

Then yesterday morning, whilst buying some healthy snacks for my team on my last day (how can a man like me present other people with cake?!) I encountered a man in Tescos, who caught my eye.

I took an earphone out and said ‘Hello.’

‘I follow you on Instagram’ he said. ‘You look amazing. You’ve done AMAZING.’

‘Thank you!’ I replied. ‘That’s really kind of you to say!’

‘I’ve lost four stone.’ he said to me with a smile. ‘It’s not as much as you though…’

‘It’s STILL amazing!’ I said ‘Four stone is a lot! Well done you!!!’ I smiled back, shaking his hand before we parted company.

I left feeling ten feet tall – and whether he knew it or not he too met me in a reflective moment and also lifted my spirits.

I took a picture on the way to work and posted it to thank him.

I spent the rest of the day with my little team saying goodbye in a way that I felt was appropriate.

Although parting has an element of sorrow I’m left with little doubt that these particular youths have promise and that makes me happy.

They’ve also helped (even though in some cases I’m actually only a year younger than their parents) to make me feel youthful again and have shaken away cobwebs that I hadn’t noticed were gathering.

The truth of it is that when we spoke last night, while they shared Yeagerbombs with eachother and hugs with me (I drank cups of tea and coffee) it seemed they were convinced that it was me that had been mentoring them.

What none of them realise is that their acceptance and engagement has been a revelation too – because unconsciously they’ve been mentoring me too.

Through them I’ve been reminded that all experience is valuable – and absolutely everything in life has a use.

Failures make you stronger if you use them to learn and teach others.

All mis-steps are worth it if you can help others not make the same mistakes in life that you did.

My career is still something that I can’t seem to map, and my direction in life is once more (scarily) uncharted – but with each passing experience and every step I take on the road of self improvement I learn more about myself and others.

This year I’ve learned a lot, and none of it will be forgotten.

Neither will the people I’ve met.

So long and thanks for all the fish 🤗

Davey

P.S. that’s a quote from the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘, NOT ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ as one of my young colleagues thought… 😂

Sigh. I’m gonna miss em 😏

Yay for conkers

Shortly after writing my post yesterday I was walking home from town.

It was around 5pm and my mind was engaged in serious pursuits.

There were conkers all over the place – and I mean literally EVERYWHERE.

Naturally (being a responsible and mature adult) I found it impossible to carry on walking without stopping to pick some up. They are after all a public health hazard and people may trip.

I feel it’s my civic duty to collect them.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that I also absolutely love conkers.

The swirling wooden patterns on their shells (that sadly fade so quickly on fresh ones) captivate my attention like little else at this time of the year. They’re like a finely polished mahogany dressing table – and are teeny tiny things of beauty.

Plus they remind me of being a little boy – which also enhances their appeal.

I placed five particularly healthy specimens in my pocket and continued on my way.

‘Do you have the time for me?’ a lady walking in the opposite direction (towards town) suddenly asked me, pulling me away from my thoughts of conker trees and playgrounds.

She looked nervous and fidgety. My radar pinged slightly.

It was an oddly worded request.

Nevertheless I lifted my arm, and showed her the time on my wrist.

‘About 5.12.’ I said. ‘Just after.’

She looked at me for a moment, and I looked at her.

There was an unusual pause, and then she dropped a five pence piece on the floor that she’d been fidgeting with.

Instead of picking it up she looked at me again.

Normally I’d have picked it up for her – but on this occasion I let it lie on the pavement between us.

After a brief pause she bent down to grab it herself, trying to get hold of the tiny coin between her thumb and forefinger, initially with little success.

After a couple of attempts she finally stood up with it and put it in a big black purse that she was holding – which I noticed was shiny on the outside but grubby inside, and almost empty.

She zipped it up.

‘Ok.’ She said, looking up the road and then directly back at me.

‘Where’s busy?’

‘Depends on what you’re looking for…’ I replied ‘…what kind of busy do you mean?’

She looked at me and then back down the road.

Busy.’ She said.

‘Well it’s town…’ I replied. ‘… by definition it’s all busy. What exactly are you looking for?’

She huffed, exhaled in an exaggerated shrugging motion with her shoulders and looked at me again.

I smiled at her but something was amiss.

When there was no answer I too shrugged a little and started to slowly continue on my way.

Unexpectedly she started to walk with me, in the opposite direction to the one she was initially traveling in when I’d first met her – which was away from town.

‘I just want somewhere busy.’ She said, emphasising the word.

I stopped. She seemed nice enough – but very distracted and nervous and I didn’t really want to be followed by her.

I looked her up and down.

She was slender woman, dressed in black leggings, flat bottomed canvas (dusty) navy blue pumps, and a baggy orange jumper with long sleeves. It matched the leaves on the floor, and I wondered if she’d chosen to wear it because it was Autumn.

She looked younger than me – but it was hard to gauge her age because (particularly around the eyes) she seemed simultaneously… older as well.

Her obviously dyed hair was scraped back – and underneath its light auburn colour there was about a centimetre of natural brown roots that were beginning to show through. Most noticeably her wide brown eyes were continually scanning everything.

One minute she was looking me up and down, evaluating me – and the next she was looking in random directions around her.

She was either high, wanted to steal something, had already stolen something, or was trying to avoid someone or something nearby.

‘Ok – but what KIND of busy are you looking for?’ I said, trying to understand the question.

‘Shopping busy or pubs and clubs busy?’

She huffed, appeared to be about to walk away in exasperation, took a couple of steps back toward town, stopped and then turned around once more.

Look.’ She said, and then stopped, took a step back, and then a step forward.

‘I’m just gonna come out and say it. I’m looking for business.’

She looked me straight in the eye for the first time and fidgeted with the zip on her purse.

Oh.

Right.

It was MY business she wanted.

Ummm.

‘Ok – no problem.’ I replied, deflecting the comment completely – and turning into an instant tour guide for Leamington Spa.

‘Well if you follow this road there are loads of pubs and clubs about 500 metres in that direction…’ I said pointing down the street.

‘Or if you head up there and turn right by the fire station and then take the next left there are even more bars.’

‘…and men – where are they mostly?’ She said.

‘Outside the pubs and inside them as well I guess…’ I replied.

‘Where there are pubs there are men. You’ll probably find some business there.’

‘OK.’ She said, not moving.

She looked me pointedly in the eye one final time.

I stood in silence.

We just looked at each other for a while until after a few seconds (it seemed a lot longer) she finally walked away with her purse and the five pence piece (which I noticed was now once again in her hand) towards town.

It looked like the beginning of a long night for her – and as I walked on I reached into my pocket to touch the conkers.

They were shiny and cold, but slowly warming up in my coat.

One or two had a slightly sticky feel to their surface from the insides of the green spiked shells that I’d peeled them out of.

I turned them around in my pocket, thinking.

That woman…

Why wasn’t she looking at the conkers all over the place? They were beautiful and the floor was covered with them.

The little green casings that protected them as they fell were scattered everywhere amongst the brown and orange autumn leaves.

Town looked lovely – but she didn’t see what I did.

She instead was completely focused on the need to get money to fill her empty purse.

Something had caused a pressing need to place herself in unfamiliar territory so that she could do what she had to do anonymously.

Conkers clearly couldn’t compare to a drunk stranger with spare cash.

There are times that it’s good to be reminded that I love conkers, and that my problems are relatively small. I’m addicted to little more than coffee and cottage cheese these days – and sometimes I forget how special a place that is to be in life.

Although my burdens have never consumed me in quite the same way hers clearly were I also felt for a long time that nothing mattered in life and everything was hopeless.

I can’t help but wonder what it must have taken for a single, vulnerable woman to have a conversation like that with a complete stranger – and the sense of desperation that must accompany it.

What made me choose conkers and her choose whatever controlled her choices?

I guess I’ll never know.

I’m glad I chose conkers though internet.

Yay for conkers.

Davey

Early start

It’s Saturday – and today this represents not just a weigh in – but hopefully a continuing change of mindset.

Today I’m trying on for size an approach that says ‘it’s ok to not be perfect – as long as I’m trying’.

I’m already going to group in the knowledge that I’ve not removed the gain from last week – and I’m probably going to have maintained my weight or not lost very much at all.

I hope I haven’t gained – but if I have I’ll deal with it and overcome.

The morning has so far been a very pleasant one – and I’ve been twalking with someone from another local Slimming World group that regularly comments on this blog.

We met in the largely deserted car park of St Nicholas Park at 6.30am and set off on a slightly different route to my normal one.

My companion likes to walk around the fishing pond as well as the playing field (which extends the circuit by about 200m) since the park’s resident heron is usually parked up there, nonchalantly watching passers by from the small island in the middle.

Today was no exception – and as we crossed the bridge this wonderfully majestic bird was just beginning to take flight.

I didn’t have my camera ready for the event today – but in the past I’ve been much more fortunate.

It’s been nice to chat in person to my companion rather than on the internet – and it’s yet another reminder (if ever I needed one) of how positive a force writing and blogging has become in my life.

It always brings me into contact with the unexpected and confronts me with points of view I might not have otherwise considered.

Each time I walk with or meet someone new my perspective subtly changes.

I rarely notice this when I’m walking – or even immediately afterwards – but later on (often much later) little words and phrases from these conversations crop up in my mind and attach themselves to thoughts.

My companion is no stranger to Slimming World – and recently found his own reasons to rejoin a group and embark upon a new journey.

He’s told me a lot about this privately and I’m really glad he feels so alive and empowered at the moment.

It reminds me a lot of when I started back in 2016 and it’s nice to see – because sometimes I need to be confronted with what it was like back then.

I had everything to gain, and absolutely nothing to lose.

(Apart from twenty stone… but you know what I mean.)

As well as this similarity, he (like me) is a lover of the walks available locally in Warwickshire – and it seems over time we’ve wandered through many of the same places – but never together.

It was a nice way to start the morning – and just like I do in the week also a perfect time to see the park when it’s at its best.

if you make an early start it’s usually empty, the light is absolutely gorgeous and the temperature is perfectly chilled – so you rarely overheat, no matter how fast you go.

After nearly four miles we shook hands – agreed we’d have to meet up again – parted company and headed off to our respective tasks for the day.

In my case it was to do my weekly shopping.

Since deep down I’m a ridiculously old fart I happen to be rather set in my ways – and can usually be found waiting for the door to open at my favourite supermarket with a trolly ready to go at 8am on a Saturday.

It is after all the only way to get the best bargains and the nicest produce whilst avoiding the crowds.

(Author does his shopping, puts it all away, gets ready, goes to group and then weighs in)

Some of our normal social team are absent this week so I arrived earlier to group than usual to help out on the pay station.

This means that I stood on the scales at 10.15am before the rest of the group arrived and quietly took the result on the chin.

I didn’t get rid of my gain.

I could look at this one of three ways.

  • I’m still out of target and it’s a disaster.
  • I’m within four pounds of it and that’s two and a half pounds closer than I was last week
  • I’m doing ok by every measure of life because I’m now exactly the same weight I was when I hit my first target in February.

Personally I’ve chosen a mix of the last two.

I want to get back into my more recent target range again and in order to do that (and be comfortable) I have to get rid of around 7lbs.

It’s totally do-able.

Besides – it’s hard to look at anything like this negatively because one of the first customers I said hello to this morning was practically giving me a stern tongue lashing for being way too hard on myself around success and failure.

She’s right.

She’s not the only one either – and I was reminded by Angie as I sat in image therapy today (soaking up the positivity from her and others) that ‘those who stay to group lose weight – and those that don’t lose interest.

She’s so right.

I need this in my life.

It keeps me centred and it’s my refuge from the week.

For all the difficulties I’ve had facing the scales recently my group has been (and is always) a refuge where there’s no judgement and absolutely zero negativity.

After leaving I may not always feel physically lighter but I always feel emotionally unburdened.

Life is good.

There’s no point trying to paint it any other way.

I feel like I’m almost through my little rough patch and about to emerge bounding over hedgerows on the other side.

By the time this month concludes things won’t exactly be ‘fixed’ but what I will have is space to consider my next steps and the time to experiment a little.

I’m looking forward to it – and as frightening as the absence of any kind of firm plan is, it’s also rather exhilarating.

I have a few things pencilled in – but otherwise I just want to explore and be a little creative.

I’m looking forward to sleeping better for one thing (this is a bit of a problem currently) and getting more unbroken slumber than I’ve been used to for the last few weeks.

Sleep is key to feeling like you can cope with life and when you don’t get it things quickly stack up.

When I awake feeling more than a bit broken the only things that have recently been bringing me back to life are coffee and brisk walking.

However it would be absolutely wonderful if I genuinely felt like getting out of bed when my alarm went off (I used to wake up before it every single day without fail) rather than forcing myself to lift my head off the pillow.

Currently it’s a bit of a tough sell.

I’ve been including lots of oily fish in my diet recently to try and remedy this situation – since in the past I’ve found that this has helped even my mood dips out.

It’s an overactive mind that’s causing the loss of sleep and supressed thoughts are bleeding into dreams and nightmares, leaving me unsettled and flustered for hours after I wake.

Some nights (last night being one of them) has seen me eating a kilo of carrots at 3am whilst playing Far Cry 5 on the PS4.

I’m not running from the reasons behind this any more. If you do then you just get depressed and anxious.

Fundamentally you have to deal with the root of any such issue otherwise it slowly poisons your happiness from within.

In my case I think I have.

Hopefully I’ve made the right choices – but only time will tell.

In the meantime I’ve got a busy few days ahead of me – including several nights out.

It feels like keeping myself on the straight and narrow has never been such a challenge (this is clearly not true) but I’m on the case and committed to turning everything around.

There’s nothing going on in my life that positivity and a smile can’t fix internet – and I aim to try and deploy these all week long.

Davey

Finding my way

This week I’ve been trying to keep my head down, stay focused and power through. I’ve needed to get my mind back in the game after my frankly epic gain on the scales last Saturday, and I don’t want to give any time to distractions that could potentially get me down or derail me.

I’ve seen a lot of the park this week too – sometimes in rather wonderful light…

I have good reason to be out and about a lot. I’m trying to steer clear of the scales currently.

Overall I definitely feel a little trimmer and lighter. From Monday onward I’ve also felt like a corner has been turned.

The psychology of weight loss is something that’s never far from my mind – and I’m always surprised at how easy it is to suddenly shift from a mindset where everything seems possible to one where each insignificant bump in the road appears to be an insurmountable obstacle.

I was discussing with a fellow slimmer during the week how (ridiculously) I’d begun to convince myself that I’d somehow lost the ability to lose weight altogether – and that my body (and maybe my mind) just wasn’t capable of it any more.

Oddly I’d concluded that this (totally illogical) thought process was unique to my brain – but it turned out she’d been thinking the exact same thing.

This frustrated me – because I should have known this.

I hate having to learn the same lessons twice.

When I first started writing about my weight loss experiences I felt completely broken and didn’t believe for one minute that anyone else would be quite as damaged as me. For years because of this I’d internalised almost everything that hurt and tried to hide my private shame about drinking and eating.

Then I began to share it via this blog and I realised that almost everyone that commented on my posts had similar kinds of issues.

They all varied slightly – but fundamentally I was struck by how flawed all of us were. It suddenly seemed to be the norm of the human condition rather than the exception.

This made me feel instantly closer to everyone and at the same time infinity less alone.

Suddenly our shared weaknesses made sense.

I began to notice that the same things that I’d been treating as unique personal burdens were present almost everywhere I looked and in everyone I met.

Almost overnight the weight of the problems I’d carried alone had diminished – and the the more I shared the lighter I became – both physically and emotionally.

Somewhere along the line however (probably because of my openness and honesty in this blog) I began to hear more and more of the ‘I word’.

Inspirational. (link)

I still don’t like it very much.

It’s really nice to know that I help people but honestly I don’t ever really feel like much of an inspiration. I just feel that I struggle as much as the next person (If not more thanks to my willingness to over analyse everything to within an inch of it’s life until I completely understand it).

I think I’ve realised though that this particular side effect of my success has been having a rather subtle and corrosive impact on me over time.

The more people looked to me for advice and guidance and used this word, the more (subconsciously) I came to feel that it was no longer OK to fail.

In contrast – when I was losing weight early on I was always learning.

I was continually trying to find ways to keep myself motivated and accomplish (what at one time I considered) the impossible.

If I screwed up then it didn’t matter because I was just one of many on the same path – and I just picked myself up, used it as fuel for the fire and carried on.

Then, in under two years I actually managed to accomplish the impossible.

Metaphorically speaking I found myself blinking in the sunlight as the clouds cleared. When everything came into focus I was standing on the top of a mountain that I’d been climbing all my life.

At the time in group I just cried.

I didn’t know what to do with that.

How do you process getting your life back – or grasp the enormity of the realisation that you’ve moved from what you considered to be a pathetic failure to a surprise success?

Mind bogglingly I ended up in the press, on the radio, was Slimming World’s third Greatest Loser of 2018 and even more unbelievably then became their Man of the Year.

At this point the avalanche of friend requests and queries about how I’d managed to do what I’d done on social media started. In the background pressure (that I heaped upon myself) started to build, and without realising it I’d started convincing myself that it was now my job to always portray an image of someone that had ‘cracked it’.

I was no longer allowed to fail.

(Author thinks for a moment)

It’s just hit me that the following has been slowly cementing in my subconscious thought processes since February.

    I must not fail.
    I must be in target every week.
    I can’t disappoint anyone.
    I can’t show weakness.

The list goes on – but you get the picture.

It’s stupid.

It’s really stupid.

I’m bound to fail here and there. I’m flipping human.

When it comes down to it life is complicated, and it brings with it emotional and sometimes physical pressures.

We all deal with them differently – and whilst I’m waaaaaaay better than I ever used to be I’m still not perfect.

(Sigh)

Ok.

Full disclosure time.

I stared fantasising about drinking alcohol about three weeks ago.

I really considered it on the way home one day.

It would have been so easy to disappear into one of the many pubs I pass on the way home.

No one would have even known. I could have hidden it and never told a soul.

But I’d have known.

Instead I took the brakes off for a while and ate myself silly.

Now the moment has passed and I’m STILL SOBER.

That is a MASSIVE VICTORY.

Yet all I saw was failure because I put weight on.

The reality is I put on half a stone and remained sober.

After almost 25 years of drinking – the last few (almost certainly) as a borderline if not full blown alcoholic I’ve now been without booze for 961 days.

It used to be highly unlikely that I’d last that amount of minutes in a day without having a drink.

My next major milestone in January is three years sober.

Holy crap.

When you look at it like that it puts things into perspective.

A week or two on the scales a few pounds shy of an arbitrary target weight vs sobriety.

A life full of lucidity vs one of anaesthetised oblivion.

I’m not perfect and neither should I strive to be because it doesn’t exist.

We all just do the best we can.

Tomorrow I’m going in to group and I’m probably going to be a little lighter but still out of target.

In the meantime I can do this on my walk to work and arrive without breaking a sweat.

I can smash four miles in an hour.

I’m in control of the vast majority of my life and that’s enough.

It’s ok to fall and it’s ok to pick myself up, dust myself off and carry on.

I’m just trying to find my way like everyone else.

Davey

Salty caramel treats

The sun is shining today and there seem to be multitudes of people everywhere.

The weather had been all over the place this weekend, so it’s nice to see that it’s not interrupted local events too much.

Yesterday morning started with wind and rain and found me (after group) digging through the back of my wardrobe for a woolly hat and gloves.

I eventually left the house wearing these as well as a warm down jacket and a thick brushed cotton shirt.

By the afternoon I was boiling and it was all tucked neatly away in a carrier bag as I strolled home with my shirt untucked and my sleeves rolled up.

Today there was no rain but temperature wise it was more of the same.

It was really cold when I awoke so when choosing my outfit (what is a boy to wear?!) I decided to hedge my bets and go for combats, light shirt and a gilet before hooking up with a regular twalking buddy for a walk around War Memorial Park in Coventry.

In the background you can see the flags and stands associated with some kind of fun run event that happened to be taking place when we arrived.

For the whole time we walked we were carefully avoiding people puffing and panting their way around (or just staggering from bench to bench) the mile and a half circuit.

My friend has recently returned from a month in the South of France (the poor dear – it must have been a terrible hardship) and was keen to build up her walking distance again after some professional grade hammock based relaxation.

In my view there’s no better way to do this that than nattering as you go.

The one thing that we both noticed though was that very few people running towards us looked like they had prepared much (if at all) for the event – and most looked practically on their last legs at the very first turn.

I wondered how many of them had just decided on a whim (without any other healthy lifestyle choices) to just go for a run and suddenly realised the reality of what they’d committed themselves to.

Many were wearing suspiciously new looking trainers and brightly coloured leggings – and I couldn’t help but thinking that they (like myself) would have been much better served by a mass walk together rather than (a probably demoralising experience) trying to run instead.

At the end of all this as we said our farewells my friend opened her car and presented me with a treat.

She’d brought along not one but two of these.

She knows what I like to eat – and I have to say (having eaten the hi-fi bar equivalent) that I now know that (although I rarely eat them) I rather love salted caramel flavour things.

Carte D’or Salted Caramel is around 5-6 syns per 100ml, meaning that these tasty treats would only set me back around 120 syns.

….

….

If that is I would have eaten them.

Which I most certainly wouldn’t.

(Sorry 😈)

Her next door neighbour had benefited from a bumper harvest of plums this summer and my friend had been given way more than she could eat alone, meaning I’d inherited some rather delicious healthy treats.

Plums in contrast to the evils of Carte D’or ice cream are a speed food – and I felt absolutely ZERO guilt eating an entire tub as I drove home from the park after a couple of laps.

I’m glad I ate them all actually – because when I wandered into town after midday to get a coffee and work on my daily step/mile goals the food festival was once again in the park.

It seems to arrive with ever increasing regularity lately – and is becoming really really popular.

In the past I’ve never been tempted by anything there – but honestly I’m still in a mildly fragile head space – so I made a rather swift bee-line through the crowds and moved on.

Besides – I had a much deeper thought process going on that didn’t involve falafels or craft beer.

Whilst on the way to town I’d been mooching (as usual) and had passed the recycling centre.

Near the piles of stacked picture frames I spotted this.

It’s a collection of family photos in a fixed multi frame that for whatever reason had been donated along with the pictures.

In the third one along the top row it became clear that it was presented to someone’s father to celebrate his 50th birthday.

The frame is caked in dust and all of the special memories are faded and dull.

I stood looking at this for a while – linking the faces to the pictures and trying to mentally establish who begat who.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had caused a life like this to be discarded in its entirety and left in a charity shop.

The more you peel away the layers behind an action like this the more sadness and pathos you find.

Even is this wasn’t caused by a bereavement it shows a complete disconnect with familial bonds.

Not one but multiple family members have been discarded.

It’s impossible by just looking at the faces to know why or how these pictures found their way to the recycling centre or what caused them to have no further relevance – but whatever this says about the people in the pictures it speaks volumes about the impermanence of many things that we consider to be pillars of our lives.

People come and go. Possessions ultimately mean nothing. Memories fade.

So what do we leave behind?

How do we enrich the world with our presence?

Is it even possible in any meaningful sense – or is it simply vanity to even try?

It makes me think that I’ve made the right decision recently to follow my heart – because there is absolutely no guarantee that tomorrow I’ll be here.

There’s almost certainly no chance at all anyone will remember me as ‘the man that valiantly sat in an office doing stuff’ – so what do I have to lose?

Ultimately maybe the objective is not to attempt be remembered – but to accept that probably very few people will be – and take comfort instead in the fact that you can do just as much anonymous good in the world as you can do if people remember your name.

If they do though I’d like them to think that I lived a happy life, cared for those that knew me and ultimately made a positive contribution to my small corner of the world.

I’ve no interest in fame or being in a history book – but I do want to be the absolute best version of me that I can be.

That way when I’m sitting on a table in a dusty photo frame it really won’t matter whether I’m remembered by the person looking at me or not – because in the brief, flickering moment of my existence I lived rather than just existed.

Isn’t that what we should all strive for?

Davey

Just a naughty boy

Well if proof was ever needed that I’m just as fallible as the next man (or woman) it arrived today when I stood on the scales in group and faced the brutal result of two weeks where I’ve been more off plan than on.

I’ve been comfort eating because of my mood dips and it shows.

Since I last weighed in over the last two weeks the scales report that I’ve gained half a stone.

I’m not gonna lie.

This stings.

It really stings.

Feeling like I’ve let myself down and doing so in public isn’t pleasant and it’s only tempered by the knowledge that (as long as can muster the willpower) I know I can repair the damage.

It’s also a reminder that walking and exercise alone will not paper over the cracks if I decide to start eating way too much food.

I’m certain of this because despite (metaphorically) eating all the pies it’s not like I’ve been sitting on my ass with a tub of Haagen Daas doing nothing.

I’ve been a busy boy all week long with a daily average of 12.4 miles – and I’ve only overeaten free food.

However – since I’m being honest with you all – over the last few days my weight has actually gone down.

In that respect my level of activity has helped. If I hadn’t been doing this I’m sure the outcome would have been way worse.

I started getting a lid on my excesses on Wednesday (when I finally faced reality) with a much bigger mountain to climb.

So despite this being something of a screw up on my part – in many ways (paradoxically) it represents a cluster of minor victories.

  1. I took what I knew was going to be a gain on the chin and weighed in anyway – despite really not wanting to.
  2. I relied on the support of the group and my consultant (which they all gave me enthusiastically)
  3. I didn’t say ‘screw it’ after facing the truth and carry on over eating.
  4. If I was still going by my old target of 14st 7lbs from late February I’d currently be in range.

However – we’ll see whether any of these things matter next week – because in between now and then I’ve still got to shift half a stone if I don’t want to hand over cold hard cash to weigh in.

(Slimming World target members do not pay to attend group – and if they go over target they get a week’s grace to fix the damage)

Since I’m tighter than a duck’s ass this is a powerful motivator.

Honestly though I put too way much pressure on myself.

Throughout this week I’ve still been struggling with feelings about many aspects of life – and it’s been compounded by an ever present sense of guilt that I should somehow be ‘better than this’.

Although it’s complete nonsense, and I’m only human in the background I still have an inner voice continually whispering poison in my ear.

It’s telling me that my Man of the Year award means I should somehow have managed to avoid things like this. I should instead be a perfect example to all who are watching and arrive at group to weigh in bang on target week after faultless week.

It doesn’t help that Monday and Tuesday saw me doing three radio and one newspaper interviews as well as appearing in several other media stories relating to heart health across the West Midlands.

(FYI – you can Google my name and ‘heart health’ if you want to see them)

‘How do you feel now your heart age has improved so much?’ One journalist asked me on Tuesday.

According to the online tool (link) it had dropped from 57 when I started Slimming World (at the age of 43) to its current age of 44.

‘Great!’ I replied.

‘Very proud.’

If I’d have been completely candid with him that would have actually translated to ‘…not very good today if I’m honest. I feel like a bit of a fraud talking to you at the moment and I’d much rather be hiding in my wardrobe than talking to the press about being successful.’

It’s all in the mind though, because right now, sitting in a coffee shop after mooching around town for a couple of hours I feel much better than I did at 7.30am, when I was standing barefoot in my pants looking down at my bathroom scales and unsuccessfully willing them to say something other than they did.

Currently I at least feel like I’ve made a start with confronting the issue that I’ve saddled myself with and that as long as I keep being positive there’s no reason at all why this time next week (or even maybe the week after) it will be a distant memory.

If I want positive encouragement then all I have to do is look at my stats and achievements.

This one is a good start.

Since I last had a cold capable of taking me out of the game (only for one day in 2017) I have an unbroken streak of filling my Apple Watch move ring (AND BOTH OF MY OTHER RINGS) for 374 straight days.

I’m quite chuffed with that.

During this period I’ve also averaged 10.2 miles a day.

Week in. Week out.

Religiously.

So – while there are little dips I know that the overall trend is a positive one.

Furthermore – when I look at Slimming World’s mobile site and it’s graph showing my progress the red line underlined the result of this effort and commitment in a way that few other visuals can.

Pictorial evidence also shows clearly (with a current weight photo taken last Saturday on the left) what’s at stake and why I should not only be proud of what I’ve done, but laser focused on ensuring it remains that way.

So – that’s my day, and that’s my mindset.

I’ve faced being out of target for the first time since I hit it and I’m moving forward.

Tomorrow is another (hopefully on plan) day and I’ll be climbing any mountains that life presents me with.

I’ll keep you up to date internet with how I get on.

Davey

Creation and consumption

The nature of all things is change – and there’s plenty of it in the air for me.

Over the last few weeks I’ve remained rather cryptic in this blog about everything that’s been on my mind.

In truth there have been a couple of things bothering me – but one of the more troubling ones has been work.

I’m quite careful to keep my writing and this separated. Although I’m very open I try not to discuss work too much because I feel it’s both unprofessional and short sighted to let feelings of any kind on it bleed into social media.

Not every situation or personal interaction can be public otherwise no one would trust me for longer than five minutes and my integrity in personal life and in the workplace is extremely important to me.

I’m not planning to change that any time soon, but since my decision is now official and in the public domain I think I can finally say here that I’ve decided to move on from my current job.

I handed in my notice a few weeks ago – and I’ll be gone before the end of the month.

It’s actually been a really difficult choice to make – because once again I find myself at something of a crossroads and don’t really know what comes next.

I do know that the biggest wrench will come from leaving the people that I’ve worked with in my current company. Until now they have been the deciding factor in keeping me where I am – and that ongoing decision has found me usually with a broad grin on my face.

They’re the absolute salt of the earth – and in my view a nicer bunch of men and women can’t be found clustered so close together anywhere in Warwickshire.

On a personal level they’ve all made my time very happy in my current position – and if I felt completely fulfilled with the content of my role then staying would be a no brainer – but unfortunately I don’t and in my case that comes with wider consequences.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been struggling as a target member recently – and I have begun to recognise that the two problems are (at least in part) related.

When I’ve found myself over eating I’ve been doing it to lift my mood.

I’ve begun to binge watch box-sets on TV or play video games when I come home in the evenings and most worrisome of all have found myself engaging in retail therapy.

eBay in particular has seen a number of frivolous purchases recently that I really didn’t need to buy – but for a brief (and annoyingly fleeting) moment they lifted my spirits and took my mind off what I was thinking about.

Scarily at times I’ve felt like there’s no off switch for my appetite and in the evening I just couldn’t fill my stomach.

I’ve consistently over eaten at this time for around four weeks and then had to repair the damage afterwards.

Truthfully I’ve been in a difficult place – and I’m currently several pounds over my target weight.

I may still be over it on Saturday (I’m trying hard to address it) but that’s OK because now the thing that’s been bothering me is out in the open and I’m hitting the problem head on.

The saving grace (as always) in the middle of all this is exercise.

Although I’ve been feeling down my overall activity has remained relatively constant – and it’s managed to hold some of my more excessive moments at bay.

It’s also enabling me to correct my course currently – and it will continue to be a continuous companion as I work towards deciding what comes next in life.

The wonderful thing is that – partially thanks to being made redundant once already – I no longer have a paralysing fear associated with leaving employment that I don’t feel fulfilled by.

I still have a deep rooted sense of responsibility though and I want to do a good job (and hope I have) when I’m working anywhere – but I also need to feel relevant and like I make a worthwhile contribution to the world.

If I don’t then it’s time to go.

Simply being paid a salary and working with great people isn’t enough for me anymore.

Thankfully- as a consequence of my recent personal improvement efforts – I now know that I’m fit enough mentally and physically to take on any challenge that I put my mind to.

Whatever life throws at me I can tackle it head on, with all cylinders firing and give it 110% – because the world is no longer frightening when you’ve finally learned to believe in yourself.

When you’ve proven that you have within you the determination and grit to move mountains (at least ones that weigh approximately 20st) then there’s no longer any reason to be fearful.

However I’m far from a tower of ego – and my self belief has faltered recently.

When I started to feel that deteriorate, deep down I knew that there was only one thing to do, and that was to take action.

The one that I chose to take may not prove to be the right one – but it’s action, and no good ever came from sitting still.

So – here’s to the future – whatever it may be.

I have a busy couple of months coming up with social and Slimming World events, as well as some other public speaking that I’m hoping to do.

There are also people and friends that I’m looking forward to meeting in person (in some cases for the very first time!) some modest travel plans and time to write.

One of the first casualties of a mind trying to avoid the truth is creativity, and I’m painfully aware that mine has tailed off recently.

In the past I didn’t understand the need for it in my life.

I’d never had the chance to see its benefits or to feel the satisfaction of regularly completing paragraphs filled with truth.

Without little bundles of words explaining honestly how I felt regularly being parcelled up and sent out into the world I’ve felt strangely lost and incomplete.

It’s this that’s caused my bad behaviour elsewhere – because in the absence of creation there is consumption.

Nature (as the saying goes) abhors a vacuum – and something will always fill any gap.

In the absence of positive habits there will invariably be a return to bad ones.

So.

That’s it.

I’m soon to be unemployed again – and I’ll be seeking new challenges and opportunities in life.

My metaphorical page may still be blank, but my imaginary pen is once again filled with ink and my mind feels alive.

It’s exciting to be staring at possibilities on the horizon – particularly because I know that the horizon is always a walkable distance away.

All I have to do is keep putting one foot in front of another.

Davey

P.S.

In other news an anonymous friend with an anonymous illness in an anonymous hospital having a serious anonymous operation is recovering well today and my heart is a lot lighter knowing that despite their crippling anonymity they are otherwise OK.

I’m happy beyond words that the operation went well and I’m think nothing but positive thoughts.

Hugs and love 🤗

Radio appearance update…

If anyone is interested in listening I’m hopefully going to be on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Radio’s breakfast show tomorrow morning (4th September) at around 8.30am for an interview with Trish Adudu talking about weight loss and heart health.

Hopefully you can all tune in! 😊

I’ve also pre-recorded an interview with Touch Radio tonight which will be out tomorrow too!

I’m not sure about the latter – but if you miss the BBC one I’m sure it will be available to listen later on iPlayer Radio.

It’s all in a good cause – and in this case the theme is ‘heart age’. If you’re interested check out the ‘heart age test’ being promoted by Public Health England (here) and fill in the short survey to see how old your heart is! ❤️

heartage

It might surprise you to know that when I started my weight loss journey with Slimming World at the age of 43 my heart was 57 years old.

I’m now I’m 45 and according to the page my heart is 44!

Who knew that losing 20 stone and walking 70 miles a week could be good for you?…

Davey

 

They just flow

Sometimes my posts practically write themselves.

They seem to leap out of my head, travel through my fingers and appear almost fully formed on the screen in front of me.

These are the ones that I write in my head, all day long as things happen around me when I find moments of interest or insight.

At other times there is either a void in my thought process – or even more painfully (but thankfully relatively rarely) a completely blank page.

The blanks arrive oddly not because I have too little to say – but instead because there’s just too much – and I become aware that there are deeper forces at work.

Sometimes writing is a catharsis – but paradoxically also realising why you can’t is similarly thought provoking and it too can eventually provide insight.

One recent (significant) decision I’ve made was rooted partially around a realisation of why a creative drought had arrived.

That particular choice will no doubt be discussed at a later date – but to give you a window into the inner workings of my mind here are a few paragraphs that started, but never reached a published conclusion.

I started constructing the following entry several times during the week – mostly in the dead of night – and always with the same result.

I became annoyed with myself and I shut down.

(This was the final attempt.)

It’s 2am on Wednesday morning and I can’t sleep.

No matter what I do I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking about random things and it’s one of those moments where you have a head full of thoughts but answers to almost none of the questions that arise from them.

I’m aware too that many of them (at least for the time being) are unresolvable both in my head and reality.

I’ve just got to let most of them play out and see where they end up.

Outside it’s raining, so rather than waste the rather wonderful ambient silence that appears to be accompanying it (there is no traffic or animal noise, just the sound of running water) I’ve decided to sit downstairs with the back door wide open on a folding patio chair and listen to it.

It’s pitch black in my kitchen and I’m seated in just my underwear with my legs crossed absorbing the sound and scent of the rain whilst typing.

There’s a gentle breeze that’s not quite cool enough to make me get dressed but sufficiently chilly to ensure that I have slightly cold feet.

It’s not an unpleasant sensation though because the temperature has helped slow the beating of my heart…

…and it’s not until I typed and read those last few words back that I realise it was (until I came downstairs) faster than it is now.

(I check it on Apple Watch)

I know that in the great scheme of things that it’s currently pretty slow.

Physically I’ve barely moved for the last 20 minutes but mentally (before I came downstairs) I was all over the place and I realise now that what’s happening to me both at night and during the day is a form of anxiety.

I’m thinking about life issues without vocalising or resolving tensions surrounding them and the impact of turning all of this inwards and trying to ignore it is dribbling into other things.

Over the last month or so this phenomenon has been on the rise but I’ve not recognised it for what it is.

It’s odd because until very recently I didn’t feel this way at all. I tended to see it a lot in others but not when I looked in the mirror.

Whenever possible I’ve tried to process and deal with things as they happen rather than bottling them up.

(I get angry with myself – stop typing and return to bed without finishing but decide not to delete it.

Back to today…)

I don’t want to be seen as an unhappy person and I don’t feel comfortable (even now) writing a post following a similar string of posts that paint me in what I consider to be an unflattering light.

I don’t want to appear like I can’t adequately cope with things – or that I’m wallowing in thoughts when I should just be getting on with life – but clearly running away from writing about how I really feel and exploring this has consequences.

This last week I’ve also been withdrawing a bit again (despite saying I wouldn’t) and trying to solve my own problems in isolation without people around me – and the truth is I just can’t.

I can’t do without them around me – and even when I don’t feel like I can cope with company (have you ever wondered why on earth anyone would want to talk to you when you feel down?) when I force myself to do it there’s almost always a positive outcome.

Last night I was invited to a small social gathering at a Unionist Club locally.

There was live music, some people I knew (it was an ex-colleague’s birthday) and many people I didn’t know.

After the band finished (and I could finally hear myself think) I spent more time talking to the various people there. As the night slowly drew to a conclusion and I talked to them more and more I began to notice a growing inner calm.

It came from human contact.

It came from surrounding myself with it even though (before I arrived) I had felt like sitting alone and withdrawing inside my own head.

Today this continued – and despite not really wanting to I got up and went out really early for a walk.

The world looked wonderful at 7am.

All of the flowers and bushes were covered in little glistening dewy droplets that made them sparkle in the warming sunshine that was slowly peeping over the nearby trees.

As I walked my post was finally coming together. It would be about the band who played the night before (the Zephyrs) and the people that I met.

I’d chatted to some real characters who asked a lot of probing questions about my weight loss. My responses and theirs were still rattling around my mind.

Eventually I sat down outside a pub in Warwick with a coffee – some six and a half miles later.

The square was quickly coming to life.

It was market day – and as I sat nearby the fruit stalls as they laid out their wares in the cool of the shady square my fingers started a new blog.

It would be about my walk in the sunshine and the huge baking potatoes on the nearby stall that would barely fit in my oven, let alone a microwave.

Why on Earth were they so big? The tomatoes nearby were larger still!

Who was growing these massive vegetables?

These thoughts however were unexpectedly interrupted by passing friends who stopped to say hello and ultimately decided to delay their planned breakfast to sit with me for a drink and chat.

They had not long returned from holiday and were keen to show me some pictures of a lovely little corner of the world in Spain – where the hillsides seemed to go on forever and in the distance there were mountains.

‘They’re occasionally covered with snow too!’ my friend said as she pinched and zoomed in and out of the image on her screen.

The mountains looked impossibly picturesque, framed by an impossibly blue sky and for a brief moment I found myself fantasising about walking over them.

It looked lovely – and they both looked happy.

I forgot what I was typing my blog – because I was enjoying talking to them and chatting about life.

I was also fantasising about going exploring in a place with endless vistas and snow capped peaks.

This made me feel better still and my post once more evolved in my mind as we parted company and I walked away.

The flow was being directed toward our conversation. Maybe it would be about swimming pools and villas in Spain with views and hills to walk over. Maybe it would be aspirational. Maybe I too would go to Spain one day and see the mountains for myself.

Now wasn’t the time to finish it though. Now was the time to make my way to Slimming World.

Not just yet though.

On the way I walked idly into a charity shop, and as I quickly browsed I noticed a rack of jackets.

There was a new (still with tags!) grey Jasper Conran one in my size for only £12.50!

I slung it over a my shoulders and it seemed to fit perfectly.

The arms were just the right length!

It also appeared to suit my casual outfit rather well, so I bought it, pulled the price label off, popped it on and headed to my group in the sunshine with a smile on my face.

Today was a different group entirely.

It felt weird.

All week long I’d avoided my scales and tried not to think about Slimming World or whether I’ve doing good (or bad).

I’ve instead tried to stick to plan – have been on it sometimes and not at others – but more than anything I’ve been trying to do away with guilt and worry and just live life.

The theory behind this (following my chat with Angie after group last week) was that I wanted to attend, not weigh in, listen to the talk, feel good in my clothes and remain focused without it all being about a number.

As a target member I don’t have to weigh in EVERY week any more and I don’t have to tie myself in knots, or feel any guilt if I don’t want to.

It felt slightly unsettling to not see a number or have the certainty of knowing exactly how heavy I was but it also felt good.

Somehow I was still in the zone but had no idea what the scales said.

I walked away and as I did the narrative continued to write itself in my head.

It would be a charity shop victory – a moment of shopping triumph – enabled by a shrunken waistline and feeling positive about clothes and life – all bookended by the people I’d seen the night before, that morning in Warwick and also those in my group.

Until the phone rang.

My friend was free earlier than expected and wondered if I wanted to go for a walk before the time we’d planned.

The narrative stopped in my head. I’d have to pick it up later. Walking was way more fun.

My mental typewriter had the page pulled out of it, screwed up and the contents thrown in a little ball towards a brain bin with a basketball hoop.

I changed and headed over to her house.

We’d decided to walk along the canal from Hatton towards Knowle and it seemed like a lovely day for it.

To the ‘Tom o the Wood’ and back again was ten miles and it was always a wonderfully quiet stretch of waterway.

It was prime twalking territory.

It seemed that we both needed it.

There was a lot to chat about and both of us had been thinking complex thoughts about how the week had been progressing.

Nothing felt simple in each of our lives and yet in the sunshine as we talked it through nothing seemed overwhelming.

Life was just floating along and occasionally it was gliding over and serenely nibbling the grass.

By the time we reached the pub my feet were beginning to tire though.

I settled for some pickled eggs and a large coffee as a reward and we stopped to sit under a parasol at a table in the shade for an hour as we recuperated.

My watch said I’d nearly hit 14 miles so far that day and for some reason pickled eggs and coffee felt like an appropriate way of celebrating.

We sat chatting next to a quirky sign in the beer garden and gossiped as our feet recovered.

The sun was shining and as we set the world to rights all the while my narrative was shifting in my head.

I watched her laughing as we talked.

Now it was about the ridiculousness of pickled eggs.

Who discovered that eggs could be pickled and who tried to eat one first?

For that matter who discovered vinegar and pickled anything before deciding to eat it?!

The blog would be about the ridiculousness of pickles – the people that make and eat them and swans on the canal.

We left the pub and as we headed back I took a picture, which (for the umpteenth time that day) my mate shamelessly photobombed.

I put my phone away and we continued home – the topic now shifting to blackberries – of which there were millions.

We walked as we talked and munched.

As we did so she stung her index finger on a nettle whilst picking them. It was her first nettle sting it seemed.

As she complained about the sensation and hopped up and down I rubbed a nearby docleaf into the sting.

‘You just scrunch up the underside and rub it into your finger to anaesthetise a nettle burn.’ I advised.

‘It’s amazing how the remedy for the sting always grows next to the nettles.’ I reflected.

I plucked another juicy, fresh and green docleaf and handed it to her.

‘If it starts again use this.’ I said – and she held onto it as we headed back to Hatton.

Nature. That would be the theme.

Nature, it’s circle of life and pickled eggs.

How did nature provide such a wonderful remedy that was always a few feet away (a possible metaphor for life) and how did people discover pickled eggs.

Quirky.

I liked it.

Weird discoveries and nature.

Boom.

Nailed it.

Upon arriving home (now with almost 20 miles on my clock) I decided to eat and cooked myself a chilli.

As I ate the food (which was delicious!) my blog came into view.

The lovely day along the canal, the swan, the chat, the food and the coffee.

And pickled eggs.

Pickled eggs are weird.

Then I fell asleep.

Four hours later I awoke to a text from my friend – a moment of thought that she wanted to share – and my narrative reformed again.

It would be about people.

Pure and simple.

They were the common theme in all of this.

There wasn’t a magical formula and pickled eggs were just eggs in vinegar.

The attempts to write that had failed had all stalled with anger – and all had concluded inside my own head.

They’d died before reaching the page and expired alone on a bleak literary battlefield – without the intervention of external medics to patch them up and return them to the fight.

Within less than 24 hours of filling my life with people and their quirky stories or perspectives I was alive again.

My thoughts were racing – and not in a bad way this time – because my pulse was even and I was relaxed.

There was no anxiety and the post had written itself (as all the best ones do) because my thoughts were outside of my head.

They had been liberated by others rather than being trapped in solitary confinement – forever trying to escape but not being able to pick the locks alone.

They had climbed out of my mind via the companionship of people and the ability that they all gave me to normalise my sometimes insular patterns of dealing with problems.

When I don’t force myself to be with others and I try to solve everything myself I always end up stumbling eventually.

When I do internet then posts just flow – because they’re filled with the life and friendship of others.

Some (like this one) practically write themselves.

Davey