Christmas update

I really am a big kid in many respects.

If you tell me I’m going anywhere nice then the possibility of me sleeping properly beforehand is practically zero.

It’s why I’m wide awake right now.

My mind can be quite hyperactive at the best of times but honestly when it’s faced with the prospect of going to do things that take me out of my usual comfortable bubble then I start going into ‘planning mode’.

This is the side of me that makes lists and lies awake at 2am completely unable to nod off.

It’s thankfully not a huge element of my personality – because for the most part I prefer a degree of last minute chaos.

I’m not the type of guy that typically chips away at gradual preparation – and find usually that a pressing need to do things with very little time to spare usually results in better creativity.

Such added urgency also means that tasks appear to get completed in lightning fast time with practically zero faffing.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I like to think that doing things at the last moment saves time, because there’s rarely a wasted moment just before an event.

I guess the truth is that I actually just fit in all the dead time before I finally give up procrastinating and get around to doing what I have to do.

It’s not hard to faff about over the Christmas period though.

It’s what the holiday’s there for after all!

While I’ve been doing some exciting new things over the last couple of weeks (more on this maybe in another post further down the line…) for the most part I’ve been experiencing a rather relaxing Christmas on my own.

Many would may see this as the absolute opposite way that Christmas should be spent (and at any other time I may have been in agreement) but I’ve rather enjoyed it.

With very good reason I haven’t felt as if I’ve been in solitude at all.

Everyone that matters to me has been in practically constant or semi regular contact – and once again I’ve been reminded that I have some very creative and very caring friends who (it appears) are always thinking about me when it comes to gifts.

Newer readers may not have heard of Swanlings before – but back when I first started losing weight and could barely move around the park, I motivated myself for a while by following the progress of some cygnets in St Nics.

Nature can be cruel, and out of a large staring group of several cygnets they slowly dwindled in number until only one remained.

This swanling (now fully grown) is still a solitary presence in the park – and whenever I pass by him or her (I have no idea!) I can’t help but stop to say a metaphorical hello.

We’ve both grown and developed together and because of that Swans (and in particular their offspring) hold a special significance in my heart.

My friend (initially a passing blog reader who eventually became much more) clearly understands this and totally out of the blue made me this wonderful piece of embroidery for Christmas.

When it comes to gifts It’s true that big things don’t matter at all.

It really is the thought that counts.

This year I’ve received and given items and cards that probably cost much less in monetary terms than any preceding year in my history – but in truth what’s passed in both directions has probably done so with more love and thought than ever before.

This has led to me feeling rather cared for and supremely relaxed – and has probably been the cause of another feature of the last few days.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day definitely saw me take my foot off the metaphorical gas – and despite ambling around the park for a while on The 25th and 26th (the swimming pool has been closed!!!) the vast majority of my time has been spent eating, reading and playing video games.

I know that dietary excess is something of an expectation that goes hand in hand with the Christmas experience, and I shouldn’t really do guilt – but I can’t help harbouring a little.

I always find periods where I let my appetite off the leash somewhat unsettling – because I immediately realise I’m still capable of eating a LOT of food in a short space of time.

It’s really easy to undo hard won victories on the scales in a very short time – so I resolved relatively early in in the experience that Christmas would mostly be vegetarian.

With the exception of chicken on some days over the holiday season the last few days has consisted almost entirely of roasted and boiled veggies with a few carbs and lots of apples or plums.

Everything I’ve made (particularly in the above picture) was practically oil free and very Slimming World friendly.

I’m not gonna lie though and say I had small portions – because I ate the flipping lot as well as a huge pile of fruit afterwards.

Truthfully I enjoyed every last mouthful of it.

Consequently the evening of the 25th saw me flopping heavily into bed after playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider for the vast majority of the day.

I was quite satisfied with my resulting food coma and felt rather Christmassy.

At least one of us got a good level of exercise in.

By time time I fell asleep (in comparison to my short five mile stroll around the park in the morning) Lara Croft had killed two rather deserving jaguars (whom I turned into some rather fetching boots after they relentlessly stalked me for two levels) brought a swift end to several bad guys and in doing so had clambered over a significant amount of South American jungle.

Frankly I was exhausted just watching her – but couldn’t help admiring her new attire.

I’m just a hair’s breadth away from her approach to personal styling myself – and I’m barely one party invite away from buying something ridiculously outlandish to wear just for the hell of it.

I’m genuinely surprised that many of the things I’ve tried on recently (mostly as an attempt at personal humour) have actually resulted in me thinking ‘You know what?! I’d actually wear that!’

This is a sign that I’m far from unhappy in life – and that the man I’ve become is in a place where he feels so secure that experimentation is just something that happens naturally every day – instead of to be avoided at all costs.

I am still a creature of habit in some respects mind you – and I do like some certain things to remain the same.

As well as regular canine contact (how can you not love a face like that?!) one of these has been the continued joy of bottomless coffee and a good read – which you may well have noticed has taken the place of writing over the last few days.

This is partly because another very generous friend gave me an old (slightly damaged but still fully functional) Kindle as a present – and having never owned one before I can say with complete surprise that I’m totally in love with it.

It only has one purpose (unlike my iPad) but the featherweight nature of its construction and razor sharp text make it instantly pleasurable to read in any light.

The only problem is the numb posterior that it’s caused in both coffee shops and the smallest room of my house…

So that’s been my Christmas internet – and it’s not over yet.

When day breaks I’ll be off to do the things in life that make me happy.

There will be lots of twalking and lots of exploration.

It’s gonna be fun!

Excuse me though. I need to see if I can get at least another hour’s sleep under my belt…

Davey

Poang pocket love

If I didn’t know better I’d think that some special annual event was causing people to panic buy Prosecco, cheese and sprouts.

This morning when I arrived (ten minutes early) outside Aldi it seemed like I wasn’t the only person with a plan to get the jump on the rest of the world.

The queue for the trollies stretched waaaaay out into the rear of the car park far behind me.

When I finally managed to get inside the shop it seemed that grabbing everything before everyone else reached for it was the only order of the day.

I’ve never felt or seen so many elbows in between me and broccoli or plums.

For some reason people forget all manners at this time of year – but I refuse to participate in this sort of behaviour.

If someone manages to get the last bag of sprouts before me then frankly they are welcome to them.

There are plenty more sprouts in the world and I’m in no danger of dying without them.

When I finally arrived (mildly battle scarred) at the checkout, my favourite till lady was thankfully there to greet me.

When I used to work on a till years ago people regularly came back to me because I smiled and talked to them – and she’s no different.

I always look forward to chatting with her for five minutes at the end of my shop.

Today a she was wearing a bright red festive jumper that was covered in polar bears.

I took a moment to complement her on its rather fetching colour and pattern while I unfolded and prepared my carriers.

‘My son.’ She said, motioning to her jumper in clipped English while watching me unzip my freezer bag at the front of my trolly.

‘He doesn’t want and I say no waste.’

She smiled at me and wagged her finger from side to side to emphasise that waste was naughty.

I like her.

She’s thrifty and always takes time to admire my bargain hunting.

Red labels in Aldi mean half price items and the more I accumulate the more she verbally pats me on the head.

It’s a little addictive.

As usual she glanced to her right and made a quick evaluation of (and comment on) my shopping.

There weren’t many red labels today. The locust horde had descended before me and I was left mostly empty handed.

‘No Christmas food?!’ She said, avoiding the obvious absence of penny pinching.

‘Where’s your turkey and wine and chocolate and cake?

She looked almost crestfallen. ‘No treats?’ She finally asked.

I have treats.’ I replied, smiling.

She looked up and down again, failing to identify the root of my excess before shrugging and staring at me rather blankly.

‘I’ve got two extra tubs of cottage cheese…‘ I said.

It is Christmas after all!

She laughed.

I was still thinking about her as I unpacked my shopping at home.

Some people make a crappy task bearable – and she’s one of many over the last few days and weeks that have continually made me smile and feel a little warmer inside.

I can’t help being a creature of habit.

I know we’ll cheer eachother up when we talk so I always gravitate toward her and every week the result is the same.

I also know what outcome my shopping will have with regard to my waistline too and because of that I generally buy the same things every week.

Although I love variety in other areas of my life I am definitely quite rigid in areas that I’ve previously lacked self control.

In some ways it’s fear of what will happen if I deviate – but in others it’s liberating.

What some may see as not being able to let my hair down I see as freedom. I’ve found a way that works, that takes away all the worry of wondering what will happen if I eat x or y and that to me is supremely empowering.

This mild inflexibility (previously something that was harmful when I couldn’t stop drinking or eating pizza) now functions as a strength rather than a weakness.

Others may disagree but I consider this fridge door to epitomise decadence.

I couldn’t touch any of it this morning though.

At least not until I’d weighed in – because until then my policy is ‘nil by mouth‘.

When I arrived at group there was a pleasantly familiar hubub of adults and children.

I can scarcely believe that it’s been four weeks since I last stood on the scales at Slimming World.

It’s been an interesting period for me to be away from both the support of the group and the regular structure of weekly check ins.

My private life has seen more than its fair share of both ups AND downs over the last four weeks.

I’ve encountered an unusual rollercoaster of moments where I’ve over eaten emotionally and then been in such a fantastic frame of mind that I managed to forget food even existed.

In the middle of all this my recent addiction to swimming has remained a constant. At times that’s meant continual hunger – which is something that’s been a difficult thing to deal with.

I may burn a lot more calories than I used to per day by engaging in this activity – but it’s all too easy to then tuck in afterwards and offset any net gains with too many tasty treats.

At times over the last month I’ve gone up in weight – but then shortly afterwards I’ve also gone down.

It’s all part of the continual journey I’m on – and each day is still an education.

One thing that’s kept me motivated is the SW bauble that gets handed out in group every year.

I got this (but never mentioned it at the time) and filled it in a couple of months ago.

After writing their wishes on them some members hang these on their Christmas trees, while others prefer to attach them to fridge doors or kitchen cabinets.

They’re a useful little reminder of why you’re denying yourself and what the end goal is. While they don’t always work they manage to make the difference just enough to be worthwhile.

Mine has been near the kettle next to the coffee – which is the place where I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen.

It’s definitely helped – because after a month on my own, out in the wild with no support for a month I’ve only put on half a pound.

This means that I’m still under my target – and today I was also wearing heavier clothes than last time – so I’m very happy indeed with the result.

It was also a pretty surreal meeting – because at the end several of the lovely ladies in group asked me to sign their Slimming World Magazines!

This month I’m actually gracing the pages of this publication – and I feel a real sense of pride when I think that people just like me will read it and that it might help them on their own journeys.

If you’re not a member and you want a copy then you can find it in supermarkets and newsagents – so go and grab one!

It’s got a calendar too!

In other news I’ve once again been reminded of the power of friendship – and that whenever I feel alone or besieged by events there is a hard core of people that I’m close to who know me and care about me.

One of them is pretty handy with a sewing machine – and she surprised me yesterday with a home made remote control pocket for my Ikea Poang armchair.

She had adapted the pattern from something I knew that she’d been working on already.

When we’d chosen materials together for that particular project she had clearly made a mental note (unbeknownst to me) that I was quite taken with a particular fabric I saw and headed back later to secure some of it.

Honestly things like this put a real lump in my throat.

Not only does it show how well someone knows you – but the fact that they take the time and effort to make something unique and specific to you (even going to Ikea to measure it up and try it on another chair to be sure!) means this is never leaving my side – and that’s not just because it’s now physically velcro’d to my armchair!

So – it’s so far been a good day internet.

Shopping done, stress avoided, weight in range, autographs given (!) and Poang pocket loved.

It’s time for coffee.

It would be rude not to.

Davey

Trying new things

There are times that I’m tempted to not write something down in a post – mostly because I think it will sound silly – but on occasions like today I really don’t care.

Something small has made me really happy.

Ages ago I went for a long walk in the cold with a friend along a frozen canal – and along the way we stopped at a friendly looking pub.

It was traditional and cozy – with a roaring fire next to some red leather seating in the window.

I crouched in front of the burning embers as the barman put another log in the centre and attempted to drink in the warmth as quickly as I could.

Then I realised something.

I’d avoided fires for years because I was always too hot already.

I never appreciated the warmth that they could bring to cold hands – and it was intoxicating.

I really didn’t want to move from that position – but eventually (reluctantly) we had to get a move on and headed out into the cold again.

It’s a happy memory of a cool little non-scale victory.

Today I woke up a little late – after a late visit to the Showcase in Coventry to see the Queen biopic before it was no longer on general release.

It’s a great film (although everyone but Freddie in the band comes across as a bit two dimensional) and the music is wonderful but it made me oversleep past my usual swimming slot.

Looking at the online timetables I decided that I’d give the leisure centre at Newbold Comyn a go instead of my usual pool at St Nicholas.

It’s a longer walk to this location too and it ticks another box exercise wise because currently I am really focused on being in target for my Saturday weigh in!!!

After a 45 minute brisk stroll I was there – and the first thing that I noticed was that there are a lot more facilities.

For one there’s a climbing wall…

I’ve never tried this kind of thing – (and I’m pretty sure my arms aren’t currently strong enough to do it) but today I added it to my mental bucket list!

As I walked through to the nearby pool viewing area I realised that the benefit of coming here to exercise is that there’s a leisure pool as well as an exercise one, meaning that you’re far more likely to not be slowed down by kids playing or adults standing oblivious to everything in the middle of a lane (it’s a thing trust me).

My swim was largely uneventful.

For the most part I had the second small ‘medium lane’ entirely to myself for the hour that I was in the water and absolutely no one to swamp me with butterfly or front crawl waves.

So far so mundane right?

Yes.

It was.

Until I got out.

I’ve never ever sat in a whirlpool spa. Not in my entire life.

I’ve always been far too self conscious about how I look – so even when I’ve stayed at a hotel where I’ve paid a premium for the additional facilities I’ve never actually used them.

There was a lady already sitting in it – but I thought ‘what the hell!’ And just went over and sat in there too!

I flipping love whirlpool spas!

After an 10 minutes of being gently lifted off the shelf on which I was perched by jets of water being shot up my butt I noticed ANOTHER interesting thing.

A sauna….

Now – you might have wondered why earlier I mentioned the log fire – but it was because this fits into the same category.

I have never had a problem with finding a way to get excessively sweaty in the past (it was my default state) and always considered saunas to be completely irrelevant.

My body back then clearly didn’t need it and I hated heat in every permutation that it arrived in.

I got straight out of the spa and walked over to the sauna, reading the ‘it’s really flipping hot in there – make sure you don’t drop dead’ warning on the wall – and also noted the supplemental advice that the higher you sit the hotter you are.

Moments later I was sitting on the top shelf!

OMFG!!!

How nice are saunas?!

Wow!!!

They are my new favourite thing!!!!

After an hour’s exercise transitioning to a room where the very air around you seems to massage every muscle in your body is flipping heaven!

Furthermore I couldn’t help but notice that after 15 minutes I seemed to be the only one in there that was drying out rather than sweating profusely.

Everyone around appeared to be huffing away and breathing harder – yet I was just relaxed and comfortable.

The only reason I decided to go back outside was that I noticed my Apple Watch was absolutely roasting.

It was probably a good call – because when I looked at the Apple forums afterwards they say the following things are best avoided (if you want your watch to remain water proof).

  • Dropping Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to soap or soapy water.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to high velocity water, for example while water skiing.
  • Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room.

Either way – watch or no watch this is not my last time in a sauna or a spa pool.

So this day represents not one but two brand new non-scale victories.

These may be mundane or insignificant to other people but to me they both represent huge strides in my self confidence and yet another example of my default behaviour now being ‘I like to try new things’ instead of ‘I fear the unknown’.

That’s all folks.

Today it’s that simple.

I did new stuff and I feel flipping awesome!

If you were all here I’d give you a big hug to mark the occasion. Make sure you’re in my proximity soon and you can claim this non expiring voucher for tactile celebrations!!!

Love and hugs

Davey

Who was that man?

There are days where your mood is so positive and so upbeat that pretty much any storm (metaphorical or literal) will fail to dent it.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had something of an extra spring in my step, and have caught myself smiling throughout the day. It’s a nice feeling to have such a sunny disposition when the weather is so grim and cold – particularly in the lead up to Christmas.

On Tuesday the weather was absolutely crap. It did nothing but rain.

I didn’t mind however.

It’s only weather and currently it can’t dampen my spirits.

On Monday morning the sky was a totally different colour though. When I left the leisure centre at about 9.15am (already feeling pretty awesome after my swim) the weather seemed to be reflecting my mood.

The day looked like it held a lot of promise.

When I’d hit the pool an hour and a half earlier though I’d initially felt rather tired – so instead of trying to go increasingly faster I just carried on at (what now seems like) a rather sedate pace.

In short I just resolved to enjoy myself.

The great thing was that rather than rousing my head from bed with an alarm (which I usually need when the mornings are so dark) I’d woken up darned early and arrived at the leisure centre with plenty of time to swim.

The distance I’ve been doing lately usually takes around 45 minutes.

In this time I can do about 50 lengths of the pool continuously and afterwards I feel like I’ve had a good workout.

After a few lengths though (and knowing that I had a longer window to play with) I wondered whether I could keep my sedate (but perpetual) back and forth going for over an hour – and if so how by how much?…

It turns out that I can keep it up for quite a bit longer.

I’ve found that once I relax into the rythmic nature of the task and focus on just breathing my mind slowly begins to wander.

I no longer look at it as effort – but relaxation instead.

Since I’d had a pretty great weekend on Monday morning my mind had plenty of places to go in this mood.

My swim passed by at light speed with practically no effort required on my part at all.

For the first time (without realising it) I stopped looking at the clock or checking the number of lengths on my watch.

I just focused on the ripples on the water and the people passing by while I drifted along. As I did so a glorious golden light was streaming in through the huge windows and reflecting from the surface of pool onto the walls.

The water was pleasantly warm and so was I.

Surprisingly the time window to swim finished (the local schools take over the pool at 9am) before my arms or legs began to tire.

In the space of just one month I’ve made some really tangible fitness gains!

As I look at this state of affairs I must admit to being somewhat mystified – but I’m not confused by what’s in these screenshots – because if you practice at anything then you will inevitably get better.

I’m just wondering why ten or twenty years ago I couldn’t see any of this.

I really don’t get how I’ve moved from not understanding how anyone could not only regularly participate in, but also ENJOY exercise to someone that continually plans his day around getting enough of it.

I mean – I know the effort that it took to get here and I know the points at which I did things. I know what I had to consume and I know how much I needed to move to become the man I am today.

I understand the dietary mechanics behind how I’ve changed.

It’s the pivot from ‘negative me’ to ‘positive me’ that I find so confusing.

How on Earth did my mindset change in such a wholesale manner?!

What amazes me even now is that the struggling and downbeat way of thinking I used to have is alien to me when I compare it to the person currently typing this.

I genuinely no longer recognise the man I was, despite occasionally being reminded that I inhabited his mind and body for most of my life.

Yesterday – at the suggestion of a friend I created this comparison shot for Instagram, and although it doesn’t represent the largest I was it does show me once again in emotional free fall – although you’d probably not know it to look at me.

I’m looking happy in the bottom photo because this friend has purposefully sought me out (she was seated on another table and came looking for me) so that we could get a picture together.

That friendship persists to this day and over time (in many ways helped by my changes) has matured continually.

We keep in contact far more than we used to and we now share quality time with exercise that benefits both of us instead of just instant messaging or drinking coffee.

The before and after picture is therefore less about weight loss in my mind and instead represents happiness.

It shows something that I consider to be permanent in my life and reminds me that what I’ve done has continued to make that possible.

The picture is multi layered though.

When I look at the old me I also see the glassy look in my eyes and feel the spiritual burden of the glass of wine in my hand.

Shortly before this was taken I’d been trying to lose weight, had been doing ok – and then a few months prior to the Christmas party had started putting it all back on again.

Mostly because of the shame of this (I hated looking continuously bigger each time I caught up with people I rarely saw) I was drinking to get drunk that night.

My strategy proved successful.

By the end of this party I was both hammered and bloated – and when I awoke the next morning felt like crap.

This morning though that man was barely even a memory.

He exists now only in photos and even then when I look at ones he’s in and create these comparisons I don’t really recognise him any more.

In January I’ll be celebrating three years without a hangover – and I can say that with supreme certainty because I know who I am now.

I may not understand fully how I can be so separate from the person I used to be but I know how happy I am currently and I love that today I wanted to get out of bed and do this.

I managed to swim sixty lengths of the local pool in under the time it previously took me to do twenty one month ago.

How flipping cool is that?!

The old guy is gone. His failures and weaknesses are almost all in the past and every day in every way I strive to be a better person – showing anyone that cares to read these posts what’s possible if you just try.

It’s good to be alive and healthy.

It’s good to be me.

I like me.

Davey

Whispering tree

It’s been a few days since I posted – and that’s not because I’ve had nothing to say.

It’s quite the opposite in fact – a lot has happened – but I’ve made a conscious decision to switch off my usual ‘document everything’ mode.

For several days I’ve not written anything and I’ve taken almost no pictures.

The reason?

I’ve just been living in the moment and enjoying life – which has unexpectedly (and in the nicest possible way) taken a turn for the better.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this Christmas Tree post and at the time I felt genuinely lost and really quite sad.

I was wondering fundamentally whether everything I’d done recently to improve myself had been worth it – and I had been facing up (for quite a while by then) to the fact that I felt desperately alone.

Like a pebble in a pond however some blog posts create ripples that slowly radiate outwards until they touch something – and the feedback I had from many people about this entry both warmed my heart and made me feel the absolute opposite way to how I felt when I began to construct it.

Within moments of posting offers of Christmas dinners seemed to be everywhere and the personal feedback about similar feelings of loneliness weren’t far behind.

One response in particular proved ultimately to be a herald of great promise.

Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people and although I previously thought I was immune to its negative effects that day reminded me that that I wasn’t any different to anyone else.

Once again I was shown that (where human beings are concerned) there is more that binds us together than separates us.

We all look different and sound different – but behind superficial looks the same worries, fears and needs exist.

The universe was listening throughout all of this – and it seemed it had been paying attention for quite a while – pushing me in the right direction.

Until that moment I’d just failed to interpret and understand the message.

The universe had already delivered positivity unexpectedly and unambiguously to my doorstep – and because of this today I could barely be in a better frame of mind.

Yesterday (for my third and final planned week off in a row) I missed weigh in and went walking along The Malvern Hills with a friend.

You needn’t worry readers. I’m still in target. My own scales report that I’m 13st 13lbs.

Missing group was in many ways ill advised though.

It was an awful day and Alexa said she didn’t want me to go.

Neither did Siri.

‘Heavy rain and sleet’ was the forecast and they both repeated it day after day, word for word.

For once my local AI were in agreement – which was a surprise.

Amazon’s relentlessly sunny disposition usually clashes with Siri’s more downbeat take on the weather and because of this they generally bicker like teenagers.

Within moments of starting out at British Camp the wind threatened to blow us off the sides of the hills.

The rain looked as if animals would soon be seen collecting in twos nearby to board a large boat.

I was so soaked on the second leg of the walk that I was wringing huge volumes of water out of my gloves at regular intervals.

Rain had penetrated the (ahem) delicate areas of my person and I was cold.

When my friend and I took shelter in a pub near the end of our walk we also managed to end up in the only seat with a ridiculously cold draft continually hitting our backs.

We shivered throughout our time there and spent the majority of it clutching hot mugs of tea.

All of the layers I was wearing were drenched, my wallet was full of water (thank goodness for plastic money!) my trousers and long johns were soaked through and my socks had begun to take on board water as well.

It didn’t matter though.

None of it mattered – because the day was about good company.

It was all about a renewed drive to spend time with the people in my life that are and have become extremely important to me.

The conversation never stopped, the smiles never ended – and even the ridiculously dangerous journey home on a waterlogged motorway failed to dent the mood as we chatted the time away.

Even when I stopped at a pub on the way home for a toilet break, slipped in the rain and banged my leg on a small metal fence (leaving a lump the size of an egg on my shin) it completely failed to remove my smile.

It was one of those excursions that remind you there is sometimes only good company and perspective that separate a good day from a bad day.

Thanks to both of these I filled up my happinesses reservoirs and I’m pretty certain that they’ll take a while to deplete.

The day ended (as all great days should) with a geeky sci-fi movie in a warm house with comfy slippers and a blanket.

In the background I couldn’t help but notice my Christmas Tree, just quietly sitting there.

Out of the corner of my eye as I relaxed into comfortable nerd heaven I couldn’t help but think that it was winking at me and whispering something.

It’s all imaginary of course internet – but if my tree could have talked I know what it would have said.

‘Told you things would get better’ it would have said softly and quietly.

It wouldn’t have been wrong.

Davey

Once upon a showcase

Last night I took a trip with a mate (who generously invited me along as he had a spare ticket) to see ‘Once upon a Deadpool‘ at the Showcase in Coventry.

I’m used to going to the Vue cinema in Leamington – and I have to say from a comfort level this is a definite upgrade.

The whole place has had a huge makeover since I last visited.

Compared to the rather basic staffing level and recent bargain basement approach to pricing (which is admittedly my main motivator usually) this is a bit different and rather swanky.

Although I couldn’t get a picture of it the seating in the auditorium (screen 5) it was seriously awesome.

I found myself unexpectedly in an electric reclining leather armchair with absolutely acres of room and I have to say I felt a bit like a rock star!

This feeling didn’t last too long though – because in order to stick to my SW plan I had taken with me some sugar free sweets to suck (Aldi ‘Dominion’ Strawberry and Cream and some honey and lemon Fisherman’s Friend).

By the time the film had finished I could barely contain the apocalyptic consequences.

Thankfully I maintained an impressive rear clench (I reckon I could have cracked a pool ball with my butt cheeks) until I got back to my own car – which stoically bore the brunt of my methane propelled journey home.

Lesson learned. Next time I’ll take a coffee instead…

The film was enjoyable however – even though it’s the second time I’ve seen Deadpool 2 at the cinema.

OUAD is a little different mind you – as it’s a censored version of the original and you can view this a number of ways.

On the upside it allows a genuinely funny film to be seen by a younger audience with less gore.

It also has new sequences that riff off scenes from ‘The Princess Bride’ and include the highly amusing Fred Savage.

On the downside much of the humour and ‘flow’ of the film was contained within the now heavily edited violent sequences – and when you’ve seen the original what remains can feel rather disappointing.

The opening – which explained much of Deadpool’s motivations for events of the the film (and it’s central theme of being a love story) is now gone entirely – and has been replaced by a dialogue between Reynolds and Savage that does little to sell the film to anyone that doesn’t already know what’s coming.

Weirdly these chatty segments sell themselves as knowing censorship (Deadpool is one of only a few characters in the Marvel universe that’s aware of the ‘fourth wall’ (link) and knows he’s a comic book character) that enables viewing by a younger audience.

This is is an odd contradiction however because these new sequences simultaneously appear to be written for an audience that’s already seen the film and knows what’s coming.

It’s a real shame and an odd mix – but you can kind of understand why it’s turned out the way it has.

Deadpool 2 was uber violent (in a comical rather than horrific sense) and there’s absolutely no way that they could have edited this and other segments into sequences which would have maintained a ‘family friendly’ (their words not mine) rating.

Oddly this push for a lower classification is yet another problem (albeit more of a regional one) because in the UK the film received a ‘15‘ classification – which barely makes sense – but in the US it’s migrated from an ‘R‘ rating to a ‘PG-13‘.

I agree with a lot of the reviews (which I only read this morning because I never look at them in advance) that this version of the movie only serves to justify the need for Deadpool to retain its usual adult rating in future releases (link).

If you’re going to see it then know in advance that big chunks are missing – and if you can make sure that you watch the original instead.

Either way I can’t fault the showcase’s ‘cinema de lux’ seating or the quality of the picture and sound.

It was a really nice experience overall and to be able to recline so far back and just chill out was awesome!

If you’re a tall person then this is a really good choice of venue.

(Thanks to my mate!)

In other news I have decided (after having a quiet word with myself the other day) that a rather militaristic approach to swimming that I’ve been developing over the last month is not the way forward.

I tend to notice quite quickly when I’m bleeding the enjoyment out of an activity because it quickly becomes all about an absurd competition with myself.

It descends into Davey vs Davey – which rarely results a winner.

I always want to see continual improvement that I can demonstrate to myself with stats – and when I am a little bit slower one day or feel like I have no energy I needlessly beat myself up.

The groups at Slimming World aren’t present when I’m walking or swimming and sometimes that’s a real shame.

I’ve long maintained that the power of the group is that you treat one another as friends and give support accordingly.

Gatherings of like minded people propel each other along with positivity.

We tend to succeed more often in groups (in my view) precisely because of that.

There are times that we all need an advocate to highlight the positive aspects of everything we’ve achieved rather than being left with what can often be our own internal monologue.

The flip side of being determined and driven (which is a good thing) is that it can often result in being very self critical (clearly a bad thing).

The truth of it is that I think I’ve reached my own little (at least for the time being) plateau with swimming – because I’ve found that grinding out ever increasing distance at continually higher speed is having some negative side effects.

  • My appetite has at times been stimulated way in excess of what I’ve actually burned off – leading me to overeat and occasionally undo the good work I’ve done in the pool.
  • I’ve become annoyed with myself because of a perceived ‘lack of progress’ – when in reality I’ve made huge strides mentally and physically to be swimming in the first place.

So I’ve decided to make a mental pivot.

My emphasis will now shift from speed and distance to instead maintaining a constant speed and swimming for 45-60 minutes at a pace that feels comfortable.

The objective here is NOT to become an athlete – and I’ve never felt I needed to be an iron man slogging through mud with a log strapped to my back.

All I’ve ever wanted is to have a life that’s naturally filled with activities and my approach to losing weight and being fit for life so far has enabled that.

Whilst I’m still a bit anal about my walking it’s now become such a massive part of my life that I get genuinely annoyed when I have to use my car.

In short I can’t imagine my life without it – and that’s just the way I like it.

I’m far more likely to be this way forever if I can build a range of such structures into every single day.

The other great thing about having several enjoyable exercise activities is that I’m always covered in case of injury.

If I can’t walk then I can swim, and if I can’t swim then I can use my exercise bike.

I want swimming to be another string to my bow and constant in my world. As long as I keep it at a sensible level I’m hopeful that it will remain this way.

So this is the (current) plan.

I think that around 50 25m lengths 4-5 times a week is the way forwards, because mentally it seems to me like this is not only easily achievable – but it’s enjoyable, takes less than an hour, doesn’t leave me too hangry afterwards, keeps a good cardio rate up and also burns a really great amount of calories.

December is still shaping up to be a great month for activity either way – and I’m determined to keep the average up.

I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I’m still very keen to keep an eye on my stats!

Anyway – I must get on internet. I have a whole bunch of things to accomplish today and sitting here nattering to you guys isn’t getting any of it done!!!

Davey

Too many chequers

I’m in a stupidly good mood this evening.

It’s been a really nice past couple of days, and as with most frames of mind like this I can usually trace the roots of it back to the people in my life – all of whom appear to be supremely capable of providing me with stimulating and engaging conversation.

Pleasingly some of these are in many ways quite new to my life – and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting to know them much better – even finally meeting one of them in the flesh for the very first time.

In this person’s case we’ve been following each other’s blogs since January 2017 and since then an online acquaintance has gradually moved from being polite chat to a blossoming friendship. Gradually we’ve started to avidly follow eachother’s significant life events – and tried whenever possible to be both supportive and helpful.

When we initially agreed to meet over a month ago it seemed like something that should have happened a LONG time ago – and we drew up plans to meet at a nice pub half way between us both.

This should have been easy.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing though. Initially our plans were derailed (as was pretty much everything else in my life) by the sudden and unexpected onset of Vertigo after the Slimming World Ball (link).

Once that was sorted out (and a short trip that she was on had finished) we re-arranged to meet yesterday. On paper this seemed quite easy – but it turns out that Oxfordshire (and admittedly my lack of due care and attention) had been plotting my downfall well in advance of my arrival.

Clearly unimpressed with the idea of using other board games for the naming of Public Houses in Oxfordshire it seems that local publicans instead prefer to call the vast majority of their drinking establishments ‘The Chequers‘.

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Personally it strikes me as a missed opportunity.

If I owned a pub I’d have used Chess as my theme (a much better use of the board) and you’d all be welcome to enjoy a non-alcoholic drink and Slimming World friendly meal at Davey’s Bashed Bishop.

But I digress.

This may seem like a mild inconvenience (or even an amusing quirk of the region) to many  – but if like me you incorrectly assume that Apple Maps understands what you mean when you type ‘The Chequers Oxfordshire’ and then just expect it to take you to the right place you’d be sorely mistaken.

I hate being late – so I tried to make sure I wasn’t tardy.

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I arrived ten minutes early, pulled up on the forecourt and whipped out my phone to let my friend know I was there.

It’s always a good idea to let someone know when you’ve arrived.

uh-oh

She and her apparently parking car were no-where to be seen. The car park looked suspiciously empty

My heart immediately sank and I quickly scrolled back couple of weeks in our chat history to find the original link she’d sent me.

Nutsacks!

I was twenty flipping miles away in Chipping Norton at the wrong flipping pub!!!

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I made my apologies over the phone, assured her i’d be there ASAP and put the Batmobile into pursuit mode.

I actually made it to the right pub in thirty minutes so you can draw your own conclusions about how faithfully I stuck to the speed limit on the way there.

I made my way in, spotted her, had a welcome hug, apologised profusely, quickly ordered another coffee and sat down to have a chat.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The Chequers at Weston on the Green (link) appeared to be looking after her admirably. When I arrived she (already secreted into a cosy corner) had a nice hot coffee to start the day. Furthermore it soon transpired that she’d arrived just in time to book the last table for us to have a bite to eat.

Perfect!

For those keeping a tally of instances when my blogging activity has resulted in a new friendship or a meeting with a like minded soul you’re probably doing better than me because I’ve totally lost count.

It has so far proved to be the Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper of positive human interaction. I seem to endlessly ‘bump into’ people like myself who both value and then reflect back the honestly that I try to pour into my posts.

Initially the plan was to have a coffee and go for a walk (since many regular readers will know that both of these activities are the way to Davey’s heart) but as time rolled on and we’d barely taken a breath to have a pause in conversation it seemed like a walk just wasn’t going to happen.

Honestly, I didn’t mind.

I’d already pre-loaded with a good swim first thing in the morning, so my exercise and ring filling OCD was held at bay.

 

After eating (a rather non SW dinner) we instead decided to have another drink and continue nattering.

There was just too much to catch up with (we’ve been reading about each other’s lives for way too long it seems) and it was becoming abundantly clear that one meeting alone would not suffice.

By the time we parted company the conversation had remained unbroken for the best part of three and a half hours – and when we separated and hugged again it was a genuine and reciprocated connection.

I drove home with a big smile on my face, and thanks to other people that I’ve walked, talked and texted with that smile has remained right up until this moment.

Not so long ago I was writing about a book I was reading called ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’. It was essentially about the value of human company and how it enriches and completes our lives.

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I’m reminded as I sit here that rarely has something hit the nail so squarely on the head.

Not only did the post I wrote about the thoughts it provoked have some very positive repercussions – but it’s cemented in my mind that my blog remains integral to my life and continued happiness.

Since I started sharing my life it’s done nothing but enrich every aspect of it, and I can’t imagine not being able to write about my day and through my thoughts interact with the world on such a personal level.

As another blogger I follow recently noted, when they write things seem to work – when they don’t… well things just don’t.

So internet – here’s to being honest and open with everyone.

Here’s to trusting that if you decide to send positive truths out into the world then their fruits will always come back to you when you least expect but are most in need of them.

Davey

Lontong Sayur

There’s something about the tastes and sounds of a place (which you call home when you’re away from it) that can immediately pull you right back and remind you of all the things you’ve missed from there or that have come to form a part of who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my history and wondering how best to explain ‘who is Dave’ to anyone that doesn’t yet know me.

Most of me is in the pages of this blog – but suggesting someone read it for this purpose (particularly when there’s nearly 700 posts of ‘me’ contained within this site) is not the same as personally leading someone through the highlights of events and decisions that led you to where you are now.

When you have a lot of well established friends who know you really well it can often have the unexpected side effect of making you feel rather lacking when it comes to explaining why you are who you are and where you come from.

Existing mates already know but explaining it all to someone new is complex – and it’s an entirely new skill to perfect.

In many ways this comes naturally. I am after all something of a chatterbox – but in other ways I find this quite hard to do – because there’s a lot about the new me that still doesn’t fully make sense or hasn’t ‘settled’.

In many ways I’m still discovering a new ‘self’ – although I’ve come to the conclusion recently that I’m not unique or special in this respect.

Everyone else is constantly learning who they are too. Just when we think we have a handle on who we are, life has a way of rocking your particular boat and making you rethink how you stay afloat.

So far I’ve found that explaining myself is actually (at least to begin with) a fairly generic box ticking exercise. For me at least it seems to keep returning to stringing songs or films together and then talking about the sense of place and memories that they bring back.

What was your favourite album – and where or who does it remind you of?

What movies do you love and where did you see them? Who were you with?

How did all this make you feel?

It seems that I’m more musical than I previously thought – or maybe I’ve just leaned into it as an interest to allow me to give things a sense of time or place. It’s amazing how these little tunes or iconic moments of celluloid become part of us and shape the story of ‘who we are’.

With them we write a conveniently packaged narrative of someone that’s ‘into electronic music’ or ‘a geeky sci-fi nerd’ (guilty on both charges) and our early choices in these areas form the basis of how we typically explain who we are to others.

Hopefully if we sling these classifications and likes out towards other people in the guise of interests they will resonate with them and we’ll uncover common ground. If they do relate to us then hopefully we will find a bond of shared experiences and eventually belonging to accompany it.

Sometimes though it’s not about getting to know someone new and connecting.

Sometimes sharing a memory is about reconnecting.

For my sister in law part of the story that explains her is Lontong Sayur.

I’d never heard of this before – but this warming Indonesian breakfast dish is apparently a big thing where she was born – and since it takes a long while to prepare it’s a food that tends to only get eaten on special occasions.

For one day only only a small artisan Indonesian coffee shop in the centre of Birmingham was serving it, and the number of available portions would be limited to thirty or so.

I’d been invited along by my brother to have a bite to eat and also indulge in the speciality coffee that they proudly roast themselves in the shop.

However – we’d need to get there early.

I didn’t mind. I’m usually up at the crack of dawn anyway.

I was on the way to the train station shortly after 8am, and before long at 9.30am I was standing outside of my destination – which was called Ngopi (link). This can be found half way down Dale End just opposite the NCP car park by Ikea in Birmingham city centre.

I used to spend a lot of time nearby in my youth.

The cafe is practically next door to a doorway that takes me back to a time and a place where I felt a part of my personality was formed. It’s definitely a little jigsaw piece of what made me… me.

Although it’s currently vacant it used to be a nightclub called ‘The Hummingbird‘ (link)

Here young Davey destroyed many many brain cells and also danced an awful lot whilst in the pursuit of both oblivion and the opposite sex.

I’m happy to say that I managed to successfully accomplish both objectives in that building and whilst many of the memories of my time there are unsurprisingly vague they are all universally cheerful ones.

Yesterday though I was just there for the coffee – and although it was rather tiny my Americano was undeniably lovely.

Unfortunately despite the early start – and being literally the first people through the door at opening time – we soon realised that the main attraction was still being prepared.

Lontong Sayur takes well over two hours to cook – and despite it usually being a breakfast treat we were informed by the lady on the till that it would not be served until midday.

So, since it would be rude to just sit doing nothing for two and a half hours we decided to have a light bite and come back a bit later for the main attraction.

On my brother’s advice (I have practically no experience of Indonesian food) I ordered Bakwan Bakst Malang as it seemed the most SW friendly item on the menu.

My sister in law chose the same, whilst my brother ordered the Chicken and Prawn Siomay Dimsum.

As a platter to share he suggested we also get a plate of Martabak (which came helpfully cut into little squares) and once it all arrived we began to tuck in.

I have to be honest – clear broth has always turned me off trying food like this – and on reflection I think I’ve been really missing out.

The beef in my dish was cooked to perfection and the flavours were delightfully delicate too! What’s more the Martabak we shared was flipping delicious and I think it was easily my favourite one of the three dishes.

Once we’d finished it was nearly 11am. The next course would be ready for another hour, so we decided to mooch.

Birmingham has a really nice Chinese quarter – and from an Indonesian perspective this area is basically Mana from Heaven. Every single unique item that you won’t find in a UK supermarket (vacuum packed chicken feet anyone?) can be found here, along with a selection of drinks that you don’t see anywhere else.

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I was very tempted by a cider flavoured Picachu – but eventually decided against it because the vast majority of this can’s contents appeared to be corn syrup and sugar. I’m particularly wary of the former (the latter is no good either) and anyone that suffers from or has previously had diabetes should be too. It’s really not good for you (link).

(example extract from this article – ‘…countries where large amounts of HFCS are used have diabetes rates that are “20 per cent higher” than countries where HFCS is less common…’)

I put the pretty little Chinese can of evil gently back on the shelf, briefly examined a bag of chicken feet and then we headed back to Ngopi.

We were bang on time – and once she had her bowl of Lontong Sayur in front of her the broad smile on my sister in law’s face said it all. She had what she’d come for.

A taste of home.

A taste of her life as a child.

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(from Wikipedia – link) In Indonesia, especially among Betawi people, lontong usually served as lontong sayur, pieces of lontong served in coconut milk soup with shredded chayote, tempeh, tofu, hard-boiled egg, sambal and kerupuk.[4] Lontong sayur is related and quite similar to Ketupat sayur and is a favourite breakfast menu next to bubur ayam and nasi uduk.

She wasn’t the only one smiling. The small coffee shop was filled with local Indonesians (many of whom looked like students) and for a brief moment we were surrounded by the sounds and people of her home.

The music playing, the cheerful people, the children running around, and the food (which every single one of them was eating) gave a sense of place. The dish united all of the cultures in the room and brought everyone together with a sense of belonging.

Food is a fantastic way to bring others in to your world  – and as we sat around the table she explained the dish whilst inviting us to taste the constituent parts – which were really really nice!

She looked happy and It was clear that the journey had been worth it.

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As we left (thanking the staff for their cooking) each of us seemed toasty both inside and out. The food had been lovely – but the sense of belonging had warmed parts in a way that nothing else could.

As we parted company and they headed back to the train station I headed off on my own further into the city centre to explore, whist thinking about my own past.

Dale End (as rough as it’s become lately) had brought back a lot of memories – and the rest of Birmingham was doing the same.

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After walking through the heaving German markets (which are less markets and more stand after stand encouraging people to buy huge amounts of alcohol in litre sized glasses followed by tons of fattening food) I found myself in another old haunt.

Nostalgia and Comics.

In here I am Batman and I used to be him every weekend without fail.

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As much as some things change others (like my geekiness) remain just the same.

As I walked upstairs to look at the dusty back issues from yesteryear and see if there were any bargains I turned to look behind me.

Even though the downstairs area is far cleaner and more sanitised than I remember it (it’s all bobblehead figures and rack after rack of really expensive graphic novels now) the same movie posters that I’d seen when I first walked in are still on the back wall.

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On the plus side there are way more women in the shop these days – and significantly less body odour – so there are at least two areas where definite progress has been made.

As I left (empty handed) and continued to wander through the city centre I soon found myself passing under a rather sad looking bridge.

I’m not sure why I stopped to look at this, but I did.

I was transfixed by its rusty rivets, peeling paintwork or its vaulted iron and brickwork ceilings – and for a moment I felt like I was just where I needed to be.

It’s not concrete. It’s not prefabricated. It was created with love, care and attention to detail, in an era where utilitarian things didn’t have to look bland or ugly.

They spoke to a sense that we can express ourselves even in the mundane, and in doing so this bridge still evokes a sense of place and history for me that a rebar infused flyover simply does not.

To me, at that moment in time, this tiny piece of urban decay felt like home.

It spoke to me of a youth that may have been wayward and lost in many respects – but in others it was creative, unfettered and hopeful.

This place is part of the story of me.

It’s my Lontong Sayur.

Davey

Working really hard

I’ve been in an inexplicably good mood today.

On paper there’s no particular reason why I should be. It’s cold, windy, rainy, there are no leaves on the trees any more and frankly my butt strain is still hurting – but honestly I don’t care.

I feel like the world has a slightly more golden hue to it at the moment and I’d be the first to say that it’s a perception filter that I’ve applied solely because I wanted to.

The sunrise looked rather excellent this morning though even without rose tinted spectacles – and even though it was soon hidden by somewhat grimmer skies maybe it set the tone for my mood.

I was (as had been the case for most days over the last few weeks) on my way to the leisure centre for a swim and was dosed up once more with ibuprofen and paracetamol. Once I get some pills in me and start moving my ass complains less and less.

For the first mile or two of each day currently my right glute is particularly vocal when it’s heading downhill. Since I actually live on a hill this is annoying, but manageable if you put on some cheerful tunes and just get on with things.

This morning I’m listening to Pogo – one of my favourite YouTube artists – and someone that I keep coming back to. He samples the oddest things and turns them into really catchy tunes that I can’t stop playing over and over again.

https://youtu.be/bl5TUw7sUBs

I know of at least one person that I’ve spoken to recently that (from the perspective of being a fellow nerd) may also rather like this particular track – but I’ll concede it’s a bit niche. Personally though I think it’s a real grower and it definitely helped me to forget the aches and pains of the day’s first mile as I walked toward the waiting pool.

Friends who I’ve walked with recently have reminded me that taking things easy is the sensible thing to do – and (against my usual impulses) I have actually tried to take their advice.

On Tuesday I barely moved – hoping that this would present tangible benefits – but the absolute opposite appeared to happen because on Wednesday morning (when I practically crawled out of bed) my rear felt like I’d been attacked by a particularly horny bull.

I was really struggling to hobble about.

Lesson learned. 

This particular injury shouldn’t be allowed to seize up.

There was a time not so long ago when I’d have been happy to do absolutely nothing though – and would never seen the difference between movements being made vs me doing nothing at all.

Back then when a pain came there was only one approach.

Total stillness.

Mind you this was my preferred remedy for everything. Old Davey with any kind of strain would have usually been found attempting to prove that man and armchair could eventually become one, given enough time to get to know one another.

(I still wonder whether I’d have been able to prove that….)

My approach to life now reminds me of a really great friend that (as long as I’ve known her – which is a LONG time) has been insanely into fitness.

It often mystified me how we could be so unalike in this respect and still be friends, but we were. I also wondered what it was about her psychological makeup that made her so ridiculously pre-disposed to exercise when I was so against it.

I still don’t know exactly why we had this key difference.

We did grow up with totally divergent parental approaches to activity – but regardless of this I still told myself for many years that she did more because she was naturally physically predisposed to sports.

She has the type of build that you would typically associate with an all round athlete and I (wrongly) assumed back then that she had just fared better in life’s genetic lottery than I had.

It’s amazing how time reshapes perceptions though – because I realise now that not only did she work at what she had, but that I too was a winner in this area.

I’m not entirely sure how my body endured over 40 years of the self abuse I put it through and still somehow emerged the other side in the shape it’s currently in – but I do know that whilst part of the outcome is probably related to solid genes – the rest is simply getting stuck in.

I didn’t really see it back then, but my friend simply worked really hard.

When she was a competition swimmer she trained so much that she consumed around 6000kcal a day and had an amazing physical strength even when I first met her.

As time went on she ran, swam, played rugby at international level, skied, snowboarded, joined various volleyball teams, got really good at cross fit, and even became good at tennis too.

Honestly it used to wear me out just watching her – because it wasn’t like after she’d completed these activities she was dead to the world.

It was quite the opposite in fact. She’d enthusiastically get involved in many other hobbies (like making stained glass windows for heavens sake) and was a nutcase when it came to DIY.

She re-wired a whole house on her own.

Almost none of it was genetic.

Almost all of it was determined hard work.

She had learned way before I did that if you give something your all, then if you’re lucky you eventually cross a boundary between an activity being a chore and it being both pleasurable and (occasionally) addictive.

I think I’ve made an unexpected pivot recently – where my obsession with walking has been (at least for the time being) rivalled by my sudden enjoyment of swimming.

I have to be careful though because I don’t want to ruin or jinx it.

It’s early days for my new favourite thing and I’s relationship.

I’m already aware that I’ve started to compete with myself on split times and that I’m regularly chewing over the stats associated with my progress in my mind.

The speed gains are diminishing rapidly now though. I seem to have temporarily settled into what appears to be ‘my speed’ – which is 20 lengths in around 18 minutes. I can keep this pace up continually now for an hour or so – by which time I’ve swum a kilometre and a half.

While I’m doing this my heart rate is around 120bpm and I burn around 1200 active calories.

Whilst I’m still walking – I’m not walking quite as much as I was – because on a time vs energy and fitness expended transaction swimming is allowing me to absolutely smash my usual daily fitness goals.

Since I started swimming and walking (apart from the two days that I’ve rested) according to Apple Watch I’ve burned between 4200 – 5500 kcal (total) per day.

That’s just nuts. On average it’s around 800 to 600 per day more than I was expending with walking alone.

It’s not all bout energy burn though – because thats not why I’m so taken by this.

Although I already feel fitter (and this has really surprised me because I felt great beforehand) the big boost comes from the sudden normality of it all.

Now wearing a swimming costume in public seems perfectly natural to me.

I’ve gone from someone terrified of this to fully embracing it – and this is one of the more significant non-scale victories I’ve had for a some time.

It’s not the only one though. Things are currently looking up – and next week I have a lot of plans and lots of activities to do with lots of people.

Sadly something has to yield though and all of this means that the next two weeks will be without a visit to Slimming World – but you can rest assured that I’m focused and on the case.

As well as being still within my target range I’m a salad eating machine at the moment an as driven as ever – because I mean to not only be still in target for Christmas – but also when February rolls around. When that does (if all goes to plan) I am hopefully going to get my diamond target member badge!!!

So that’s me. Walking, swimming, reading and doing my laundry(ing) through the end of a rather grey and dull week of miserable weather.

As a wise person once said though internet – there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes (and maybe also bad moods).

Davey

Swimming update

So – yesterday’s post was pretty downbeat, and I’d be lying if I said that this morning I bounced out of bed like a happy puppy wagging my tail.

Sitting in bed feeling sorry for oneself did no-one any good in the history of ever mind you – and it will probably come as little surprise to anyone reading that I find it pretty difficult to do this at the best of times.

I’ve been hitting the swimming pool pretty regularly in the mornings, despite my butt strain (it’s still a thing annoyingly) and I’m slowly improving my fitness and stamina.

For those who didn’t see my original post when I first plucked up the courage to go swimming (link) I wasn’t that quick to begin with.

Although I didn’t feel I had a problem with general stamina at the time, I simply didn’t trust my arms to get me from one end of the pool to the other without failing half way.

I needed to pause between lengths for them to recover and at the time they really needed it.

I’m pretty a pretty determined guy at times though – and two factors (in this case) motivated me to stick at it.

Firstly – getting my money’s worth.

I’ve so far used my ‘pay up front’ subscription on 12 out of the available 14 days that I could have in November.

This means (bearing in mind it normally costs £4.70 per swim) that my new favourite activity has been coming in at a frugal 83p a day!

Consequently I not only feel like I’m getting my money’s worth but I now also have renewed confidence that my sphincter is unlikely to allow liquid ingress whilst it’s submerged.

Secondly – I need to demonstrate to myself that I’m continually improving with my stats.

Apple Watch is a powerful motivator – and I’m so glad that recently I replaced my original model with one that’s capable of tracking swimming workouts.

It was the added motivation to justify the cost of this (which I really struggled to do at the time) that eventually helped to wedge me into a pair of speedos.

Today this wonderfully pushy little companion tells me that I almost cracked the 18 minute barrier for 20 lengths.

I can now continuously swim a kilometre and a half without stopping.

This means that I am now capable of swimming almost THREE TIMES THE DISTANCE that I could originally do in almost the same time frame.

Whereas 500m could be completed in 51.06 two and a half weeks ago, 1500m is now do-able in 54.37.

To see this kind of tangible progress is really positive – and I couldn’t be happier with how things are progressing.

It’s not just numbers either.

Even though I started swimming half way through November it’s had a noticeable impact on my monthly active calorie burn.

(This is the figure that I burn through exercise over and above the normal 2500 kcal a man theoretically expends during a day)

Never in my life have I ever been able to swim this far or for so long.

Honestly I could have carried on – but by this time the pool had started to fill up with children and slow movers.

Instead I decided to float in the corner for a while and contemplate what to do with the rest of the day.

The weather is overcast and glum but I’m of the opinion that I need to consciously do something to lift my spirits.

I’m not really sure what that is yet…

We shall see internet!

Davey

Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

It looks all sparkly and bright – and when there are no other lights in my living room my tree adds a pleasing seasonal glow between my TV and book case that wasn’t there before.

It took me about an hour of casually attaching baubles and tinsel last night to get it to the point where it looked ‘balanced’ as opposed to ‘busy’.

I kept standing back and looking at it from different angles to try and gauge whether or not it looked ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ until I finally decided that it was a pointless exercise.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (in this case me) and I came to the conclusion that my tree looked nice.

After all – nobody but me will be looking at it for the next month so the only opinion that mattered was my own.

Liberated from deliberation I sat down in my armchair to enjoy the satisfaction of a room lit only by Christmas lights and quietly sipped my coffee.

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

A dark cloud was suddenly hanging above my armchair – and in its long shadow sat myself and my Christmas tree.

I’ve had my head buried in books all week – and rather than outputting to my blog I’ve been focusing on inputting to my brain.

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

When I withdraw and do this kind of thing I realise (mostly after the fact) that it’s generally because something seems to be ‘missing’ or ‘off’ in my life.

I’ve been really rather enjoying ‘The pursuit of Happiness’ by Ruth Whippman – which is written in a humorous and engaging style that has really sucked me in.

Sadness was far from my mind when I started reading this current tome (despite its title) because I wasn’t really expecting to be confronted with the answer that it professed to have.

The book rather bravely gave away its conclusion quite early in the first chapter – with the author deciding instead to spend the remainder of her book supporting her initial hypothesis.

Her argument is that whoever studies suggest are the happiest individuals (be they in cultural groups, religions, family units or even cults) all happen to have one thing in common.

Fundamentally they provide happiness because they all have human relationships at their core.

Families often persist through the worst abuses and difficulties and members will forgive many transgressions, forgo short term freedoms and sacrifice personal happiness for one another in the hope that life will ultimately be better for their sacrifice.

Whilst situations like this may cause stress there’s an implied payday waiting at the end of it all.

Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles will have an enduring family, companionship and love.

No matter how restrictive your religion is, however difficult you find parenthood, whether your philosophical clique requires you to work for free or give up your wealth in its service they all provide happiness because of the sense of community and belonging that they offer.

Some become oddly abusive relationships – such as homosexuals continually trying to exist in restrictive Mormon churches that consider them aberrations.

Even in these extreme situations – (despite a tradeoffs where they are required to make immense personal sacrifices) they can still come to believe that the pain is worth it.

Ruth Whippman argues that if we can bear to give up certain freedoms to remain part of a tribe – we can still legitimately and truthfully profess to be happy because the sense of belonging and support that other aspects of it give us still outweighs the ‘bad’ aspects of membership.

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

The pursuit of happiness makes some interesting and thought provoking arguments – and therein lay the origin of my Christmas tree related feelings.

I looked up from it’s pages in the warm and chatty coffee shop that I was sitting in.

My legs were crossed and my booted feet were resting on a low radiator which ran along the length of a large window looking out onto a street below.

Outside the sun had broken through the clouds of the early morning and it was shining.

My coffee tasted wonderful, my feet were warm, my clothes loose and comfortable and my surroundings were pleasing.

Like most things in my life though I was suddenly aware that all of these things were being experienced alone.

It all began to hit me there.

I was reading a book that was convincingly explaining why a huge chunk of the western world is fundamentally unhappy and it was describing me.

All of the people it described that were isolating themselves in mindfulness, yoga or spiritual retreats to find happiness were me.

Frustrated by other parts of my life that didn’t seem to be ‘working’ I was looking inward, trying to understand myself and gain insight into what would make me a more contented and loveable person, when in fact just being with other people made me feel and come across that way.

For many years I’ve actually been very comfortable with my situation.

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

What I really mean is that I’ve learned to just exist on my own.

This isn’t because I dislike the company of others.

It’s quite the contrary in fact because I revel in it – but several (mostly self inflicted) factors led to me feel like it was ‘normal’ to live the way I do.

For the longest time I never really felt that there was an option to be otherwise.

My weight and health provided an excellent excuse for my lack of impetus to address this part of my life and was a really convenient cover.

After all – who would want a man that was so physically colossal and such a huge failure in life?

Compounding this internal thought process was part of the reason things had gone so wrong with my life in the last two decades in the first place. My last relationship (which ideally I wanted to continue forever) ended rather abruptly, and frankly when it did I felt cheated out of happiness.

I was angry and in pain – and I smoked, ate and drank to avoid dealing with it.

For many many years I treated this point in time the same way that others treat a bereavement. I felt like the part of me that could love and trust a partner ‘died’ the day that she left my life.

If I’d have been Queen Victoria this would have been the beginning of my humourless and stoic ‘black period’.

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

I’d had a largely solitary childhood with a mother who was abusive and a father that was distant.

My nearest sibling was over a decade younger than me and school represented nothing more than a war of attrition. Looking back it feels like I only ever seemed to learn how to not show fear, pain or loneliness during the relentless bullying I suffered on an almost daily basis.

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that things started to change – and at this point I embarked upon a previously undreamt of period of popularity with friends and the opposite sex.

I remember at the time (by then having lost a lot of weight) that I was ‘fixed’.

The past was behind me and I was now free to bend the world into whatever I wanted it to be.

Furthermore I’d enjoy it in full technicolour and get as loaded as I possibly could.

Unpopular Dave became ‘party Dave’ and he did EVERYTHING to excess.

Ultimately though we all realise the folly of our personal delusions – and I now know that I smoked, drank and did many other mind altering things to paper over painful personality cracks.

I never once tried to repair one of them – mostly because I lacked the self awareness to see them for what they were in the first place.

I couldn’t see that every action was the result of childhood damage and the vast majority were either physically or emotionally self destructive.

Relationships were an extension of this – and were all designed to prove to the world that I was ‘normal’ and ‘deserving of love’ when deep down I felt I was neither.

If I’m truthful I didn’t love the majority of my partners.

I liked them a lot – but back then I was far more concerned with whether or not they loved me. If they did then they functioned as outward proof to the world that I wasn’t wicked or evil (my mom’s preferred way of describing me) or the odd little fat kid alone in the playground.

When the poor lifestyle choices related to the weight of my emotional burdens eventually translated into physical bulk it actually made things easier.

Now I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

No one expected me to have a relationship – and instead all I had to do was learn to manage my time and construct a framework to my life that would make loneliness instead appear to be ‘freedom’.

Now though things are different and physically I have a new lease of life.

I possess freedoms that I’ve fought hard to regain. It’s real rather than imagined – but all of a sudden I feel desperately alone in it.

Over the last couple of months I’ve quietly tried to fill it with personal entreaties and dating sites – but so far I’m not making much headway.

Up to this point I’ve just made choices that ultimately served to exacerbate my feelings of isolation and instead of feeling closer to anyone or anything have been left feeling generally alone and more disconnected.

I’m not really into writing ‘poor me’ blog posts – but I can’t deny that currently this is pretty much how I feel.

The Christmas tree with it’s glittering tinsel and baubles in front of me is a reminder of my problem – not the cause.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

In some ways making ‘steps forward’ and trying to fix this has made the problem even more acute than it was before.

Whereas previously I felt like there was a gap that I probably needed to fill at some vague point in the future – now I’m just beginning to feel rejected and needy.

Every chat that I have on dating apps seems to put me in contact with people that are either not interested in me or that have omitted huge things from their profiles.

This is presumably in the hope that somehow people will never ask whether they’re actually divorced, if they have loads of children or a job that means they have around 1 hour a week spare if they’re lucky.

So far I’m at a loss.

I have also become painfully aware that whilst I’ve succeeded in transforming myself into a ‘normal’ man I still feel that underneath all my success lies an uncomfortable truth that even if I find someone I like that I’m never going to be accepted for who I am.

In the dark of my living room, in the half light of my tree I feel lost.

On the plus side though internet my Christmas tree looks nice, so that’s something at least.

Davey