Mr Spud we like

In a moment that would only occur in our current climate I froze whilst walking down the road at lunchtime the other day.

I was heading to the shop near where I work and had realised that although I’d remembered my carrier bag (something I’ve always been rather particular about) I’d completely forgotten my face mask.

It’s not yet the law to wear face masks in shops or in public – but I’d promised myself when seeing on the news that at least part of this was going to become compulsory that I’d start doing it sooner rather than later.

I’ve even been a mask to go to the cinema.

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I ultimately made the (wise/unwise?) choice to go in anyway – but felt profoundly guilty when I saw the girls in the shop wearing their masks behind the Perspex till screens.

I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

Going to the shops is something that these days simultaneously feels both normal and abnormal – and even when the world seems to be gradually returning to what it used to be (and that’s both good and bad if you look at the quickly returning McDonald’s rubbish everywhere) it’s never more noticeable that things have changed than when you notice things (that you used to do regularly) now feel profoundly different.

Yesterday my partner and I ventured into Leamington to find that many of the familiar shops we passed regularly have completely ceased trading (or are yet to open up again).

  • Kath Kidson – closed.
  • Charity shops – almost all closed with no indication of when they will re-open
  • Cafe Rouge – closed
  • Carluccios – closed
  • Laura Ashley – closing down
  • Carphone Warehouse – closed
  • Willow (a lovely little eclectic shop) – moved online (after seven years in town)

There is a real effort being made by the council to enable and promote social distancing – and to this end much of the town centre has been temporarily pedestrianised – meaning you can give people as wide a berth as you feel comfortable with.

We eventually ended up in a suitably well distanced coffee shop in the Royal Priors – if for no other reason than to buy a drink and sit somewhere other than home to consume it.

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The day was pretty humid mind you – and I have to say neither of us had particularly been enjoying the steamy breathing experience of walking around town with our faces covered – so it was pretty nice to find a seat indoors by a big open window where there was a lovely breeze with no-one nearby.

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we both sat and just quietly breathed for a moment.

Or rather should I say I relaxed and tinkered with my blog whilst my partner caught up on Pokemon Go! for five minutes.

Although when I met her she was already madly addicted to Pokemon she has really been getting into other video games recently (I knew I’d eventually drag her down to my level) and has recently adopted my Nintendo Switch as her console of choice.

Believe it or not she has now logged more game hours on this console than I have – however this is mostly because Animal Crossing appears to be both incredibly addictive and also something that she absolutely loves playing online with her family.

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Aside from the game creating a need to obsessively catch fish, shake trees and dig for fossils it seems like a really really nice way to keep in touch with people – and one of the lovely aspects of it is how social and friendly it is.

It also never ceases to amuse me how she delights in making her cute little house look more and more like our house.

She’s even created a version of me…

I have my own little island (although I’ve never actually played the game) and she’s filled it with stuff that she thinks I’d like in real life.

Oddly I’m almost always running around the island in my pants – which is terribly embarrassing when she invites her sister over to visit. Nevertheless I can’t help smiling as she (usually giggling) points out little details that she thinks I might like about my fictional island.

Recently (after selling enough digital turnips to generate the ‘bells’ to purchase it in the game) she placed an arcade machine in near my toilet to keep me amused before and after my poos!

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There’s even a log burning stove to make sure my bottom isn’t chilly when it hits the toilet seat!

She’s super thoughtful.

Once we’d finished our coffee (and respective digital pursuits) we decided to go foraging for other items to amuse us – and found an item at a reasonable price in Game that she’s wanted to play ever since she saw her nephew playing it.

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spyro old vs new

I remember playing the PS1 version of Spyro (before it was remastered and made to look like a Pixar animation on modern hardware) and it was a really fun little game. It’s surprisingly difficult in places though – and it took both of us attempting one pretty early level to find a way through!

It’s crazy how similar and yet simultaneously divergent our gaming tastes are – because for the last couple of weeks we’ve both been enjoying (if that’s the way to describe it) the brutal tale of survival, revenge and redemption that is ‘The Last Of Us Part 2‘ on the PS4.

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It’s probably the wrong game to have been playing in the middle of a pandemic – as the premise behind it is that society has collapsed (it fictionally happened in 2013) after a similar world event.

TLOUP2 diverges from the present day pandemic realities however because in its case the infected quickly turn into aggressive zombies whose sole purpose is to pass the virus on to you.

You can either sneak around them or choose to club them to death with various sharp implements if they get in your face – and in this respect it’s quite cathartic.

The choice about whether to not to batter these zombies to a pulp is frankly very reminiscent of the urges I feel whilst surrounded by oblivious (potential) plague carriers in Tescos every week so it’s nice to be able to exorcise my pent up frustrations in a consequence free environment.

We played the first game together (before going through the second one) about a month ago. I’d played it before but my partner hadn’t –  and I wanted her to experience the superb story before I played the sequel. Much to my great delight she absolutely loved it.

So much so that she wanted to go halves with me on part two.

One really interesting was that in my second play through of the first game I found that I was looking at everything with a fresh set of eyes.

Now I found it impossible to ignore the fact that in every single disused and derelict toilet in the game there was a ton of unused toilet paper.

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Did Naughty Dog (the developer of the game) see the events of the current pandemic coming and just knew that we’d suddenly start to hoard toilet paper when the world began to fall apart?

If this is the case then it’s not much of a surprise that there are no stashes of canned goods anywhere in the game – just mounds of mouldy paper to wipe your bottom with...

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Both are great games though – and I highly recommend them – if that is you don’t mind being forced to jump out of your seat every five minutes…

As we left Game (still in our masks and swabbing ourselves liberally with the alcohol hand gel they had at the entrance) we headed to another little bit of normality which immediately lifted our spirits.

Mr Spud.

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This unassuming little part of Leamington Spa has been serving baked potatoes to the public on this corner of the high street for thirty years and I am not lying when I say that when the lockdown first hit I was ridiculously worried about whether or not this small business would survive.

Thankfully (according to the owner) they’ve limped by with financial help from the government – and are just about managing to cover their wages at the moment.

Things are tough – but for the moment they’re surviving – which I guess is all that we can hope for.

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Our ‘usual’ cottage cheese with chive baked potatoes from Mr Spud have frankly never tasted so good – and both my partner and I were still raving about how this had been the highlight of our entire day well into Saturday evening.

It’s crazy how taking something so simple and normal away for a few months makes it so feel extra special when you get it back.

I’m not that bothered by the majority of shops that have closed up for good (although it does make me feel sad when I think about the lives that these job losses will impact and how the high street will eventually look) but this one unassuming little tent and the warmth of their baked potatoes would have cut me to the quick if they’d gone under.

Encouragingly the lady we spoke to said that they had no idea what to expect when they opened for the first time – but everyone was so happy to see them that they were ‘made to feel like rockstars‘ as people crowded around expressing their happiness about seeing them again.

I encourage anyone locally to go and buy a spud from this stall.

They’re lovely, and really really reasonably priced.

Anyway, Sunday is ebbing away and I have things to do – thankfully without a mask.

Stay safe internet – catch you later

Davey

Witzelsucht and Thabo Mbeki

I really really wish sometimes that my mind didn’t work overtime – because it means I lose a lot of sleep for no good reason.

Last night was no exception and no matter how many times I’ve tried to square various (frankly inconsequential and unimportant) circles in my head last night they just wouldn’t change shape. As soon as I am tired of thinking about one then another one comes along, and cumulatively they all conspire to keep me awake.

Yesterday didn’t start in a great place – and after a few days back to back with practically no rest at all I started the day (once again) mentally on the back foot.

Probably because I was so knackered it wasn’t long before a situation arose that enabled me to prove to myself that my worst (and probably nonsense) fears were true and I wasn’t good enough at my job.

There’s little worse than being faced with a situation where something needs to be fixed, there’s only you to fix it, the person that needs help really genuinely needs it fixed – but you can’t do it.

There are many many things I love about my job – and most of them are tied up with the fact that nothing – not one thing – is about shareholder value or capitalism. In this respect it differs from many of the roles I’ve had in the past and mostly because of this I get a real sense of satisfaction from fixing technical problems (albeit in a small way) for people that care for others.

There’s always a need and in my current role I can usually help.

However – there are times when you simply can’t – and it’s galling if it’s because your own (lack of) technical know-how is what stands in your way.

In previous workplace lives I’ve been responsible for managing the restoration of massive intercontinental telecoms failures for blue chip customers – and I’ve been at the sharp end of many a heated escalation related to many well known commercial brands.

I’ve navigated my way through heated conference call after heated conference call over the years – many of which were filled with senior managers that were pushing me hard for resolutions to their technical woes.

Often the impact of outages simply came down to lost money and time though.

Sometimes lorries were delayed or ships got stuck in ports for a bit longer than they needed to be – but only once was there a threat to life that I remember.

Most outages I managed simply halted the production or delivery of something.

Maybe in the interconnected and closely linked ‘just in time’ world that we live this could be considered ‘important’ (everything affects something else) but I ended up feeling that what I was really engaged in was working for shareholders to generate and protect revenue, and in doing so all I was achieving was oiling the gears of capitalism and greed.

The company that I worked for was huge. Its workforce was global, and its often brutal decisions about who should have a job and who should not (based not on someone’s effort or worth but often simply what they cost) left me feeling increasingly disillusioned.

When I was made redundant from my very well paid position I had already wanted to leave for a long time.

Sitting on those conference calls with executives in various countries however bothered me much less than being unable to fix a device that someone needed to do their job in the nhs.

It doesn’t even have to be a life threatening situation either – because practically every piece of equipment I touch is going into the hands of someone that is trying to help someone else.

It’s not about money – it’s about people. Since fundamentally I’m a people person this motivates me – and because I find that I really care I occasionally feel acute pressure.

Still I guess we all have to learn and not everybody knows everything.

Although my day started badly I eventually figured out how to resolve the issue (via several pints of coffee) and everyone lived happily ever after.

Before I figured out what was wrong though I was in a dark place.

My mind was calling me every name under the sun from stupid to useless – and I was muttering to myself quietly (not saying good things I might add) in the corner that I work because nothing felt like it was going right.

You know what though – I’m tired – and working when you’re not at your best is never going to produce stellar results. I need some unbroken sleep and I’ve really not had it for months.

My main reason at the moment for not getting any rest (apart from occasionally thinking about life too much) is my propensity to obsess over words and the way they sound.

This is both a blessing and a curse.

I love words – and see them as puzzle pieces to constantly tinker with in my head. I’m always thinking about ways to slot them together so that they contain multiple messages or meanings.

Probably because of this I’m endlessly making up ‘dad jokes’ too. My partner (already long suffering in this respect) sent me this link the other day – which sounds like it describes some elements of me to a tee.

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If you read this short article you’ll see the theory about why Witzelsucht occurs (particularly in people with brain injuries – such as a subject he discusses called Derek) and how it relates to stimulating pleasure centres in the brain:

Three guys stranded on a desert island find a magic lantern containing a genie, who grants them each one wish. The first guy wishes he was off the island and back home. The second guy wishes the same. The third guy says: ‘I’m lonely. I wish my friends were back here.’

Ok, maybe these quips are funnier when told by a professional comedian. But the point is that each is built around an “incongruity” in the punchline, and your brain must jump through a series of hoops to unpick the logic. You (edit) need to place yourself in the shoes of the people stranded on the desert island. (edit) there’s an element of surprise as you realise the twist in the tale. Resolving that puzzle tickles the brain’s pleasure centres, making us laugh (or at least, smile politely). “The ‘ha ha’ moment is not very far from the ‘aha’ moment,” explains Jason Warren at University College London.

This brain processing appears to occur in a network of regions around the frontal lobes – the seat of more complex, analytical thought and the very same areas that are damaged in patients like Derek. “. “They cannot see the relationship of the punchline to the joke, so they do not show surprise,” says Mendez. Paradoxically, this brain damage seems to “disinhibit” some of the signalling between those frontal lobes and the pleasure centres. So while others’ jokes may leave them cold, their own thoughts and feelings – stemming from any random connection or association – may end up triggering the dopamine kick as they collapse in fits of giggles.

It’s the dopamine kick that I think I get from my own linguistic tinkering – and it’s probably why I feel so calm after putting a blog post together.

My own personal obsession with (and pleasure generated from) playing with words unfortunately also has a downside – and it’s here where not only my sleep but day to day thinking gets disrupted.

I end up helplessly and endlessly repeating random things that come out of no-where.

As an example yesterday I woke up several times saying ‘Thabo Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki’.

These words had been in the back of my mind for a day or so and had refused to budge.

I couldn’t even remember who on earth it referred to – just that the name sounded interesting and the spelling unique. Then (after a quick Google) I remembered he was second the president of South Africa (link).

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Quite why this name – which had been tucked away in my head for years suddenly decided to resurface is beyond me – but this happens all the time.

Thabo Mbeki is similar to the word ‘Oklahoma’ – which Steve Martin hilariously repeats over and over in a sequence of the 1988 film ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ (link). Periodically I’ve been saying this over and over in my head almost every week or month since I saw it thirty years ago.

I also can’t stop whistling ‘Jingle Bells’ regardless of the time of year – and have it continually going around and around in my head whenever I try to concentrating on something. They only way to remove it to start whistling it.

You get the idea.

Either way I’m now facing another day with less than four hours sleep to my name – and I’m typing away in the hope that this will empty my mind and allow me to relax – at least when I’m awake (sleep is a lost cause).

I’m going to have to do something productive with my day to ensure my mood remains buoyant!

Wish me luck

Davey

 

Post coital parcels

I’ve genuinely missed writing my blog of late – but every time I’ve come close to starting a post I’ve been flooded with the realisation that I can’t face up to writing about what I’m mulling over in my head.

At this point in the proceedings I tend to shut down, close off and move instead to other diversionary pursuits. These are temporary fixes that take my mind off what’s truly going in inside my head – and I’m acutely aware that they aren’t really the way forward.

In the long term all this behaviour manages to do is lead to a state of emotional constipation. 

That may sound dramatic but I can’t think of any other way to describe how not writing makes me feel.

There’s still a lot that I don’t really want to put down on the page at the moment though – but not blogging anything at all clearly is not working for me. I can feel the cumulative physical and mental weight of it building every day – so here I am – once again sitting in front of WordPress with itchy trigger fingers.

On the plus side my house is alive with visitors at the moment and currently these provide me with plenty to write about because for the last few months I’ve been wondering why the wheelie bin outside my front door was becoming increasingly plastered with more and more bird shit.

It’s absolutely caked with avian crap at the moment.

For a while I thought it was because below the bin there’s a swarming ants nest – and I assumed that it was this readily available food source that had attracted the birds. I reckoned that (after a hefty meal) the sparrows would unburden themselves prior to takeoff – and it was this behaviour that was making my bin look so unappealing.

I’ve been at war with the ants for years.

Thoughts of their demise filled me with delight.

They’ve survived kettle after kettle of boiling water and for some reason (despite the obvious dangers of sharing their space with me) still march relentlessly under my front door. No amount of stamping, swatting or boiling water has deterred them.

The ants’ usual routine is to traipse through my hall, along the entire length of my kitchen, under the back door, out into the garden, collect some leaves or random fluff and then saunter back to the underside of bin at the front of my house.

I was really hopeful that these ravenous sparrows would solve my ant problem with zero effort on my part.

However – despite all the bird shit – the little sods were completely unmolested.

The industrious legions of marching creatures were still at full strength and it wasn’t until my other half and I returned home from shopping a couple of weeks ago that we saw why.

As we unloaded the bags from the car I noticed a solitary female sparrow peacefully basking in the sunshine on the guttering directly over the bin.

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By the time I’d made my way to the front door with the first two carriers I noticed that a male sparrow had arrived and was sitting on the roof tiles looking down at the rather alluring bird on the gutter below.

As we continued back and forth carrying the shopping to the front door it hopped onto the guttering nearby and stood about 10cm to the right of the female sparrow.

She looked the other way.

Disinterested.

The male sparrow appeared undeterred. He jumped back up onto the roof again, this time hopping around her in a perfect semi circle until he was once again on the guttering – but now he was standing 10cm to the left of her.

She still looked the other way. 

Mr sparrow repeated this process continuously for a few minutes as we watched – swapping from left to right in an effort to catch her eye.

The amorous little fellow was clearly engaged in some kind of courtship dance. and continued his hopping pattern back and forth until the object of his intentions gave in and looked him directly in the eye.

Bingo. 

She’d acknowledged him!

Without any further ado Mr sparrow immediately hopped onto the back of Mrs sparrow – and after several attempts to balance (with some ungainly grabbing and flapping) he finally found the perfect spot.

BOOM. 

It was an impregnation station.

(insert pictures of sparrows smoking cigarettes on my guttering)

After an appropriate few seconds of reassuring ‘don’t worry – I’ll call you’ glances to Mrs sparrow, Mr sparrow (looking supremely relaxed) flew off into the distance.

Mrs sparrow (looking maybe a tiny bit underwhelmed at how the few seconds had panned out) then proceeded to unload the contents of her bowels on my bin.

It suddenly clicked into place.

Every single bird plop represented sparrow coitus.

Whether the bomb bay doors opening is a passive aggressive statement about partner performance or simply an involuntary undercarriage reaction remains unclear. However – regardless of the cause the act clearly has a laxative effect – and I know this because we’ve since seen the same behaviour (and results) a couple of times.

I’m so convinced of this causal relationship that I’ve taken to looking up before I exit my front door just in case gravity is about to deliver a ‘post sexy time’ parcel to me.

Probably because of this behaviour in our drain based knocking shop, birds are wonderfully abundant in our garden at the moment.

Although if I’m honest I think their tendency to spend time having fun in this manner (rather than looking for grubs and worms) has got a lot to do with my partner feeding them on an almost industrial scale.

They’re practically falling out of the trees with their bulging waistlines at the moment, and I swear some of the smaller pigeons used to be sparrows…

I have long had a bird feeder with space for three fat balls hanging from a post in my garden – but since my other half has been working from home (and enjoying the sights and sounds of the garden) she has bought more and more feeding paraphernalia.

We now have space for six fat balls, two huge loose seed dispensers and several (currently removed thanks to hefty pigeons) bird baths.

The birds are all over this plentiful banquet.

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The population of our little avian friends has consequently rocketed – and the dawn chorus in the morning (whilst absolutely delightful) is at times deafening. I’ve not needed an alarm clock for a long time.

Mostly because my partner insists on converting her wages into bird poo the benefits are everywhere to be seen. 

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There are however other visitors that she’s not so keen on – and these also like bird seed.

A couple of months ago (upon returning home late one night in the dark) we turned the light on in the hall and my other half screamed out loud with surprise.

A mouse was sitting by the skirting in the hall, and as soon as the lights went on it scrambled past me looking for cover – heading for the kitchen where it promptly disappeared behind the pedal bin.

My other half is a hardy soul and very outdoorsy (I’ve yet to see a backpack or shopping bag that she can’t carry or tent in a muddy field she’s unwilling to inhabit) but when it comes to spidery eight legged creatures or rodenty four legged ones it’s usually me that gets called on for removal duties.

That’s not to say she has no input mind you – because one of the benefits of shacking up with a Geography Teacher that’s got an extensive history of field studies is that she knows how to trap small furry creatures.

Within days (after finding a few little mouse droppings around the house that confirmed we had unwelcome guests) she purchased some humane traps and vibrating wall plugs from Amazon.

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These were the first to go in – and I have to say I’m absolutely not convinced about them.

They have a blue light to show that they’re on, need to be plugged into a wall mounted socket (rather than extension lead) and apparently send irritating vibrations into the bricks to deter any nesting rodents.

The certainly provide annoyance in some quarters – because we immediately noticed (almost like a magnetic force might move iron filings) that our resident ants appeared to be taking increasingly odder and ever more convoluted paths through the kitchen (or – mmmsk mmmsk mmmsk – were they…. dancing?!).

On the down side there was a constantly annoying blue light in the dark of the house and the mouse poops continued to appear.

So – the humane traps were laid and baited with some of the bird seed.

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Almost immediately we caught one – and to say it was a cute little fellow was a vast understatement. It was so lovely in fact that I felt immediately guilty about the obvious terror it appeared to be experiencing as we held the trap and tried to examine it. 

The poor little guy was breathing like a racehorse after the grand national.

Instead of stressing it out further we wandered over to the garages near my house and released it into a bush.

Although I rather whimsically refer to this as ‘cat alley’ (there are numerous territorial pussycats that patrol this area) I hope it lived to tell the tale.

Then – the next day, another!

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Initially I though that this was the same little guy from the day before – and just to make sure it didn’t come back we released it in some nearby woodland. There was no way it would find its way home any time soon.

However – as I sat and looked at the pictured later that evening I realised that the ears and feet were subtly different and that they were in fact not the same little cheese eaters.

The second one looked younger and more juvenile than the first.

So – there were children…

The trap went back down again the same night.

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As cute as they are these guys are also rather dumb – as three nights in a row we captured their little family and let them loose in the great outdoors.

I have to say (having had a hamster and secretly missing its furry warmth) I rather wanted this to become a regular daily task – but either they learned from their mistakes or the extent of our infestation was only three mice!

Mind you – all we have to do now is find a humane slug trap – because now they’re gone the kitchen has a fresh shiny trail from under the washing machine to under the fridge almost every night of the week.

That’s if I don’t stand (bare footed) in them in the middle of the night…

When they’re not around there are other interlopers, who seem intent on highlighting the fact that I could spend waaaaay more time than I do removing cobwebs…

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All in all there’s a lot to love about lockdown life and the visitors that you start to notice and appreciate.

Whilst some of them would do well to steer clear of kitchen (lest they incur the wrath of my kettle) others (inside and outside) are truly lovely.

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So – here’s to having a somewhat ‘leaky’ house that’s a haven for interesting things!

Long may the birdies tweet and my bin be covered in crap – because I think it’s totally ace!!!

Davey

Still here…

I think it’s fair to say that I (like many others) have not coped with lockdown very well.

Although its myriad of restrictions are slowly lifting I find myself still unwilling (and in some cases unable) to engage with the world again. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure, people seem oblivious to the dangers and I can’t stop worrying about what might happen if a moment of carelessness leads to me losing someone I love.

That may sound overly dramatic – and when I say it out loud or hear it in my head I genuinely feel like slapping my own face – because six months ago I’d have looked at myself and tutted. I’d have viewed present day me as anxious about nothing, worrying needlessly and be rather disgusted about my lack of willingness to go outside unless absolutely necessary.

I’ve been largely silent online because I know that I’m not alone – and that there are far too many people doing exercise videos on blurry webcams, talking about mental health in their dimply lit spare rooms, and sitting metres apart from eachother in a TV studio detailing how people are coping with isolation and financial ruin.

It’s inescapable.

If you’re not worrying about whether you’ll catch something that could kill or seriously disable you then you’re worrying about the people you care about.

Those who know me well (and probably those who’ve read my blog for the last few years) will know that I already had a propensity to over analyse and even obsess over things.

I’ve done this all my life – but back in 2016 I managed to turn this obsessive side of me into an unstoppable force that was hell bent on self improvement. I created structures around me that ensured I was always with people, almost never indoors, continually active and as outwardly positive as I could be. In doing so I accidentally inspired others to do the same and for quite a while I felt virtually indestructible.

However no-one is an island, it’s impossible to be infallible, and dealing with the continual worry related to events you cannot hope to control will have a cumulative impact regardless of who you are.

It’s had an impact on me – and once more things that felt under control now feel out of control.

Old habits are back, and I have struggled to control them.

In some respects life has never been better. I’m still super happy at home, I’m still very much in love and I genuinely enjoy the job I’m doing at the moment almost as much as coming home to someone that I look forward to spending time with.

The world is always out there though – and it seems cold and threatening, even though the sky is blue and the birds are singing in our garden.

I’m trying to go out more though.

The cinema is now open – something my partner and I love going to – but even this feels weird and abnormal. There are one way systems everywhere, taped off toilets, no hand driers, alcohol gel dispensers on every door and both myself and the staff look like we’re planning to rob banks when we meet in the foyer.

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The mask is also a daily part of my working life and it’s donned every time I have to meet someone new. For some time now all I’ve seen when I meet them are people’s eyes – and I find that the most unsettling thing about that is that I’m increasingly unsure how to judge their moods. 

When looking at only the upper third of someone’s face you can’t determine whether or not a wry smile is connected a frown (are they thinking – or is it a grimace?) when someone looks at me. I can’t shake their hands to greet them, say goodbye, or show them that I’m smiling at them through my mask.

Even when I’m around people I’m not me and I can’t gauge them.

For someone who prides himself on being a people person and watching intently what they do and how they act for clues about what they’re thinking it’s infuriating.

Maybe I should just go for a stroll and exercise it off – right?

You’d think of that now restrictions have been lifted I’d be walking, walking and doing more walking – but (probably because I’ve done less lately) I keep injuring myself. As I type I’m nursing the 2nd torn calf muscle in as many months and this one (like the previous one) has stopped me walking back and forth to work for almost two weeks.

‘But the world is getting back to normal now! It will all get better!’ I can hear you all saying…

Only it’s not is it?

Leicester is evidence that us being out of lockdown is almost certainly a temporary state of affairs. Without a vaccine there are millions of us that are yet to catch Covid 19 and all we’re doing is creating peaks and troughs so that when the inevitable happens and even larger chunks of the country do succumb the NHS will still be able to cope.

That’s another thing. Although I love my job in some respects it’s also part of the problem. 

I’m surrounded every moment of the day with others that are dealing with the realities of this very real pandemic. Out of the blue I also meet people (sometimes daily, sometimes weekly) who have either had Covid, know someone that’s had it – or even more worryingly (and with alarming frequency) people that have lost loved ones to it.

They tell me stories about mothers, partners, and grandparents that are now either seriously ill or gone forever – and they have almost all left these people’s lives without a simple hug or the reassurance of someone they love holding their hand on their death bed. 

Although they’re coping now you can see that some day soon the people who are putting us all back together and caring for us will also need to be cared for themselves.

They’re deferring dealing with the pain and grief caused by they’re going through and (like me) are leaning into coping mechanisms that are not necessarily the best ways of dealing with their worry and grief.

Someone recently said to me (also an NHS worker) that when the pandemic ends we’ll all fit neatly into three categories. 

‘Chunks, hunks or drunks…’ 

I admitted to her that the ‘chunk’ rather than ‘hunk’ was the way I’d chosen to go – but thankfully I’d managed to steer clear of the ‘drunk’ classification.

Whilst food (of all the wrong kinds) has been consumed by me in plentiful abundance I’m still four and a half years sober – and there’s still no part of me that wants to go back to drinking three bottles of wine a night.

I’m probably in the minority though. 

The people around me talk lovingly about pubs, and about having a beer or a glass of wine in the evenings. Some even head off from my appointments with a laughing confession that they’re picking up a bottle of spirits on the way home.

We’re all coping the best ways that we can I suppose.

I’m not writing this to illicit sympathy however – because I don’t want any. 

I also don’t really need advice or comments at the moment – because I’ve long known what I need to do to restore balance – I’ve just been running from the reality of it and deferring the decision about when to start.

I’m also not going to be writing about my  getting back into the swing of things or how I’m coping or not coping with eating behaviours in quite the same way that I used to either for two reasons.

Firstly I don’t want the added pressure in my head about succeeding or failing in the public eye. 

Although winning MOTY in 2018 was a wonderful experience it also enabled me to heap insane amounts of pressure on my own shoulders about how I should be an example to others and that I should never again allow myself to fail. 

Doing that in full view of the world and having my image plastered all over papers and the internet was a cage of my own creation – and I’m not particularly willing to do it again – so I will be a bit more reticent in future about the wars I wage upon my waistline.

Secondly I don’t want to be someone that people follow or read about solely because I was either addicted to alcohol or food. 

After a while I realised that my entire social media feed was filled with images of people that posted before and after photos of themselves and plate after plate of healthy food. There’s more to me than that – and I don’t want to be defined solely by my ability (or lack of it) to not put food in my mouth and swallow.

To be honest I’ve always felt profoundly uncomfortable with the fact that I became (slightly) famous for getting to a weight that millions of other people around the world managed to do all on their own without any fanfare.

It’s like being sponsored to do ‘dry January’ and then congratulating yourself in public for not having a drink for an entire month without ‘breaking or cracking up’.

If that’s a win then theres a problem. Those in this category should immediately consider embarking upon ‘dry rest of life’ and forget about asking for sponsorship. Do it because you shouldn’t ever begin to feel that not having alcohol in your life is stressful.

In exactly the same vein (since I’m clearly so judgemental) I can hardly jump up and down in public shouting about how not putting a biscuit in my mouth is a triumph.

If it is then its one thats only possible in a society where we over abundance. It’s a first world problem of our own making and now more than ever I don’t think a world that’s seeing tragedy after tragedy up close and personal needs another fat man agonising about whether he should choose peanuts or salad.

That said – I’m happy to encourage others to be healthy – but that’s no longer my life. I just want to be a normal person that struggles or copes like anyone else.

Sometimes I fail.

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Sometimes I win.

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Ultimately though we’re all just trying to make our way through to the other side of all this madness in one piece – and I can only hope we all emerge as good people standing next to the ones we love who are also in rude health.

Thanks for reading internet (if you’re still out there that is)

Davey