Difficult day

It’s a big day and if I’m brutally honest I’m struggling.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death and for many reasons (probably not the ones you might expect) this is always a difficult time.

In my head there’s been a quiet countdown leading to this moment for a couple of weeks and as a consequence I’ve noticed my mood dip as well as my appetite quietly increase.

As much as I’d like to proclaim ‘I’m cured – it no longer affects me!’ This would be a total lie.

Even though I don’t miss my mom at all this is a time when I’m reminded of what I could or should have had in my childhood (and my relationship with her) but did not.

So – in an effort to exorcise some demons I decided that today was an appropriate time to get rid of the 30-40 odd framed paintings and photos that had I piled into boxes three years ago before hiding them away in a cupboard.

I’ve been holding onto them partly because I didn’t want to throw things away that she had created and partly because I thought my brother or father may want them even if I couldn’t bear to look at them.

Neither seems to be the case – and honestly I’ve never liked 99% of them so the only course of action that seemed to be left to me was to throw them away.

One or two (including all of the photos) I removed from their frames and kept – but everything else is now in a landfill or furnace somewhere.

I was hoping that this would make me feel good – but for the first time in years I’ve been confronted with my mom’s own unique brand of mental illness.

When I cleared her bungalow with my brother after she died it was exhausting (this is all documented in my blogs back when I first started writing).

This was not just because of the bereavement but because contained within each item there was another item, and within that another one.

Each was sellotaped into progressively smaller bags like little Russian dolls.

It took forever to unpack it all – and nothing could be arbitrarily consigned to the bin. There were tiny little caches of money hidden everywhere and I was acutely aware that there was a funeral to pay for.

Occasionally we also found small (or surprisingly large) bags of hair from different periods of her life that were labelled ‘for DNA testing‘.

Her picture frames it seems were no different – and underneath each taped up and nailed shut frame were more photos, scribblings and random (probably false) facts about family members.

Then I found the gut punch.

Hidden within a school photo of me was a draft letter, yellowed with age and dated October 1977.

This photo was taken a few years earlier – but in my mind this is the woman holding the pen.

The page detailed her feelings about her relationship with my father and contained intimate thoughts about their physical moments together.

Then it unexpectedly pivots into a passage regarding the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship of this to her infant son.

Referring to me she says to my father:

‘He is our oneness. We dwell in him. He is our future on earth. The survival of our line. God will take him back to himself in time when all is fulfilled.’

I’m reminded immediately of her cadence in letters, her muddled allusion to both biblical scripture and other pseudo scientific thought processes.

I’m suddenly confronted with how her fractured and troubled mind worked and it momentarily takes the breath away from my lungs.

I sit on the edge of the bed in the quiet of my spare room.

At the end of the letter there’s a crossed out passage – which she’s noted did not get included in whatever version of the final letter was sent to my father.

Maybe it was too truthful and gave away far more information regarding her mental state than she was willing to share.

‘I am using too much adrenaline and the body I dwell in is suffering. The head aches and the singing in my ears gets worse. A quiet night is no longer a quiet night for me, my ears have their own noises of singing, ringing and bumps. Tonight the singing is a high pitched continuous note with occasional throbbing ever present. I have suffered this on and off since the age of 12.’

She continues – saying that she’s not good at looking after herself and is not eating. She’s losing weight, her bosom is disappearing and she says that she functions better when she has someone to look after.

The whole letter is like a selection of nails being hammered into me.

I’ve told myself many times (maybe to try and make sense of everything) that my mom wasn’t always the same person, and that time had slowly made things worse.

I like to think that when I was small she was a normal and loving mother – but the truth is she was exactly the same woman I had to deal with before she died.

I just never saw it as a child.

Her peculiar thought processes were my normal back then and because I learned early on to just accept her fragmented default state it took me many years to see her for who she really was.

It consequently took a long time to realise that the problems between us weren’t caused by me.

They were generated by her.

There was something profoundly odd about my mother. Although the words she used were English and seemed to link together, when you stood back (metaphorically speaking) the content of her sentences and paragraphs always left you confused or wondering why she had gone down one particular rabbit hole or another.

Usually the pleading side of her (evident in much of the draft letter I was reading) that begged for love (or more typically demanded it be given) came after she had done everything in her power to destroy any chance of it happening naturally.

More often than not letters like this came after significant rows – where her vitriol was at its worst and you were left scared to say anything in case it made things worse.

I’d be called evil, wicked, sick, ‘just like your father’ or ‘my biggest disappointment’.

The only route I had out as a child was to withdraw, go quiet and take it, hoping that it would stop eventually.

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

Occasionally she would let me go to sleep – thinking that the verbal beating was over.

Then she would wake me in the small hours of the morning stinking of tobacco, shaking with rage, shouting at me ‘…and ANOTHER thing…’ before she launched into the next part of her character assassination.

The following day when I returned home totally shattered from school after having had no sleep and dreading what was to come it was like nothing had happened.

She never referenced or apologised for anything she’d said – and instead expected full contrition from me.

If I mentioned anything about the night before I’d immediately start the whole sorry saga of ‘what I’d done wrong’ all over again.

Sleep was too precious at that point so I just stayed quiet and smiled or pretended.

Then without a word of apology or acknowledgement of the damage she’d caused, would arrive a demand for love.

When I was older and could get away from her afterwards this typically came in the post by letter until I moved and stopped providing her with my address.

When I did she continued to send letter after letter to my father – asking a man she wanted nothing to do with (but then professed undying love for) to pass her profoundly unbalanced thoughts on.

In the case of the letter I was holding the (very familiar) entreaty came written partly as a poem and partly as prose.

For my mother this was quite normal. I remember this kind of stream of consciousness all too well.

It was often stated in passages dripping with pain and symbolism that it was her ‘right‘ to receive love from her sons – that it should be given by her children ‘unconditionally‘ – just like she had given it to her parents before.

Back then I had always assumed that this was true and that as a child and adult she had been slavishly devoted to them. After all – it was what she continually told me was the case.

However after she died I learned from my uncle that the relationship she had with at least one of her parents was instead very different.

Her mother was scared of her and told her other children that she was frightened by her resentful and mercurial moods.

She didn’t know what would happen if she was left alone with her and in later years my grandmother saw my mother as a burden that was to be feared rather than relied upon for support.

As these thoughts flow through my mind I continued to take apart the yellowed picture frames and remove their contents.

In one photo (showing my uncle’s wedding reception) the picture has been trimmed. The background has been cut away, leaving only a collection of torsos and heads from the foreground.

Sealed and hidden away in another picture frame is the rest of the missing photo, depicting a pub wall without any people in front of it.

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

More to the point why chop it up in the first place?

Maybe it’s a part of the hoarder in her but I’ll never know because both her life and death remain frustratingly unresolved.

I’ll never understand who she was, why she thought the way she did, and why she manipulated and controlled rather than loved and nurtured.

I’m left with no good memories of her that she didn’t pollute over the years and I’ll never get an apology or an acknowledgement of the damage and heartache that she left in her wake.

Nevertheless I am glad of the final unwitting gifts that she left behind.

Firstly she made me want to be so unlike her that I finally found the power within me to break free of the self destructive behavioural loops that she left me with.

I gave up the drinking that I had consciously started to drown out her insults and I lost the weight I had gained through many years of eating away emotional and physical pain.

Secondly there’s practically the last thing she said to me before she died.

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t ‘I’m sorry’ because my mom never said that – and she never regretted anything.

Until that is she lay in A&E on the last day I saw her alive.

She was struggling to draw breath, in great discomfort and drowning slowly from the fluid collecting in her lungs.

Years of smoking had finally taken its toll – for which she was unrepentant. She smoked until the end and refused to acknowledge its impact.

‘I don’t regret ANYTHING.’ She said, and went quiet.

My brother and I looked at the wall.

Neither of us wanted to hear her voice any more. It was like nails being dragged down a chalk board.

‘Actually I DO regret something.’ She said, looking at me.

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

I listened to her stilted voice as she struggled to talk through her laboured and painful breathing.

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

The room was silent apart from the sounds of nurses passing outside the curtain.

‘… that you didn’t write to me and visit me more.’

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

Not only did she have no concept of what regret meant – but right up until the end she was incapable of recognising why I’d left home in the first place – and she still didn’t feel that she was in the wrong in any way.

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

Right up until her last moments she was the same woman that it seems she was in October 1977 – and it’s most likely that she was well before I was born.

At least now all her paintings are gone.

Their cigarette smoke infused frames and canvases are no longer quietly lingering in my cupboard and I have the space back again – both in my home and (to an extent) my mind.

It’s taken me many many years but I’m slowly moving on. As well as I can I’ve tried to forgive her and hold no anger about our relationship – because there’s no point.

The only thing anger or hatred does is damage and pollute what’s left behind.

I refuse to let that happen because despite the destruction she caused her legacy is ultimately positive.

I’m now a different man to the one I was while she was alive and I hopefully have many many good years ahead of to make things ‘right’.

I feel like I wasted so much time dealing with the fallout of our relationship – but no more.

Despite her I want to life a good life, free from her legacy and (unlike her) being a positive voice in the world.

More than anything I’m glad that I’m capable of saying sorry or admitting that I’m wrong and that I still make mistakes.

To me internet that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Davey

Growing a little

Unless you were blind when you read my blog entry yesterday you would have sensed a moment of personal crisis has arrived over the weekend – and that I was trying really hard to manage the fallout of feelings that I’d not realised were bubbling under the surface.

This was until all of a sudden they hit me like a tsunami.

I reached target in February 2018, have been changing and turning my life around for the best part of three years now and even now there are still moments when the fallout of years of self abuse and childhood memories of emotional neglect pull the rug right out from under me.

Thankfully I have good friends.

Friends who can hear words coming out of my mouth that don’t seem like things I would normally be saying, watch me melt down and then STILL put an arm around me, watch me cry and spend time talking me through it step by step and building me back up again.

God dammit I have a lot of baggage.

I’ve spent so many years isolating myself from the pain associated with being overweight and deferring the fallout from emotional losses that sometimes I have no words.

The legacy of a childhood with a continuously abusive parent that couldn’t show any real love is a long one, and even now in my mid forties I’m STILL struggling to come to terms with the fallout.

The 16 year old me in this photo was someone I used to think was at a great place in life. He was young, had starved himself thin after leaving school (losing five stone in a period just a little longer than the summer holidays) and was suddenly receiving attention for the first time in his life.

I recognise now that he was profoundly damaged but too naive to understand how badly.

He just lurched out into the world like a directionless man child desperately craving love and acceptance.

I feel like the last couple of days have been necessary ones – because although I’ve gone completely off the emotional reservation for a short while it needed to happen.

If it hadn’t I’d still be denying that the feelings I’ve been packing down for so long existed and trying to hide them or (even worse) resolving my thoughts in complete isolation.

No man is an island – and while I share myself and my vulnerability with the world much more than most there are many things that remain outside my blog.

These relate to people with no voice or events that I can never talk about openly.

It wouldn’t be right if I did.

Their legacy persists however and I’ve hidden behind food and drink to cope with that for so long that even now I do not know how to properly deal with some of them whilst remaining sober or without eating the entire contents of my fridge freezer.

I’m getting there though.

Today my blog’s sub heading feels even more prescient than usual because I’ve been reminded over the last few days that I, just like everyone else am just

learning to live life‘.

Sometimes I get it completely and catastrophically wrong – and thankfully this time that’s OK – because I haven’t damaged anything that can’t be fixed and I haven’t said anything that can’t be taken back – which is a blessed relief.

I will say this though.

My mother did a real number on me.

It’s unwise to speak ill of the dead – but her legacy haunts me even now.

The lack of any kind of childhood emotional support or help with development of coping mechanisms has led to an adult life lived full of best guesses, huge mistakes and a laundry list of regret.

In some ways this has been good as well as bad.

My experience is all the more valuable for my hard won insights.

When I’ve learned a lesson, even though it’s been painful to get there it means something in a way that it might not do if I’d just followed instruction.

As I mentioned to a lovely lady that came to visit me the other day (who really lifted my spirits as we twalked along the Kenilworth Greenway) there is no mileage living in the past.

My mother lived there all her life and her bitterness was all that was left by the time she finally died. When she did it was alone and surrounded by people paid to look after her instead of a loving family.

Her legacy though – for all the heartache it caused is still in many ways a positive one.

She may not have helped me be a good man, and she may not have demonstrated how to love and be loved in return – but she showed me the end game of a life lived like hers was.

Without ever trying to she made me want more for myself.

I’m not fixed. Not by any stretch of the imagination – but I’m learning how to live my life and I’m both asking for and accepting the help of people that care about me.

That’s all we can do I think.

Work through our pain, and wherever possible share it in forums like this so that others might see their own isolation or difficulties aren’t unusual or shameful.

They’re not broken or damaged like we so often tell ourselves we are.

They’re just human beings trying to find their way through life, love, self esteem, friends, family and everything else that fills your day.

It’s all unwritten, and I maintain that we’re exactly as good as we believe we can be. We can only try to have faith in our capacity to change and grow, do our best, help others and learn from our mistakes.

I feel good today.

Another life milestone has been reached and I think I’ve grown a little.

Davey

So long and thanks for all the fish

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

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

I did so with with a real mixture of emotions.

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

Sometimes it happens.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrenaline and fear.

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

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

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

All three of them were smiling and happy.

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

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

My pulse had quickened and I felt excited.

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

I took an earphone out and said ‘Hello.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither will the people I’ve met.

So long and thanks for all the fish 🤗

Davey

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

Sigh. I’m gonna miss em 😏

Part three: Suppression

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) and Part Two (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red. Time will also skip forward as we go on – because this particular lesson was learned in segments.)

Chronologically to start with we are in March 2016. At this point I’m a month into my journey (It started when I gave up drinking on January 26th) and little has visually changed.

This is how I looked.

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After almost completely screwing up by handing in my resignation at a job I’d held down for 16 years my manager allowed me to take some time out to deal with my alcohol issues. At the time I was regularly bursting into tears without warning and couldn’t understand why.

I wouldn’t miss my mother (who had passed away a month before) and I couldn’t explain the phenomenon – which was something I’d never experienced previously.

I didn’t feel like I was grieving.

Yet years and years of emotion seemed to be arriving all at once without any warning and it was scaring me. I felt out of control and needed to understand why.

With an agreement from my employer that I could take some time out of work I enrolled in a four week daily course in addiction recovery. I soon found myself in the cold and grim light of a March Monday morning in a bland meeting room surrounded by men and women in a circle.

They too had problems and all were nervously bouncing up and down in neutrally coloured Ikea Poang armchairs. They looked like they needed something badly.

This selection of people were dealing with alcoholism, heroin addiction and the far more visible and arresting effects of years of cutting, burning and self harm. Some were there under a court order to attend or had been compelled to join by the terms of their parole.

Others (such as myself) were voluntary participants with no criminal history.

I felt metaphorically and physically apart from all of them. Firstly, unlike them I didn’t identify with the label of ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ (I preferred alcohol dependant back then) and secondly because I was relegated to a conventional seat – and sitting higher up.

At 35 stone I was too heavy to sit in the comfortable Swedish Poang simplicity enjoyed by the others and felt exposed.

Initially I also felt like a fraud.

I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t have the severity of problems that they had.

These people seemed to be way further down the rabbit hole than me. I’d stopped drinking – whereas others were either cutting down, using methadone or sporting fresh bandages from A&E the night before.

Many had also shoplifted, cheated, lied and brutalised their way though life and I felt that I was nothing like them.

Until we started the mindfulness exercises and examined triggers.

These (it turned out) were common to ALL of us.

During these we sat in the dark, slowed down our breathing and went through some guided meditation. The point was to just experience the moment and filter out the mental noise caused by the chaos of addiction.

Most days I felt that this was just a method of relaxing before difficult discussions – and I simply enjoyed it on an abstract level – interested in how mindfulness seemed capable of slowing time down. Until the second week I just enjoyed the sensation of peace that it brought – but then one day the group leader quite unexpectedly said something along the lines of ‘now imagine that you want a drink.’

I did as I was told and imagined it.

I suddenly wanted a drink for the first time in weeks and felt instantly stressed.

‘Now follow the feeling.’ He said.

‘Where is it in your body?’

Amazingly I felt it! I could trace the actual thought moving through my body!

It was in my chest – right in the centre, behind my breast bone. As I zeroed in on it the sensation moved and began to flow upwards, through my neck, until it stopped and hung there – tingling in my cheeks.

I was absolutely gobsmacked. I’d known this feeling all my life. It was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror – but I’d never noticed it before.

The difference was that this time it was paused under a microscope for examination. I’d been able to delay its progress for a brief moment and while it was slowly moving I could track the sensation and resulting thought process that trailed in its wake.

It was fascinating!

When I’d experienced this in the past I realised that it happened at the speed of thought. My mind had been reacting to happiness, sadness or anything in between and my body had experienced a corresponding physiological reaction. This had in turn triggered a quietly waiting mental process and I had instantly moved from the flush of adrenalin to a fully formed ‘I need a drink’ feeling. 

By then the choice was made and I always acted upon it.

How had I missed this for so long? More to the point how did I deal with it if it happened again?

Well – there was some help at hand to manage cravings in the form of the ‘Three D’s’ which we discussed shortly afterwards (link)

Delay, Distract, Decide.

  1. Delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.
  2. Do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.
  3. After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but in order to answer consider the following:
  • Advantages of not doing it
  • Disadvantages of doing it
  • Reasons I want to stop
  • My life goals

Like many things in life you take what you need from what you experience, and often leave behind what you don’t. In my case these two lessons were my ‘wins’ from attending that group.

At the time I felt that I’d been filled with wisdom and understanding. I thought I’d finally cracked it. I understood things about myself that beforehand had been invisible to the naked mind – and furthermore I now had a coping mechanism!

There was nothing I couldn’t do!

However – the only thing that you can know for certain is that you don’t know everything

I hadn’t realised back then that what I’d failed to ask myself was why that thought process existed in the first place. I was content to simply acknowledge that it was there.

It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I found a deeper insight into the reason it happened. This was thanks to a book lent to me by a lady that I met in my Slimming World group (link).

By this point I was definitely making progress. Externally and internally I was a very different person.

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The book was called ‘Living like you mean it’ by Ronald J Frederick link.

Honestly it wasn’t my kind of thing (it still isn’t) and at the time I only opened it up because this lady had become a friend and I respected her opinion. She had been kind enough to think of me in the first place and it was rude not to investigate something so freely given with the best of intentions – so I started reading the first chapter.

It irritated me.

I mean it really irritated me.

It was all about allowing yourself to feel things.

In my opinion I was more than capable of dealing with my feelings and I wasn’t afraid of talking about them. I wrote a blog for flip’s sake. I knew the value of exploring my emotions and I talked about them with anyone who wanted to listen.

It was kind of my thing. Always had been. I didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Even if I didn’t understand why I had them I wanted to talk to my friends about mine and theirs.

Initially I walked away from the book simply with an agreement that I would try to let myself feel down a bit more – and that in itself proved to be very helpful.

I’d not really accepted that it was OK to feel crappy and let it temporarily consume you. This was actually natural and normal – and it was the precursor to healing. If you denied the need to experience pain and sadness by relentlessly smiling through the bad times then all you did was defer it’s arrival – and when it finally hit (and it would) the force that it had gathered by that time would be of a much bigger magnitude.

Some thoughts are slow burners however – and the really good realisations – the ones that matter often take you a while to reach.

I still wasn’t there yet.

Sure. I talked about emotion. I wrote about it. I enjoyed pulling it apart and understanding why I felt what I did.

But why did I do that?

I realised out of the blue – some time after reading the book that I did all of my emotional investigation after the fact.

Every time I got round to talking about how I felt it was a historical analysis. I was dispassionately looking backwards at a moment in time and examining how something had happened, intellectualising the feelings associated with it and chewing through their constituent parts.

never ever talked about a feeing while it was happening – but oddly this fact had always escaped me.

Out of the blue I recognised that as soon as a thought capable of provoking strong emotion had entered my head it then instantly caused a physical reaction. This immediately resulted in my mind moving to one of several well practiced remedies – depending on what I was using at the time.

In these moments I would do one or more of the following:

  • Eat to excess
  • Get drunk
  • Have a cigarette
  • (Insert whatever poison springs to mind here)

What I’d never realised was that all of these activities were actually me moving to immediately suppress emotion – and I’d been doing it since I was a child.

But how had this happened?

Then I remembered a conversation with my Dad when I was very young relating to my mother. After a particularly abusive day where we’d both come under fire from her and I was in tears he had shared his own method of coping in such situations.

It went something like this:

‘Imagine that you’re inside yourself, and then curl up like a little ball and don’t listen. Nothing can hurt you if you withdraw. After a while you don’t feel a thing.’

I’d taken this advice on board and began to use it to deal with her behaviour.

It worked because it typically just made things worse if you reacted when she was on the attack. The verbal beatings just extended from 30-40 minutes to hours. Sometimes if you fought back they would meander into the early hours of the morning – even if you’d surrendered and tried to go to bed.

She would frequently wake me up in the middle of the night, filled with rage, stinking of stale cigarettes, spitting in my face as she shouted at me – adding ‘and another thing‘ (her favourite phrase) to the argument – whether it was related to the initial explosion or not.

A member of my family once woke up with her sitting on top of him, and she was punching him in the face.

It was better not to feel.

It was better not to react.

During the day I could eat a huge mountain of mashed potato and sausages – but at night I had to find another way to cope, and I retreated a little deeper each time. Over the years the mechanism ceased to be conscious and became so practiced that it moved to one that was completely unconscious.

In my later teens (after some experimentation) I learned that I was a placid and happy drunk. When I consumed alcohol it helped me to not react to my mother, and initially I even consciously started to use it to help manage my interactions with her.

When I was drunk time passed quicker and things hurt less.

This was just the start of it though. I realised that I hadn’t just been suppressing pain – eventually I was suppressing happiness too – because the physiological reactions associated with any extremes of emotion were so strikingly similar.

Over time I’d created a situation where if I thought bad thoughts and felt bad emotions then I immediately moved to suppress them by self medicating. By 2016 I’d been doing it for so long that I’d ceased to recognised it for what it was. 

I was eating, drinking and smoking my pain AND HAPPINESS away.

Feeling sad? Have a (insert crutch here). It will make you feel better!

Feeling happy? Celebrate with a (insert crutch here). It will make things even better still!

Incredibly it had taken me 45 years to understand this about myself – but one by one the dominoes were falling. Each time I wrote something new down in my blog it gained a sense of permanence – and as time progressed (and I discovered more about myself) the dots were becoming connected.

I was building a picture of who I was – and gaining a deeper insight what my motivations were than I’d ever done before in my life. I no longer just forget something after a revelation and moved on.

Instead I could refer back to them, build upon them and consolidate my gains.

However – back in March of 2016 I was only a sober man.

It wasn’t until April that the real work started….

Davey

Anniversaries on the horizon

After the euphoria of adrenaline that my short attempts to run produced on Sunday (link) I’ve been dealing with the after effect – which is raging cramp in my quads.

It’s not apocalyptically awful if I’m honest (I can still move) but it is surprising because it took a couple of days for the full effects to be apparent.When I climbed out of bed this morning it definitely wasn’t with my usual zesty spring and I’m sure I heard a creaking noise that sounded like a tree about to fall over in a haunted Disney forest.

Unsurprisingly this didnt dissapear with a couple of stabs at the ‘snooze’ button and after geriatrially pottering around for half an hour I headed off to the office. My walk to work was waaaaaaaay more of a chore than it usually is.

I felt sluggish throughout and didn’t enjoy it at all.

In a way this is good mind you – rather masochistically I like cramp. It means things are improving. I’m still not sure what to do with all this though. I’m cautious about what it means, and I’m still reluctant to give myself any goals that I potentially won’t keep. In the past doing that has proved to be both self defeating and demoralising – so I’m just going to see how I feel when I recover and decide what I want to do based on how I feel.

In the meantime I still seem to be subject to a rather insatiable appetite in the evenings – and whilst I’m eating good food I’m still eating too much of it.

21st Jan
Tub of cottage cheese
4 apples
Chilli con carne made with pork mince, kidney beans, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, red pepper
Yogurt and frozen berries

22nd Jan
Chilli leftovers + couscous
4 apples + tub of cottage cheese + 200g ham
Two bowls of slow cooker beef stew
Yogurt and frozen berries

23rd Jan
Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
500g carrots and 6 tomatoes
Chilli con carne + half a pouch of microwave basmati rice
Yogurt and frozen berries

I know that this doesn’t seem like a bad day on the page but I’m hyper aware these days that if I want to lose weight I have to do a lot more and eat a lot less, because I’m no longer benefiting (if you can call it that) from carrying around all that extra timber.

It’s way easier for the weight to fly off when you’re carrying lots of baggage on your person everywhere you go – and in many ways I’ve not significantly modified my eating habits for at least a year.

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself though. I’m suddenly aware that I’m being critical of my successes and looking down on what I’ve done…

I’m probably eating a bit less overall than I used to – but I feel that things (broadly speaking) have remained the same. This is almost certainly because every time I consider how I feel about reducing my portion sizes a tiny (yet uncontrollable) part of my brain begins to panic somewhere in a corner.

On the plus side (even though I’m judging myself harshly when I shouldn’t) I seem to have found a rough ‘maintenance’ amount of food for when I get to target…

However I still need to get to target!

Today it’s been all that’s on my mind – and to try and stop myself overeating in the evening I’ve been munching carrots and tomatoes at my desk and had some lovely healthy leftover slowcooked beef stew for lunch.

(author pauses)

Oh screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m preoccupied by more than food – and I’m feeling self critical and a little maudlin because two anniversaries are on the horizon.

Although I didnt join Slimming World until April 2016 the turning point in my life that started all this was the death of my mother on the 28th of January, and my decision to finally stop drinking myself to death two days before she died on the 26th of that month.

 

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For all of the water that went under the bridge between us it’s sometimes easy to forget that when I was born she was a young woman of 28. Although I know a lot of her troubled history now at that moment in time she was just a young mother with a newborn infant in her arms and there was nothing was written in stone for the future.

For all she knew the bond that she had with me would be unbreakable and we would be inseperable forever.

Time changes many things though and that potential relationship never came to pass. At the end we were barely on speaking terms and communicating with her (at least from my perspective) felt agonisingly painful.

Even close to the end I counted the moments until I could leave her company and get blind drunk.

Maybe somewhat paradoxically today I found myself, sitting alone in my lunch break looking at a photo of her death certificate.

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It says ‘exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ as the cause of her death – and in the other significant conditions section the words ‘breast cancer’ in black biro sit there staring back at me from otherwise empty dotted lines.

I’ve not looked at this picture since the day it was taken – and it occurs to me that it was around this time that I began to accumulate documents, photos and paintings that I never really wanted to be in posession of or to own.

Like this piece of paper they’re all just scribbled words on a page but they hold a power.

Even now though for some reason I can’t bring myself to dispose of them, despite how they make me feel. They remain buried in drawers for another day filled with greater fortitude.

(sigh)

I’m not sure why anniversaries are so important.

It really shouldn’t matter that another year is about to pass by without her in my life – and I probably by now should have shaken off the ever present nagging sense of guilt that it’s not her death that I remember the most about those awful days, but my decision to stop drowning my problems in alcohol and to reach out for help.

It’s been 727 days since I put down my glass after finishing that evening’s third bottle of wine and never picked one up again.

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I’m still struck by the paradox that such an awful event caused so many positive things to happen in my life – and despite it not really being the true anniversary of either big moment I dedicate the rest of this post to her memory and what’s changed about my life since she died.

It’s all been seen here before – but I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll post what I like. I’m proud of it all, and also more than a little sad that things ended the way that they did before I made what sits below this paragraph happen.

Despite knowing that if she was still alive she’d probably find some way of undermining these achievements the fact is is that I owe every single one of them to her passing.

 

  • I was unable to sleep in any position other than my left side or sitting upright at 34st 8.5 lbs. Now I can sleep on whichever side I choose (including my back) and no longer wake up in a panic because I think I’m suffocating
  • I’ve walked the cumulative 3000 mile distance from San Fransisco to New York (and almost 1000 miles more) since joining Slimming World
  • I overcame Plantar Fasciitis, two torn calf muscles, ligament problems in my left thigh and shin splints caused by my weight and persisted with my walking and exercise
  • I’m no longer taking medication to control my (type 2) diabetes – and have a HbA1c reading of 28 compared to 94 when first diagnosed
  • My blood pressure is down from borderline hyper-tension to that of someone 20 years younger than myself
  • The usual resting heart rate of an adult male in his mid 40’s is around 70bpm. Thanks to all the exercise I do now mine is currently around 40bpm.
  • I’ve dropped from the 8xl shirt and 66in waisted trousers I was wearing to XL shirts/large coats and waist size of 34-36in (depending on the retailer)
  • I can put my socks on
  • I haven’t broken any furniture by sitting or lying on it for over a year and a half
  • I can buy clothes from pretty much any supermarket or high street store. They cost approximately 75% less than they used to at specialist retailers
  • I can now fit into cars and taxis, including the smallest ones available in all my local dealerships AND get the seatbelts on (I tried them ALL!!!)
  • I can take the train or the bus because I fit into public transport and can walk to and from where it stops
  • I can fit in my bath
  • I don’t get out of breath walking up hills unless they’re really steep
  • I can mow my lawns without being in agony – and maintain my gardens
  • I can stand up without grunting or straining from pretty much any position
  • My skin no longer burns instantly when exposed to the sun (often it doesn’t burn at all now) and I don’t have dry eczema all the time like I used to
  • I no longer wear glasses for reading and have dramatically improved eyesight due to my diabetes being under control
  • I can sit in restaurant or cafe booths – in fact ANY kind of fixed bench or table seating is accessible – as well as garden picnic tables and plastic chairs.
  • I can go to the cinema and not have to pay extra for premium seating because I don’t fit in the standard seat or am worried that they will break
  • I can walk up to 17.5 miles a day and average 20,000 steps daily and 70+ miles every week. Previously I couldn’t walk to the end of my street 200 metres away
  • I can concentrate for much longer periods and take in (and retain) information a lot faster
  • I need less sleep – usually 5-6 hours is enough now. I used to need at least 10 because it was so hard to get rest with sleep apnea
  • I can now walk a mile in 14 minutes and 51 seconds. When I first tried to do a mile it took well over an hour to an hour and a half with continual rest stops. I usually have to stop every 7-8 miles now.
  • I can jog up stairs
  • I can jog back down stairs
  • I’ve taken large amounts of outsized clothes to charity and by donating with gift aid have helped other people by doing so.
  • I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since January 26th 2016
  • I’m now able to buy clothes from charity shops as well as deposit them and when I do they cost around 1/8th of what I previously was forced to buy
  • I can take a selfie without hating myself
  • I have climbed Snowdon
  • I no longer have constant oedemas (fluid retention) in my ankles
  • I can go outside wearing shorts without feeling self conscious
  • I don’t need to get my shopping delivered and I often walk two miles to the supermarket and carry it miles back home in a rucksack
  • I can stand for long periods without crippling back, knee and tendon pain
  • My knees no longer hurt all the time. They used to be painful even when I was seated
  • I can’t hear my own laboured breathing when I sit and relax
  • I no longer sweat all the time regardless of the temperature and I need to wear thick socks, gloves a coat and a hat to go outside in the cold
  • I regularly meet lots of new people through my efforts, Slimming World and my blog
  • I’m now confident enough with my appearance and fit enough to stand and speak in front of groups about my weight loss. Previously this would have been impossible because I quickly became breathless and physically shook from the effort of standing upright
  • I no longer get publicly bullied and called names related to my weight by youths (and adults) on the street
  • I’ve gone from eating (and burning) 7,500 calories per day to around 2000 and because of this my shopping costs around 2/5ths of what it used to.
  • I can ride a bicycle again
  • I can sit in an IKEA Poang armchair without fear of breaking it
  • I can do press-ups
  • I can do sit-ups
  • I can climb ladders and use stepladders (none held my weight before) to get into my loft
  • People I know frequently fail to recognise me in the street until I speak
  • I’ve never spent more quality time with friends, family and people that I care about in my entire life – and when I do we’re usually exercising so I seem to be promoting positive behaviour in those that mean something to me
  • I no longer make excuses not to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while (or don’t see them at all) because I feel embarrassed about putting lots of weight on since they last saw me
  • My friends and family can hug me and put their arms all the way around me
  • I’ve appeared in the Leamington observer (link)
  • I’ve appeared on BBC local radio to tell my story
  • I can run (although not very well yet)

Davey

Stay creative

I’m easily pleased.

Silly silly little things make me really really happy – and I’m thankfully not alone in this.

Today I was at the recycling centre in Leamington. I always pop in as I pass – and whilst browsing at the Age UK shop I saw a young girl. She was around 10-12 years old, wearing a fluffy pink parka with a warm looking fur collar and some matching woolly ear muffs. Both she and her mother were checking out the used bikes near the entrance.

One by one they went through the frames, colours and conditions. The quality of the bikes there often varies wildly – but there are usually diamonds to be found amongst the rough.

After a while of earnestly considering her options the girl had selected one that she liked. It looked sturdy and had purple handlebar grips which she clearly approved of. There was also plenty of tread on the tyres, and she had tested them over and over by pressing her tiny thumbs repeatedly into the back and the front.

No punctures. It looked like the one.

Her mother agreed with the choice and paid for the bike at the till.

Afterwards the small family (two little brothers were also in tow) left together, walking in the same direction as me.

As they made their way past Morrisons the girl (who had been trying unsuccessfully for around 200 metres to lift herself up into the high saddle) finally managed to get upright and pedal a few metres in front of her mom and past her (clearly impressed) siblings.

Her mother and she had smiles from ear to ear, and both were giggling. As I peeled off in a different direction I realised that I too had a big grin on my face.

Something that the last two years has shown me is that it’s possible to reset your life, to change your viewpoint, to want less and enjoy the smaller things in life.

Whereas in the past I thought nothing of buying a £1000 TV to take my mind off my problems I now find happiness in my 99p beanie – purchased from globalcare yesterday.

It keeps my head warm, saves me money and benefits charity too – just like the little girl’s bike.

My blog happened for a similar reason believe it or not.

I don’t do it for profit and instead I began to write it purely because I needed to feel like I create something rather then endlessly devour the output of others.

Maybe by being less of a consumer in my every day life, and putting something (anything) back into the society in which I live I’m making the world a bit of a better place in my own small way.

I remember that as a child my first bike was a collection of parts put together in secret in the loft that eventually became my Christmas present. To me it didn’t matter that my family couldn’t afford a new one.

It was the bike I wanted – and for the time I had it I loved it.

Over the years I learned to want new things – mostly because I saw other children with them, and unconsciously I began (in almost every aspect of my life) to become a consumer instead of a creator.

I forgot about the drawings I used to do all the time (mostly because my mother became jealous – and angrily said again and again that art was her thing not mine – that my creativity served purely to undermine her) and I stopped writing poems and stories.

I used to create a lot to excise negative feelings – but (partially because this seemed to antagonise my mom) I found it was easier to drink – and so bit by bit one activity replaced the other.

Instead I retreated and the more I consumed the less I created. Without realising what I was doing I ate and drank away the pain of many aspects of my childhood.

I did it for so long I ceased to realise that I was doing it any more.

Today though, watching the cheerful little girl, I remembered that little boy with his recycled bike for Christmas and the happy feeling it gave him to ride it back and forth outside his house.

If you want a new year’s resolution internet then maybe you can’t go far wrong with ‘want less and give more’.

It’s what I’m going to do – along with constantly trying to be a better version of myself.

Happy New Year’s Eve everybody. Have fun and stay creative x

Davey

Bendy lights

I was walking home tonight and thinking how much I like passing one particular shop window. Day after day I’ve found myself gazing at the coloured lamps within like a moth faced with a full moon and I can’t help stopping to admire it.

The display has reminded me of a variety of things each time I’ve passed it and tonight it made me stop and think of Christmas – although I don’t imagine that’s it’s intent.

I think they’re just trying to sell nice lamps. The shop doesn’t seem at all seasonal otherwise.

On other evenings the bendy ones have made me think back to the 90’s and a flat I had at university. Their curves are reminiscent of a similar one that I owned back then and it reminds me of happy times.

When I’ve passed on other days the shop window has simply made me think that there’s something missing in my current house – and that I want to buy something similar so I can add a touch of colour to my living room on dark and gloomy days.

I’m rather glad I passed the shop front in a good frame of mind this evening and thought Christmassy thoughts though – because when I strode by in the morning I was in a completely different mood.

I seem to be having quite a lot of vivid dreams lately – and although many just make me wake up and think ‘what the heck?’ there are one or two that have left me feeling quite disturbed.

This morning I awoke very early in the middle of what can only be described as a severe ‘body modification’ dream. It was about as close to horror as it gets – and I can’t quite figure out whether I was a victim or a powerless observer in it.

The protagonist was female – but at times I was her – yet toward the end I was external to the proceedings and watching what was happening.

This woman (who was initially me) hated herself so profoundly that she’d asked someone to surgically rebuild her as he saw fit. To do this he was adding and removing limbs and flesh as the mood took him – and slowly turning her into some kind of doll.

Instead of using flesh in place of flesh however he was choosing synthetic materials to remake her/me and the consequence of this was that she (or I) could feel nothing any more as the layers built up and covered what was real and encased inside.

By the end of the nightmare I awoke fully expecting to be made of plastic and to have only my innards left.

Needless to say it was extremely unsettling and remained with me for much of the morning. I thought about it all the way on my walk to work – and it wasn’t until lunch time that I managed to move away from it.

I’m not quite sure why all of a sudden my imagination is so rampant at night – or indeed why rather out of the blue I seem to be having nightmares instead of dreams.

In my waking life I think I’m quite content – and just getting on with my day to day business – so I’m not entirely sure what to make of these recent pulse pounding white knuckle rides. So far they’ve been (amongst other things) about my mother and now this decidedly odd topic.

Maybe this one’s about what I’m becoming – how I’ve morphed into something new over time – and made my outward appearance change so much.

However I’m not sure I understand the lack of feeling or the relinquished control aspects of the nightmare – as neither are things I either want or think that I suffer from.

Regardless of this internet I’m hoping for better dreams for the rest of the week. Waking up at the crack of dawn sweating has left me feeling like a total zombie for most of today.

Here’s hoping that tonight is instead one of fluffy teddy bears, (sugar free) lollipops and rolling green hillsides!

Fingers crossed x

Davey

Au Revoir Supercoat!

As regular visitors (and subscribers) to this blog have probably noticed there has been a higher volume of posting than usual this week, and I heartily apologise if you’re getting sick of hearing from me. A few more introspective posts have left my drafts folder than normally would primarily because the last seven days have been quite emotional ones.

Today’s is a little introspective too, just so you know.

There’s been a lot of time spent with this week with close and extended family – and quite a few associated good (or bad) memories and feelings explored and talked about that all of us have maybe waited a bit too long to express, or possibly felt we couldn’t.

One of the nice things about my time spent with my Dad while he’s been staying has been chatting about his childhood, alongside memories of his father and mother and how they met. Often you can forget that your parents are themselves someone’s children and they too inherited their own fair share of blessings and difficulties from their upbringings.

As I mentally compose this post he’s telling me about why he has his name – and I find out for the first time that it was the middle name of a man that his mother greatly respected who owned a brewery. I doubt he remembered this himself until he looked into the bag of letters from her that he’s been avoiding since she died nearly two decades ago.

As I watch him reminisce about his school years and I look down at the yellowed 10 length swimming certificate in my hands bearing his name (which he’s kept since 1952) I drift away from the words and find myself thinking how much I love the old fart.

I’ve hugged him several times while he’s been here – but probably not enough.

As he readied himself to leave today I looked at Supercoat, which was hanging in the hall. It represented (and still does) a lot to me when I purchased it from Debenhams – as it was the first item of mainstream clothing I’d been able to buy since I started my blog – but I haven’t worn it for a while.

I first tried it on in February (link) and it was a big day (in terms of both my diabetes and my clothing).

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Initially worried about whether I could afford it I didn’t buy it in that post – and instead tried a cheaper, less waterproof alternative. I discovered quickly that we were incompatible when it rained…

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I eventually threw caution to the winds a couple of weeks later (link) and went back to treat myself – this time trying to smile for the camera after multiple reader complaints about looking like a miserable sod the first time around!

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I’ve worn Supercoat a lot in the (almost) six months since I purchased it.

Whilst wearing it (or the detachable inner fleece) I’ve been completely soaked by arrogant t**t Porsche drivers, climbed the Malvern Hills (link), navigated large portions of the Grand Union Canal, got lost near a windmill, explored several greenways, walked along the Thames Path, sneaked lots of flasks of coffee into the cinema in its spacious pockets and (literally) walked hundreds of miles with it keeping me warm and dry.

 

If I’m honest I’ve kind of bonded with it and I really didn’t want to give it to charity or sell it – so today instead I gave it to my Dad. It fits him quite well – and winter’s coming, so it makes me happy to know he’ll also be warm and dry inside it. I hope he enjoys the walks it takes him on as much as I enjoyed mine, and as he wears it I hope it also reminds him of his visit this week and the conversations we’ve shared.

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In my case I’m cosy enough in my old/new charity shop jacket (link) and at some point when the cold weather hits I’m going to try and find another all weather alternative (it’s not water proof but water resistant as I discovered in the picture above!) that’s suitable for strenuous exercise and good for mountains and hills – which I plan to spend a lot more time exploring in my future.

I have an adventure already lined up for next week – but more of that will come in another blog…

In the meantime I’m just thankful.

I’m thankful that my Dad is in my life to give my coat to, and I’m thankful that he’s shared his memories with me. I’m thankful that I’ve not run from the difficult ones and I’m thankful that we can talk about such things. I’m also thankful that maybe I can bring some of the lessons that I’ve learned in life recently back to him and that he too can benefit from them.

I also realise now that it’s Friday evening and unusually I don’t care what the scales say tomorrow. Today numbers are immaterial and any progress in life is being measured with a different yardstick.

Instead all I can think about is that I just want him to be well, happy, and pestering me for many many years to come.

Davey

Pegs

When my mother died there were many many things left behind. I hated pretty much all of the time that I spent with my brother sifting through what I viewed at the time as the rubbish and wreckage of a decaying life.

For those who didn’t arrive at the start of my blogging career (which started not coincidentally shortly after her death) there was little love between us towards the end – and even my sense of duty to someone supposedly so close had long since faded. 

My mother was like a magpie – constantly collecting shiny rubbish and nik-naks with little or no value and always seemed supremely adept at burying herself in meaningless trinkets from pound shops. 

From an inheritance perspective (which I didn’t want) she left behind little more than a small sum of money and continual headache that seemed to last for months. 

In some ways it never left me. 

There was no real closure between us except that which I endeavoured to construct in my own mind after the event. However for all the pain it caused the act of emptying her bungalow was in some respects a huge cathartic release. 

My brother and I threw much of its contents away – apart from the dolls, crockery and ornaments that seemed relatively new. They went to charity. 

Most of what I ended up taking home with me I kept because I was too tired to decide what to do with anything any more. It sat filling my spare room for a long time before I eventually gave almost all of it away – in the hope that one day someone else would get some positive use out of it. 

Some small things however I kept. 

Photos for instance are obvious – memories like this are rarely discarded. Those didn’t require much thought. I don’t really want to look at them yet but they’re still in a drawer for a day when I might change my mind. 

The things that meant the least to me at the time – but were silly to throw away were usable items like clothes pegs, washing powder, garden tools, and door hanging tidy pockets. 

It used to endlessly irritate me that she wasted her money on things like this (there were multiples of everything and she didn’t need them) but as I sit in the garden today my clothes are drying on a washing line secured by her pegs. 


On the back of my utility cupboard door there are boot laces, batteries, dusters and light bulbs all neatly arranged in her hanging pockets. 

On the inside handle of my back door is a foam knee pad for weeding. I’ve used that too. It’s useful. 

Below the pad is usually a heavy red pair of suede gardening gloves, which I’ve used over and over again lately to pull nettles and thorny brambles out of my garden. They’ve saved me many an injury. 


I’m struck by the fact (as I watch my washing dry with her pegs in the warm afternoon sunshine) that these items unexpectedly represent something that I loved about her and I feel a little sad. 

She was a practical woman from a working class background who valued tools and items that helped get a job done. When I put my hands into her old gloves I realise that quite unexpectedly they have begun to mean something to me

Her hands used to fit inside them too, and she also used them to weed her garden like I do. All of a sudden we’re connected by such a trivial item and I’m taken aback by the rush of poignancy this brings. 

It’s like I’m somehow holding her hand…

Oddly I’ve realised that this practical side of her – divorced from the emotional closeness that one expects from a mother (but that we never achieved between us in life) is what helps to make my thoughts of her fonder than they otherwise would have been. 


I still can’t understand the complex nature of this troubled lady but I can attempt (every time I fall into the trap of anger about past events) to forgive her and try to remember the good things instead. 

There’s no mileage in bitterness internet. 

All I have to do is put her gloves on to feel some warmth. 

Davey

In the teens!

Well my week’s experiment has concluded. After a somewhat disappointing 1/2 a pound loss last week I had been looking at what I’d been eating and also what I’d been doing for exercise.

Since the 22nd May I’ve been gardening in earnest – and because of the time involved there has been less walking in my life – but according to Apple Watch this wasn’t an issue. It was telling me I was doing the same (if not more) in the garden as I was out of the house walking from A to B.

However during the period where I’ve pulled the garden round from a complete jungle to a rather usable space I’ve lost roughly half the weight that I have on average in prior weeks. Of course – there’s no rush and I’m not saying a two pound average is a bad thing – but it is a little irritating to feel that you’ve put in the same effort that you used to and for no apparent reason only get back half of the reward you expected.

This week I’ve knocked the gardening on the head (apart from a bit of mowing and weeding) and instead walked around 63 miles. What’s more (unlike the phantom ones reported in the garden from my watch’s pedometer) they’ve been genuine miles counted with GPS and requiring plenty of heavy breathing and sweat.

By the way – when I say sweat I mean LOTS OF SWEAT (it’s been a hot week!)

And this is the result.


I’ve only gone and smashed the target this week!!!

This actually makes me a bit emotional to be honest as I’m finally under the 20 stone barrier. I have to say this again quietly and slowly to myself because I still don’t really believe it.

I am now nineteen stone and twelve pounds.

I’m in the teens!!!

The last time I was anywhere near this weight (I don’t have the specific date sadly) Blur were fighting Oasis for the top spot in the charts, Charles and Diana were newly divorced and Nelson Mandella had become the president of South Africa!

You might imagine that this makes me feel rather sentimental – and that there’s a sense within me that I’m recapturing some sort of youthful spirit – but nothing is further from the truth.

When I look back there are few happy memories.

I was an idiot back then.

Mostly I was covering up one kind of pain or another or running from the wrong partner to the wrong partner again and and again just to prove I was normal and not some emotionally damaged fat kid with an abusive home life.

I had no idea about the enormity of the mistakes I was making and what I was doing to myself physically and emotionally. I papered over almost every crack in my life with cigarettes, alcohol, food – and other things too numerous to detail.

Although there was no digital photography back then I can see this in almost all of the photos that remain. I see someone persistently running away from truly feeling things, being the ‘life and soul of the party’ and burying problem after problem under layer after layer of fat – and ultimately retreating to near isolation.

I don’t miss the mid 90s.

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With this in mind the fact I now also have a fourteen and a half stone certificate barely seems to register in comparison – but I have to admit when I stop and say it to myself slowly and look at my progress from 34st 8.5lbs that’s pretty nice too!

So – what does the week ahead hold for me? Relaxation? Partying? Treating myself? Absolutely none of the above. I’m going to have a go at being a (bit of a) vegetarian this week.

Ok – well – maybe not a complete vegetarian – but I bought lots of Quorn!!!

Ok Ok Ok – maybe I’ll have half meat and half Quorn?!

Oooorrrr possibly some veggie days and maybe the rest as meat days?…

Either way internet –  it’s hopefully going to be another week of walking and healthy eating – so watch this space! The next stop on my route is my (mildly unbelievable) fifteen stone certificate!!!

Davey

Spring

I think my mood is being affected by my cold as I’ve no other reason to wake up feeling glum. However for some reason I did.

Oddly today everything seemed grey when I opened my eyes and my enthusiasm for anything and everything was at rock bottom.

Although… now that I think about it – maybe there is something on my mind.

I know I started to deal with my clutter the other day – but I’ve not finished. Doing so has unearthed items I’ve avoided for a quite a while – and some ‘scabs’ are still sitting in drawers and cupboards waiting to be picked.

It’s been over a year since my mother’s death and I’m still seeing things around my house that came from her bungalow or that belonged to her and remind me of times and places I don’t really want to remember.

There was so much of it that it seemed impossible to deal with it at the time. However – now I’m feeling like I want a new start for so many aspects of my life it seems appropriate to try and face up to this.

I’ve not buried any of the feelings I experience about her. It’s quite the opposite actually. I’ve lived them in public as I’ve written them down here – and it’s helped.

There are some things that I ‘inherited’ that are tougher to mentally process and physically deal with though.

I’ve given a lot of the generic stuff away rather than sell it. There were things that could help friends and that I had no need for. Practical stuff – like incontinence pads, cleaning supplies, garden tools, and cans of food.

It made me feel good to see her possessions helping people and re-wrote much of the negative narrative in my mind about the items I was left with. The things she obsessively hoarded could now be used as they were intended to be – in a positive way. 

But then there are her paintings and masses of scribbled (and repetitively duplicated and muddled) notes about the family. All of these are individually wrapped – as if a squirrel inhabited her mind instead of a human being.

It makes pulling the mental puzzles apart that are contained within exhausting.

However the information they hold is useful and relates to the history of my family. I can’t just throw them away – but I also can’t easily order or make sense of them. Up till now it’s been easier to leave them in a cupboard and come back to them at a later date.

‘Later’ is now a year on though and I still haven’t tackled those or the paintings – of which there are a lot – all painted by her.

Although this may sound callous none of them have any emotional attachment for me. With very few exceptions I dislike every single one of them both in style and for what they represent.

The frames and the oil paint she used is discoloured and yellowed by the same cigarettes that killed her and every one of them has lived in the house of a heavy smoker – in some cases for 40+ years.

They smell – and every time I catch a whiff of the odour it brings back a memory of her, attached to oxygen and struggling to breath – but still smoking.

By the same token though they’re paintings and getting rid of them seems almost akin to burning or defacing books in my mind.

On top of that they’re by my mother. She created them. They’re the legacy of her mind and one of the few things she really loved in life.

They’re also one of the few things (now that I reflect upon it) that seemed to make her happy.

It makes me feel nothing but bad that I want to discard them – and I fear that if I do so then later on I’ll regret my decision.

But I don’t want them in my life. 

It’s a conundrum that I don’t have an answer to. Every time I look at them I then immediately look at the loft hatch, which leads to the last totally empty space in my house.

Do I move the problem to yet another location and ‘store’ them there – or is this just avoidance? If I put them in my loft am I deferring the decision or am I sensibly preserving the past? 

I honestly don’t know.

I do know that the only things that make all this go away (at least temporarily) are exercise and going outside.

Doing so gives me a sense of purpose that blows away the cobwebs of the past and reminds me that even if I feel a little low today that tomorrow is a totally new day.

Walking fast and getting out of breath makes me remember that regardless of what’s in my cupboard at home I’m continually moving forward. Even though I’ve yet to deal with this aspect of the past I’m making progress. 

Plus it’s the right time of year to confront the reality of bereavement because the world is suddenly walking up. Nothing truly dies. It’s all just a process of continual rebirth.

As I walked briskly toward my customary coffee shop this morning I noticed that (during the last 48 hours that have passed since I last walked here) spring had arrived.

Hiding in the grass by the path were the first crocus shoots of the year, pushing upwards into the warmth of the Sunday morning sun as it peeked through the cloud cover above.


They look lovely and really cheered me up.

So – after my coffee I’m going to go home and start again.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I don’t think that grief (or whatever I was left with when she died) needs to be experienced in any particular way or in any particular timeframe.

I do know one thing though.

It’s important to come out the other side feeling like more than you were and not like you’ve been somehow diminished. A person may be gone but they left a legacy – and I don’t mean in terms of property.

Each and every life that ultimately leaves us lives on in the changes that they prompted or the thoughts they left in our minds – be they good or bad.

Every day is a conscious choice for me about what to do with the memories of her. Each time I think about my mother I consciously choose to be inspired by her failings in life and not buried by the weight of her problems.

Plus she liked crocuses Internet. She’d be happy to see them right about now.

If she was alive she would probably be contentedly watching her own grow from a seat in her back garden. She’d be wearing her well worn and faded slippers and thoughtfully smoking a fag – all the time sipping from a hot, milky, sugary mug of tea with a picture of the queen’s jubilee on it.

Davey

No longer a burden to the state

I have been looking at parts of my house lately with a sense of deep dissatisfaction.

My bed for instance has seen a lot of action – but not the kind that comes in 50 shades and gets made into questionable literature. It’s borne the strain of my excessive weight for quite a few years, and it’s not escaped unscathed. It’s broken three times, been repaired with spare parts from Ikea twice and is currently bodged, with the frame underneath the mattress propped up by a stack of old magazines after something irreparable snapped.

The mattress (a very expensive reinforced pocket sprung one) is not the supportive yet comfortable billiard table surface it was when I bought it. There’s an imprint of a heavier person in the middle of it which I hadn’t really noticed before. Lately it’s begun to swallow me. It’s not yet uncomfortable enough to motivate me to spend money I don’t have on a replacement – but it’s not far off.

My nearby bedroom wardrobe is largely empty – and most of my clothes are instead in a pile of folded laundry downstairs, awaiting their eventual journey to a charity shop.

Bit by bit it seems that everything is slowly emptying out of my life to make space for… well, I don’t exactly know what yet. As I look around me lately (apart from friendships which are getting stronger if anything) everything seems to have a sense of transience and impermanence that it didn’t before.

It’s mildly unsettling – but also at times exciting because it’s the kind of fluidity that is caused by positive change, and things are no longer as inevitable or unchangeable as I thought they once were.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because I was clearing out some old things this morning and found a few diaries. They were imaginatively titled ‘the diary of a fat person’ and spanned five volumes and a period between 1988 and 1992. They document a key piece of my adolescent struggle with (amongst other things) weight and my mother.

As I skimmed through them for an hour (I couldn’t bring myself to read some of it) I saw a young me, starting at 17st 7lbs and fighting against my mom’s willingness to feed me fattening food. After much internal and external conflict about food and how to avoid being fed meals over which I had no input or choice I eventually resort half way through the first volume to self imposed starvation (in direct and often painful opposition to my mother) for several months until I got to what must have been a very unhealthy 12st 7lbs in 1989.

I note that she keeps sneaking sugar into things and I eventually only seem to trust grapefruit – which seems at times to be almost the only thing I was eating – all the time obsessed with who would see me as fat and who wouldn’t, which was a very real and ever present issue.

I’d completely forgotten for instance (aside from the run of the mill bullying I endured each and every day) that one of my diaries was invaded on a school trip by an unknown person who had scribbled abuse regarding my thoughts about a girl and written above it ‘blubber boy’ in large letters. It was hidden deeper into the diary where I would only discover it later for maximum effect.

I was enraged when I found the violation but never got to the bottom of who had been reading my private thoughts. It was however just an example of something that happened every day in some form or another and the bullying rarely stopped.

I sporadically continued to write in these diaries – but as my weight increased once more I stopped documenting it – clearly unable to face up to to the reality of my eating habits and beginning to drink more and more. The last time I recorded it (until many years later) was the 11th November 1992 when I hit 16 stone.

These (painful to read) books detail the development of coping mechanisms for dealing with life at home that remained in place for many years – until decades after I left.

The last saved diary I have (which was more of a calendar by that time) is from January 1999. After much cajoling from my partner when we lived in Aberystwyth I’d joined Weight Watchers.

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This in itself isn’t new news. Some time ago I found (and posted) my old weigh in card – but somehow I’d forgotten that I’m now almost the same weight I was back then before I faltered, stopped going regularly to my group and eventually gave up – much to the annoyance of my better half.

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Shortly after (on my second card) I’d moved to Bristol and joined a second time – but swiftly retreated again. My partner was still adamant I needed to lose weight but I was not. I had rejoined under duress and (stupidly) rebelled – eating in secret behind her back.

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I’m not far from the 22st 12.5lbs (currently I’m 23st 10lbs) that I was in November 1999. When I get there I’ll have hit a psychological milestone that has massive significance. For some reason in my mind at this point it’s almost like I have permission to be ‘normal’ again – to have a life that includes things like a relationship and possibly a family.

So it’s an exciting time – and one that I’ve worked hard for.

Oddly it may just coincide with another huge moment because today I got a call offering me a job – which I’ve acceptedI hopefully start in a couple of weeks and frankly I couldn’t be happier.

Then a new chapter starts – and just like my bedroom I don’t know what it will contain or what it will look like. I only know that my old patterns have been broken (permanently if I have any say in the matter) and I don’t ever intend to repeat them.

Which is just as well – as tonight I have an unexpected house guest, who appears intent on featuring in his second post (we first met here).

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Initially Pugly was a bit unsure of me after being dropped off for a spot of dogsitting, and we sat on the sofa together eyeing each other with mutual suspicion. ‘Who is this strange man?’ Pugly seemed to be saying with his little frown. ‘I don’t know him and he smells funny.’

However – not long after this his stoic resolve began to break down.

When it did he edged a little closer – all the time doing his level best to hide the fact that he was warming to me.

I am after all extremely soft and warm and Pugly clearly had a cold bottom.

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Before long he had stealthily come to a conclusion about our compatibility and, despite an unwillingness to announce it formally I think I got the message.

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Of course – Pugly has no idea that this time last year he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show his thinly veiled affection. I didn’t have a lap back then, so he couldn’t have sat on it even if he wanted to.

So tonight internet we’re both benefiting from radical positive change. Long may it continue. 🙂

Davey

Dream meanings

It was a grey, damp, rainy day yesterday, and the light levels barely rose above ‘early evening’ all day long. It’s slightly brighter today – but not by much.

It’s easy to feel glum on a day like this – especially when you’re faced with a bewildering array of job sites (every time I follow a link to apply for a job I end up signing up to yet another one I’ve never heard of), an inbox full of mails from recruiters with roles that aren’t even vaguely suitable for you, and a bank account that’s reliant on you doing very little that costs money to remain in the black.

However I really don’t feel glum today. I didn’t yesterday either. I feel quite good actually. One might even say liberated.

I woke up the other day having had a rather unsettling dream about staying at a hotel. The plumbing and bathroom in this hotel (one that I was sharing with several friends) was awful. The toilet didn’t work and there was no privacy. By the end of my time in this horrible 70’s decorated environment with green deep polyester carpets the facilities were overflowing and I was desperately trying to clean up an impossible mess of effluence.

It all eventually overflowed in a raging torrent and I was surrounded by a disgusting mess.

I woke up at this point – but realised it wasn’t the first time I’d had this dream and Googled it to see whether there was an explanation that might make sense of why this would recur.

I found this (edited) explanation:

As in waking life, when in the bathroom in a dream you are often dealing with the unpleasant, intimate aspects of life: relieving yourself, elimination of wastes, cleansing yourself, etc. In dreams, additional obstacles or unfortunate circumstances are usually a factor. These might include: being unable to find the bathroom, a lack of privacy, having no toilet paper available, a dirty bathroom or a clogged or overflowing toilet.

Basically, bathroom dreams may be addressing your need to relieve yourself emotionally and/or psychologically. You may be dealing with a dirty, messy, toxic or crappy situation in waking life or are under a lot of stress. A public bathroom or restroom may suggest the dream is dealing with your social or professional life or relationships while the bathroom in a home suggests the issue may be internal or related to your home life or relationships.

The toilet itself may be dealing with your ability or inability to eliminate problems, relationships, emotions, etc. If the toilet won’t flush or is clogged, you may be unwilling or unable to release your emotions or express yourself. An overflowing toilet may represent an emotional outburst or you may be feeling overwhelmed by your emotions and the stresses in life.

The night before I’d told someone something about my relationship with my mother that I’d never mentioned to anyone before. I hadn’t been purposefully hiding it, and had good reason to keep it to myself – as it was something that was profoundly intimate and embarrassing.

It just came out in conversation.

I realised as my friend and I were talking that for a number of reasons I’d been hiding and pushing the thought to the back of my mind every time it came up. I’d hidden it from myself for years – motivated mostly by a sense of personal shame. Each time I’d wanted to vocalise it I’d stopped and pushed it back down – moving on instead to other topics.

For some reason I chose not to this time and instead relayed the story to my friend and then how it made me feel. I was close to tears after letting it go – and realised (based on the look on my friend’s face) that what I was describing was a form of abuse by my mother that designed to maintain control and manipulate me.

Honestly – this kind of thing isn’t anything new to me with regards to her memory, but this particular thing is something I hadn’t openly admitted to anyone before. Unburdening came with a sense of relief and no small degree of fear, but it was extremely liberating – and as I drove home in the dark rainy night afterwards I felt somehow lighter.

My mind was clearly still turning over the consequences of my tale being told however, and the whole night was characterised by restless sleep – and finally this dream.

Sharing this memory (which happened randomly in a very normal conversation) reminded me of a couple of things however – and they’re the root of why I feel so good at the moment.

Firstly, when you hide your true self the only person that you ultimately hurt is yourself.

Sure, you may temporarily save yourself some embarrassment and shame – but you’re only constructing a prison for that part of you in your own mind. It’s as real as any physical cell in a real jail, and the longer that you leave it closed the less likely you are to be able to easily find the key.

Being open and honest is the best gift we can give to ourselves and others – and although if anyone asks me for my pin numbers they can get stuffed, when they ask me how I feel I’ll always do my very best to tell them.

Secondly, people are inherently good.

Some may see this as a naive attitude – but I’m not a stupid man and I like to think I’m a good judge of character. I’ll have alarm bells if someone looks shifty just as much as the next guy.

Often if someone looks insane and you cant quite figure out why that’s evolution whispering in your ear and reminding you of primal reasons why you avoid certain things and move towards others. It’s a good thing to trust your instincts.

What I mean is that when I meet someone (that seems ok) for the first time I prefer my default position to be trust and openness – and I can only think of a few instances in my life where this has been betrayed. In the vast majority of cases people are worth the time you invest in them and they ALL have something to give.

So – my inbox is overflowing with stuff thats misdirecting me left and right, my bank account looks worse than ever, but I’m continually reminded that the yardsticks that I used to judge my old life are no longer as relevant as they once were.

Eventually something good will happen and when it does I’ll be standing there with a smile on my face waiting to shake its hand and say hello.

Finally internet – my soppy side came out whilst writing this – and I was reminded of the song that most parents must have been battered to death with in recent years – ‘Let it go’ from the Disney film Frozen.

It may be corny but people love it for a reason – you should listen to the lyrics and just let it go.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

Davey

Cup half empty

It’s often the case that we understand ourselves more when we’re faced with an example of someone that reacts to a situation in a very different way to how we might.

Some years ago I was in a different place mentally to the one I’m in now, and looking back at who I was then still makes me cringe a bit. I’d become a bit disillusioned and bitter with life – but if you’d asked me at the time whether that was who I was I’d have denied it. I was in retrospect completely blind to it.

Then someone said to me ‘Do you realise that people perceive you as a negative person?’

I was floored at the time and it caused me to re-evaluate a lot of things in my life – particularly why I looked at things the way I did, and how I might change. I eventually concluded that some of it was my upbringing (a hangover from parental influences) but a massive portion was a separately learned despondency that I’d been unconsciously working on in my spare time and quietly developing since I was a young boy.

I worked hard to change that aspect of myself and my perception in the eyes of others over the years that followed. I think for the most part I managed it. However the underlying thought processes that enabled that state of mind to take root in the first place were still there and definitely still exist in the background even to this day.

The difference is that I’m now aware of them and when I catch myself becoming too negative (no-one is happy ALL the time) I consciously make the effort to re-frame my perspective and try to think another way.

This makes it all the more jarring however when I’m faced with someone that’s decided they prefer the opposite approach. I came across just such a person recently.

‘I’m unappreciated.’ the dour faced man said to me. ‘It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s pointless. I could do nothing or do everything. Nothing matters.’

I cocked my head slightly. Wow. That was a pretty nihilistic world view. It was also the second thing he’d ever said to me – the first being ‘Hello.’

I felt that things would only worsen if I agreed with him.

‘Surely not!’ I said. ‘Things aren’t that bad!’

‘I’m a cup’s half empty kind of person, In case you hadn’t guessed.’ He said and looked away from me.

He continued to talk, now with a with a mildly sarcastic tone, ‘I’m living the dream. Every day is a constant joy and my life is one of fulfilment. I relish getting up every morning.’

‘Well.’ I said, clearing my throat (I had a bad cold) ‘At least you have a cup.’

He turned and looked at me.

‘It may be half empty but there’s some other poor sod out there with a puddle on his desk and no cup. Not you. You have a cup.’

He cracked a small smile.

Victory.

That set the tone of our interaction – and I made sure to shake his hand and wish him a happy Christmas when we parted. As I walked away he was still smiling, and I hope that (for a short while at least) that smile persisted.

More than ever I’m convinced that happiness is simply a personal choice. I also think it comes with a significant responsibility.

If it’s something that we’re in possession of we should feel duty bound to share it with others.

So, I have the flu (again for the third time this year), I am unemployed, I am overweight and money is tight.

But you know what internet? The flu will go. I only have it so much at the moment because I’m going out much much more and regularly meeting new germs. I’ll also get another job and when I do I’ll carry my experience and enthusiasm with me to somewhere that I can try to occasionally infect with my positivity.

I’ll also continue to loose weight. Soon I’ll be lighter than I have been for a decade and thats an enticing prospect. Even if I stay the same this week or put a pound on – it will be gone next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Looking after myself continually is my raison d’être now and I’m never again changing my focus on health and fitness.

Finally – who gives a crap about money? If I had it I’d only spend it eventually. I’d be chasing ‘things’ for the sake of having all the ‘things’ that society makes me want and covet. Being surrounded by ‘things’ doesn’t make me live longer or feel happier. People make me want to do that and feel that way. Having nothing is strangely liberating. If you can’t just buy something on a whim you begin to appreciate the little things you do have EVEN more.

Plus my mug now is half full and that can only mean one thing…

It has room for MORE COFFEE!!!!

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Davey

Bonfire on ice

I was quite lucky when I was younger. At the time I just accepted it, but now I realise that the freedom I had as a child was more than children today appear to have, and there’s a lot more fear in society around child safety.

Sure it’s a good thing to be safe – and parents need to be aware of dangers – but it also means that the endless exploring I did in parks with my friends, and with my dog (Will) is something other children don’t seem to do any more.

We used to take long, aimless walks along the local green belt and spent many happy hours just watching the world pass while sitting under a tree (1).

It’s changed a bit now – but looks mostly the same from what I could see as I drove to my mom’s nearby bungalow. There are a few new swings and slides, and houses have encroached a bit on what was once green but its essentially the same park I remember.

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From where I grew up you could actually make your way almost completely into the centre of Birmingham totally through parkland along the path of the River Cole (which I did a couple of times). There was the occasional road in the way, but these usually had bridges, which were also great to sit under and watch the water go by.

There was one particular bridge in this park where for some reason myself and my friends always sat underneath in the shade (2). It had badly cracked concrete either side, which had failed in such a way that it made almost perfect seating for teen bottoms. The grass was worn under the bridge by the continued presence of children, and the hard dirt bowed into a basin where our feet dangled or stood.

We could also often be found playing pooh sticks here as we stopped for a break on our way to wherever we were aimlessly wandering to.

Just next to the bridge was a largely disused building, from which the park gained its name – and was known locally as Babbs Mill. I always imagined that a mad old man lived there – but I never once saw a single soul enter or leave. The place still holds an air of child like mystery in my mind.

Since a lot disappears with the passage of time I honestly don’t remember what as a child I talked about with my friends, but I do remember feeling relaxed and close to them when we watched the river go by, sheltered from rain or sunshine by the rusting steel above us.

The river was also special, and I regularly on hot days waded into it at my favourite stone skimming spot (3) and walked along the river bed in my shoes. This was much to the annoyance of my mom who often saw new leather trainers mysteriously turned to stiff cardboard almost overnight.

I actually waded about a mile down it one particularly sunny and hot day. My friend walked initially with me in the water and then as it deepened alongside on the bank, just to see how far I could get.

When the water level reached my teen testicles (4) I realised the folly of the operation and made my way to shore, realising only when I got out that there was a thick green tide mark  below my trouser waist that would be difficult to explain when I got home.

One winter the man made lake in the middle of the park completely froze over, and my friends and I were amazed to see people walking over to the island in the middle (5) – which previously I had never set foot on.

Plucking up all my courage I walked with my companions over the creaking and cracking surface to this forbidden territory, and stood there with them – exhilarated and almost too scared to go back.

As we plucked up our courage and gingerly made our return journey over the ice to dry land I noticed that some older boys (proving that age doesn’t always correspond with wisdom) had gathered in the middle of the lake (6) and had made a bonfire there. They were sitting around it eating, laughing and joking – all completely oblivious to the danger they were placing themselves in.

(This video on YouTube – not made by me – shows the island on the right from the bank, and you can see the birds sitting on the ice as they did.)

When I reached the shore Will slipped on the ice and fell in at the edge. I quickly pulled her out of the water by her lead and collar, shocked and bitterly cold. She sprayed us all with freezing water as she shook herself off trying to get rid of the moisture. I scooped her up and placed her under my jumper, as I tried to get her warm and dry – in the process making my own teeth chatter. She nudged her sodden head past my chin and out of the loose neck of my clothes, unwilling to miss what was going on despite her shivering. 

Will stayed there for a good portion of the journey home until she had warmed and dried. 

The lucky older boys never fell through the ice, much to my complete amazement. I could never walk past that spot again without marvelling at their stupidity.

Further down from the lake was a children’s play area with two metal slides. The larger of the two started at the top of a small hill, and although it was terrible for sliding offered other opportunities to an inventive young mind (7). 

With nothing to do one summer my friend and I spent several hours sitting on the swings and then taking it in turns to lie under the slide with our mouths open as the other attempted to roll a sweet from the top to the bottom in a precision bombing operation.

The 1980’s sweets in question were called ‘trillions’ and were silver, shaped like tiny 3mm aniseed flavoured ballbearings. They coated your fingers and the bag in which they came in this silver dust, and were probably highly toxic, but infinitely pleasurable to suck in large numbers.

Watching their chaotic bouncing descent on the slide was for some reason hilarious at the time. I couldn’t stop laughing at the noise they made on the metal and the complete impossibility of hitting the intended target by anything other than random chance.

After nearly choking to death several times during our game we realised the folly of it and headed off on our bikes to find another source of amusement.

It comes as no surprise to me that these sweets are no longer on sale…

Still – if they were I might go and find a slide somewhere just to roll them one by one, purely for the sake of nostalgia, and the skittering sound they made, which I can still hear today.

Childhood can be crap – and it frequently was for me, but sometimes it can also be absolutely bloody awesome, and give you memories you’ll never forget.

Parks and dogs, and childhood friends…

Sigh.

Davey