Ley line walk from Upton House

There are times when I really am my own worst enemy. I worry and stress about such silly things.

My recent internal struggle with what weight I must or must not be sits squarely in this camp. It really shouldn’t be on my mind though because life at the moment is good.

Very good.

Sure – there are things I still need to fix – such as my employment status – but even this seems to have an unexpected sense of impetus surrounding it all of a sudden.

Maybe it’s just the right time of year.

Sunshine is becoming more and more a feature of daily life as the seasons gradually change and winter cements itself into spring.

The now longer days seem to have had a subtly dappled light within the last week or so and the keenly awaited warmth they’ve brought has been reaching deep down inside me.

With this I have a sense that my soul is slowly being replenished.

On Thursday I was out and about with a friend who likes to occasionally go ‘off piste’ and capitalise on rare moments of good weather.

It was a good day to get outside.

She had suggested we try a new walk (found on the National Trust website here) that we’d not done before. This stared at Upton House and looped around Edgehill – somewhere I’d only previously seen in the distance before from another place that I’ve regularly visited – Burton Dassett (link) (another link) (yet another link).

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We started our walk in the corner of the deserted car park of Upton House.

It’s a National Trust property, and (unlike many I’ve been to over the past few years) the parking is completely free. You just hop out of your vehicle, through a small gate and into a field to begin.

Initially the walk was anything but spectacular.

The field next to Upton House had recently been ploughed and although the light was nice the surroundings were flat, featureless and brown.

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It wasn’t until we’d passed over a road, through another field and down a little dirt track that the glory of where we were slowly came into view.

This is the site of The Battle of Edgehill – fought on the 23rd of October 1642 – and it marks (at least from a military engagement perspective) the starting point of the English Civil war, where Royalist forces first engaged Parliamentarian troops.

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According to the National Trust site the Malvern Hills could be seen in the distance to the left – but I couldn’t quite make them out with my naked eye.

I’m beginning to think that I need to get myself a little pair of trekking binoculars, because sights like this would provide an excellent justification for spending a few pounds.

Vistas like this make you both reflective and thoughtful – and as we stood pondering both the natural beauty and the significance of what had taken place all those years ago the conversation shifted to my feelings about the future and what it may hold.

At the moment all I see is potential and promise stretching out before me – and the marvel of this is that I’m in no hurry to do anything or make any decision about what my next steps should be.

I’m just trusting that everything will become apparent – and whatever is meant to happen will just naturally unfold over time.

The sky seemed to agree.

The clouds were lazily floating by on their way to somewhere else without a care in the world.

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After marvelling at the view for a little while we continued along the top of the (soon to be tree covered) ridgeline.

Fortuitously it benefits from a deciduous canopy and is therefore (at least for the moment) completely defoliated – which means there are currently wonderful views to be found all the time as you walk.

All you have to do is stop and peer between the bare branches and tree trunks surrounding the well worn path.

After about three miles of walking our mid-way (ish) marker came into view.

It was the turret of the Castle Inn – and as pubs go it’s a pretty nice looking one.

According to the sign outside, the turret contains fully ensuite guest quarters.

Therefore if one should so wishes they can stay here overnight, get treated to some (apparently delightful) hospitality and then wake up to a glorious view in the morning – which would look a little something like this.

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It’s a delightfully and very characterful little pub – and aside from the suit of armour on the wall, just inside the doorway is evidence that they like to think of things slightly differently.

On the wall to the right are the loveliest coat hooks I’ve seen for ages.

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Where you might hang up your jacket isn’t the only thing of interest mind you.

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The castle is dripping with history – and as we sat sipping coffee and ginger beer (you can probably guess which of the two belonged to me) I noticed a little piece of card by the drinks menu.

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I love little touches like this – and as I read it I was reminded that this is why certain items are considered collectible antiques that become particularly valuable and others do not.

Provenance.

Without it a building would just be a pretty collection of bricks and none of them would be listed for preservation. With some knowledge of the past though we begin to look at inanimate items or localities differently and build an image in our minds that forms part of such an experience.

Ultimately nothing is valuable unless we choose to place importance upon it.

It’s all transient. Everything is either new or old, rare or abundant – and significance is completely subjective.

We can see beauty in many things and for some that may be a reason to ascribe importance – but the history of a place or object adds context.

It’s here the much of the value we ascribe to any object lies.

Just like my thoughts regarding the future – my happiness and satisfaction in life are completely based on my perspective and imagination.

I’ve decided that it’s bright because I have a narrative history in my mind about what preceeded it and what’s currently within it.

I see the present as better than the past and therefore I appreciate the present even more.

Together they give my life context and meaning and I choose to see that as positive.

To any casual observer nothing is different.

I still have the same head, the same brain sits within it and my body trails along behind it as it always has.

The positivity or negativity we experience when we consider the future are much like our imagination creating provenance in an object.

Sure – it might be truth – but it’s also the past. It’s gone forever and what remains is what we choose to see.

We continually construct our own reality and choose to live within it.

How many times have you told yourself you’re meant to be a certain way because you’ve always been like that – or that someone abused or treated you badly, and that this narrative still dictates your choices in later life?

Maybe this is why you’re unhealthy or feel unfulfilled?

What if your reality was different?

What if your own personal provenance was as easy to shift as writing a new history on the back of a piece of card and slipping it in between the menus of your life.

It’s totally possible.

The power of imagination and belief is within all of us – yet many choose to view it as dried cement rather than clay that they can still mould.

Not me.

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As we left the pub and continued on our way I couldn’t help but admire the little splashes of beauty everywhere.

Much of the walk took very little in the way of perspective and provenance to appreciate.

It was fabulous.

Sometimes all you need is a spot of sunshine, a handful of fruit and nut that your friend has given you – and a nice green field to stop and eat it in.

As we came close to the end of the walk and reached Uplands Farm it appeared that at some point either an overzealous landlord had covered up the right of way (or we took a wrong turn) because the path completely disappeared.

We were trying to figure out exactly how to correct our course when the yappiest (and cutest) little Jack Russell came out from the farm to ensure that we moved along.

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It continued to ineffectually bark and growl at us for a good five minutes until we finally submitted to it’s surprisingly compelling argument and moved along – choosing instead to hop over a locked gate and head for the country lane we new we had to be on slightly further down.

All in all the walk came to around 6.4 miles and was absolutely delightful.

Although we didn’t go in I also believe that (as well as the Rose and Crown pub along the way) further refreshments can be found at Upton House, should anyone wish to pop in.

Either way – it was a lovely little trek, and it helped me re-set and re-centre my perspective.

I’ll be going back there soon.

Davey

The battle continues

Even at the best of times it can be really hard to remain focused on one’s goals (regardless of how important they are) and in this case mine is to remain in target for the whole of February.

I weighed in earlier than usual (or later, depending on how you look at it) on Monday and managed to maintain my weight – coming in at exactly 13st 7lbs.

Honestly I went a bit off plan after that (don’t we all after weighing in?) and ever since I’ve been trying to slot myself back into ‘the zone‘.

When it comes to maintaining weight this is a difficult place to be because mentally you’re ‘already there’.

Often you feel like you’ve ‘done it’ – and all too easily this can translate into relaxing way too much.

In my case I did a bit – and it’s meant that I’ve eaten more than I normally would, walked a bit less, and occasionally stayed in bed listening to the wind and rain outside when I really should have gotten up and walked to the leisure centre for a swim.

It’s not been a completely ‘shut in’ week mind you. I’ve still been exercising.

For instance the other day I spent quite a while walking to, around and from Coombe Abbey.

This place always looks lovely.

It seems to also have intriguing little micro climates too – because whilst the duck pond was completely frozen over just metres away in the woods spring appeared to be in full effect!

I adore these little flashes of new life poking through the undergrowth – and it’s not just aesthetics that they’re good for.

I need to get outside in order to maintain a positive mindset – and regardless of how grey the skies are when I do (and see things like this) I’m always reminded that there’s something lovely to be found nearby.

It makes me feel connected to the world – and that I’m also alive and continually growing.

On other brighter days this week (when I’ve been out of bed early enough to see the sun come up) I’ve also been treated to some absolutely fabulous skies.

Being outside never fails to give me a sense of well-being and positivity.

There are other reasons to feel good too.

At the very least if I get up, go for a walk and have a swim then these activities offset at least some of my bad behaviour, and if I’m in a grump about over eating this causes my mood to lift.

However I have to be careful about thinking that exercise fixes everything because this is a potentially self defeating mindset to get into.

Ultimately no amount of it (at least in my experience) will make up for continually not sticking to plan.

Ultimately you’ll get sick of swimming back and forth or walking ever larger distances way before you ever get bored of eating nice food.

So this morning represents something of a line in the sand.

I really don’t like ‘drawing lines’ – because if I’m honest (for no good reason) the phrase irritates me intensely.

However today it seems appropriate. If I don’t rein in my overeating then when the end of the month rolls around I’ll be scuppered.

I decided therefore to make a stand against my own bad behaviour, get up early and go for it at the swimming pool.

Despite almost stopping and calling it a day after 60 lengths (I felt really tired!) today I pushed on and finally managed to do 100 continuous lengths at St Nicholas.

Thats 2.5km and it accounts for nearly 2000kcal burned before 9am!

I’m not chasing any records though.

I’ve stopped trying to beat previous times because I’ve pretty much plateau’d in that respect – and without significantly improving my technique (I still don’t put my head under water during the breaststroke) I doubt anything will change.

At least for the moment I’m happy to remain very much an amateur swimmer. It hasn’t hindered my ability to exercise one little bit and my average speed is still quite respectable.

There are several people doing front crawl in the ‘fast’ lane that I’m regularly keeping pace with – and so far I’ve noticed no-one at all swimming for as long or as continuously as I tend to do.

At the moment I have immense pride that when I swim in the morning I’m usually in the pool well before the usual regulars and get out well after them.

Furthermore, unlike many of them I don’t stop at all now.

The entirety of my time in the water is spent swimming, rather than pausing and nattering or taking a breather.

Whilst many people I see each day swim much faster than me almost none swim so continuously.

For those who haven’t been following my blog for a long time I only recently started swimming again (November the 16th – link) and the very first time I tried my arms simply weren’t up to the job.

I had to pause at each end of the pool for a minute or so to let the aching subside before going again.

It’s amazing how quickly this improved however – and within a couple of weeks things were quite different.

Not only am I chuffed to bits with my overall fitness and stamina gains but I’ve been really pleased with the visual and physical improvements over the last three months in my arms, chest, shoulders and back.

At times though it’s mildly disheartening – because whilst from a muscular perspective I am stronger than I’ve ever been, from a skin perspective I still have way more than I need.

However – when I embarked upon this path in life I never set out to look like a catalogue model.

I’ve always known that this will never be my reality.

My body has a history. For better or for worse I have to live with it and accept it, because there will never come a day when I decide to cut bits off for vanity.

The truth is I have learned to love some parts of myself and simply accept the bits that I currently can’t.

Then unexpectedly proof positive arrived not so long ago to remind me that this kind of thing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

My new partner in crime has proved to me that I can still be loved regardless of my imperfections.

When someone you adore can look at you and not notice (or care about) all of the faults that you think are so huge it’s a timely reminder that there’s only one real competitor in any race.

Yourself.

Only you stand between where you begin and the finish line.

Your faults, failures, flaws and shortcomings are never as big as you think they are – and even if some of these seem larger than life it really only ever comes down to your personal opinion.

If self belief and self perception are aligned then you can accomplish amazing things – and it never hurts for me to remind yourself of this.

I continue to do this with comparison shots.

Whilst I still have an uneasy relationship with pictures of myself from the past and present nothing makes me prouder than contrasting a practically immobile man that I no longer recognise in an 8XL shirt and 66in waist trousers with a guy wearing a medium jacket and 34in jeans.

It’s also worthwhile remembering when I look at these that I’ve effectively lost more than an entire overweight father (sitting to the right of me) who told me when I started in April 2016 that I had to lose more than his (at the time) 19st frame to get to where I needed to be.

It’s also something of a personal triumph to know that his confessed irritation with seeing me drop from almost 35st to below his weight proved to be a catalyst for him to take action.

Consequently he lost pretty much all of his excess too – and my father (who is not far away from his 80th annual increment) now weighs in at a lower weight than I do – having lost somewhere between 6-7 stone.

So – the (endless) battle continues.

For all of us.

Just like my dad I’m still working towards my goals, still trying to get better, and still challenging myself to do new things.

Hopefully by the end of February internet this attitude will pay dividends and I’ll get my diamond target member badge.

You’ll have to come back and see if I do closer to the time!

Davey

Drive like a pensioner

The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability.

I thought I knew the way my post was going to go today. In my head it was all mapped out – but then life decided it was going to head in another direction entirely.

The day started normally enough – with me in a terrific frame of mind. Yesterday had been a positive one, and I’d managed to continue my gradual downward trend on the scales.

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It was also a food tasting occasion – and I’d decided to make a chicken Waldorf salad from the Slimming World Free & Easy cookbook, which seemed to turn out really well.

Everyone seemed to rather enjoy it (including me) and the food tasting event appeared to be a success for all concerned.

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I spent the rest of the day walking and socialising – and by the time I hit the sack later that evening I was pleasantly tired and slept really well. In truth my quality of sleep was probably also because I’ve been drastically reducing my coffee intake since my vertigo incident last week.

Along with my ear drops this has helped and I’ve been feeling progressively better – even though my nose is still a bit blocked.

When I awoke today for the first of my two planned morning walks I was full of beans. I was meeting a fellow Slimming World’er and his excitable young pup (Reeba) for a few circuits of St Nicholas park.

His dog has some incredible energy. For every lap we did she must have accomplished at least another two, all the time chasing seagulls or running after squirrels and is basically the energiser bunny in dog form…

Despite the rather ropey weather it was definitely an enjoyable twalk, and I left the park feeling upbeat and positive.

I’d eaten rather a lot of fruit the night before (as well as a fair old whack of cottage cheese) and wanted to get a healthy number of calories burned.

I had definitely accomplished my starting objective – and already had eight miles under my belt by the time I reached home.

 

My next walk of the morning was due at 10am. This was to be through Crackley Wood and along a section of the Greenway near Kenilworth – and promised to be an altogether shorter and more sedate one.

Boris (my second canine companion of the day) is a much slower mover – and unlike the doggie equivalent of bottled lightning that’s Reeba he’s a plodder.

He’s also highly camouflaged.

Whenever I review snaps that I sneakily grab while he’s not paying attention (he refuses to look at the camera most of the time) I usually come to the conclusion that he’s the photography equivalent of a spot the ball competition.

Nine times out of ten he just disappears into the foreground or background.

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By the time we’d ambled along the Greenway and around the woods for a while it was almost midday when I bid adieu to my friend and his blendy pooch.

I hopped into my car to drive home.

Then the day unravelled…

There are many many things in life that I’m thankful for, but today it’s the fact that I’m naturally very cautious. In fact I often think I drive like a pensioner – trying not to exceed speed limits particularly around town.

Often I’m well under them which today was an absolute godsend.

As I headed home from the Greenway I passed Kenilworth park. For some reason or other marshalls in high visibility vests had closed off the road that led through the centre of town and the only option was to turn left at their barrier at the top of the hill and divert around the road block.

Ahead of me (in the middle of the road on a raised central reservation) was a young girl in big furry boots wearing a puffa jacket. She looked to all intents and purposes like she was about to chance a crossing in front of me.

She was quite young, and I wondered if she’d have the sense to stay put.

I slowed more than I normally would just in case as I took the corner (bearing right) and indicated to turn left into the road next to the marshalls.

As I did the sun came out from behind a cloud in the street I was turning into and temporarily blinded me.

I could still see the girl to my right though and she hadn’t moved.

However an old man with a walking stick had moved – and as I turned into the road he had stepped in front of my car.

completely missed this for a fraction of a second as the sun fell in my eyes and then when I’d could see again I was upon him.

He was suddenly about 6ft in front of me.

I immediately slammed on my brakes and thankfully (because I was travelling so slowly) I came to an almost immediate stop – but not quickly enough to stop the car from nudging him off balance and pushing him to the floor.

The marshalls and passers by quickly ran over to help him up.

I checked my rear view mirrors before turning off the engine and quickly stepped out of my car to help.

I was already shaking like a leaf, and as I rushed to his side I began to apologise profusely.

He wasn’t happy though and I couldn’t blame him. I was mortified that I’d come so close to tragedy and kept looking him up and down to make sure he was ok.

The man said that he was. He didn’t want help. He just wanted to go.

Everyone around him was staring at me with hard frowns and were also looking me up and down.

I wondered why for a minute – because it was him that had been lying in the road rather than me… I wasn’t hurt!

This was until I realised that they were trying to assess why I’d not seen him.

Was I impaired?

Was I drunk?

There was now a lady standing in between me and the man in a noticeably protective stance. She was staring at me very hard and looking very unimpressed.

‘I didn’t see him. I was looking at the girl.‘ I said to her. ‘The sun was in my eyes!

I turned around, pointing to where the girl had been. She was no-where to be seen and had carried on walking.

I’m so so so sorry! There was a girl there and the sun was in my eyes!‘ I said again to the man, looking around the woman and trying as best I could to explain to him what had happened.

Did he believe me?

‘I’m OK.’ said the man emphatically and also looked at me with disdain as he dusted his trousers off.

He said that he didn’t want any help and told the lady and the marshall that he was completely fine.

She looked at me again and stared hard into my eyes, assessing me.

The men in the high visibility jackets then pointed out that I was now blocking traffic and were on their walkie talkies to their supervisor. I needed to move my car they said – and I wasn’t to leave the scene.

‘I’ve no intention of going anywhere!’ I said. ‘I just want to make sure he’s OK.’

They looked impassively at me.

‘You need to move your car.’ they repeated. I looked behind them. The man was now moving slowly but surely away from us.

I looked at the road.

The traffic was beginning to build up – and they were right. I needed to move my car, so I quickly did so. Once I’d moved it further up the road and put my hazards on I jogged after him.

He was quite a distance away by now and looked irritated when I tried to stop him as he once again started to cross a road.

‘Are you sure you’re ok?’ I asked as I put my hand gently on his upper arm. ‘I’m SO sorry!!! I didnt see you at all! The sun was in my eyes and then you were just in front of me.’

He shook his head.

‘No it’s ok – I’m fine.’ he said.

He appeared to be ok. I looked him up and down for signs of injury. Was he shocked? Was he really ok?

The marshalls were also following at a distance, watching me and talking to their supervisor over walkie talkies.

‘Do you need an ambulance?’ They said to the man.

No!‘ said the man, still rather irritated. ‘I’m fine. I’m going home.’

‘Can I help you to get there? Can I walk you home?’ I asked rather weakly. ‘I’m so sorry – I just want to be sure you’re OK…’

‘I’m fine.’ he reassured me again.

I kept my hand on his shoulder looked him in the eye.

I was trembling.

‘Are you SURE?‘ I said once more. ‘I know you might not want me to after all this but I can give you a lift.

He turned to look at me and as he did his face softened.

‘Are YOU ok?’ he asked me.

‘You’re shaking. You look like you need a stiff drink. You should go and have a stiff drink.’

‘I don’t drink…’ I replied weakly ‘…and Ive never hit anything with my car, let alone a person. I was scared stiff. I didn’t see you…. the sun was in my eyes… I’m so sorry… are you sure you’re ok?’

He just looked at me.

‘The sun was in my eyes. I can walk you home. Are you sure you’re ok?’ I babbled. ‘You didn’t hit your head or anything?’

He continued to look at me, now shaking his head.

‘The sun was in my eyes. I’m so sorry.’ I said again.

‘Don’t worry.’ he said, and put his hand out, inviting me to hold it.

I put my hand into his. It was warmer and much larger than mine. His grip was both firm and confident. He started to shake my hand, looking me in the eye.

His hand was dry.

‘I didn’t hit my head. Thank you for stopping to make sure I’m ok – but I’m fine. No bruises and no harm. Go and have a cup of tea. I’m going home.’

He let go of my hand, turned to leave and walked away.

Another nearby marshall looked at me and also suggested that I have a stiff drink. I told her that I didn’t drink.

She too suggested I have a cup of tea instead.

I didn’t want one.

I stood there for a minute watching as he walked away, shaking like a leaf.

I could have killed him.

In the blink of an eye I could have ended his life and irreversibly changed my own.

Even now some hours later my heart is still pounding and I’m reminded not only that it’s a good idea to drive slowly, but that you don’t know what’s around any corner. I’m just thankful that he was ok and that the reminder I received to be a careful and considerate driver came without consequence.

Holy crap…

Thank goodness he’s ok.

Davey

Consultants with puppies

Last night the munchies hit.

I was busy watching season five of Marvel’s Agents or Shield (it’s really good so far!) and I just wanted to EAT.

Normally I’d be able to resist this (especially as it’s the night before weigh in) but on this occasion I couldn’t. I needed to nibble and the urge wouldn’t go away – no matter how much liquid I drank.

Honestly I’ve stopped seeing moments like this as unusual. There are days when I’m tired, bored or just generally sub par for some reason and there’s nothing that will fill the gap.

I can defer the feeling, distract myself, bargain with my craving but sometimes it just will not go away.

However I’ve learned that there’s a way to limit the damage when I do decide to act on the impulse.

I don’t necessarily view this approach as restrained but I’m aware that others do – because what I choose to binge on these days is different to the huge Dominos pizzas I used to consume a few years ago.

Last night while sitting in from to the TV I went for it.

I chewed my way through two kilograms of carrots, 6 tomatoes, two jars of gherkins, a jar of silverskin pickled onions, a bunch of celery, two entire romaine lettuces and two bowls of blueberries.

In some respects this was daft because although it’s all speed food the sheer weight of all of this eaten quite late at night meant that I probably would be out of target the following morning.

I was in target two days ago and from experience as great as carrots are to snack on you won’t pass two kilos in time to stand on scales the following day.

Sure enough my scales this morning suggested I was out of range and the (ahem) bomb bay doors were refusing to open.

However – since I only have to weigh in once every eight weeks this actually doesn’t matter. What matters is I’m focused on being in target – even if carrotpocalypse arrived yesterday evening.

Not so long ago I’d have stressed and worried in the morning about not going to group and not weighing in (particularly because I’ve created an expectation in my blog that I will do so) but not any more. Today I went anyway and just sat and listened.

After all why shouldn’t I? I’ve been on plan and in range for the whole of October (#onplanoctober WORKS!) and I’ve been a really good boy!

It’s important to attend group regularly – and I always feel better for having done so. I know I’m not alone in this – as I said to another group member at the end of the session.

She looked like she needed a hug and she darned well got a good one.

Although I didn’t feel low today others may have – and there’s nothing but positive vibes to be found at Slimming World. I never fail to leave one of Angie’s groups feeling anything less than positive – no matter how I felt when I walked in.

Today though there wasn’t just Angie to thank for this. She rolled out her secret weapon this morning.

A cockerpoo puppy called Kiki! 😍

As regular readers will know I have a serious weakness for canines and the teeny tiny variety are the absolute best!

Kiki is so super cute and soft! She’s still got ultra small little milk teeth and claws and she is nibbling and pawing everything in sight, trying to figure out what it all is and how it tastes.

It was next to impossible to concentrate on Angie – but I’m sure she didn’t mind. There were plenty of smiling faces by the end – and even a hug or two.

So – the moral of the story is….

Well there are a couple actually internet.

  • Don’t get down on yourself if the scales don’t say what you want – it’s just not worth it and it’s just what they say that day. Tomorrow will be different if you put it behind you and carry on.
  • If you can make sure you go to group. It cheers you up and there’s always a friendly face!
  • Consultants with puppies are the best consultants.

Davey

Elvis is cute

The day stared with a bit of a surprise. I noticed a slip of paper by my front door telling me that a neighbour had a parcel for me.

I nipped over the road to collect it.

Without any fanfare it seems that the guys at Slimming World had sent me a really nice little care package with some bits and bobs for me to try out based on my interests.

In this case my love of cooking from fresh.

They had included a funky Slimming World apron and a copy of their new ‘Take 5’ cookbook – which is currently free in groups with a 12 week countdown.

(Yep – that’s a shameless plug. I believe in going to group and I believe in the recipes and plan. It’s not sponsored. It’s just my honest opinion which happens to match theirs!)

The truth of it is this is something of a timely arrival because while I was in London last week I couldn’t put my recycling out – and because I didn’t do that I now have three weeks worth of plastic waste awaiting collection.

It will be four by the time they collect it next Friday – and this growing little pile of pots that I’ve been diligently washing and stacking in my recycling bin on a daily basis demonstrates that I still have some compulsive behaviour patterns and I that at heart I’m still a creature of habit.

Not only do I feel happy when there’s regularity but I really like cottage cheese with onion and chives from Aldi.

It’s now become my daily treat rather than a kebab (2000kcal) or a bag of chips (1000kcal) and at around 170kcal a pot I think it’s a pretty darned great substitute.

Variety is the spice of life however – so I’m gonna cook something NEW with all their ingredients and tell you all what I think.

Watch this space!

So – how did group go?

Well I had a great time!

All of the ladies were in fine spirits and one of them had even brought along her super cute French Bulldog to say hello.

Meet Elvis.

He’s a happy little two year old who has a real enthusiasm for investigation – and he spent most of the session meeting and greeting people by nudging his way between chairs and sniffing people’s bags, legs and hands.

How lovely is he?!

However – cute hounds aside you probably want to know what went on when I stood on the scales.

My weigh in today went well and was an (expected) gain – but I’m still well within my target range.

To be honest I thought it would be worse because this week has been a bit of a long one.

I was going to say ‘tough’ but that would be overselling it somewhat because it hasn’t been particularly hard in the great scheme of things.

I just feel a little ‘depleted’.

An ever present underlying tiredness when I wake in the morning has led me to eat a little more than I normally would and I also seem to have retained a bit more fluid.

Heat sucks in this respect.

The weather has also made the walk to work and back something of a sapping task and I’ve seen my split times for the miles I’ve covered decrease from just over 15 minutes to over 17 on occasion.

I haven’t walked that slowly for a long time – but crucially I’m still walking. The heat is a powerful motivator to sit down and do nothing – but I refuse.

Mostly because of sheer bloody minded obstinacy my current monthly average distance per day is sitting at an all time high and despite a historic heatwave in the UK that’s been going on for about six weeks by the end of yesterday I was up to 11.4 miles a day for July.

I have to say though that something has been playing on my mind regarding distance walked – and despite promising the PR ladies of SW that I wouldn’t read the comments at the bottom of online newspaper stories about me, one day last weekend I did.

The comment (on the Daily Mail site) was actually the only even vaguely critical one out of many many supportive ones (no-one could be more surprised than me) and I don’t know why it stuck in my mind – but it did.

He looks great, well done! That said, I do wonder where he finds the time. It will take most people 2 hours to cover 10 miles (16k!) ; that is 14 hours a week on top of work, commute, chores, errands and a substantial time spent on cooking from scratch. I am all for an active lifestyle, but for most people it would be easier and more maintainable to aim for 3-5 miles a day and just eat a little less.’

It’s actually quite a nice comment in its own way and what he/she says is all quite true – although the commentator clearly doesn’t realise that my mileage is partially thanks to my commute rather than in addition to it.

(For the benefit of newer readers I walk a total of six miles a day back and forth to work and two miles occasionally at lunch if I have a break.)

I guess it tugged at some buried guilt though.

This is regarding one of the things that I’ve written about a lot – but few I’ve been unable to ‘fix’ and still consider it to be a ‘weakness’.

So far I’ve been unwilling to address portion sizes in any measurable way.

The brutal truth is that compared to other people I still eat a lot.

Many would probably say I eat too much when compared to a suggested portion size – and in truth it’s only possible for me because of two things.

  1. I eat large amounts of speed food.
  2. I do large amounts of exercise.

After reading the comment though I started thinking a lot (too much I suspect) about whether I exercise so much because it allows me to indulge like this.

It made me realise that in weeks like this one when I’m tired and I eat a bit more I always have to try and keep a lid on my worst impulses.

Food and portion sizes aren’t the impulses I’m talking about though.

I’m talking about my tendency to over analyse things and look negatively on what I perceive to be my failings when what I should be doing is looking at my successes.

We all do it – and I’m no different.

The tendency to diminish your accomplishments when you’re feeling a bit tired or vulnerable is a thing I think all people who’ve suffered with compulsive behaviours share.

So as usual I’m outing myself.

The truth sets you free and when you tell the world how you really feel it ceases to have a hold over you.

The truth of it is that I don’t walk everywhere so that I can overeat – I exercise so much because I know it keeps me healthy and because I flipping love it.

If I’m honest I probably need to eat a fair bit to enable what has effectively become my single greatest passion in life.

Walking.

It fixed my diabetes, it saw off my high cholesterol and it dropped my high blood pressure like a stone.

If I didn’t do it then I may still have the poor circulation that caused my oedemas and I may even still have gout.

I’d probably also still have bad eyesight and sensitive skin.

I’d probably not have had the success I did with weight loss.

It’s become so fundamentally tied to who I am now that it’s hard to imagine me any other way.

So – here’s to maintaining, looking at the positives of life, recognising when your mind is working against you and cute little French Bulldogs.

Ooozagubboyden?! Youare! Yezzyouare!

Davey

The Wrong Trousers?

I’ve just made a lovely beef stew – and I’m sitting in the garden enjoying the smell of freshly cut grass mixing with the coriander in my dinner.

As I eat I’m thinking about the events of the last week.

My life definitely feels a bit weirder than usual at the moment.

I’m confronted with my own image everywhere in various sizes, shapes and periods of my life. People that didn’t previously know I was ever overweight have seen these and are beginning to realise who I used to be and ask me questions about my route back to health.

It’s been nice to get compliments – but I’ve also faced a lot of really direct questions – which I don’t mind.

It goes with the territory.

As usual the most common one (both online and face to face) is about what I do with the excess skin.

It’s clearly something a LOT of people worry about – but I’ll be honest and say that I’m perpetually perplexed by people’s preoccupation with this aspect of weight loss.

It seems to loom really large in almost all people’s minds.

More worryingly it actually seems to be a barrier to losing weight (or maybe an excuse not to) for some – which I find really bizarre.

Irritatingly it’s also one of those things that continually gets referenced as something that’s ‘worse for women’, or ‘it’s ok if you’re a man’ which is something I always fail to understand.

Men are no different.

Men have feelings too – and we (just like ladies) have to deal with the possibility that people might not find us attractive when they find out what lurks beneath our clothing.

I occasionally worry about the loose skin that I’m left with (it’s impossible to lose 20+ stone and not have any) but I see it the same way as I viewed gastric surgery.

I felt strongly (when faced with this being a distinct possibility) that it’s wrong to be cut open and remove huge chunks of myself – then throw them in the bin all because I lack willpower.

Probably because I felt that way about gastric sleeve surgery (which I came close to having) I also think it’s wrong to cut off excess skin that remains as a consequence of me finally finding willpower.

If I choose to do that then what I’m really saying is that I’m willing to be judged by a prospective partner from a visual perspective alone – and not because I’m someone with a mind and a personality that deserves to be loved.

The issue of skin is in a similar vein to the other comment (or variants of it) that I’ve heard a lot over the last few days.

This goes along the lines of ‘…it’s easier for men to lose weight’ or ‘…men just get on with it and always do better.’

It’s not true.

I’ve seen and spoken to plenty of men (particularly since my story went public) who’ve failed to lose weight or backslid and put loads back on just like I did many times before.

They struggle with self perception and they too worry about skin and how they will look, how they will find love, or how they will retain partners they already have.

I get the impulse to be ‘normal’.

I really do.

I also understand fears about judgement in the eyes of others and that people will recoil in shock when they see me topless or in more revealing clothes.

If I’m absolutely honest I’d dearly love to go swimming – but I can’t bring myself to do it… yet.

One day I will – but that’s something for the future.

Some things come easily – others (like this) take time.

It’s not like I’m in any rush though. There’s a lot to take in and process elsewhere – because not only am I getting an amusingly broad (and often quite strange) variety of people contacting me from all over the world on social media – but the traditional print medium still seems to be writing articles about me.

Since I’d only looked at the newspapers online to see what had gone live about me I’d not realised that the physical copies of the papers differ significantly from their web counterparts.

The Daily Star’s print article on me gave me the nickname ‘the muffin man‘ – referring to my old habit of eating two McDonald’s double sausage and egg McMuffins on the way to work every day.

I must admit I was perturbed by this for a moment – but then I thought ‘…what the hell – who cares? I’ve been public property thanks to my blog for two and a half years now and this is no different.’

What was a bit different however was how I discovered this headline.

I was told at the weekend that I’d appeared on Sky News – and although I missed the live segment today someone kindly sent me a recording of it and I watched the footage.

Not only did I see the Star’s headline but at the same time had the surreal realisation that Anne Diamond was talking about my huge old trousers and suggesting they could be re-purposed by being upended and used as a parasol.

Genuinely I didn’t see that coming – and neither did I expect to be likened to Wallace from ‘Wallace and Gromit and the Wrong Trousers’

I guess there’s humour to be found in every situation and honestly this did rather make me smile.

This afternoon there’s been more of the same ‘surrealness’.

Today I’ve been doing another interview to camera – this time in my garden for the BBC’s social media team – which I’m told will go live some time next week, although I’m not entirely sure whether this will be just on the web or will be on TV too.

Honestly I’m not in the least bit bothered which it turns out to be.

Every single time someone engages me and asks a question because I’m visible to the world it means that they’re thinking about how they can improve their own lives – and because of that there’s real and tangible value to being critically assessed by people who have never met me.

I genuinely don’t mind – I really don’t.

If I struggle to make sense of any aspect of this period in my life then all I have to do is refer to the real people with real lives and real problems that say my story has helped them.

Then it doesn’t matter.

It’s all completely worth it – because I’m helping people – just by not hiding and standing out in front of everyone and everything with no shame.

They’re not the wrong trousers internet.

They’re the RIGHT ones.

I didn’t know that when I purchased them and I had no idea they would be when I put them on – but now…

Now I realise they have power – just like I do – to inspire change.

Davey

Not recognised

I’m not sure that I could have chosen a better week to have off work – and quite unexpectedly (given the weather over the last few months) the time that I’ve had to myself over the Bank Holiday and following week has been pretty much perfect from a weather perspective.

I’ve carried on tidying the garden (the flipping ivy is back!!!) and making sure it looks neat and tidy – and even though I have quite a bit more to do around the borders and bushes (I actually rather like the shade from the colourful overhang on the left and am leaving it alone until the blooms disappear) it’s all happily under control.

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There have been some lucky escapes in lawnland however – and thankfully I had the mower on a high enough setting to pass completely over this terrified little frog who hunkered down and escaped trimpocalypse by what must have been millimetres.

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You’ll all be glad to know (well almost all – I do have one quite vocal ranidaphobic reader) that this little fellow was just fine and after figuring out I didn’t plan to do him any harm he hopped off into the cover of a nearby bush where there were no mulching power tools to threaten his existence.

As well as tending to my own green spaces I’ve also out and about in the ones past the end of my front path – wandering up and down the canal, around the park and into Warwick, Leamington and Kenilworth day after day.

This has been both with and without company and I’ve either been enthusiastically twalking the day away instead or listening to chilled out music as I stroll through fields watching the seasons change around me.

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Everything is growing again. The meadows are full of beautiful little flowers and little baby creatures are starting to appear here and there.

The canal in particular is alive with baby ducklings hopping in and out of the water and then back to the safety of a protective wing.

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Butterflies are also all over the place and the sun has been so warm, and the breeze so gentle that it’s been possible to get in really close here and there just in time to take a quick snap.

Amazingly this close up shot was taken with my iPhone.

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This gorgeous little specimen just sat there accommodatingly posing for me before fluttering off to find the next snap happy walker.

I absolutely love this time of year because on a personal level it reminds me of when my life started to open up again. I began walking round the park for the first time two years ago in weather just like this and every time I see little babies tucked under their mothers wings I’m transported back to those times again.

It makes me feel wonderful on multiple levels mind you – and the new generation of birds is just part of it.

The hot weather used to be a real problem and when I started walking in May 2016 it was a very very sweaty experience.

In May 2017 I was still looking very much like I’d encountered a child with a water pistol during my walks unless I wore a teeshirt under my shirt (which I was always careful to do) but now I’m as comfortable as a man can be (I barely perspire at all these days) and today went out with a gilet just in case the sun went in.

These photos have almost exactly a year between each of them.

Clothing wise this year I’ve also been able to branch out into relatively new territory on the really hot days (wearing shorts in public still feels very alien to me – I didn’t used to wear them even as a child unless I was forced to at school) and after a few spots of luck charity shopping in the mid part of the week I feel that I’ve found some pretty nice (and seasonally appropriate) items to wear.

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I was dressed this way yesterday as I was strolling slowly around St Nicholas park with a friend (recently injured and slowly on the mend thankfully). As we passed the boat house by the bridge I spotted a lady (and her delightfully yappy Finish Laphund – it’s so cute and fluffy!) that I haven’t seen for a while and enthusiastically greeted her.

She immediately recoiled and clearly didn’t recognise me.

This has been a bit of a theme this week – and even those that know me really well have wandered past me without clocking who they’re right next to. It happened to me on Wednesday, Thursday and again today while I was waiting for a friend in Warwick.

Although it was kind of fun for a while I’m a bit over the whole ‘I didn’t recognise you’ thing now. People only seem to figure out who I am when I get up close and smile, which was what happened with this lady.

In her case though it had been much longer since I’d seen her last (around 8-9 months) and she seemed quite shell shocked.

‘I didn’t recognise you until you smiled!’ she said.

Her companion (someone who I’d also seen semi regularly in the park) also let out a gasp.

This is the weight loss man!‘ the lady reminded her. The then penny dropped for her companion too.

‘I saw you in the Warwick Observer a while back!’ She said to me.

‘Yep!’ I replied.

Sometimes people just need a moment to look me up and down. I find it’s better to just let them have a good gander and then they can ask the usual questions.

‘How much have you lost?’ She finally said.

‘Twenty stone and two point five pounds’ I replied.

Then the other thing started.

I’m used to the questions about how much I’ve lost or whether I have loose skin or the ‘do you feel different?’ line of enquiry – and for the most part have developed standard responses. However, when people start going down the route of ‘you don’t want to lose any more do you?’ and start telling me point blank NOT to lose any more I’m a bit flummoxed.

I don’t really know what to say if I’m honest.

People saying that I don’t need to lose any weight, stating that they’re worried that I’ll try to lose more – or even telling me not to carry on is still really alien to me.

However thats apparently now a ‘thing’. People have moved from queries about ‘how on earth?’ to cautionary statements that effectively boil down to ‘No more! Thats enough!’

They all mean well though and everyone I speak to is universally happy for me – which is a wonderful thing to encounter in often random and very unexpected places. After time I suppose the novelty will wear off, I’ll bump into most of people that I’ve known for a while, have this chat (or a variation of it) and it will eventually stop happening.

Maybe I’ll miss it – maybe not.

I’m not sure.

I have to admit to being in a bit of an odd place mentally with this whole process at the moment – because I’m now very much aware that having achieved what I always wanted I’m now left with ‘normality’ – and that is altogether a very different thing to deal with.

If I’m honest I often don’t know how I really feel about weight loss no longer being the sole focus of my life.

Things seemed really simple in many ways when it was the guiding force of every day – and I’d cultivated a rather healthy obsession with a very compelling subject. Self improvement as a hobby was continually tangible and easily quantifiable.

Every week seemed to bring something new to experience and presented some kind identifiable step forward in my sense of well being and health. Now – in contrast – I just feel continually great. There are still some things I would like to change about myself – but for the most part I’m insanely happy with who I am currently.

This is of course flipping awesome – and I am in no way complaining – but at times it’s hard not to feel a tad deflated at the end of what has been a really long road.

Annnnd there we have it.

The paradox of the human condition.

When we want something sooooooooo badly that it hurts we often aren’t exactly sure what to do with it when we’ve got it.

Thankfully there’s no rush to do, feel or decide anything about anything.

Life is good intenet. It can come to me as quickly or as slowly as it wants to because I know that I can deal with it – whatever shape it takes.

Davey

Feeling loved

I don’t normally write two posts in one day – but today has not been a normal day. I was so shell shocked earlier on that I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around what had happened.

In most respects I still can’t.

I’m suddenly a target member and with that comes a range of emotions and new challenges. When I stepped off the scales and sat back down in my chair at group today I just started sobbing and periodically I’ve continued – but every single tear has been one of joy and relief.

As if the achievement wasn’t enough today there was more in store.

As is often the case on Saturday I’d agreed to meet a friend for a twalking date. Normally we go to Coombe Abbey or somewhere else, and she rarely suggests the park. She is after all an off piste kind of girl. However, in this case she was (with retrospect suspiciously) keen to go for a stroll at Memorial Park in Coventry.

I really don’t mind. I love the place, I love the company, I love walking. One venue is as good as another if you have someone to chat with. As we drove there her phone was unusually busy. ‘Would you like to answer that?’ I said as I drove from her house to the park.

‘No – it’s OK, I don’t recognise the number.’ she replied, and I carried on chatting while her phone beeped away with texts and calls.

Soon we arrived and as I stepped out of the car she grinned and pointed behind me. It was ANOTHER twalking friend!

But… Wait… They don’t know each other…

‘How did this happen?’ I thought – but didn’t delve too deeply.

I was too happy just to see them both and they also seemed happy to see me. That was more than enough. We hugged and laughed and all walked arm in arm chatting for a while until we neared the cafe.

Then from behind me I heard ‘Happy Birthday to you!‘ being sung in unison…

I turned around and lo and behold there were more twalking buddies!

She’d only conspired to contact as many people as she could find that I regularly walked with (including all of my favourite doggies) and got them together to wish me all the best for my birthday!

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So today I’m a rich man in every respect that matters in life. I’m a target member. I’ve lost 20st. I have my health, I have a life to live and I above all else I love others unconditionally and I feel loved in return.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite this happy.

I belong in the world and I feel that people need me in it with them. I’ve gone from waiting to die to feeling needed and a part of everyone’s lives in a way that I never previously imagined would be possible.

Thanks again to all who made today possible. You’re absolutely the best people.

To those that couldn’t make it – I’ll catch up with you soon enough!

Hugs to everyone x

Davey

 

More weight loss psychology…

It’s Friday – and more than I have been for a while lately I find myself both preoccupied and a little concerned about my weigh in on Saturday.

Although I don’t feel that I’ve lost my way in any significant sense I do have a lingering feeling that at the very least I’ve temporarily misplaced my mojo.

Whereas this time last year I was rattling along at a very respectable three and a half pounds a week loss on average I now feel like I’ve been becalmed.

Although I want to lose more weight and I’m doing just as much exercise as ever (slightly more actually) there hasn’t seemed to be much wind in my dietary sails over the last two weeks.

I’ve definitely not been myself emotionally – as my posts have probably periodically indicated (link) and with good reason. Some poignant anniversaries have passed recently and I’ve been a little taken aback by the tears and upset they’ve provided.

It’s been a period for reflection but I’ve hopefully begun to emerge on the other side in a (mostly) functional state.

Thankfully for the bits that still need time to heal there’s always a Boris.

I can’t help but feel better when he and his owner pop round to say hello – and I’ve noticed that the more this sweet, grunty little frenchie gets to know me the more likely he is to automatically jump onto my lap whenever he comes to visit.

Although I look like a hair bomb exploded on my jumper when he leaves I can’t deny that he really cheers me up – and manages (at least temporarily) to take my mind off the fact that for the last month I’ve gone pretty much nowhere in weight loss terms.

Part of me has been sorely tempted to just ‘call target’ as they say in Slimming World and stay right where I am.

After all – all of my clothes look great, I’ve no intention of putting any weight back on, I can walk into any high street store and buy something to wear, I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been in my entire life and I only seem to want to do more as each month passes.

So why am I looking at my target and not letting it go?

Well – I really want a 20st certificate firstly.

I also want to get lower than 15 stone – because when I do the stupid stupid pointless measure of my BMI on the NHS website finally admits that I’m no longer ‘obese’ and I instead enter the infinitely preferable boundaries of being ‘overweight

This is a screenshot of the calculator with my current weight of 15st 6lbs…

obese

….and this is at 15st exactly.

not obese

It would be really really nice to no longer be classed as obese. I’ve been medically categorised this way for the whole of my childhood and (almost) all of my adult life.

However the ridiculousness of this rigid scientific calculation isn’t lost on me.

My ‘healthy range’ starts at 9st 7lbs. At that point (if nothing else) I’d at least be more than prepared to audition as an extra in Hollywood’s (probably inevitable) remake of Jason and the Argonauts…

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It still bugs me though – and like many aspects of extreme weight loss I’m often confronted with somewhat odd and illogical internal conversations.

Why does it all matter?

Why does a number bother me?

I’ve told plenty of other fellow slimmers that it’s how you feel that counts – not an arbitrary number on a scale or a stupid BMI chart, yet I still don’t seem to be able to accept my own advice.

Becoming thin is hard…

It’s one thing to physically lose it all – but it’s quite another to address how you feel about the whole process.

I think that part of me is of the opinion that as soon as I stop losing weight that I’ve failed somehow – even if I’m already in a range that people say I look good in. I still see stopping as getting comfortable and complacent yet nothing could be further from the truth.

I finished Jan with the same ‘write everything I eat down’ mindset. I had managed to maintain it for 31 days straight.

31st Jan
Stir fry chicken with courgette, red onion, mushrooms, leek and savoy cabbage leftovers
Large salad with beans, mackerel and tuna
Yogurt and frozen berries

On top of this I just keep walking and I can’t stop.

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I don’t know anyone else in my peer group that walks 70+ miles a week, every week over and over again, yet for some reason I do. There’s something internally that’s driving this behaviour and it’s by no means a part of me that’s intent on slacking off.

In January Apple Watch set me a task that initially I thought was a joke – but when I worked it out all it was encouraging me to do was keep on with what I was doing already.

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It had been watching my exercise levels – and in an effort to keep me on an even keel decided that I’d only get an achievement if I kept up the good work.

Just to make absolutely sure I’d hit target I ended up earning this a day early (hence the number in the screenshot) and including the 31st I did 3906 minutes of exercise in January

That’s an average of 126 minutes a day!

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Back when I first joined slimming world in April 2016 I was doing a frankly pathetic 5 minutes a day. To put this into context my daily average exercise for THE WHOLE of 2016 was an average of 11 minutes a day.

For non mathematicians that’s (365 x 11= 4015) – which means that I did almost as much exercise in January 2018 as I did FOR THE WHOLE OF 2016 COMBINED!!!

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So why do I feel like my dietary mojo is ‘relaxing’ and why is it filling my thoughts?

Maybe I’m classifying it incorrectly. Maybe my mojo has actually just reached the point where it doesn’t really want to shave any more calories out of my diet just to drop a few more pounds.

Maybe I’m just happy with how I feel now and what I eat?…

Is that wrong?

Am I showing weakness at the worst possible moment – or is this (like so many other things recently) entirely in my head?

Who knows internet…

The only thing I know at the moment is that I’m still not looking forward to weighing in tomorrow…

Davey

Davey on the wireless

As days go today has been a good one.

I’d go so far as to say it’s one I’ll remember for quite a while – because today was the first time I’ve ever been on the radio.

(If you want to listen to the interview on BBC iPlayer it’s here. This recording is available for 29 days, and the segment I’m on starts from about 1hr 16mins into the program and lasts for approximately 30 minutes.)

When I arrived at the BBC studios in Coventry today I was initially asked ‘what organisation are you with?’

‘Ummm…. I’m here on my own.’ Was my reply. ‘I’m the guest for the Connor Phillips show.’ There was a blank expression for a moment, then my name was confirmed and I was invited in, where I proceeded to take shameless selfies whilst the receptionist made me a hot drink.

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After a brief coffee I was ushered into the studio and met the (very nice) producer and assistant – both of whom thanked me for my time but also seemed mildly surprised at who was standing there.

I pointed them to my blog, which they brought up on their studio computer. As they both looked at my before and after photos they periodically looked over their shoulders to compare and contrast me with what was on their monitor.

Slowly the penny seemed to drop. I was the man in the photos.

It seems quite surreal when I’m faced with individuals that become temporarily speechless while processing how much weight I’ve lost. Now I’m getting close to target, it’s becoming a ‘thing’ that people can’t quite believe that I’ve done what I’ve done – unless they’ve known me for a while or have photographic evidence.

This of course just seems like my normal now. It’s not really odd to me because I’ve lived it.

I suppose that we naturally process what’s in front of us – and if what’s presented to us is a fifteen and a half stone ‘normal’ man then you don’t automatically think ‘I bet be used to be 35 stone, and I know just what he’d have looked like’.

The interview went well. Connor Phillips (the presenter) seemed both genuinely impressed with what I’d done – and also keen to find out more about my motivations and thoughts on what made it possible. He was also keen to probe about what my catalyst for change was in the first place.

I explained as best I could…

The interview (partially fulled by coffee and no small amount of nervousness on my part) went by pretty quickly – and before I knew it had ended.

As he walked me out Connor was kind enough to pose for a selfie with me shortly afterwards.

(he kindly granted me permission to use this on my social media)

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I’d been on the air only for around 30 minutes and as we wrapped up and I said goodbye to the team I tried to recollect what I’d talked about – but my mind was blank. As I walked back through Coventry a couple of miles to the outskirts where I’d parked (you need a good walk before an interview) I reflected on the content of what I’d said as it slowly came back to me.

I realised that there were lots of things that I had wanted to say – but that I’d lost the thread of half way through. This felt like I’d missed opportunities – but in other areas I think I also said more than I expected to.

Two aspects that were really important to me that I think I did manage to get across were (firstly) that diabetes doesn’t have to be an automatic slow death sentence – that you can make a change if you put in the effort and change what you eat and do, and (secondly) that when we do something significant like this we’re better in groups.

Something that so few (I think) fail to come to terms with is that mass produced food is crap whether you eat it in small or large quantities. It might be an unpopular view – but I don’t think that eating whatever the hell you like (but in ever smaller quantities) is the way forward.

Granted – not everyone has the problems I had – but I view myself as a magnified and extreme version of many smaller scale issues that I see other people struggling with. Although my condition got way out of hand none of it is unique. Basically I ate crap and drank too much.

Sound familiar to anyone? I bet it does. Maybe only the quantity is different…

The view I have now is that you need to change all of your habits in order to get better. You dont have to do it all in one go – but if you want to live longer and have better health while you do, eventually you have to cut out all the things that harm you.

This means accepting exercise into your life – and also eating ‘proper’ food – not mass produced junk like crisps and chocolate.

I’d rather get my calories from olives or an avocado than a curly wurly and a packet of french fries.

That way if I do then when I (inevitably) have a bad day and eat too much (which everyone does from time to time) I’m not eating the awful things that I used to because I no longer crave them and the damage isn’t so bad.

Sure – this isn’t the approach for everyone (in fact probably not many people at all) but then you have to ask yourself ‘how much do I want to change?’

However I still like eating some things in packets – I can’t lie. The fact is though that these kinds of foods no longer make up the majority of my food intake and are instead a very tiny minority.

The second point was about groups. Without mine I’d be no-where. My consultant facilitates an atmosphere thats both supportive and non-judgemental. It’s a safe space where you can make friends (of which I’ve made many) and just be honest.

It should be somewhere where you can go regardless of whether you feel you’ve done badly or brilliantly because the power of the group is that they support you. They’re there to make you feel better when you can’t do it on your own.

They’re the ones who at that exact moment when you need it the most care more about you than you care about yourself.

Anyway internet – that’s my day. After all that standing on my soap box I’m sure the universe will have a kick in the boy parts for me tomorrow and penalise me for relaxing a little at Christmas.

Thankfully Boris doesn’t care. I went over to my mate’s house to fuss this lovely little frenchie silly after the show.

He likes me no-matter how I look.

He even loved me back in February 2016 at 35 stone just after I ditched booze, and before I cut out junk, joined Slimming World and started trying to love myself.

The difference is now I can go on walks with him. and he has a lap to jump up onto.

How things change…

Davey

Alcester to Wixford with Tinker

Tinker wouldn’t stop wagging his tail or licking me. He similarly refused to stop climbing up to shoulder height and playfully nuzzling my face. As time went on it also seemed he didn’t have any immediate plans to stop sticking his tongue in my ear, and appeared completely unrepentant about finally flopping onto his back and lying belly up on my lap expecting his tummy to be tickled.

I instantly liked him – and we’d only just met.

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Tinker is barely 6 months old, and his fur is as soft as a baby’s hair. He has the enthusiasm of a schoolyard full of children – and it’s infectious. It’s really hard not to smile when he’s running round open fields in huge circles and jumping in as much mud as possible while his owner tries (somewhat unsuccessfully) to reign him in.

I digress though.

I’ll rewind a little.

I was joining Tinker and his owner for a walk from their home in Alcester to the nearby village of Wixford for lunch at a pub called The Fish (link). As we set out (knowing my strange agnostic predelicion old churches) my companion suggested we have a look around his village (where there’s a really nice one) which suited me as I’ve never before walked around Alcester.

As well as having lots of charity and coffee shops it seems to have a few absolutely lovely buildings and streets as well, which are full of old world character. The oldest one I saw dated back to 1444 – which gives an idea of how long the town has been standing.

Sadly the house itself (called The Beehive) was a little underwhelming from the outside – but elsewhere there were far more picturesque streets, and clear evidence that the local garden centres are flourishing.

Near to these twee little streets is the central church (St Nicholas) which sits at the heart of the village and has a rather unusual clock. It’s built into the corner of the church tower, so that it can be seen from the length of the main high street.

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Inside the church is clearly much loved – and as well as having some nice sculptures and relief carvings also has (in pride of place) the old mechanism for the clock tower which was made in 1682. Apparently it was in use right up until 1975 when it was finally replaced by an electrical mechanism.

I might be wrong but I don’t think my Apple Watch will last 300 years… This timepiece was clearly built of stronger stuff to last!

However – as interesting as this was, waiting (im)patiently outside was a rather excitable pooch – who wanted to go for a walk (in huge circles).

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As we moved out of town and into the countryside I found myself in yet another part of Warwickshire that’s completely new to me – and it seemed absolutely lovely.

It keeps taking my breath away just how many places there are to explore around where I live, and just as soon as I’ve found one place to mooch around and think I’ve seen most of what there is to offer, another pops up to remind me that I’ve still barely scratched the surface!

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The walk from Alcester to Wixford is around three miles and in between there’s another super cute teeny tiny little church – which sits pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and looks very twee indeed.

Sadly it was also very closed – so I couldn’t have a look inside. All I could do (at the request of my companion) was pose for a photo outside.

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Soon after this we were on the high street in Wixford and since the whole village is barely a mile across we were at the pub in no time at all.

Now…

The pub…

How to describe it?…

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Well – imagine a country pub, full of old world character, a roaring fire, heavily varnished wood, dusty bottles on shelves and red leather seating with tarnished brass foot rails leading along the base of an ancient and well worn bar.

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Then forget all that – because the fish is as flamboyant as they come!!!

There’s a pained shark’s head above the frikkin door and the only brass I saw was the

GIANT MONKEY WEARING A GOLD CROWN ON THE BAR!!!

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If all that isn’t an arresting enough sight the back wall has a moulin rouge style diorama with a fully animated ferris wheel, a life size dancing mannequin in a tutu, a model of an elephant and a picture of a swan saxophonist!

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If this sedate and relaxed attitude to interior design wasn’t arresting enough above the bar were also several camel heads all proclaiming that patrons should not ‘get the hump!’

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My companion hails from London – and I’ve heard him say on many an occasion that he’s ‘got the ****in ‘ump’ so to have this instruction in his local boozer must seem like God came down from heaven and provisioned him with his very own personally customised watering hole.

I’ll be honest though – knowing him as I do I doubt he would have chosen the style of lighting they did…

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However – we were here for the food and company. The service seemed very friendly and the menu looked like there was a lot of choice. Being very generous my companion very kindly refused to let me buy my own lunch, and treated me to a moroccan spiced lamb salad with minted yoghurt.

I’m not sure how many syns were associated with the ciabatta garlic bread – but I couldn’t resist eating it (plus it was really nice!)

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As we sat outside eating (and Tinker ran endlessly round and around the empty beer garden in energetic circles) I couldn’t help but focusing on the nearby bridge.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I’ve become something of a lover of redbrick construction – and this particular one is of a kind I’ve not seen before. At either side was an eye catching circular tunnel – presumably added to facilitate the easy movement of livestock and pedestrians.

What an engineering masterpiece!

How cool is that?!

As I sat down to write this I couldn’t help but look up the history of this beforehand – and although its Grade II listed there’s not a lot about it on the web, as it seems that all historical data is held at the Warwickshire County Records office (link) rather than being online.

However I did find out who built it, when, and for how much..

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One can only focus for so long on architecture however when there are unusual geese floating by.

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I wish I’d brought my superzoom camera with me today. Without it I missed a kingfisher, a hawk, and couldn’t get anywhere near as close in as I wanted to with this little brown and tan guy.

What an interesting beak and colouring he has!

I did manage to get a little video though – and you can just about see him in the background.

After we’d watched the wildlife, chatted about bridge construction methods and finished lunch Tinker seemed eager to continue running in endless circles elsewhere.

He’s got the kind of eyes that you just can’t say no to – and who were we to argue?

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By the time we’d reached my companion’s home we’d walked around seven and a half miles, talked about many interesting topics, watched Tinker run back and forth through silage, eat sheep pellets, and completely fail to trace the scent of a peacock hen that was nonchalantly strolling over the road right next to him.

What he lacks in common sense he sure makes up for with enthusiasm! He’s got a lot to learn but I’m sure he’ll get there!

Anyway – this evening internet I have some more reading to do.

I’m still doing a little every day to move myself forward – and today I feel like I’m at one with the world.

The countryside, and the weather have been kind and the company has been great.

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Davey

Feature wall

Currently (despite my willingness to do so) the furniture and pillows remain uneaten in my house, and there are almost no rabid bite marks on anything. 

Ever since Monday afternoon I’ve swung between having no appetite at all and then suddenly feeling like I could chew my own arm off and stuff my face until I puke. 

Annoyingly when periods of stress or downbeat emotions arrive the old coping methods that I used to have are still sitting in the back of my mind biding their time amongst the cobwebs. Even though I would never listen to their requests both of my ‘I fancy a drink’ and ‘wouldn’t a cigarette be nice’ subroutines appears to be alive and well

I mentioned this to a friend on Tuesday and he told me that even after 30 years of not smoking his dad still occasionally feels this way and from time to time wants a smoke – so I guess sometimes you just have to ride the wave and keep focused on the fact that you’re doing yourself a favour by saying ‘no’. 

For my part I’ve fallen back on exercise to manage my stress – and reasoned that if I just keep walking and talking that things will eventually resolve themselves in my mind and I’ll also get some decent sleep. 

The latter appears to be something of a distant pipe dream, whilst the former is definitely a work in progress. I have ideas floating around my head (after plenty of suggestions) but so far no immediate plans of action. 

The events of the last couple of days aren’t the most awful thing to have ever happened to my stats however – and both Tuesday and Wednesday saw the demise of significant amounts of boot tread. 


Typically at this point I’d be focused entirely on that as an achievement but in many ways at the moment it seems oddly irrelevant. However I do know that the alternatives if I had not decided to go out and keep putting one foot in front of the other wouldn’t have been good. 

Yesterday morning the first part of my attempts to blow away my mental cobwebs came in the shape of Mick. 


Although perspective is almost entirely absent in this photo you can take my word for it when I say that this two year old Labrador (a stud for guide dogs for the blind) is massive

He usually goes for walkies with a nose harness but somewhere in the last few days this had gone missing and he was taking full advantage of the freedom this situation afforded him. 

His owner (whom I spent yesteay morning watching being dragged enthusiastically around Offchurch and it’s Greenway) joked that she really should have brought roller skates or a saddle along, because this horse of a dog is like a stallion. He goes where his nose leads and there’s little that can stop him. 

He’s quite lovely though – and as stressed as I feel deep inside it was impossible not to smile watching my companion shouting ‘MICK!!!’ at the top of her voice as he bounded off once more to investigate something of interest. 


Everyone needs an enormous black Labrador to drag them around the countryside. 

That’s just a fact. 

Unexpectedly my afternoon took me elsewhere in the Midlands – and I spent the early evening house hunting with another friend. 

Delightfully she has been passing by the area at the last minute (she sadly lives very far away now) and having read my blog the night before had texted today and asked if I fancied meeting up for a last minute twalk. I don’t get to see her very often so my answer to this kind of impromptu suggestion is almost always an enthusiastic ‘yes!’

As we walked around the outskirts of Solihull waiting for her scheduled appointment to view a property we chatted about recent events in both of our lives and my decision yesterday to leave my job. 

When I’ve explained why I did it to people, so far they’ve all immediately got it. 

Right off the bat

Furthermore they all seem to agree it was the right thing to do. 

Even though I’m a bit stumped as to what comes next it’s really encouraging to not have anyone so far shaking their heads in disbelief. Furthermore no one’s suggested that I get a brain scan or enquired how it is that I’ve managed to survive for so long without one. 

When we arrived at the house she wanted to look at there were already lots of viewers there, and the elderly lady employed by the agency to greet people stood waiting in the open doorway. Dressed almost entirely in well co-ordinated light beige clothes, she looked extremely chilly and was clutching her clipboard to her chest between folded arms like it was a hot water bottle. 

She was a slightly built woman that peeked over brown rimmed glasses at us as we entered the hallway of the property and I think that she’d already been there in a draughty house for a couple of hours. As she handed my friend one of the armfuls of printed floor plans she had on the clipboard she sighed a little and admitted to us both that she was in serious need of a hot drink. 

We made small talk for a moment and then started to explore. 

The house was lovely, with a lot of 1930’s character and plenty of potential – but it was sorely in need of a cosmetic overhaul. My friend is intrepid however and this is nothing that she hasn’t done many times over already. I can barely wire a plug, whilst she has re-wired entire houses

I let her get on with the business of her expert exploring and nosed around myself, heading upstairs to look at the view of the spacious garden. 

One thing that I immediately felt should definitely remain was the 1970’s feature wallpaper in the rear bedroom. 

It. Was. Epic!


Frankly I could have in popped a wicker chair in there, added some pot plants and an old turntable with some classic LP’s and just sat admiring the wall until the end of time (whilst abstractly dreaming about Farrah Fawcett). 

Heaven only knows why but this wall made me smile. 


As we walked back to our cars and compared our fitness device step counts (Davey win!) I mentioned how rare the moments have been in our long friendship where we’ve walked and talked together have been. 

Most of my memories are of us seated together – but we both agreed that the ones that really stood out were when I had periods of fitness and good mobility. In these times we actually went somewhere and when we did there was always something new and interesting to do. 

Those times (maybe like today with the feature wall) randomly remain in the forefront of our thoughts about each other above all else. As I drove home shortly after we parted I found myself more certain than ever that somehow I have to carve out a life with a balance between personal freedom and work necessities that allows moments like today to keep growing in number all the time. 

After all internet – without a memory of someone give you a hug after a long walk to a house with 70’s feature walls then whats’s the point? 

Life’s too short to be stuck doing something you hate and not hugging the people you care about. 

The trick now is to decide how to do something I love that pays the bills and also makes many more moments like this possible. 

Davey

New teen

I made an early start today. I’ve a lot to pack into two days now if I want to get everything done. This working for a living lark doesn’t make fitting things in easy at all.

However – so far I’m making it happen, and as I was up early to get my shopping done before my first walk of the day. I’d have to do it quick because I had another appointment shortly after.

Today a good friend was coming back to Slimming World after a little time away – and I’d agreed with her that we’d go for a pre session chillout twalk around the park before we both stepped on the scales.

St Nicholas was nice this morning (the weather was lovely and mild) and there was plenty of life around – particularly joggers, who seemed to be constantly dodging my friend’s dog Pugly.

He perpetually wants to play and run around them – although I don’t think they they had time to reciprocate.

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After just under 3 miles we wound our way down the river and back to group, just in time for it to start – where Pugly began his usual task of begging for food. 

This little guy is really obsessed with eating – and in this respect I guess we’re kind of kindred spirits. I couldn’t help but laugh when my friend recently posted a picture of his ‘face of shame’ after he’d finally become enough of a puppy porker to set off the passenger seatbelt alarm in her car.

At Slimming World he’s in the right place for food optimising tips however. The venue was quite busy today and the group seemed larger than it usually is – with lots of familiar faces – and some that I haven’t seen for a while.

After saying hello to the ladies I stood on the scales.

Now – today I feel a bit different.

I don’t know whether it’s the probiotics I’ve been taking – or whether something else is going on – but my stomach definitely felt smaller this morning. So much so in fact that I’ve worn a shirt today that last week while I was ill had suddenly begun to seem tight around the waist.

I’m also now wearing a pair of 40in waisted jeans that were previously a bit… ‘Great British Bake Off’ (without the soggy bottom) but that now fit me perfectly.

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So – because of this I felt hopeful I’d lose something and was keen to get back to where I’d been before last week’s gain.

To be clear – I’ve done nothing new – no more exercise than usual (although this does mean that I walked a not insignificant 72 miles in total) eaten no differently – I’ve just kept sticking to what I know works and carrying on regardless.

I only went and lost eight frikkin pounds and got my sixteen and a half stone certificate!!!

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I’m now in another new weight bracket.

I’m inside the 17 stone range and am sitting at 17st 12lbs. I’m in a whole new teen!!!

In total I’ve now lost 16st 10.5lbs (106kg) !

As you can imagine this makes me exceptionally happy.

It’s also a great reminder that keeping calm, carrying on, not saying ‘screw it’ and most importantly sticking to what you know works will ultimately pay off.

Although there may be an occasional blip, my downward progress (when I look at it in the form of a graph) still looks like a largely straight line, which frankly I am REALLY REALLY PROUD OF.

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There’s only one way to celebrate an event like this – and that’s to go for another walk – which thankfully I’d already arranged for the afternoon.

I said goodbye to everyone and after a chat with Angie as I helped her pack things up I headed home.

For a while I didn’t think that my second planned excursion would happen, as periodically it’s seemed like monsoon season today. Before I left my house this afternoon I could have sworn that (as the rain lashed down and rolling peals of thunder boomed out after several cracks of lightning) that I saw India float past my house.

However – at the very worst this meant I’d just sit and chat with my friend over coffee so I drove over to her house as planned anyway.

Since the walk we were planning to go on would probably now resemble a bog we instead headed along a route we knew would be slightly less muddy and decided on another stroll around Coombe Abbey.

As always this didn’t disappoint – and immediately the skies cleared – making the way ahead look very appealing indeed.

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As always Coombe is full of birds, and today was no exception – however there was an abundance of pretty much everything else you could imagine popping out of bushes and hedgerows today – including some baby deer and wonderful dragonflies – who I’m sad to say were both way too fast for my camera.

Other, more sedate creatures however were kind enough to pose for me as my friend and I languidly strolled around the grounds and surrounding countryside twalking the day away.

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However – as interesting as all of these were the one thing that really caught my eye, just as I was leaving the (largely uneventful but very relaxing) birdwatching hide was a Red Admiral that was warming itself on a post about 20ft away.

I have to say that once again I’m stunned at the images that my little compact Sony 30x superzoom can capture from a distance.

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All in all it was a really well timed walk with some perfectly lit sunny moments where the world came alive both underfoot and all around us, showcasing the best that the countryside has to offer at this time of year.

Although there aren’t an awful lot of flowers around at the moment, every so often one manages to catch your eye, and particularly after a bit of rain you’re reminded how awesome the little things in life can look when you stop to pay attention to them.

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Anyway – I feel good.

I’ve broken the back of the teens – and I’m in weight territory that I’ve not seen since about 1992. Those that are mathematically inclined will also note that there is a particularly significant milestone approaching that’s unrelated to a certificate – but that IS related to how heavy I am and how heavy I was.

Answers on the back of a postcard internet. Can you work it out?

Davey

Naturally thin

It’s a lovely day. 

When I say that I don’t mean it’s lovely I mean it’s LOVELY. 

That’s not just because the sun is shining (it currently is) or because the sky is blue (that’s also the case) or because its warm enough to walk around with a teeshirt on (check) but because the world is full of people

Some days I just happen to bump into ones I know all the time as well – and that’s probably what makes it so good. 

That’s been happening all day so far. 

There was a time I knew next to no-one locally (not even my next door neighbour) but these days I don’t have to go too far in my local area without meeting someone I recognise – even if it’s just in passing. 

I even know the cheerful old ladies in the next street who live next door to each other because I walk past their bungalows and stop to chat occasionally about the weather and poke fun at them for checking out all the younger guys walking past as they sit outside keeping each other company whilst drinking lazy cups of tea. 

This morning my first random meeting was at the Saxon Mill near my house – where a member of our mutual Slimming World cosa nostra was sipping a cup of tea with her mother in law. 

We said hello and chatted briefly about how we were doing and the local area – with me suggesting some nice walks and their associated distances. 

It’s great when you meet unexpected smiles around the corner. 

I couldn’t stay too long however as there was an eager Boris with a squeaky ball nearby desperate to run around the nearby fields. 


Although my friend knows his dog better than I do I’m lately struck by how much straighter he’s walking these days. 

Since his recent back problems Boris has been undergoing a lot of physio and walking on a treadmill in a water tank to correct his slightly crab like gait when he trots. The work that my friend and his canine therapist have done together has definitely made him fitter and healthier – and the little guy seemed full of beans today. 

He’s a real companion dog – and doesn’t take separation well (this is both a blessing and a curse I suspect) – but it always makes me smile to see how he watches his master and is rooted to his side at all times. 


As we walked today I reflected upon my decision to NOT get a dog of my own 18 months ago. I’d dearly wanted one – but decided that it would make finding a job more difficult than it needed to be – and if I’m truthful I don’t really regret the decision. 

It wouldn’t have been the right time back then – but at some point in the future it’s still on my bucket list. For the time being though I’m just enjoying sharing walks with friends’ dogs and the occasional poochsitting engagement. 

I think I’ll know when the moment’s right. Then I’ll do it. 

For the time being though I’m still just revelling in the freedom of a life and perspective that is currently without limitations


However – I have to be vigilant. 

I confided to a friend recently that whilst some people see me as determined and single minded (or stubborn) and view those traits as the reason I’ve had such recent success with weight loss, the truth (as with most things) is a little more complex. 

Often I’m afraid. Really afraid. 

I catch myself in moments where I see a shadow of my old behaviour and in that split second the memories of who I was, how I felt, what I looked like and what people must have thought of me come flooding back, and it’s this that causes my fear to kick in. 

Yesterday evening it did a little. 

Although I didn’t make bad individual choices I ate a LOT of good food yesterday evening. 

Truthfully it wasn’t a massive amount compared to what I used to eat – and neither was it hugely calorific – but I nevertheless dread the arrival of the seemingly bottomless pit sensation that I occasionally feel I need temporarily become a slave to.  

It’s this that provides my drive and it’s this that’s providing my impetus today. 

I’ve been walking all morning on and off and I’m at around seven miles for the day so far. I won’t stop until I get to at least ten and I’m not going to eat much (hopefully) tonight. 

At the moment I have a phrase that I hate in the back of my mind. It occasionally crops up in group. 

People who are naturally thin.

It’s complete nonsense. 

No one is naturally thin

Every single time that I’ve screwed up with dieting it’s been because I got comfortable. I either relaxed half way through the process because I stared feeling healthier and happier and slipped into old habits – or I got to where I wanted to be and then thought I could eat ‘normally’. 

The problem is that people like me don’t understand ‘normal‘. 

How many times has someone said to you ‘my friend/brother/partner/etc can eat what they want and they NEVER put weight on!’

This is probably true in a way. They do eat what they want. They most likely can eat a kebab and a large bag of fish and chips – maybe have a few beers to wash it down and then reach for the Haagen Daas when they get home. 

But do they then wake up and do it again first thing in the morning? Do they do it again the following evening? Do they go for a run? Do they have a much more active job?

It’s highly likely that their ‘night after the day before’ is completely different to the way mine used to be – because I’d just wake up and repeat the exact same behaviour all over again. 

One of the hardest things to come to terms with in my life has been that there are no ‘naturally thin’ people – but there arenaturally self regulating’ people. 

I also had to recognise that I can’t get to the ‘end’ of my Slimming World journey – and I’d be an idiot to try. 

I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life because if I don’t I’ll end up doing the same things all over again and dying a miserable, bed ridden lonely death. 

Wow. OK that was deep. 

But it’s totally true

I try to motivate myself with this every day – and each little fall from grace isn’t a failure. It’s a reminder that I have to work at being a ‘natural self regulator’ at all times. 

If that makes me seem determined, or even obsessive then I’m fine with that. 

Whilst it may be deep the side effects are continued happiness and vitality. 

16 months ago my BMI looked like this. 


Now it looks like this. 


And I’ve gone from this man 

To this man


The uncomfortable – but undeniable truth for anyone on a similar path is that what we have to do is accept that profound, lasting and meaningful change means never going back to the same habits that we had before. Only by breaking previous paradigms can we escape. 

Only then internet can we become naturally thin. 

Davey

Introducing friends

This morning I’ve been out with a couple of firm friends, who only met each other for the first time this today…

Initially they were quite wary – but in no time at all after some introductions they were getting on famously.

Probably bonded by their mutual love of bird watching Boris and Freckles seem to get along pretty well when they first met, and happily sniffed each other’s behinds for a while as their pet humans above greeted one another with (less socially developed) handshakes.

I doubt that Freckles and Boris would have minded me joining in – but I didn’t want to intrude and instead stuck to human pleasantries. Also – as fragrant as their behinds must be I was actually more interested in the other wildlife – of which there was quite a lot today at Arrow Valley.

The Pooches also seemed unusually willing to be photographed this morning.

Normally they refuse to stay still for the camera, yet today here they were allowing me to take snap after in focus snap.

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You might think that I’m a charming Dr Doolittle given how calm and collected they are, or what sweet little cherubs they have been to pose for my photo. However what you can’t see just behind me is the piraña like feeding frenzy going on.

A little girl was flinging giant lumps of bread to a growing collection of birds at the official ‘invigorate the ravenous little monsters with wings‘ baked goods slinging platform – and Boris and Freckles were both transfixed by the resulting commotion.

As I turned away from them to watch it struck me that some days what initially might seem like a great stroke of luck is actually the exact opposite.

Sometimes life isn’t what you expect when you’re the little duck that catches the golden crust.

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I think that the moral of the story today is ‘don’t **** with the seagulls‘…

As we left the beleaguered little quackers and continued around the park it was clear however that not all was well elsewhere. The strike by refuse collectors in Birmingham is having a pretty dramatic effect on this usually well kept space and the bins are currently overflowing at each and every corner.

(you don’t need photos of this – it was grim)

People have left carrier bags full of rubbish close to them and as you might expect with a lot of wildlife around these are quickly getting ripped open. Frankly the park is a mess today – and I really hope that this doesn’t hurt the birds – especially the fledglings.

On the main island there are a few nesting Herons – and from what I read on the visitor centre bird spotting chart they have some young with them. However when I looked I couldn’t see any – and only one of my full zoom photos of an adult came out clear enough to use.

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Apart from the overflowing bins and the skinhead-like seagulls though Arrow Valley was quite serene today. Whilst idly strolling we did around 3 miles around the reserve – all the time with Freckles and Boris sniffing away in the bushes and trotting back and forth to say hello to passers by and other dogs.

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As lovely as all this was though I must fill my green exercise ring on Apple Watch (which sedate strolls do not do sadly) otherwise my OCD will cause my head to explode. As lovely as my amble was I needed to do MORE!

Since I am still in need of a pair of black trousers, I headed out when I got home for a brisker walk into town to try and find some.

Sadly these are proving difficult to find – especially given that I have mentally budgeted only £5 for them. All in all I walked a further six miles trying to find my mythically cheap item of unicorn clothing and returned empty handed – but I will persevere!

(I have heard a rumour that there are some in a pot – just at the end of a rainbow!)

On the plus side every step I do is something toward the scales next week – and given that the theme of last Saturday’s image therapy session was step counting and ‘body magic’ (exercise with Slimming World counts to awards) I’ve been trying to keep my numbers up.

On Saturday I finished with 21,314 steps, Sunday was 13,057, and today is currently 22,110 – so I’m hopefully on track for an average of 20,000 a day (around 10 miles).

I’m also trying to ‘tweak’ my food a little bit to reduce calories and today swapped out kidney beans from my favourite chilli dish and replaced them with an aubergine and some chopped green and black beans (both of which came from a friend’s allotment and were delicious).

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The other ingredients were a courgette, broccoli, red pepper, leeks, mushrooms and 5% fat pork mince. The seasoning was cumin, smokey paprika, chilli powder, salt, a beef stock cube, some garlic – and finally to season some freshly chopped coriander was thrown in at the end.

Honesty this was so good that I may just forgo the kidney beans altogether from now on. A can of them has 280kcal in it – whereas an entire aubergine has 50Kcal – and 100g of green beans has 25kcal.

Thats over 200kcal saved today!

Finally – Rusty McBike is now back in the saddle!

Well – at the very least Rusty has a new (old) saddle (courtesy of a friend’s dusty garage contents) and although I’ve not yet had a chance to properly test her out on a long journey yet things currently seem very secure indeed.

She has even got a new donated strap-on gel butt cushion to alleviate the intensely bruised bottom that the previous saddle was immediately capable of giving me. It’s early days but I’m hopeful that this superb combo means that we’re going to be very happy together.

If worst comes to worst another friend has been a dumpster diving hero and secured yet another saddle clamp from the clutches of a nearby skip (in the right hand pic). As rough as it looks as long as I have a spare then I’m pretty happy.

It saves money on eBay and every little bit can go to my unicorn trousers!

As soon as I get a chance I’ll take her out for a spin and let you know how I get on. It’s most likely to be Wednesday however as I have even more planned for tomorrow! Time and tide waits for no man!

Anyway – I must get some sleep – nighty night internet.

Davey

Snowdonia part 3

(We continue our adventures in Wales with the final part – number three)

The evening after climbing Snowdon was unexpectedly painful. I’d expected my legs to hurt, but quite without warning when we got back to the hotel room after dinner something in my lower back went into a spasm and I was suddenly in real pain.

I ended up temporarily on my knees (quite literally) at the side of my bed trying to alleviate the discomfort – and thought I’d done myself a real injury. I’ve had problems with my lower back in the past and it still troubles me from time to time. After spraying on embrocation and taking paracetamol and ibuprofen it was still agony, however I was so tired that I fell fast asleep flat on my back shortly after (I couldn’t do that a year and a half ago!) and awoke several hours later feeling absolutely (and quite surprisingly) fine.

As well as my miraculous back recovery my legs weren’t the tortured pins of agony I was expecting them to be – and although I had some cramp when I moved around and they un-siezed I definitely had life left in them.

I’d set my alarm for 7am so that we could get down to the main hotel for breakfast. We’d missed it due to our early start the previous day – and upon arrival when I saw the choice I wasn’t disappointed. There were many slimming friendly options and I chose to have (to start) berries and natural yogurt with a couple prunes and peach slices sprinkled with a dessert spoonful of muesli.

The waiter then took an order for the main breakfast and I went for a poached egg with some smoked haddock – which arrived cooked to perfection. I left feeling pleasantly satisfied, but not overly full and we busied ourselves with getting ready to check out.

I have to be honest – I didn’t want to leave.

It seemed like a complete injustice to go home after just two nights with so much still just aching to be explored. Thankfully there was plenty of time left in the day and neither myself or my companion planned to waste it.

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As I handed our keys in at reception I enquired whether or not it was ok to leave the car in front of the hotel for a few hours whilst we wandered off to explore a little more. One of the guests at breakfast had mentioned to me that by the road in front of the hotel there was a gate leading to a river side walk and a nearby copper mine (that I’d mentioned to him) that might be of interest.

Both me and my companion (who was also not completely crippled) felt pretty game for another walk so we made our way to the river.

This was a lovely shady (and well maintained) path to the nearby visitor attraction – and it was extremely relaxing to watch the fast moving (and quite swollen) river rushing past us as we twalked the morning away.

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Before long we arrived at the mine – very very early for a Sunday – and we realised that we were pretty much the only ones there!

 

Instead of paying for a tour (it wasn’t that expensive it turned out later – £8.50 each) we decided to follow some of the marked walks nearby and initially started making our way up the mountain. However I think we took a wrong turn somewhere as the trail abruptly stopped at what turned out to be the exit to the mine’s guided tour and a rather lovely panoramic view.

At the exit to the mine was a gated metal turnstile – and inquisitively I checked whether it locked if you tried to go in. It turned out that it wasn’t – so (a bit cheekily) we had a look inside.

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There wasn’t a lot to see at the end of the mine tour – just a really long tunnel – and we decided not to venture too far in (there were loads of signs about wearing hard hats and I’m not the type to needlessly tempt fate) but it was amazing just how much water was pouring out of the rock and how the temperature plummeted within just a few feet of the entrance.

Both my companion and I absolutely s**t ourselves when we turned the corner at the end of this long corridor and saw a mannequin behind a mine cart. In the dark the dummy looked real and he was staring right at us!

We headed (briskly) back outside into the warm sunshine and down past the visitor centre to see what else there was to do. Both of us still felt a bit crampy – but a flat stroll along the river to a nearby lake a mile or so away seemed like a nice alternative to the cold and wet mine.

We headed off along the route to see what was at the end.

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As we made our way along the bank we saw a marshall in a high visibility vest standing by a gate. I said hello to him, but oddly he just looked at me, so we carried on. By the side of the path were occasional markers where someone had tied polythene signs saying ‘this way’.

We ignored them for the time being and continued along the peaceful path that wound it’s way along the valley.

It didn’t take long before we reached Llyndy Isaf – which is a large lake surrounded by woods, waterfalls and small boat houses. As we arrived a family with children were taking advantage of the opportunity for a free dip and there were a group of young boys all splashing about and having fun.

It seemed like a nice place to take a few ‘this is me and I’m here’ photos so we stopped for a moment to indulge in vanity!

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Nearby there was the sound of rushing water, and there was a small stream that was feeding the lake.

We pushed our way through the bracken, hopped over a couple of rocks in the river and found ourselves in a lovely secluded little spot by a waterfall. If there was ever a place for a picnic in an idyllic location then this was it!

It was by now though (as we made our way back over the little stream and onto the path again) that we realised what the Marshall was staring at us for. The quiet, unspoiled walking paradise that we’d been ambling through was part of the route for a race from Llanberis to Snowdon.

Initially we’d seen a couple of (unrealistically fit and very muddy) runners flying past – but all of a sudden there were literally hundreds of them in small groups, meaning that we had to walk single file and keep stopping as they flew past us with various pained expressions.

After a while it got quite annoying, so when we saw a large stile over a wall that lead up the hillside into the forest we jumped at the chance to explore.

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As this wound up the incline we realised that this wasn’t really a walking path as such – but more of an trodden route through tree roots and over boulders. It wasn’t an easy walk – but it was interesting and quieter than walking through a stampede.

After about 20 minutes of making our way up the hill – we found ourselves on the site of an old derelict stone cottage of some kind. There were three outlines of what looked like three very old buildings (clearly built before people thought windows were a cool idea) and we decided to have a look.

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As we got closer it seemed that occasionally this place had seen a few campfires and there was evidence that someone had maybe toasted a few marshmallows – but otherwise it was an idyllic little oasis of green and calm half way up a hillside and completely hidden from view by the canopy of trees.

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After looking around for a while we carried on up the hill – but things started to get a lot more overgrown and slippy.

Given that neither of us were completely fresh after climbing Snowdon the day before and hadn’t brought anything with us we decided that it was sensible to turn around – and instead to make our way back to the hotel and car to munch on our packed lunches.

There was after all still the little matter of a three and half hour drive home to contend with…

As we strolled back the torrents of runners just kept coming – and we even tried (and failed) to walk along the opposite bank of the river (there was a bridge next to the lake) in an attempt to get away from them. Sadly this just resulted in getting jammed up in head high bracken, but it made us laugh the whole way through, and we were still smiling as we once again crossed the river back onto the path full of runners.

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Soon we were back at the hotel – and upon arrival we were greeted by the cutest and friendliest Staffordshire bull terrier who was sunning herself by the front door. She loved a good fuss and lots of patting and questions about ‘who’s a good girl?’

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Strangely there was no answer – and  this question remains an enigma.

I popped to the loo and then myself and my companion sat outside for a while on the garden furniture munching on our boiled eggs, apples and muesli bars, drinking in the scenery one last time.

It had been the perfect end to a pretty perfect little holiday.

According to Apple Watch we’d both walked 28.5 miles in three days – and most of those were over some kind of gradient.

Now all that remains is to find out next weekend whether this has helped me lose any more pounds! I’ve tried to be good – but at the same time, boy did I have an appetite after our riverside walk.

The rest of this week will be all about getting back into the swing of normal exercise, cooking meals, not eating things out of packets and wrappers and making forward progress.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Snowdonia experience internet – I know I certainly did!!!

If anyone fancies doing the same I really really recommend these guys – https://www.hfholidays.co.uk which owned the hotel we stayed at. Although we stayed there on a B&B basis only (paying less because of that) the other guests were getting the ‘whole’ experience with guided tours of the area and a variety of walking excursions each day.

(I’m not selling their services – nor do I get commission – they’re just nice people!)

Davey

 

Inept navigator

It’s amazing what you find when you least expect it.

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I stared in surprise and mild disbelief at the boat in front of me. It was hidden by brambles and bushes and I’d initially missed it completely. I’d been looking elsewhere and then my eyes had been drawn to the unexpectedly circular shape of the tiny portholes peeping through the thorns and ivy.

I wasn’t sure why or how it ended up sitting there – in the middle of a bush but there it was.

My day started in a completely different place and I’d really not expected to find looking at a seagoing vessel in the middle of Warwickshire.

I’d originally decided to visit Chesterton Windmill – purely because I’d driven past it after a walk some weeks ago and had been meaning to find out more about it. It’s pretty darned old it turns out – and from what I’d read online has been a feature of the Warwickshire countryside since 1632, and overlooked the ancient Roman settlement of Great Chesterton – which had originally been established between 140 and 160AD!

It was surely worth a look.

When I arrived there it was really peaceful.

Initially at least there wasn’t a soul around and I sat looking at the lovely surrounding view from the top of the hill. As one might expect by a windmill it was nice and breezy. The architecture was superb and it was amazing how solid the structure still looked after all this time. They sure don’t build things they way they used to!

Then to my right I noticed an inquisitive visitor – a small white wire haired terrier sniffing the air and looking at me.

Lucky!‘ Shouted an elderly lady nearby. ‘She’s probably after your sandwiches.’ she suggested.

I looked at Lucky and stroked her rough head and back. The poor dog had no way of knowing that bread was pure evil and that I hadn’t eaten any for over a year. She wasn’t living up to her name if acquiring a sandwich was her objective.

‘She probably is!’ I replied – not getting into the pros or cons of fattening lunches. ‘Nice windmill isn’t it!’ I said – walking over to the lady and her husband – who was moving slowly behind whilst leaning heavily on a black metal walking stick.

Lucky put her front paws on his right thigh and looked expectantly at his face. He reached into his pocket to get her a treat.

‘There’s usually an open day in early September’ he said to me feeding a small biscuit to the dog. Lucky moved away, wagging and chewing her snack.

‘…you can go up inside and they start the windmill if it’s not too breezy. It’s completely refurbished – all the original parts!’

We started chatting.

They came here a lot – and it turned out that Lucky was a rescue dog. They loved the windmill and local walks – and we started discussing local churches and stained glass. The old man pointed into the distance and said ‘that one over there was in the Doomsday book. It’s really well kept. You should have a look.’

I peered at where he was indicating and could just about see the top of a church above the tree line. ‘Are there any nice walks nearby?’ I asked.

‘Sure!’ The man said.

‘You can walk in a big loop nearby – it’s about a mile and a half.’ I nodded, still looking at the square tower of the church in the distance. It didn’t seem that far away.

We walked back to our cars chatting for a while as he slowly made his way across the uneven field with his stick. He’d fallen recently and hurt his leg his wife said. He was usually a lot faster she joked – winking at him with a smile.

The ground was proving quite challenging for my brief companion though today, and Lucky threatened to unbalance him several times as she whined for another treat. He eventually gave in to canine pester power and fed her another.

She scuttled off happily chewing again to sniff the grass by the gate and I stroked her while the old lady put her back on the lead. I thanked them warmly for the chat, said my goodbyes and headed off toward Chesterton church, parking about half a mile away.

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When I arrived I was met with a really well kept church that was not only filled with some lovely stained glass – but sat in a supremely well maintained churchyard and demonstrated some impressive masonry carving – both inside and out.

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After looking around for a while and making a small donation I headed off to find the walk.

I’d already met a couple of people along the way stopping each time for a short chat – and they all continued to point me in the same general direction, so I ambled along thinking I couldn’t go too far wrong with such large local landmarks in near view.

Until I met Beaker near the church.

What I know now is that he was a muppet, and was just as new to the area as me. He told me NOT TO TAKE the marked route I was going to directly opposite the church over a field, so – thinking he knew best – I carried on along the country lane.

The path I’d had chosen for me was absolutely lovely though – and wound through what appeared to be private woodland  (and a road lined by oddly leaning trees) with some small nearby lakes absolutely teeming with birds – particularly herons.

However this ended up terminating abruptly at a private residence (Kingston Farm) with a public bridleway sign nearby. Thankfully I had (through the kindness of a proud cartophile friend) access to Ordnance Survey Maps online. I opened the app and looked carefully at the field that the sign pointed to.

No path listed.

Yet in front of me there was a sign and a clearly marked bridleway pointing through the fields. I double checked the map.

Nothing. 

I know NOW (having investigated further this evening) that there are multiple different kinds of maps in the Ordnance Survey app – and I was looking at COMPLETELY the wrong one. The one I’ve scribbled on below is the right one – along with my route.

If I’d been looking at this one I’d have seen a nice little dotted green ‘public footpath‘ line just below the church – which is where Mr Muppet told me not to go…

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I looked into the distance. It didn’t seem so bad. What was the worst that could happen? If it was truly awful I’d just turn back. I opened the gate and headed into the field.

After around 30 minutes of tramping through uneven fields (whilst chasing butterflies!) and realising that several trees had fallen on the path or grown over the fences and gates I finally found my way out onto a road.

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I was standing near an M40 motorway bridge about a mile away fron Warwick services.

I checked the map again. I was quite a long way away from a mile and half of circular walk. There was a route back to the church over the bridge and through Lighthorne Heath along the B4100 but it was quite a trek. I’d already done around three miles and this looked like it was slightly longer. Plus it was now starting to rain.

I zipped up my fleece and started walking briskly on.

Then something caught my eye. An old derelict Land Rover – and then another – just rotting away in a clearing. As there were no signs suggesting this was private property (although it probably was) I decided to have a quick peek (touching absolutely nothing) and take some pictures to play with my camera.

Randomly it was here I found myself standing next to a large boat.

It was propped up on wooden supports, partially gutted and slowly being reclaimed by nature.

I’m not entirely sure why but this made the whole day worthwhile. It was so unique and unexpected – and strangely beautiful that I couldn’t help but look all around it.

My mind was instantly full of thoughts about why it was there and who stencilled the hand and cannabis leaf onto the cabin. What was its history? How had it come to be here, slowly dying alongside the cars?

I left with many images in my mind about who the owner might have been and what had happened to stop them renovating the vessel. I continued the (long) walk back to the church via a stupidly busy 50 mph B4100 with no paths either side.

(I know now there was a bridleway that would have avoided this – and I dearly wish I’d taken it. This felt dangerous!)

Thankfully this soon turned into fields of relaxing sheep and horses, and TONS of cyclists (I found out this evening that this is the Official Warwickshire Feldon Cycleway!)

So – because of my complete ineptitude with a map I’d somehow managed to turn an apparently short and simple circular walk into a seven mile hike over farmland and twice crossed the M40 – but it had been a really nice day. I genuinely loved unexpectedly getting lost in deserted countryside and having (almost) no idea where I was going.

The day has been full of friendly (if occasionally stupid) people, cute dogs, herons, robins, sparrows, blackbirds, (what looked like) a kestrel hovering by a field on the B4100, sheep and horses.

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It’s made me feel connected with the world in a week where I’ve honestly felt a little apart from it.

One thing’s for sure. I’m going to have to go back and find the proper walk. I want to do it again and next time it needs additional twalking!

Davey

 

Swedishly frugal

It”s 9.50am on Saturday and I’m listening to Classic FM. I have my feet up on my POÄNG footstool and I’m in my POÄNG armchair, feeling very Swedish. I’m also feeling very frugal as – thanks to some patient bargain hunting – I managed to get both 2nd hand for a total of £14.

This compares very favourably to buying them new – which for the particular combination I purchased would have been £135 (although the covers do need a run through the washing machine).

However – to an extent this purchase is partially aspirational, because although the chair is rated to support a weight of 170kg (about 26st 10lbs) I’m convinced I’m going to break it, so I’ve propped the back of it up against the wall. It’s going to be a while before I have the balls to put the armchair in the middle of a room and sit there bouncing up and down like everyone else does…

The problem that I still think that my bulk will break most things I sit in – because it always used to. I’ve broken so many pieces of furniture over the years (and car seats) that I gave up counting how many had turned to splinters and sheared metal.

It’s a really difficult mindset to get out of at the best of times.

Last February I was attending some group therapy sessions – and the room was filled with these same POÄNG chairs in a big circle. At the time I was around 35 stone (222kg). I remember myself and another large lady having to ask for office chairs so that we could sit amongst the other attendees.

Unfortunately this made us about 2ft higher up than everyone else. On top of the rather stressful reason for being there (I was looking for support whilst giving up drinking) it was just one more thing to feel self conscious about.

I had a similar issue when I started Slimming World a few months later (link) and walked into a room full of little red chairs intended for an infant school. At the time I was convinced they’d collapse. Now I’m just used to them – but that took quite a while.

At this precise moment though putting my weight on a chair is a secondary consideration and I’m thinking more about stepping on scales – which I’m really not in the mood for. Still – sitting here worrying about the damage I did on Saturday (link) won’t solve anything. I need to get going!

(Makes way to Slimming World)

Well I’m still making steady downward progress – and I’ve lost another pound and a half. The Slimming World site’s progress chart shows that I’m levelling off a little – but still heading in the right direction.

I’m actually rather happy with the current pace. On average I’m losing about 2lb a week and that suits me perfectly. That’s 104lbs a year and would see me reach a weight of 15 stone in 37 weeks.

I may lose it faster, I may lose it slower – but it’s nice to know that at this continued pace I can get to where I want to be by approximately Feb 24th 2018. I think this mindset is much better than sudden dramatic losses followed by a slow week where I never really know what went wrong. That’s an emotional rollercoaster that I want to get off and never get back on again.

Besides – I’ve come to the conclusion that rushing is pointless. I plan to continue going to Slimming World every week once I reach my target anyway. It really doesn’t matter to me in the long term if its a pound a week as long as it’s coming off.

Everything in the right direction is better than standing still or putting weight on!!!

(Author leaves Slimming World for his next appointment.)

After group I headed over to see my friend and have a mooch around his allotment.

Previously I’ll be honest and say I could never really get my head around why people had allotments – especially if they had gardens – but there’s something supremely relaxing about going to one and just soaking up the calm.

You’re surrounded on all sides by things that are growing – and the whole area is both quirky and old – yet full of life and promise at the same time.

 

The variety of the plots and things that people are planting is fascinating. Everywhere you look there are different little shoots starting to flower and bud – birds hopping in and out to forage for food, and the odd crazy looking scarecrow and other strange methods deployed for deterring slugs or mice.

The other wonderful thing about this particular allotment is that there are quite a few little redbrick buildings on the plots. These apparently have preservation orders on them and can be used as sheds, but not modified in any way. They all have pretty unique characters, and I’m told that people used to live in them when they were first built so that they could guard the food on their plots.

 

They all added a lovely visual calm to the place that perfectly complimented the peace and quiet of the plots – most of which were like self contained kingdoms with large hedges and mature platings and sheds.

After the tour we stopped off at my friend’s allotment. Until today I’d never tried Chard – which he’s mentioned he’s been growing a few times. Having tried it I’m still not quite sure what I think of it. He refers to it as ‘peppery’ – but honestly I can’t quite classify it. It’s not sweet and not bitter – but on the cusp of both…

Chard is the red and yellow stalked leaves in the picture – which apparently grow voraciously and can regularly feed a family if pruned and managed well. It’s supposed to be highly nutritious. Its certainly beautiful and crunchy too!

 

My friend was keen to give me some things to try – and I walked away with some topped garlic (these taste like super hot garlic spring onions), a lettuce (it’s so fresh and greeeeeen!) a few leaves of red, orange and white chard, and a good handful of strawberries.

All Boris wanted to eat was grass.

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Despite my continued patient questioning over many many months Boris is still unable to answer the philosophical conundrum I keep posing for him. He just looks at me – and seems unwilling to voice any potential conclusions that he’s silently reached.

Until he comes up with a response I guess I will never know who is a good boy then…

I live in hope that one day he’ll share his stoic wisdom.

(author leaves with his veggie bounty and heads off for his next appointment)

Well – it’s now late evening. Much later than I usually post, so apologies to those who’ve already enquired how the weight loss went this week!

I’ve just been to see ‘The Mummy’.

Honest one word review time.

‘Mmmmmmsookay.’

I don’t think it’s absolutely the best film I’ve seen recently – but also far from the worst. Tom Cruise is as always watchable, running away from lots of things just before they blow up, doing ridiculous stunts and making everyone wonder if somewhere, locked away in an attic there’s a rotting picture of him getting older day by day.

Does the guy never age?

I’ll say one thing for him – whether he’s a scientology nut or just an average Joe he looks after himself. They mummy however? She’s really let herself go. That’s one lady SERIOUSLY in need of a manicure…

Anyway – I now have some Chard and strawberries to eat while I make a salmon stir fry.

I popped into Tesco as I walked home from the cinema and blundered into a (quite literally – there was pushing) feeding frenzy at the reduced food counter. I picked up 6 punnets of raspberries, and loads of stir fry veg trays for 8p each!

Tonight internet I’m going to dine like a (healthy) king for next to nothing whilst sitting on my cheap Ikea chair feeling Swedishly frugal.

Davey

Frogs and blue steel

I neglect my garden. There. I said it.

I’m a bad bad boy – but I’m trying to change (slowly).

My friend however is someone that has significant interest in horticulture and I think my lack of grass and plant husbandry is something that definitely offends his eyes. He’s been gently suggesting we have a crack at it for a few weeks – but for one reason or another we’d put it off.

The problem is that once you let it go a bit wild (which I did when I had a lot of mobility issues) it’s a pretty tough sell to get out there and make a start. It’s also far more fun to go for a walk and enjoy nature elsewhere that seems a bit less like a pain in the ass.

My garden at 10am definitely looked like a serious pain in the ass.

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However – when there are two of you to tackle something it can be quite enjoyable, and today there were three. However I have to question the work ethic of the third participant. He seemed completely disinterested in hard labour and instead far more focused on a deflated football from the undergrowth.

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Despite multiple suggestions that he take over filling my recycling bin with twigs there was little to no interest and eventually I just let him get on with chewing leather.

It’s very hard to get good help these days.

It was pretty encouraging as I worked to notice the physical changes (in the last 4 months or so since I last had a crack at this) and how much easier it now is to bend down, and work at lower levels than my stomach used to make comfortable.

It really used to make my back hurt as well as making breathing harder – and although it’s still got more heft than it should do there’s little getting in the way any more. I’d even go as far as to say because of this specific change I genuinely enjoyed bringing order to chaos.

There does however appears to be a fringe benefit to letting your garden get a little out of control. The local frog population appears to have benefitted immensely from my absence. They were hopping all over the lawn as it was strimmed and either made their way to a nearby bush for safety or (like this little guy) were deposited in a clump of greenery further up the garden.

Three hours, several coffees, one completely jam packed recycling bin and another 10 refuse sacks later (thanks to the help of my most excellent friend) everything definitely looked tidier!

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Tomorrow I’m going to mow the rest of the grass flat (today it was still too wet from yesterday’s downpour to do anything but strim) and make a start on what I think is a large Buddleja crispa bush to the right. Once thats been chopped down to a stump and taken to the tip then its time to have a go at the left hand border (which I’m really not relishing).

For the moment though it’s nice to just see the patio again!

Despite his pitiful level of assistance with the weeds Boris also appeared to be satisfied with what had been accomplished.

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Afterwards I made another strong coffee, bid my mate farewell and killed another two birds with one stone by going grocery shopping after dropping the contents of my garden at the tip.

Consequently this evening I’m looking forward to what is going to be a very hearty beef stew – although irritatingly I neglected to get some Chorizo and Bay leaves – so I’m going to have to get a little inventive with the seasoning.

This is particularly irritating because I managed instead to buy things that I didn’t really need – including an item that was totally irrelevant – but that I’m convinced elevates my already jaw dropping good looks to another level entirely.

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It’s next to impossible not to ‘vogue’ when I put these sunglasses on, and I just HAD to buy them (dah-links!)

So – if the residents of Warwick see me posing and pouting whilst out and about over the coming weeks they’ll know that it’s probably caused by my sleek new eyewear which seems to unconsciously make me want to perfect my Zoolander ‘Blue Steel’.

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I have a little work to do – but I’m sure you’ll agree that the raw animal magnetism that my new sunglasses bring to the table makes the lack of a spicy paprika sausage and bay leaves almost forgivable.

Anyway internet, I better get on with chopping my carrots, swede and leeks. This evening’s awesome symphony of food isn’t going to get cooked by my devastatingly hot side profile alone – regardless of the fact that it will almost certainly contribute to bringing my stew to the boil.

Davey

Tinkerbell 

Compared to yesterday the weather today is a riot of blue skies and sunshine. It’s frankly glorious and because of this I was genuinely torn between my ever pressing need to sort out my back garden (which regular readers will know is an objectionable task only because of my continued procrastination) or just dissapear for a walk.

Hmm… Should I choose adult responsibility or childish frivolity?

(…)

I’m going to leave you for a moment to try and figure out which I went for.

(…….)

Screw the garden. It never stops growing anyway. It’ll be there tomorrow!

Davey go walkies!!!

So – I contacted my friend and hastily arranged a meet up. His usual companion (Boris the frenchie) has been ill this week – and (as it seems is common with this breed) the poor little fellow has had a cripplingly bad back. He’s still on medication for it and he’s not his usual self.

He hasn’t been able to hop up onto the sofa, go for walkies or anything…

The poor little guy! 😢

So – my companion left Boris at his mom’s house and we took her dog for a walk instead. This little girl is super timid but unbelievably cute.

She’s a crossbreed I’ve not personally encountered before – and is a Pug/Jack Russell mix – which I’m informed makes her a PugRussell. Her name was originally ‘Tinkerbell’ when my friend’s mom got her – but they (thank heavens) refer to her simply as ‘Tink’.

I think standing in the middle of a park and calling out ‘Tinkerbell!’ over and over in the middle of Coventry if she chooses to run away wouldn’t be a good look for anyone not participating in a Peter Pan convention – so I approve of the abbreviation.

Personality wise she reminds me a lot of my own Jack Russell from years ago – and is very timid when it comes to other dogs. However there the comparison stops.

Facially she’s Pug though and through.

It was a great day to be in Memorial Park (if you like dogs) as the RSPCA were holding an event (although I’m not sure entirely what for) and the place was virtually wall to wall with pooch owners strolling around with practically every breed imaginable.

There was also a separate 10k charity event taking place at the same time – so between the multitudes of walkers, joggers and dog owners the place was a hive of activity.

If I’m honest it was maybe a bit too busy for proper exercise – and our walk was a slow moving affair. Consequently as soon as I got home an hour or so later I made myself a flask of coffee and headed out for a slightly more brisk walk.

It’s all very well not minding that I put a pound on yesterday but that isn’t quite the same as not caring.

I can deal with it quite easily as long as I know I’m doing something to address it – and in my case it means paying close attention to what I do and what I consume – so I’m not planning to just put my feet up this week.

However it’s difficult to know lately what kind of balance I have to strike. Recently I’ve often been confused by my levels of exercise vs my scale results, and never seem to be able to reliably guess how it’s going to go on any given week. When I first began Slimming World exercising as much as I could meant seriously good results – these days it doesn’t always seem to translate into a significant weight loss, and sometimes even does quite the opposite.

Although I shouldn’t let this play on my mind too much.

I’m still sometimes afflicted with the rather narrow minded attitude that decreasing numbers on scales are the only indicator of progress – which they absolutely are not – but I do have to take a moment and remind myself of this occasionally.

There are other (way more important) indicators of progress.

Although I’m not going into detail just yet I’ve started a couple of balls rolling over the last few days that relate to things which simply wouldn’t have been possible not that long ago. If they come to fruition then I’ll report back here – but for the time being I’m keeping quiet.

However the very fact that I’m thinking about these things (and furthermore that I’m willing to put a metaphorical and literal foot forward towards them) is a huge indicator of where I am in life now and it makes me feel very positive regardless of how they turn out.

Either way – exercise is awesome. Even if it slows my losses from time to time I don’t think I can stop craving it – or wanting to improve my capabilities – and today is no exception.

After heading out of the door I decided to walk to the supermarket a couple of miles away and get some bits and bobs for a picnic lunch in the park.

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Despite doing Slimming World, and it NOT being a calorie counting diet I think it’s folly to ignore your intake if you want to see results. Counting everything (when you can) even if it’s just for a week to get back on track has given me some of my most significant losses and turned around many a dry spell.

As picnics go this one stacks up pretty well from a calorie intake perspective.

  • Chicken Tikka slices (180g) – 212 kcal
  • Cottage cheese with chives (300g tub) – 176 kcal
  • Tomatoes – 96kcal
  • Apples x 2 – 142kcal
  • Mini gem lettuce x2  – 30kcal

Total – 656 kcal.

However – despite my intention to find a shady bench by a river somewhere to eat I was enjoying the walk so much I never actually got around to having any of it until I got home!

You see – it’s still a complete novelty to me to not only be outside on a hot day, but to be outside on a hot day walking briskly (with a heart rate between 105 & 120) and not being uncomfortable, drowned in sweat, hurting, burning and generally feeling completely miserable.

When it feels this good to be moving why stop?

So I didn’t. I just kept walking – and by the time I reached home with my uneaten picnic I’d easily nailed my daily 30 minute cardio target and more besides. My lunch had become a totally guilt free meal.

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This evening I’m making a beef stew – and as it takes a few hours to cook properly I’m going to make a start right now.

From what I can see internet the weather for the coming week has more of the same in store for me – and I can’t wait to get out there and make the most of it!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Davey