Everything led to this

I started writing this post a week ago and then left it alone to simmer for a while.

My apologies.

Some blogs begin to touch painful nerves and occasionally I decide to pull back from where they appear to be leading me. Although I might start writing them in a happy place, I realise occasionally that my train of thought is leading me elsewhere.

There are some things that quickly remind me of the past – and when I began clearing items from my home recently I was reminded of the catharsis that came with shedding baggage and it’s history when my mother died.

For quite a while I felt that I was very similar to her because years passed when items and possessions in my life seemed to only flow in one direction.

Into my house.

Rarely did they leave again.

I purchased and accumulated many things – but I almost never let go of them.

This was partly because I had been conditioned early on in life to never throw items away that may one day have a use.

Gradually this attitude shifted – and after a while I was able to see that if something hadn’t been used (or read) for years then it was irrelevant to my life.

Occasionally I began to place things in this category on eBay, took them to the recycling centre or (later on) donated them to charity.

It wasn’t until I returned to my mother’s orbit (after many years estranged from her and barely a year before she passed away) that I saw where things could have gone.

She had continued to live in the three bedroomed house of my childhood until ill health and long term hoarding (making carer support and repairs impossible) had led the council to push her out of it and into a bungalow.

This had been inevitable for a long time.

Her three bedroomed semi-detached house had been crammed for decades with masses items that were now faded, rotten, saturated with decades of tobacco smoke or that had become simply too old to be of any use at all.

Much of it just fell apart when you touched it.

Nevertheless my brother, his wife and my father tried to help make sense of it when she needed to move by putting as much of her items as they could into boxes and onto a van.

There were simply too many things though.

Much of her hoard was ‘saved’ but the rest had to be left where it was.

Ultimately the council authorities turned up with a skip and emptied over half of her material possessions into it without a second thought.

A lot of things that she could never let go of were just taken from her against her will through simple necessity.

Despite her protests there was nothing she could do and no amount of ranting, bargaining or arguing saved any of it.

Here was a stark life lesson – because eventually everything is impermanent. Ownership of property or possessions is a nothing more than a temporary illusion.

At her new bungalow my (now desperately ill) mother found herself surrounded by mountains of anonymous boxes that she was far too unwell to unpack.

She also hadn’t been capable of filling them herself and therefore had no idea what they contained.

Swinging regularly between accusations of theft or other fantasies she accused everyone of stealing or moving her things whenever the opportunity arose.

She couldn’t let go of her stuff even when most of it was already gone – and ironically appeared to me more trapped than ever by the reduced amount left behind.

Although her possessions were greatly diminished by then there were still more than enough of them packed and stacked to form imposing cardboard walls throughout her one bedroomed bungalow that restricted her ability to move as well as blocking out natural light.

Even if she had managed to open them and sort through the contents there was nowhere to put the items they contained, so until she died (always tantalisingly near to all of her things) she was completely unable to use or see any of it.

Then one day she left the house in an ambulance for the final time, and a few days later the weight of her hoarding passed to mine and my brother’s shoulders.

We had no compelling reasons to keep any of it.

In fact the exact opposite was true.

What it represented to both of us was a woman that had abused us both for many years.

We resented every last item and ended up throwing almost all of it into bin liners and then into an anonymous landfill.

When we did I felt a massive weight lifting that felt like it had been upon my shoulders for my entire life.

The mountains of nothing were finally gone and I vowed that they would never ever return.

Although I am still by no means a Zen living kind of guy (I still have stuff) I no longer live with clutter – and lately I’ve been trying to get rid of yet more of it.

It’s no bad thing though because I’m not the only one doing it and there’s a good reason.

Now my house is becoming a home.

After many years when I thought I would die within its walls – alone, huge and unable to cope with life now it’s going to be filled with happiness.

Soon I’m going to be living with my partner.

She has secured a new job locally, has agreed to move in with me – and we’ve already begun the gradual progress of shedding our duplicate or useless items.

It’s a wonderful time of my life.

In a couple of months when we finally combine our living spaces we will move forward with only the best of our previous lives in tow.

By then it will be almost exactly a year to the day since we first met – which is amazing because I already can’t imagine how it’s possible to be happy and content without her being near me.

Therefore shedding items and throwing things away or recycling them has taken on a new meaning.

This activity is no longer exclusively associated with the pain of my childhood or the death of my mother – but instead is now intertwined with thoughts of my partner’s smiles and the laughter we’ve already shared within the walls of my home.

Bit by bit bad memories are being replaced with good ones and I feel that baggage (both literal and metaphorical) is being shed.

She makes me laugh, smile, feel warm inside and I know that the feelings I have are reciprocated.

There’s not a single thing I own that I wouldn’t throw away tomorrow to make space for her in my life.

And there it is.

Human beings don’t need things.

None of it is ultimately worth anything without people, friendship and love.

Even if you don’t have a partner you’re rich if you’re surrounded by good people – and in this respect I count myself amongst some of the wealthiest people on the planet.

Somehow – against all odds – I chose not to slide into oblivion in January 2016 and instead to change my life for the better.

Now it’s wonderful.

I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible – but one part in particular is soon drawing to a close.

In early July I hand over my man of the year title to the next worthy recipient for 2019 – and I’m actually looking forward to it.

I was immensely proud to accept the accolade when it was offered and it will always be a defining moment in my life.

Now however it’s time to move on because my life needs to be about far more than how big and out of control I became.

After far far too long I’m truly living my life the way I always should have.

I want the rest of it to be a new adventure that’s defined not by who I was – but by who I can be.

Who knows what that man looks like or what he will accomplish?

I certainly don’t.

There are still plenty of things to fix but despite them the guy looking back at me in the mirror this morning just keeps grinning and smiling.

He has no idea what’s coming tomorrow or the day after and he doesn’t care.

He just knows that when he returns to bed and puts his head on his pillow in the early morning light of the day there will be the gentle breathing of someone else sleeping beside him.

It’s all been worth it.

All of the pain and hardship of every self inflicted or endured abuse.

It all brought me here – to a place I never expected to be.

I’m wiser, older, more confident, more capable, more contented, more understanding, more patient and more alive than I’ve ever been.

I’m truly happy.

Davey

Social media

You never know what will provoke people to get involved in a discussion when you post a blog – and I’m always intrigued when people zero in on the things that I don’t expect them to.

It’s probably because (maybe obviously or maybe not) I often construct my missives with words or phrases that are targeted to a certain individual or audience (an ‘in joke’ of sorts) and because I’m not one to discuss private conversations or I often attempt to hide a lot in plain sight.

The truth is that there’s typically more than might first meet the eye in some of my words and phrases – and many are lifted straight from conversations where only one or two people might truly understand their context.

It’s pretty cool to write something that seems innocent but that also contains significant meaning or sentiments directed at someone else and this is just one element of blogging that I’ve always enjoyed.

However this can mean that my attention is focused solely on these segments and I’ve realised that I sometimes end up becoming rather blinkered to what the end post might look like (or even appear to be overtly about) to a casual reader.

These generous souls certainly keep me on my toes with regard to their comments on WordPress, Instagram and Facebook – and quite out of the blue spirited discussions about recycling or music can mushroom into topics I hadn’t expected or considered before.

If you truly want to engage with your audience (and I always try to reply to anyone kind enough to comment) then a blog can be a genuinely life enhancing tool.

I’ve met and talked to lots of people that I otherwise wouldn’t if I didn’t share so much of my life online.

Blogs are a Willy Wonka everlasting gobstopper in this respect because they just keep giving in so many ways.

However – whilst I can liken social media to a lovely endlessly suckable sweetie it can also at times resemble a grenade rocking back and forth in front of you with the pin pulled out.

Being in ‘out there’ has at times meant that my image has been used in very unexpected ways (link).

You have to take the rough with the smooth though – and over time (it didn’t happen naturally) I’ve learned to take the good with a smile and the bad with a slightly more wry smile.

Whilst the above catfishing attempt was mildly concerning, other impromptu internet appearances involving me are quite random and amusing.

Today (totally out of the blue) I was contacted by a fellow SW’r in my group to tell me that I’m currently appearing in Romanian social media (although I realised later that I neglected to ask what was being said).

I’m not sure if Slimming World has a presence locally or whether it was a slow news day in Romania – but either way this thankfully explained the sudden influx of Facebook friend requests I’d received from the region today containing lots of grinning ladies.

Not so long ago I had a comparable influx from similarly cheerful German Frau’s after I turning up in their local media – even though the comments in that particular post didn’t seem all that complimentary (link)

It was no less odd being compared to a baby pygmy hippopotamus by Fox News in the US and getting lots of friend requests from scary looking women standing in front of flags with automatic rifles.

One of them was a high priestess (according to her self proclaimed status) and despite her religious status she looked like she had developed more than enough muscles to tear me in half and sling me most of the way across the English Channel.

The internet is chaos.

It’s the ultimate double edged sword and you can never predict what people will love or hate, or for that matter what will drive them away or keep them coming back for more.

I don’t really care though. There’s a place for everyone’s opinion (within reason – I don’t advocate hate speech) and we as a society can choose to listen or not when we disagree.

There’s no point wasting negative energy disliking someone you’ll probably never meet or losing sleep over their opinions.

I don’t really care what they get up to or whether they dislike the movies I love.

In my case I’ve always wanted nothing more than my honesty to come across in my posts and I don’t worry about how many people do or do not read them.

Even though sincerity is my sole motivation I can’t help but occasionally reflect on my WordPress stats.

I’m never less than intrigued by the fact that I almost always get way more hits on ‘anguish’ posts than I do on ‘deliriously happy’ ones.

Don’t get me wrong – blogs where I feel like I’m on top of the world may not generate quite as much online traffic – but they do result in both spirited and happy feedback.

There’s a relatively predictable outcome when I write though.

The posts where I’m not coping almost always end up with the most traffic.

Sad = lots of clicks.

Happy = lots of comments.

In the news recently was the story of a Malaysian teen in crisis who made an Instagram poll asking the world at large whether she should live or die.

Sadly the poll she created ultimately suggested to her that many more people wanted her to end her life than cared about her survival – and this appeared to be the catalyst for her suicide.

I’m not entirely sure where the responsibility lies in cases like this – and Instagram (in my view) would never have expected that the polling function they’d created would have been used in this way.

If they have the tools to stop it happening again with AI or human monitoring then of course they should do so – but I also think that (to an extent) this is a similar ideological approach to investigating the makers of ballot boxes because people that used them voted in a disagreeable way.

Ultimately we have to be responsible for how we conduct ourselves as a species – and I think our understanding of what is right and wrong online is (socially at least) in its infancy.

Governments often come from the wrong age groups or demographics to understand the true impact of social media on both the youth and politics – and there are lots of thorny issues to tackle in cyber space that we seem to barely have scratched the surface of.

The fact is that more and more we are living a life online – and the pace of our shift into a digital world isn’t keeping pace with the education of our society (and our youngsters) about how potentially tricky it can be.

I wish that the girl in Malaysia had chosen life.

Her tragedy and the devastation felt by her family is unimaginable.

However for all its capability to be used for evil I still have faith in social media and it’s ability to bring positive and life affirming experiences as well as wonderfully interesting human contact into all of our lives.

If I could only understand this new fangled Twitttering thing.

It’s just voodoo.

Davey

Armour

Where does the time go?!

It seems to be passing through my fingers like water at the moment and I have no idea how it’s flying by so quickly!

I guess it’s a consequence of being employed full time again that ‘life’ is being crammed into ever decreasing little slots peppered around evenings and weekends.

This weekend is one where I have more time than usual on my hands (not necessarily a good thing in my experience) and I have no travelling at all to do.

This is pretty useful from a shopping point of view though – because my early morning bargain hunting habits at Aldi (which have been neglected for a long time!) were at the front and centre of my mind when I woke up this morning.

It never used to be unusual for me to be patiently waiting outside at 7.55am with my trolly at the ready whilst bopping back and forth to some upbeat tunes on my AirPods.

Today because I was able to get there super early I LOADED my basket with red sticker bargains (anything with one of these beauties is HALF PRICE) and now have enough meat in my freezer to feed a small army.

I did spend a little more than I planned to though – but hey ho. It’s all relative and at least I didn’t lose the plot in Waitrose!

To underline that I was shopping at the right place an unexpected benefit jumped out at me when I found the last few of these on the shelf.

It’s probably considered sacrilege if you’re a true Nespresso addict to buy 3rd party pods – but since Aldi sell 10 for £1.69 for vs £5 for official ‘speciality’ ones (and I can’t honestly tell the difference) I really can’t recommend the more expensive alternative with a clear conscience.

The caramel ones in particular seem to be rarer than rocking horse poop and consequently I swept the lot of them into my basket as soon as I saw them on the shelf.

Even if you stick to the standard pods it’s still £2.30 dearer to buy a pack of 10 direct from Nespresso.

These are therefore a flipping bargain!!!

The only guilt I harbour about buying them is that from an ecological perspective the disposable plastic in the 3rd party pods from supermarkets are crap of the highest order.

Nespresso have the right idea about recycling the aluminium in the ones that they sell and making it (theoretically) ‘easy’ to do so.

However I placed that descriptor in inverted commas for a reason.

If like me you’ve ever tried to return the aluminium ones via the couriers that drop the Nespresso pod deliveries off you’ll realise that they first of all don’t like filling their vans with recycling and secondly the drivers look at you like you’re Jimmy Saville if you insist that they take something that they’ve already been contracted to pick up on the order form.

It’s both stressful and annoying when they refuse and the whole situation of continual doorstep conflict eventually made me move away from their ‘solution’ and never go back.

Being skint helped too.

That was admittedly the final deciding factor.

I needed a nice coffee today more than ever if I’m honest – and these definitely fitted the bill. The one in the picture represented my third shot – and after a slightly slower than normal feeling when I awoke today I finally had a nice ‘get up and go’ buzz in my head.

On most days (since my heath improved)  I have this buzz regardless of whether I have coffee or not – but the last two nights have been characterised by a distinct lack of sleep.

I’m not having nightmares – but my thoughts are definitely unsettled at the moment and I’m having a silly recurring dream about my phone breaking into loads of little bits.

It will pass though.

I know why these thoughts are present and truthfully they’re not there for a bad reason. The future has never seemed brighter and I can’t seem to get aspects of it out of my mind. I can be pretty obsessive at times and although I can put this trait to good use if I bend it to my will it also means that I often overthink both the bad and the good things in life.

There are ways of diverting my attention though – and Slimming World is one of them.

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Although I didn’t weigh in today (since I only have to do this every 8 weeks now and I have decided to not stress and pressure myself every week) it was wonderful to see everyone and hear Angie chat to the group.

Saturdays have become increasingly difficult for me and what used to be something I went to religiously is now something that’s unfortunately more and more sporadic.

Even though I’ve been going to Angie’s groups for over three years (I started in April 2016) there’s always something new to learn and I never fail to walk away feeling anything less than positive.

It’s not just her though. The group raffle was won by a lovely regular there who I always have a good chuckle with – and since she’s not a huge fan of cooking she gave her winnings to me!

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How nice was that of her?!

I plan to cook it tomorrow and post a picture on the group’s page – so let’s hope I don’t screw it up!

Shortly after the meeting I headed out for a walk with another friend and had a wander around some shops in town, where we both found a couple of little bargains.

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I couldn’t resist these cufflinks (£4!) even though at the moment I don’t have a pressing need to wear any.

They represent something far more than a shirt sleeve fastening though – and when I put them on I will have a very personal reason for wearing them.

I know that they will make me feel happy because of that and these are special occasion cufflinks – meant to be worn when I need to feel confident and as if I’m not doing something on my own.

It sounds daft but these cufflinks are going to be armour.

I need it sometimes too – because whilst I feel that things are going well (better in fact than they ever have before in my entire life) tonight I can’t help dwelling upon moments where I should have done things differently in the past.

My choices led me down so many dark paths, and I slowed my progress in life more than I should have. In many respects I can’t completely blame myself for all of the daft decisions I took – but I wish I’d woken up to the reality of what I was becoming a lot earlier.

Now when I look at the changes that I want to carry on making it sometimes seems like I’ve wasted too much time – and that the journey to get to where I want to be will not only be harder still but really lengthy as well.

Still – no-one ever said that things worth having come easily, and having seen the capabilities and history of those close to me recently I realise that I need to make more effort to improve myself.

I’ve fixed the body and now it’s time for the mind, and if (in less than two years) I can move from this man:

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To this man:

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…then there’s nothing I can’t accomplish.

Davey

Biscuit tea

The bank holiday weekend is over and I wish it wasn’t – because the (non bank holiday) ones in the near future are likely to be something of a slog.

Thanks to other commitments I’m going to have less opportunity than usual to do the things I want to do – and in particular this means not being able to see the people that I want to see.

In the past that this has often translated into a danger zone for me when it comes to eating so I’m going to have to be really really committed if I want to keep in target.

I plan to try my best mind you.

If there’s one thing that carried me through the last three years it was my willingness to throw myself into a darn good walk or swim and wear out any my self destructive side before it does too much damage.

My new job (which is once again an office based and seated one) hasn’t managed to completely derail my fitness objectives so far – and although I’ve not managed to force myself out of bed every morning for a swim before work I’ve still managed to keep a good level of exercise going.

Surprisingly (although it feels like I did way less) I covered 65 miles over the last week as well as completing two swims to keep me relatively in the green as far as my stats go.

My activity has still dropped off overall however – which is an irritation.

I miss my freedom and my ability to exercise my ass off whenever I felt like it but I also don’t miss the voice inside my head (that was increasingly self-deprecating) telling me that I should have a job.

Since my position is a temporary one I’m still not sure what the future holds with regards to long term employment, but have (after some in depth chats with my partner in crime) for the first time come to think that there may be a way forward.

Furthermore the way forward doesn’t just potentially improve my future – but has the capability to improve it for both of us.

The next six months will be an exciting time – and I feel that while the next few weeks may be difficult – the future has never been brighter.

The weather was doing it’s best to disagree this weekend at the Leamington 2019 eco-fest where I was foraging with friends for a local honey stall.

I don’t normally buy honey – but this particular variety was something that a friend had tasted once before. They liked it so much that they decided to get some more as soon as possible.

Since it’s not available in the shops the only option is to go and grab some from their pop up stalls whenever they’re in town.

For my part I also bought some rather lovely beeswax hand cream – which was really really nice smelling and also seems to last for ages!

It was a bargain at £2.50 and the lady that sold it seemed absolutely lovely.

She definitely believed in her product – and who can argue? My hands have felt awesome ever since!

I love the vibes of events like this (although I can’t bring myself to pay £5 for a gong shower) and now that the Pump Room Gardens are open again and the bandstand is nearly refurbished the air was filled with chatter and ambient live jazz music.

It made up for the sun disappearing behind some irritatingly persistent cloud – and the day passed by with a lovely vibe and only the slightest spots of rain.

After spending a while here I moved along for a bite to eat on my absolute favourite place to have lunch.

Las Iguanas.

The food here is never less than totally awesome – and it’s somewhere where I often choose totally vegetarian options – mostly because they taste as good (if not better) than the meat alternatives.

They also leave me feeling like I’ve not screwed up anything diet wise.

The colours on the plates also reflect the wonderful tastes that they deliver and things (for once) always taste as good as they look.

In other news (after a rather awful mishap with my electric trimmer two weeks ago) a familiar furry friend is almost back again.

I missed my beard.

I used to have a strained relationship with its presence, despite the fact that many seemed to rather like it.

Originally I grew it not because I particularly wanted one per-se – but because someone long long ago told me they didn’t want me to, so I pushed out an experimental goatee as a ‘screw you’ apostrophe to their departure from my life.

As time went on and I expanded into both sides of the sofa I began to use it to hide my face from the world.

I was convinced it covered my chins and would convince anyone caring to look in my direction that I was healthy and fit.

That may have been at least partially true with regards to my face – but it did very little to hide anything else.

In all of my selfies back then I not only look miserable but I look otherwise totally huge.

Even with impressive plumage it’s hard to engage stealth mode when you’re 35st.

When I shaved it off (half way through my Slimming World journey) practically no-one recognised me.

For a while that was a wonderful feeling. Everyone said I looked lots younger and alone that made me happy.

The truth is though that, like an old friend I rather missed it.

Last winter was harsh and my face wasn’t ready for the cold winds now that my chins were gone.

Thankfully an entrepreneurial (and rather talented) reader made me a Star Wars wind cheater – and for a time all was well.

Oddly when I grew my facial fur back after leaving my last job an unlikely ally for it arrived shortly after.

Despite some original misgivings about beards (and fun poking comments from other nearby quarters regarding hipsters) I noticed that in quieter moments my furry face was being thoughtfully stroked by hands other than my own.

Dogs appear to like it too – and they’re rarely wrong.

So – the beard is back, and this time I think it’s here to stay.

You know what else is back?

My mojo.

The future is coming – and although I don’t know when it’s arriving I’m looking forward to inviting it to hang it’s hat up and join me for a cup of biscuit flavoured tea.

Davey