Shirts, stress and butterflies

Try as I might I can’t seem to stop feeling a little stressed at the moment.

There seems to be so much to do all of a sudden and so little time in which to do it.

Things need to be moved, cleaned, decorated, purchased, planned, implemented, fixed, fiddled with and just generally manipulated so that everything from my partner’s life fits neatly in with my own.

Combining the lives of two adults that have lived alone with their separate hobbies and tendencies to collect both furniture and trinkets is really tough at times.

What do you get rid of and what do you keep?

Rather shockingly I appear currently appear to be in possession of 99 beautiful shirts and of all the items that I can face getting rid of these appear to be the most impossible to separate myself from….

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I’ve resolved therefore (instead of discarding them) to hunt for better storage options – but currently there appear to be no immediately obvious answers with regard to where to put them whilst only in possession of  a modest budget.

Despite spending almost three hours wandering around IKEA in Coventry yesterday looking for solutions I came home empty handed.

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Well almost empty handed.

If you want free parking then you have to buy something – and if IKEA has one ability above all others it’s to present you with a useful little solutions to problems you never knew you had.

Whilst looking for ideas for my bathroom (my beloved has more of a requirement for shampoo and conditioner than I do in the shower) I found this useful suction cup holder.

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I have a habit of buying things in twos for some reason – which in this case is a good thing – because it didn’t occur to me until this morning that this item also made a great under kitchen cupboard spice rack!!!

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Not only had I found an unexpectedly joyful use for this I’d also managed to solve another more pressing issue – and that’s the continual hassle of making myself two espressos in the morning.

Typically the pesky conundrum of how to insert as much weaponised coffee into myself as possible involved me making one espresso, drinking it and then making another.

Imagine my surprise when I realised that there are larger cup sizes out there?!!!

Who flipping knew?!

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£1.25 for a double sized espresso mug?!

Shut up and take my money IKEA!!!

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(The author is well aware that in the background of this highly caffeinated selfie there is also a rotating spice rack sitting on top of his cupboard that is completely unused – but in his defence he won it in a Slimming World raffle and he never liked it. So there.) 

But I digress.

I have 99 shirts and nowhere to store them.

The irony is that the overwhelming majority of these have come from charity shops – and although I’ve been very thrifty (usually it costs me around £4 – £6 for a shirt) the reality has now hit me that I will also have to shell out for somewhere to store them.

My current wardrobe is woefully insufficient.

When I was fat (although I was a reclusive diabetic cripple on the verge of a painful death) life was much easier in some respects. I had one pair of 66in trousers and about 3-5 8XL shirts that fitted me.

Most of of the time I resorted to a purple one of them and stayed in that for pretty much every occasion.

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My previous inability to express myself through clothing has now produced a rather unintended side effect, and from a shirt perspective I’m very often very much like a child in a sweet shop.

If I find a hat or shirt that’s bright and vibrant I want to wear it – and I prefer to look a little dandy when I’m out and about.

I also notice that my significant other seems to encourage the ‘peacock’ side of my personality.

Occasionally I suspect it’s because she too has this side to herself…

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This means that the wardrobe space required for me is significantly more than my partner needs. When I had the house to myself it wasn’t a problem. I just decided that I would put aside a room for my clothes and it wasn’t an issue.

Now it’s not so simple.

This is something I feel quite acutely because I really dislike imbalance, or feeling as if I’m overwhelming someone else with my possessions.

My huge volume of shirts therefore make me feel uneasy.

In an ideal world I would have a bigger house and something like this would be an option.

It’s not though – so the hunt is still on.

I’m not yet ready to part with my pretty things so I might just (at some point in the future) have to convert the loft into a dressing room…

There are worse worries in life mind you – and I’m aware that this is very much a first world problem.

Worrying about having too much of anything is not the life I was born into, so in that respect I count myself as fortunate. I have relatively simple tastes and the world I live in provides for those in plentiful abundance.

It’s still hard to decide how to manage all of this and (diet wise) this has made me want to eat. In truth lately most things do – but I’m trying.

I really am.

IMG_3882I have to make good choices because I’ve been struggling a little with my back and my shoulder.

It’s made swimming something thats painful rather than relaxing so I’ve missed a few days recently (which also doesn’t help with my weight).

These injuries are mostly related to moving and lifting heavy items that are also unwieldy and (even though I’m bending my knees whenever possible) pulling something when I get into an awkward position.

Despite being told that I shouldn’t do such things on my own this includes rather dimwitted feats like dragging an IKEA Billy bookcase up my stairs alone on Monday.

My lower back hasn’t been quite the same ever since.

In my defence it needed to happen. The pending influx of boxes and furniture that’s arriving at the end of the month is making me rather obsessive about organising things so that I can relax and sleep properly – which last night (and the night before) didn’t really happen.

I had a fevered dream that it was all off because I hadn’t prepared enough – causing my partner to reverse her plans to move in with me.

Clearly I also have my own subconscious set of groundless worries about possible rejection that I’ve been pushing to the back of my mind.

All of my supermarket purchases this week have therefore had to be of the profoundly ‘good choice’ variety and I’ve been eating lots and lots of vegetables and fish.

However – it’s still the ‘lots‘ bit that’s tripping me up. My food diary (which I’ve stuck to diligently) is much longer than it really should be.

13th July

  • 2x oranges 
  • Half can of mackerel
  • Half a pack of chicken slices
  • Olives (2-3 syns)
  • Salad with mint sauce and whole grain mustard
  • 3 squares Lindt chocolate (6 syns)
  • Chilli con carne with rice
  • 1/4 melon
  • 1 Apple
  • 2 plums
  • Half a nectarine

14th July

  • 40g oats 
  • Nectarine
  • Plum
  • Half apple
  • Milk (HE)
  • 3.5 syns of cashews
  • Apple, plum, nectarine
  • Quorn/soya super small snack
  • Carrots
  • Chicken pieces
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • M&S Greek style strawberry yoghurt (0.5 syns)
  • Butternut squash chips, sweet potato wedges and a green pepper, garlic red onion, courgette, mushroom, chicken, smokey bacon and Quorn

15th July 

  • 40g oats 
  • Half Nectarine
  • Plum
  • Half apple
  • Baked potato
  • Tub of cottage cheese
  • 360g Piri piri chicken pieces
  • Lettuce
  • Gherkins & Tomatoes
  • 4 peaches
  • Tub of pinepple cottage cheese (3 syns)
  • 2 corn on the cob
  • Large mackerel salad with olives (15) (3 syns)
  • Aldi dominion sugar free sweets & Sugar free mints (12 syns)
  • Natural yogurt and frozen berries with pineapple cottage cheese (3 syns)

16th July 

  • Jacket potato with tub of cottage cheese and chives pickles and lettuce
  • 2x corn on cob
  • 4 peaches
  • 2x tubs of pineapple cottage cheese (6 syns)
  • Aldi Piri piri smoked mackerel salad with olives (11 syns)
  • Berries and natural yogurt
  • 6 apples
  • Frozen berries and 500g natural yogurt
  • Carrots

17th July 

  • Banana 
  • Tuna and mackerel salad with some olives and two corn on the cob
  • Gooseberries
  • 4x nectarines
  • Chicken salad with beetroot and olives – 1 syn
  • Aldi sugar free sweets (2 packs) 12 syns
  • 6x apples

My problem (as always) is that when I ruminate over things I eat – and even when it’s good food it’s still too much.

However – I’m keeping a diary and I’m being honest with myself about what I’m eating – as well as trying to limit the damage whenever possible.

Sometimes the best you can do is just try and take your mind off things by doing something else – and to this end yesterday morning I headed out with a friend to a place nearby that I’ve never vistied before.

Ufton Fields – which (according to the notice board) is a site of special scientific interest.

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Although this isn’t my usual kind of walk (it was short and meandering as opposed to brisk and lengthy) it was a welcome change of pace.

Ufton Fields was just the ticket, because if you march through a place like this without stopping then you’ll miss everything that the beautiful meadows and woods have to offer.

At first glance one may be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing there.

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It initially looks pretty but quite unremarkable.

However – when you stop and look closer at what’s around you things start to move

There are all manner of little crickets and flies buzzing around the place – and for the first time ever I managed to get close enough to a meadow grasshopper (this is the predominantly green one, whereas the brown one is a field grasshopper link) to film the noise that it makes with it’s back legs.

(Please do watch the above one with the sound turned up, I apologise for the camera shake!)

Other little things are no less interesting – and the common red soldier beetle (link) is (in my view at least) a truly gorgeous little creature.

Where the real spectacle lies however is in the myriad of butterflies that were simply swarming around the bushes and meadows nearby.

I’d seen none of them before.

I dearly wish that I’d brought with me my ‘proper’ camera rather than just my iPhone as it has a much better zoom lens. However it’s all swings and roundabouts. My phone can do 4K video, whereas my camera cannot.

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Although I thought that this one with two sets of wings was a moth – it turns out (according to my diligently researching companion that day) that it’s a female large skipper (link).

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This slightly fleabitten (but no less wonderful) specimin is called a gatekeeper (link)

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This is a ringlet (link).

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This one is a female meadow brown (link)

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This comma (link) In my view stole the show though- and although I couldn’t quite get close enough for a good cameraphone photo I adore it’s colouring.

I was absolutely buzzing by the time we’d finished our (unbelievably short 1.5 mile) walk.

I was also unaware at the time that my attempts to document the wildlife were in turn being recorded themselves….

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However I’m not averse to some furtive photography and am always aware that at some point I may have to fight fire with fire…

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So – there we have it.

Some busy days have passed and there are even more busy ones ahead.

I need to get on internet!

Time’s a wasting

Davey

For the rest of my life

It’s a lovely day.

The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting and I’m already in my shorts and tee shirt.

The day has started early today and I’ve just attended a Slimming World group down south with my partner.

It’s the earliest I’ve ever been to a meeting – and these guys are hardcore because they kick off at 7.30!

I wasn’t actually weighing in myself today – as in SW terms Saturday is the last day of the week.

I weighed last Monday with Angie and although I never got around to writing a post about it the result was that I’d gained 5.5lbs over the 5 weeks since last standing on the scales.

I was sitting 2.5lbs above my target weight at 14st 5.5lbs.

I may have looked at this differently a while back – but in real terms I’m still lighter than when I first hit target in Feb 2018 (14st 7lbs) and I have had a few days (and the remainder of this weekend) to try and pull things around.

The motivation to get back into target so I don’t have to pay for the next meeting is huge (my wallet functions in a similar way to a camel sphincter when faced with a sandstorm) but I’m also more mindful of the fact that in July I have to go to Derby again to hand over the MOTY title to the new 2019 winner.

I want to be an example of someone who hasn’t slipped from grace rather than coming over as a cautionary tale of someone who lost the plot.

The truth is that I’m being flippant though.

I know that’s never going to happen – but in contrast a while back I had no evidence to back it up in my mind (link)

My belief that I wouldn’t slide back into the hell of obesity was based solely on what I had to keep telling myself.

I didn’t know whether or not it was self delusion though – because over and over again since I was born I’d managed to yo-yo up and down in size, and always ended up a little bit bigger than when I started.

Now I have stats that have been gathered over time to back my self belief up and I am certain that after spending nearly a year and a half being exactly where I should be with regard to weight and fitness that I will be this way for the rest of my life.

My fitness wearable also allows me to understand how things have changed – and even now still continue to do so.

I’m maintaining my exercise levels regardless of the fact that I’ve had less time now that I’m working and travelling a lot more.

I do this because it’s important to me – and anyone who wants to get fit and lose weight will do so if they want it enough.

Although I only ever used to walk for my daily exercise I now swim too – and for a while have done so around 15 times a month – meaning that almost every other day I get up, walk to the leisure centre, swim anywhere between 1-1.5km and then go to work.

Usually I also fit in a mile and a half walk at lunchtime (weather permitting) and then a few evenings a week I also go for another longer one.

I’ve not been as restrained as I probably should have been with my eating – but in all honesty recent weeks have been a stressful period with regard to whether my living situation would or would not change.

I had no idea whether or not I’d end up living with my partner in Warwickshire or elsewhere.

Would she get the job nearby that she’d applied for or wouldn’t she? What would it mean if she didn’t?

It’s one of those times in life when there’s nothing at all that you can do to alter the outcome of events. You just have to watch them unfold and hope for the best.

In the meantime the fridge is always capable of offering occasional solace and the store cupboard has recently also stepped in to do some of the heavy lifting.

I’ve had a weakness for crackers, marmite and cheese triangles lately that’s become something of an obsession – and like many of my old eating habits some foods or meals have suddenly and inexplicably occupy my thoughts endlessly and (like any other problem eater) I sometimes feel incapable of resisting when the hunger pangs strike.

As always though even when I’m eating too much I’m eating too much of the right kinds of foods rather than guzzling bottles of wine and hammering down pizzas and kebabs.

The changes regarding my ongoing levels of exercise stand as one of two pillars of personal strength – with the second being what types of foods I now eat.

Although many following slimming world may disagree I feel that this food related strength has been in no small part possible because I don’t do fakeaways and I eat very little processed foods or ready meals.

Although I do have a weakness for artificial sweetener in my coffee, and I love hi-fi and cereal bars pretty much everything else that I consume is made from scratch and completely natural.

This means that when tougher times hit I’m far less likely to do significant damage than I ever used to be.

I no longer treat gains as catastrophic disasters and I recognise that failing is not inevitable.

It’s a choice – and I continually choose not to.

It’s also nice to inspired by my other half – because while I know that many others see me as an inspiration when it comes to weight loss I’m just the same as anyone else.

I struggle all the time with self perception and feelings of guilt or self condemnation.

Going swimming and looking at myself naked in the mirror has never really become something I’m comfortable with – even though I do and accept the reality of both.

Having someone that seems to love the flaws I have whilst at the same time being on their own fitness journey inspires me.

If she can go to weigh in knowing that there’s a gain waiting for her then so can I. Last week she made the difference between me avoiding the task and taking a gain on the chin.

What many who I talk to fail to recognise is that I’d never be inspired or inspiring without people around me doing the same for me.

My partner isn’t the only one.

My blogger friend Hayley for instance inspires me every single day (link).

She’s been moving mountains (but often viewing them as mole hills) to change her life as long as I’ve known her.

Our journeys have been different – but we’re kindred spirits.

I’m proud to have been able to support her walking on her own road to a better life.

She will make an awesome consultant.

So this is why I get up and carry on every day.

I’ve learned from myself and others that failure is a combination of perception and choice. I’ve also come to realise that there’s no way to keep eating the same crap that caused all the problems in the first place and have a different outcome.

I’ve changed and I continue to change.

That means (hopefully) that I will be back in target on Monday.

Even if it doesn’t it then I will be there pretty damn soon and will remain there or thereabouts for the rest of my life.

Davey

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

Regardless of where I am

I suppose that if there’s anything certain about life it’s that it’s uncertain.

I can think of quite a few times when I’ve sat back with a rather self satisfied feeling and thought ‘crikey – I’ve finally cracked life.’

Honestly though you’re only as strong as you feel in any one given moment – and my capability to backslide is just as much a feature of who I am as it ever was. I have always viewed it (perhaps somewhat melodramatically) as a predator pacing back and forth in the back of my mind that’s forever waiting for a moment of weakness to pounce.

It’s clearly found one recently – because I’m quite a bit out of target at the moment and I have been for a couple of weeks.

This is a difficult place to be, but I know why I’m where I’m at and why.

Firstly I relaxed after getting my diamond target member certificate. This was a huge moment for me and honestly when I achieved this milestone I felt worn out. I told myself that once I’d realised my goal I deserved a break from worrying about what I was eating, why I was eating it and why.

Secondly the process of getting a job, being interviewed, being turned down afterwards or just hearing nothing back at all from pretty much everything I’ve applied for is a state of affairs that’s often difficult to remain buoyant about – particularly after a few months of the same thing day in and day out.

Thirdly I don’t really want to come across to anyone as a negative person – and this often causes me to withdraw when I feel this way. I don’t want the world to view me as someone that’s got nothing good to say – so when I feel particularly glum I’d much rather say nothing at all.

So – as a consequence I’ve been overeating.

I’m honest ‘overeating’ is also something of an understatement, because when I stepped on the scales about six days ago I was just over a stone above my target weight.

This makes me feel like a fraud, a failure, a loser and a number of other rather bleak self assessments that I’ve been casually throwing at myself as I stare at the ceiling late at night. Probably because of this I’ve increasingly struggled to nod off (or stay that way) recently and that is also part of the problem.

When you’re worn down by a lack of quality sleep everything seems more difficult.

The truth is this though – In real terms I’m currently almost exactly the same weight that I was when I first hit target in February 2018, so the endlessly looping narrative of personal failure thats been in my mind for two weeks is completely at odds with reality.

If I’m a failure now then how was I a success back then?

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Nevertheless for this period I’ve still been picking away at myself with liberal doses of self recrimination.

It’s not like I don’t have support. There are plenty of people in my life willing to tell me frankly that it’s nonsense (which they have) or a group of like minded individuals waiting at a Slimming World meeting (who I’ve so far avoided out of personal shame) to help re-frame the narrative for me.

It’s all just been difficult to work through in my mind – so I’m sitting here trying to write it all out, because not doing so is not working.

That’s not to say I’m still in complete catastrophe mode however – because for the last 5-6 days since I began to face up to my behaviour and stepped on the scales at home I’ve been pretty much back on plan diet wise.

Regardless of pulling things back a bit (and having lost a good few pounds in the process)  I haven’t felt good about myself. If I’m being honest the motivation I’ve found to do what I’ve done has been solely rooted in being apocalyptically annoyed with myself when I look in the mirror.

I’m writing today though because I’m aware that this is not healthy and can’t go on.

I’ve got to re-frame the narrative and be kind to myself.

  • I’ve not resorted to processed or fast food. No sweets, chocolates, pasties, pizzas, kebabs or bags of chips have entered my home or passed my lips.
  • Instead of going out and buying wine these days (and honestly the thought has fleetingly crossed my mind) I have a coffee – or a big cup of tea.
  • I haven’t had a single day without some form of exercise, and my current ‘move streak’ (where I hit daily goal) in my Apple Watch stats is currently 583 days straight. I’ve not failed to accomplish it (or my stand or exercise goals) since I last had a debilitating bout of the flu in August 2017.

I’m also on track for my current Apple Watch April challenge – which is to burn 46,800 active kcal on top of my base metabolic amount. In order to do this I have to average an extra 1560 kcal per day for 30 days.

I’m gonna do it.

So – there are always things to pat myself on the back about. I’ve over indulged on good foods rather than crap, and largely stuck to the core principles of my healthy lifestyle.

I’ve just pressed pause on caring about too much about it for a little while.

That’s all over now though.

I committed to Angie (who contacted me – concerned over my radio silence) that I’m coming back to her group ASAP even though I’m out of target, so (because I have plans on Saturday with someone special) I will be standing on the scales regardless of where I am on Monday.

Hopefully when I do this it’s not going to be too ridiculous – but whatever the result is I’m going to take it on the chin. Once I’ve stepped off then it’s out in the open and I just have to deal with it like I have many times before.

Lord only knows why I tell myself it’s not OK to fail, because it’s the absolute opposite of what I tell anyone else that I talk to.

All too often my success and awards related to Slimming World translate into a continually present weight of personal expectation. This eventually becomes a thought process along the lines of ‘you should be better than this and you’re now a failure‘ when I make mistakes or my willpower wanes.

When I do this I make it harder and harder to accept that I’m just like anyone else and that it’s perfectly reasonable that I should struggle to stay on track from time to time in exactly the same ways that others do.

I need to stop doing it.

When I succumb to these thought processes I wish that I’d never become Slimming World’s MOTY – because ever since this happened I’ve quietly been telling myself that I have a responsibility to everyone not to screw up.

Again – this is total crap because I don’t need to be an example of perfection.

If that’s what I aspire to then I’m doomed to be disappointed.

The truth is that if I don’t want to ‘let people down’ (if this is even possible rather than just being something that I torture myself with) then I need to be real – and that means that when I’m not strong I admit it so that other people can see that their own struggles are perfectly normal.

It’s hard though.

I’ve recently lived my life with a very open online persona and created an expectation (certainly in my own mind if no-where else) that I will continually be truthful and at times it can be a tremendous burden.

There have been times recently that I’ve seriously considered archiving my entire blog and closing down all of my social media accounts.

For the time being however that’s not going to happen – because if I do it when I feel like I’m not coping then I’m going to do myself and others a disservice.

If I ever withdraw from writing my blog it must be for positive rather than negative reasons – otherwise I think I’d be left with a scar that will be hard to deal with.

Until then internet I’m here – in triumph or in failure.

As difficult as it is to admit when I’m not coping I feel I need to, because for some ridiculous reason admitting this in public (regardless of whether anyone reads it or not) gives me the strength that I often need to carry on, pick myself up and continually re-frame how I feel when I look in the mirror.

I hope it helps others too.

Davey

 

There forever

Friday night is always a tough sell for me when it comes to sleeping.

It’s usually related to weighing in on a Saturday morning but at the moment (as I sit awake in the dark early in the morning) I don’t have that excuse because I’m not standing on the scales tomorrow.

I’m planning to be elsewhere – busy enjoying my life.

I am however preoccupied (and have been for a couple of weeks now) with the upcoming anniversary of me reaching my target weight – which means that (if I’m still in range) when I next stand on the scales I’ll be a diamond target member.

I’ll be honest and say that in many respects remaining in this bracket (although I’ve lowered my target twice since then – making it a stone lighter at 13st 7lbs) has been in some respects harder than I first expected.

It’s not because the Slimming World plan has ceased to work for me – but because of the continued game of mental hopscotch that target members have to play in order to keep themselves out of the ‘now I can just relax’ mentality.

Sometimes I manage it and sometimes I don’t – and in truth there have been times where I’ve been easily half a stone (maybe a little more) out of range over the last 12 months.

It’s been a tough thing to deal with at times – especially because on top of the pressure that I already heap upon myself to be practically perfect when it comes to my weight I also have the added pressure of being the Slimming World’s MOTY.

Whilst precisely no-one has told me I need to do anything other than just be me (warts and all) the sense that I have a duty to be a role model to others is something that’s always present.

It’s something I’ve taken very seriously over the last seven months since I won because over time I’ve seen what my success has prompted in totally random people.

I’ve watched with amazement as they have used (and cited me) me as a source of inspiration and motivation and it’s honestly humbling.

For someone who felt like a failure for over 40 years to suddenly be viewed as a source of inspiration is a pivot that’s both mind boggling and still occasionally an extremely uncomfortable place to be.

At times it’s a heavy burden to bear because I really don’t want to make the right food choices each and every day.

On many days I do not.

Just like the rest of the world I can still be an emotional eater and I occasionally hugely over indulge with free food and consume massive portions at meal times.

Whenever I can however I mitigate this tendency with food optimising and make sure that I eat extremely large amounts of what SW refer to as speed or free foods.

My ‘syns’ are usually ‘savvy’ ones and are cooked into the foods that I eat. Consequently I tend to stay on track in maybe the same way others do when the consume smaller portions of more processed foods.

Typically I never eat junk food. Just lots and lots of freshly prepared meals or lots of fruit and veg.

If I’m out and about I don’t go nuts or slip into holiday mode – I try to be sensible.

When I can’t then I look at whatever transgressions I’ve made as flexible syn days, forgive myself and just move right along with a brand new tomorrow.

As much as you might expect me to continually babble on about food optimising and Slimming World’s plan however that’s not the whole story.

Since I started to appear more and more in social media I’ve tried very carefully to minimise how many pictures I post of the food I eat because my weight maintenance is about so much more than just what I put in my mouth.

Instead my image is one that’s about being outside.

Sure – I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without making the right choices when it comes to food but my life has been lived outdoors for the vast majority of the last three years – and it’s that element of my life that I feel is most fundamental to my continued success.

Whilst food intake is undeniably a massive part of my story I’ve also seen major health improvements (such as my diabetes reversal) that I am completely convinced would not have happened without my continued emphasis on exercise.

Furthermore I’ll go as far to say that without my willingness to go out EVERY SINGLE DAY and fill up my Apple Watch rings I’d not be where I am now.

Whether you refer to it as body magic or (if you too have the device I do) ‘filling your rings’ this is the key (in my view) not just to enable transformative change in the first place – but to ensure that once it’s taken place the benefits have permanence.

The truth is that whilst I may eat more than most I also do more than the average slimmer – and it’s not unusual for me to finish some days with around 5000 kcals expended.

A while back (just after winning MOTY) I read a mildly critical comment about my ‘obsessive’ walking (around 10 miles a day roughly) under an article regarding my MOTY success story in the Daily Mail.

It questioned why I bothered to do such a ridiculous amount of miles when the simple answer was that I should just eat less – because if I did then I’d need to do less.

For some time this bothered me – because I’ve continually felt guilt about my portion sizes being the ‘last bastion’ of problem eating in my life.

They’ve never really changed since I started my transformation – and instead of modifying quantity most of the time I’ve modified the content of a meal in order to compensate for my worst impulses.

I have wondered in the past whether my walking has been all about enabling such bad behaviour (if you can call it that) or whether I do it for another reason.

As time has gone on though and I’ve added swimming to my regular routine I’ve realised that my continued appetite is not just about greed – it’s because I need to replenish the stores of energy that I burn – and that I eat more to move more.

This is the point of my social media presence on Instagram – which doesn’t contain endless pictures of every meal I consume – but instead contains images of a life that is being lived to its fullest extent.

I spend my time seeing all that the world around me has to offer, sharing that with others who are close to me and drinking deeply from the twin cups of nature and the human spirit.

I’m happier not just because I’m thinner (that just makes me like everyone else) but because I spend my spare time outdoors – and as much of it as I can with the people I love doing activities ensuring we will have long lasting friendships that enrich us all.

It’s because of this that I’m where I am in life.

Healthy eating alone is not the answer.

In order to have a sustainable and healthier future I need to continually chase the sunset.

That means swimming just a little more, walking a tiny bit further or just trying every day to be a better version of myself.

If I do then anniversaries like my diamond target membership or annual milestones regarding alcohol abstinence will eventually just come and go without any fanfare.

They are already my every day normal – and because of that I know that I will not only hold that award in my hand very soon but that I will carry on being the same man that got there in the first place.

Forever.

Davey

Multi Dassetts

How time flies.

On Monday I spent my morning walking around between Burton Dassett and Avon Dassett. It’s a really lovely part of the world which I have to say I holds a special place in my memories because of what it represents.

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Whilst standing at the top of Magpie Hill (after the relatively brief stride to the summit) I started reminiscing about previous trips I’ve made there with my various twalking buddies.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I wrote this post (link) when I first visited Burton Dassett (I couldn’t remember the name of it at the time and kept calling it Bertie Bassett) with a friend, but amazingly it was Feb 14th 2017.

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This was two whole years ago!

Back then I was 23st 10lbs, but surprisingly I still coped rather well with the effort of making the journey to the top.

It had completely slipped my mind until I looked back at my post (one of the reasons I write them) that when I walked up to the windmill (or whatever it is – no-one seems to know for sure) I was trying for the very first time to add gradients to my walking capabilities.

Distance was becoming less of an issue, but hills had yet to become a firm part of my exercise lexicon.

Since there aren’t all that many hills of consequence in Warwickshire this represented preparation for an eventual attempt at climbing Snowdon – which back then seemed mind bogglingly far off in the future.

I eventually did it though (my various Snowdon exploits are here).

Much has changed since then – not least the fact that it was a LOT easier to burn calories – because after 38 minutes and 1.57 miles of relatively chilled out walking (at least by my standards today) I’d amazingly eradicated over 466 of them.

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The second time I visited was in July 2017 (link).

By then I was a lot fitter and quite a bit lighter (19st 11lbs). This meant that I was more than willing to extend the walk (as suggested by a more ‘off piste inclined regular twalker) to Avon Dassett.

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As was customary with this particular companion there were a few little mis-steps and our twalk ended up being slightly longer than originally expected – coming in at around six miles.

In total on my second visit I burned 1600 calories.

On Monday (in comparison) my heart rate was a LOT lower and I had to do a LOT more distance to get anywhere near this amount. In order to double my calorie burn compared to the first visit my companion and I had to walk THREE TIMES as far.

Although the distance I covered on Monday was nearly identical to my second visit I burned 600 less calories.

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To burn 1600 calories in one go these days I have to swim continuously for around two kilometres.

It’s not all about the miles and calories though – and it’s certainly not all about the stats – because these are (to an extent) becoming less and less relevant now I’m much fitter.

These days I walk for the friendship and the views – as well as it being something that I love to do.

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This is despite the mud mind you – because while the skies and surroundings looked beautiful on Monday by the time I reached Avon Dassett my boots were almost twice as heavy as when I’d started.

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The earth in the recently ploughed fields was like glue – and proved really tough to get off when we finally got to solid ground. No matter how many times I stood in puddles, wiped it on grass and stamped my feet it refused to budge.

In fact the only place to effectively scrape it away happened to be one of the two churches in the village.

Sitting at the top of the village, St John the Baptist (which is still not in use by anyone) has some useful little scrapers and a rough bristly mat in front of the doors. These prove to be a serious winner if you want to have a look inside without dragging half of the nearby fields with you.

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I was talking to a close blogging friend (Hayley – check out her site – its ace) the other day and sharing thoughts about how we’ve both changed thanks to our significant (and life altering) successes with Slimming World.

She is now barely recognisable in her ‘before’ photos (check this out! link) and is consequently someone that I regularly discuss the psychological aspects of weight loss with. We’ve both gotten rid enough of it to make our previous lives and attitudes practically impossible for us to relate to.

As we nattered I mentioned my return visit to this church. This started in the context of our shared love of photography – in particular how ‘bokeh depth of field’ effects are becoming easier and easier to accomplish with multi lens (or AI assisted single lens) smart phones.

She can accomplish these kinds of effects with a digital SLR (something I don’t have or know how to do) – but nevertheless I still like to play around and had been experimenting with my twalking buddy.

We’d taken a few example shots while we were in the church and I’d been showing him the really cool ‘portrait’ mode on my iPhone.

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I sent these faux bokeh images to my fellow blogger (as well as the ones above from 2017) and as we discussed them the conversation slowly shifted to self image – specifically how nowadays it seems really bizzare to both of us that we ever looked differently to the way that we do now.

As the anniversary of me reaching my target weight approaches I’m beginning to realise that I just accept what I see in the mirror these days and don’t really question it any more.

Like Hayley my current self image has slowly become my normal. When I look at photos of myself from before I started losing weight they now seem like someone else entirely – and the fear (that used to burn oh so brightly) of me falling back into old habits has almost completely evaporated.

That’s not to say I don’t still struggle at times – because I do. Despite my best efforts sometimes I’m more off plan than I’m on it – but crucially I’m always aware that at some point I’m going to have to fix any gains – and so far this has been something I’ve become quite adept at doing.

Cooking proper meals (of which I’ve been doing a lot this week for #freefoodfeb) and doing plenty of exercise is always the key.

I definitely experience my worst excesses when I pick at food, don’t cook meals and decide to stay in bed rather than getting up for a swim or an early morning walk around the park. This only ever results in a mood dip the following day followed by more picky eating, self recrimination, a lot more eating, yet more self recrimination.

Thankfully after all that nonsense is out of the way I usually then experience a major push to sort myself out.

I wish it didn’t happen like this – and maybe one day maybe it won’t – but I’m less inclined these days to view any of this as failure, because it most certainly isn’t. This (along with my self image) is the truth of my new normal. I screw up and then I sort it out.

Over and over again.

I’m often asked by people (particularly on Instagram) what the ‘secret’ of such massive weight loss is – as well as how to keep it off long term.

It’s a difficult question to answer – but I guess the easiest (and most truthful response) is simply that I no longer turn any gains into a catastrophe. Instead I just accept that sometimes my weight will fluctuate along with my mood – just the same as it does for everyone else in the world.

In truth there is no answer to it that fits everyone (or at least not one that I’m aware of) just an acceptance that everyone will struggle from time to time and that the quickest route to failure is believing that it will happen.

Anyway – it’s getting late and I have to walk home and cook the very kind of food optimised meal that I’ve just been writing about.

Whatever you’re doing internet please make sure it involves a little walk, a home cooked meal – and a sprinkling of self belief.

It it does we’ll all be golden 🙂

Davey

Learning things

You can learn something new every minute of every day.

Yesterday afternoon for instance I learned that the manmade concrete structures on some beaches (apparently used to prevent erosion caused by weather and longshore drift) are called tetrapods.

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Who knew?!

I’ve always abstractly wondered what they are – and now I know thanks to a knowledgable mine of information who explained what I was looking at as I admired the coastline in Seaford.

This is a wonderful part of the world – and one that I’ve barely scratched the surface of. So far I’ve been to the South Downs and Brighton (link) and I’ve loved both of them.

Seaford is just as charming and not much further down the coast. The character of it is very different though. It’s far less commercialised, a lot sleepier and way more picturesque.

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This town (as nice as it is) wasn’t the purpose of my visit though – because if you park up at it’s seafront, head up and along the nearby chalky cliffs above the tetrapods and take a delightful cliff walk to the nearby estuary you’ll find the seven sisters.

Making your way to Cuckmere Haven (by the arrows on the map) is pretty easy going. It’s only a couple of miles via some grassy and easily navigable paths (there’s a bit of elevation to deal with though) and when you arrive there you’re treated a lovely view.

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This region has some really interesting geological history – and a board at Hope Gap  (as well as my companion) answered a lot of the questions I had about why the landscape looked the way it did before I asked or even knew I had them.

I particularly liked the idea on the board of imagining where the cliffs used to be when the Normans invaded in 1066 and I bet it looked a lot different to he way it does now…

The whole place is filled with warning signs about chalk cliff falls – and the edge of the coastline is roped off to about 12ft back, so it’s clear that it’s eroding pretty quickly. It’s not advisable to get close to the edge, but if you stay well back it’s a great place for a picnic.

You peacefully can sit and admire the wonderful view whilst watching the various seabirds as they casually float past on the breeze along the cliff edge.

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When you’ve finished your healthy snacks and walked back along the cliffs to Seaford there’s also a lovely little snack and coffee shack at the end of the beach huts near a small museum – which was sadly closed when I visited.

This is a perfect place to have a coffee as you watch the sun slowly disappear into the distance. It’s even better if  you can chat with a twalking buddy.

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The whole experience makes for a grand day out and while I was there I learned a lot (much like the last time I visited).

It’s great to feel that there’s always something or somewhere new to suck into your brain – and this morning the theme continued when I learned yet another fun fact.

I discovered that it’s not a good idea to try and top up the oil in your car with the engine running. This results in everything under your bonnet and your lovely orange North Face snowboarding jacket being sprayed liberally with hot, dirty engine oil.

Sigh.

I’m clearly just not that smart.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

This epic personal faux pas was definitely a sub par start to my day. At any other time it may have managed to set the needle of my mood-o-meter to ‘grumpy and expecting the worst’ for the rest of the day.

However things like that only have an impact if your emotional reservoir is dry. Frankly that couldn’t be further from the truth because for the last couple of months I’ve almost constantly been in a great frame of mind.

It seems at times like nothing can dent my positivity and I’m wearing a full suit of emotional armour.

Today I felt particularly resilient though – and that was partially because in the dark of yesterday evening I had a sudden flash of blinding realisation. It hit me like a truck, and moved me profoundly – because suddenly, when faced with how at peace I am at the moment I had to accept something.

I’m no longer running a solitary race.

Something special has arrived and because of this I feel alive.

For the longest time I thought that there was no way out – and that my life would be curtailed early. I thought I’d die before I reached the age of 50 because of my lifestyle choices – and furthermore I actually wanted to.

I’d begun to believe that the only logical conclusion to my life was a huge early heart attack – and instead of working to avoid this I was actively trying to hasten its arrival. I was so low back then that I genuinely just wanted to eat and drink myself to death

Furthermore I had begun to believe that the world would be a better place without me in it because I contributed nothing and consumed everything around me.

I saw myself as a parasite.

Things change though and practically without any warning I suddenly gave up drinking. Then I started going to Slimming World. I focused all that I was and all of the strength that I could muster and funnelled it into turning myself into someone new.

While I was doing this though all I could see was the near horizon – and perched upon it was an award for reaching my target weight.

Maybe because I needed to believe that reaching this milestone this would fix everything in my life (how else do you find the motivation?) I didn’t really think past it.

All I knew was that I had to reach it.

I felt that my life depended on me getting there and if I didn’t then I was sure that it was definitely over. I couldn’t take another gradual climb back up to my previous weight and I couldn’t face yet another failure.

Deep down I knew that this was my last chance.

So I gave it everything – and because of that I made it.

I eventually stood on top of my own personal mountain as Slimming World Man of the Year – having lost almost two thirds of my body weight. I felt fit, alive, vital, strong, independent and successful. I was now a man who accepted awards, appeared in the media and spoke to groups of people who were inspired by his actions.

I’d done it.

I’d fixed everything.

Only I hadn’t.

Not really.

Right up until I hit target (and even for a little while afterwards) my literary brain had been constructing a fantastical narrative. I had always imagined my ‘Cinderella story’ as one that was bookended by a dark start rooted in death and then ended with life.

When I thought of my magical end point on the horizon I abstractly dreamed that reaching my goal weight would open up the world for me like a flower blooming in springtime.

I thought that all of this was happening when against all odds I became Slimming World’s Man of the Year. I thought I’d made it to the end of my journey and that everything good would now come my way.

This was all a delusion though – as anyone that’s lost a significant amount of weight will tell you – because life is still life and it’s still filled with both ups and downs.

When all the dust and hullabaloo settles you’re still left with your (often self critical) thoughts – but now you have removed all of the excuses you previously had for not living a full and complete life.

The ‘problem’ (if you can call it that) is that you then realise very few things around you make sense any more. Almost without warning you’ve woken up in someone else’s life and it appears to belong to someone else.

Your home and its furnishings seem like they were designed for another person.

You don’t know what kind of ‘style’ you have because you never had the ability to choose one before.

You can’t determine for sure what any of your opinions are because your choices in the past were almost all based on mobility and shame rather than personal beliefs of preferences.

Furthermore you’re confronted with the fact that in the past you just accepted a life that slowly grew like fungus around you as you sat inside the protective bubble of compulsive behaviour.

Over and over again after I reached target I looked in the mirror and struggled to determine who I really was.

As I grew bigger and my life shrank so did my aspirations. Before I knew it I’d lost sight of who I was, what I wanted, and how I really felt. I’d slowly closed myself off and all of my real emotions, desires and needs had gone into ‘low power mode’.

I ceased to feel the loss associated with having no-one to love, and I no longer recognised that I felt alone. I didn’t experience isolation or sadness any more though because I had constructed an excuse.

I was huge.

I’d eaten all of my pain away and no-one would want me anymore.

People ceased to ask why I lived alone because it was obvious – and that suited me just fine because I didn’t have to confront reality. My best friend (food) always had an answer to make my pain go away.

It filled emotional gaps for many many things – but it was a false prophet. It promised comfort and love when all it brought with it was destruction and pain.

Continually it told me that it would make everything better – it would soothe me temporarily – yet again and again it lied.

It made everyting worse and worse until there was no-where left to go but an early death.

I managed to turn it around though. I fixed everything.

I won.

Or at least I thought I had.

Suddenly I found myself, standing at the top of my mountain having tasted victory but feeling completely empty. After all what had I really achieved? In reality I’d just levelled the playing field and put myself right back at the start where everyone else was.

Sure – I now looked like everyone else and was anonymous for the first time in my life. I could walk into a room and no-one would pay any attention to me. I wasn’t a freak of nature and I didn’t invite lingering stares or insults.

However it quickly dawned on me that I was still twenty years behind everyone else. I had (what I considered to be) a ruined body, had never been married, had no children and I didn’t know how to begin fixing this problem.

I felt alone.

The realisation of this pushed me lower than I’d felt in a long time – and for quite a while I didn’t know how to get over it.

The universe listens though – and you just have to watch for the signs.

Yesterday I admitted to myself that almost a year after I reached my target weight things have finally changed. I have entered a new chapter of my life and here my whole story begins anew.

There’s hope, and with it comes a tangible sense that things are truly different. I’m beginning to feel long dormant emotions and think in ways that I haven’t for decades. Each day now seems to be fresh and new because of this and I finally feel I can begin move away from the wreckage of the past and live firmly in the future.

It’s better than that though because I don’t just have a future that didn’t exist before.

I have a future that doesn’t have to be lived in solitude.

I may be at the start again but I’m poised on the blocks, ready to run, with hope in my heart and a smile on my face.

The world is out there and I’m reaching out to take it every single day.

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Davey

 

2019 and beyond

Good grief I’m cold.

Although I love having a significantly smaller posterior these days what I’m not so keen on is having hands and feet that continually resemble animated ice cubes.

Still – there are worse things. Gloves help and occasionally I come into close proximity of a radiating heat source – which I’m only recently rediscovering the pleasure of.

There are few things better than this – and sucking up some precious warmth before heading back outdoors is a definite pleasure at this time of year.

Some of this heat can be found in the swimming pool, and yesterday I found myself totally alone in the water at the leisure centre for around 30 minutes.

With this calm serenity (and lack of backwash) came a sudden and serious determination to beat my previous personal best times.

I know it might seem like I’m doing this all the time – but truthfully I’m not normally going full tilt when I’m in the pool.

I’m instead trying to maintain a good pace at all times that will ensure I enjoy the experience whilst burning a generous amount of calories.

Yesterday though I really went for it and was sweating buckets when I stopped.

This meant that I reduced the time it took me to do 1.5km by ten minutes compared to the very first time I managed to swim it continuously on the 3rd December.

Being hot and sweaty in a heated swimming pool is currently something that’s infinitely preferable to standing outside in the cold.

There’s not much cover to be found out and about at the moment – and my morning walk today around the grounds of Coombe Abbey proved that the woods are a seriously draughty place when there’s a complete absence of foliage around.

The local wildlife appears to agree and the bugs have been industrious.

Since the last time I visited they appear to have opened a new hotel.

It’s got all the mod cons (including a log that watches your every move as well as a hedgehog hole at the front to keep the spikier neighbours happy) and reminds me that I meant to make one of these in my own back garden last summer – but completely forgot to do so.

I’ll have to add that to the numerous jobs that have been building up around the house – most notably some painting and decorating.

This is something I’ve sorely neglected for some time – but lately I’ve felt the need to spruce things up a bit – and think in the next few weeks (since it’s a brand new year) I’m going to start making some thrifty attempts to feather my nest.

If nothing else it makes it more welcoming for visitors – and I’m all for promoting that.

Currently my mind is filled with more than just guests though.

Yesterday I was toying with the idea of a retrospective post (it appears to be the done thing in blogland) that would look back over 2018 and highlight all of the significant events that have occurred.

Oddly when I sat down to think about it all and create a collage of images for Instagram I actually said to myself ‘well – not much happened really…’

How short my memory appears to be!

2018 has actually been filled with so many things that even the three separate collages above failed to scratch the surface.

When I sat and thought about it 2018 has probably been one of the most interesting and amazing of my whole entire life!

From a Slimming World perspective I came third in the Greatest Loser competition, won the Man of the Year title, stayed in the Andy Warhol suite at the Ritz for a press call, appeared extensively in the UK national and local press, turned up on Fox News in the US as well as German media, did three radio interviews, had my trousers mentioned by Anne Diamond on breakfast TV, worked briefly with Public Health England, went to the Houses of Parliament, accepted a MOTY trophy at the SW awards in Birmingham NIA (and spoke in front of 2000 people), appeared in the SW magazine, gave many many motivational speeches to hundreds of people at SW groups in Warwickshire (and at a school in Derby), got my twenty one stone award, met Margaret Miles Bramwell, John Barnes, Rylan Clark-Neal, Floella Benjamin and a whole host of genuinely lovely SW PR and support staff.

This would be more than enough on its own – but it doesn’t take into account I what went on in my personal life…

I decided to move on from my job (the replacement for which is still to be determined), delved into the dating scene, wore swimming trunks in public for the first time in twenty years, walked 3686 miles – including one outing which saw me make my way all the way from Warwick to Coventry and back again (22.5 miles!), take 7,105,090 steps, increase my stamina enough to continuously swim two kilometres, got into a sauna and a whirlpool spa with people I don’t know, massively improved my self confidence in social situations, hit 1000 days of sobriety, told everyone that means something to me why they’re so important to my life as well as spending quality time with them, made and met new and existing friends from blogland, and discontinued all of my remaining prescription medications.

Although 2018 in many ways represents the culmination of quite a few years of really really hard work I can’t see it in any way shape or form like a full stop or a line under my life.

I’m now fitter than I’ve EVER been in my entire life on planet Earth and can do things with my body and mind that were previously impossible.

What’s happened though is that I’ve simply returned myself to a level playing field and enabled public anonymity.

This is a joy.

No-one notices me when I walk by and deep down I feel like I’m almost normal when I’m lost in a crowd or standing somewhere with other people.

I say ‘almost’ though because there are still some battle scars that remain.

Underneath all of this positivity and outward success is still a man who occasionally struggles with a positive self image, who even now can doubt his self worth, and physically carries significant evidence of a wasted past with him.

The excess skin remains along with a demon or two – but I’m always trying to be a better man.

I don’t want cosmetic surgery – I just want to be comfortable enough to expect people to accept me as I am and move on from events in my past.

I want to live for the future.

But what does that future hold?

Well in the short term I don’t really have any 2019 New Years ‘give stuff up’ resolutions – because if I remove any remaining habits else (all I have left is coffee!) then I might as well join a monastery and be done with it.

Instead I want the following:

  • To have love in my life and make sure that my future isn’t one that’s solitary any longer.
  • A satisfying career with genuine and good people to work with.
  • Become stronger and fitter, challenging both my body and my mind to improve every day.
  • To inspire men and women who meet me, read about me or find what I’ve written by proving that no matter how impossible a significant change may seem that it can be achieved.
  • Emphatically disprove some people’s opinions online (I’ve had some spirited private arguments with rather belligerent fitness people) who believe I’m certain to regain all the weight I’ve lost and that Slimming World’s plan does not work long term.

Fundamentally though I just want to just be a good man in clean underwear so that if a metaphorical bus ever screeches around a metaphorical corner (heaven forbid!) people will say that I lived a good life, cared about my fellow humans and ended my days in spotless pants and a fetching floral shirt.

I plan to live a long life though internet. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.

Here’s to 2019 and beyond – May it be wonderful for all of us 🤗

Davey

Christmas update

I really am a big kid in many respects.

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

It’s why I’m wide awake right now.

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

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

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

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

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

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really is the thought that counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truthfully I enjoyed every last mouthful of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be lots of twalking and lots of exploration.

It’s gonna be fun!

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

Davey

Once upon a showcase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks to my mate!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I’ve decided to make a mental pivot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So this is the (current) plan.

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

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

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

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

Davey

Working really hard

I’ve been in an inexplicably good mood today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/bl5TUw7sUBs

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

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

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

I was really struggling to hobble about.

Lesson learned. 

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

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

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

Total stillness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She re-wired a whole house on her own.

Almost none of it was genetic.

Almost all of it was determined hard work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

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

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

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all began to hit me there.

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

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

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

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

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

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

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

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

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

So far I’m at a loss.

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

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

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

Davey

Slimming World Parliamentary Reception

A couple of days ago (on Wednesday) I went to the House of Commons for a Slimming World reception hosted by Baroness Benjamin.

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I know her better as Floella – because throughout my childhood she was a huge presence on children’s television – and also a quiet beacon (although I never really recognised it at the time) for racial diversity on a BBC that was largely populated by white men.

In person she’s quite something.

She seems eternally youthful – and possesses seemingly endless energy. During the two hours I was next to or near by her she never appeared to be anything less than continually animated and engaging.

Even when I presented myself in front of her and gushingly shook her hand later in the afternoon she was gracious and cheerful.

This was despite me making a ham fisted Oscar Wilde reference regarding whether or not she had a picture of herself at home going mouldy in the loft (the Picture of Dorian Grey).

Bless her.

She just stared blankly at me and unleashed a huge smile before warmly hugging me.

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Despite my clearly refined sense of humour falling largely on deaf ears with Floella the day went well and the themes she raised clearly resonated with many in the room. 

The topic was the startling increase in childhood obesity (something Floealla is extremely passionate about – she’s heavily involved in related charities) and what the government are doing to look at this from a strategic perspective.

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There were a few speeches – from the great and good within Slimming World and also a representative from government.

In no particular order we heard from the young slimmer of the year Charlotte Randall (link) (Instagram),  2017’s Top Target Consultant from Warwickshire Jodie Rigby-Mee (link) (Instagram) Slimming World’s head of external affairs Jenny Craven (link) and Conservative MP Andrew Selous (link) speaking as part of the health and social care committee. 

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I met a lot of people and shook a lot of hands, discussing many topics that were important to me and listening to other people’s opinions on what mattered to them.

There was also something of a treat for me – because one of the more personally interesting people I bumped into was a guy called Kennneth Fox. He’s an emeritus Professor at Bristol University (link) and has written and consulted extensively on the links between physical activity and psychological wellbeing.

These are subjects that have become very close to my heart – and I know from first hand experience how activity can change physical and emotional darkness into hopeful rays of light.

Kenneth has been working with Slimming World for around 20 years and (I discovered) was heavily involved in formulating their ‘Body Magic‘ plan.

For those unfamiliar with Slimming World this part of the plan aims to encourage members to get involved in regular exercise – and in its literature illustrates the benefits it can have when combined with healthy eating.

I’m proudly a Platinum Body Magic certificate holder.

I chatted to him and his lovely wife for quite a while – but finally I couldnt resist asking him about a burning question that had been on my mind from the moment I saw his name badge.

I wanted to know (when he had come into contact with people such as myself that have had extreme weight loss) how their heart health was afterwards.

What did he think about my resting heart rate?

Very encouragingly Ken didn’t seem at all surprised my my RHR (which readers will know has been a minor preoccupation of mine for a while since it’s typically 40bpm). 

When I told him that I ‘only’ walked (as opposed to spending ages in the gym, running marathons or climbing mountains) he replied with ‘Well I bet that you don’t walk slowly.’

‘No I don’t. Not any more anyway.’ I replied.

‘I tend to be quite brisk.’

‘You’d be surprised how quickly the heart reacts to moderate increases in exercise.’ He said.

‘It can drop down to the mid forties in next to no time – and what you’ve been doing probably has much more in common with the heart profile of an athlete than you realise. Regular cardio activity has an almost immediate corresponding impact on heart health.’

He sipped his red wine thoughtfully and watched my response.

I was listening intently.

‘When I get into my fitness my resting rate quickly drops into the forties.’ He continued, smiling at me.

I nodded. He was telling me just what I needed to hear.

This was really encouraging – because my GP had said that he had next to no experience of extreme weight loss and how it affects the body. Therefore (despite his assurances last week that my RHR was normal) I’ve still remained a little worried that my heart has its rate because I in some way damaged it when I was so obese.

Thankfully everyone is telling me the opposite lately. 

It’s very encouraging, because it means my long term health outcomes are really really positive

I’m really not sure how I’ve dodged so many health related bullets – and I’m of the opinion that in many ways I really don’t deserve the outcomes that I’ve had over the last two years

Not only do I feel lucky – but I also sometimes feel quite guilty, because I know quite a few people that have looked after themselves way better than I every did – and yet they suffer much more with ill health than I do now.

Life isn’t fair – and if anything their struggles continually remind me that I have a duty to keep doing what I’ve been doing – if for no other reason to show them that I appreciate what I’ve got and I don’t plan to throw it away again.

I need to persist with my exercise for THEM and focus on my continual self improvement.

Before long though the pleasant conversation (and the event as a whole) was coming to a close.

All that remained was to grab a few quick photos to mark the occasion.

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The one above also has the 2018 Greatest Loser Shaun Carrington – (link) (instagram) and 2018 National Mr Sleek Dan Sullivan (link) (instagram) in it on the right. Both of these guys posted their own images of this moment on Instagram and and I was amazed when they pointed out that this photo represented a total combined loss of over 58 stone!

(I also rather like it because of the rather amusing photobomber in the background who made me laugh out loud when I spotted the cheesy grin behind Jodie. She knows who she is!)

I walked away from the day filled with thoughts about how to formulate a post related to all this – as well as how to do it justice – but the truth is that my thoughts were elsewhere.

The Parlimentary event had been very interesting and it was lovely to meet everyone – but I find that sometimes when I sit down to write about my day the main events are often not the ones that bring my thoughts into focus.

There were a couple of things about that day that were a lot more important to me.

Firstly my friend – who also accompanied me to the Ritz – joined me on again on Wednesday. For this I was extremely grateful – although I doubt she grasped quite how much.

Being trapped in Solihull by Vertigo a week and a half ago on my own really dented my confidence because I didn’t see it coming. I was just stuck, out in the open and alone, feeling vulnerable and incapable.

It wasn’t nice.

Having a close friend with me that could look after me if something bad happened was a real comfort – and although I seem to now be over the worst with my inner ear infection (I didn’t have any attacks at all on Wednesday!) her being there made all the difference.

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The great thing about spending time with my friend (like many of my other really close ones) is that she knows how I think

Although I could have easily charged taxis from the train station to the Houses of Commons and back again to Slimming World’s expenses for the day nothing could have been further from my mind.

She instinctively knew this without me having to say a word.

We twalked the whole way from London Marleybone to the Houses of Parliament and back, and thoroughly enjoyed every step

The selfie of us is on the blue bridge in St James Park – and it was taken before we arrived at the reception.

It’s round here that the real point of my blog entry today can be found.

Here, all of the considerations about an event in a musty old building in the nation’s capital just fall by the wayside when I think back to Wednesday, because here the true ‘moment’ arrived. 

I honestly think that if I remember anything about this cold day in November 2018 it will be standing by a man feeding wildlife near the lake.

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I initially noticed him because of the bright green parakeets next to him competing for attention amongst the squirrels and pigeons (a known phenomenon in London – link).

Their plumage seems instantly out of place and it’s hard not to marvel at their strikingly beautiful colours and inquisitive personalities.

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I stepped over a couple of fences to get closer and record the moment, navigating around the man holding handfuls of nuts and trying to get a good photo for my blog.

Nearby though a couple of squirrels were trying hard to make sure my focus became them rather than the brightly coloured birds.

To the left of me I became aware of a little pair of watchful brown eyes…

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As I took photos one of them moved further to my left. As it did behind me I could hear my friend laughing.

What was so funny?

At the same time as I noticed a tugging sensation on my right trouser leg.

I looked around. 

What was causing that?

Then I felt the same tugging sensation on my left trouser leg…

All of a sudden I realised I was being besieged by squirrels!

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I looked down at my left thigh (as I felt the squirrel clinging to my right heading for my crotch) and started to take pictures.

Amazingly (unlike the more skittish residents of my local park) this seemed to be business as usual for these delightful little creatures, and he/she was happy to pose if there was the vague promise of food at the end of it.

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As I type the physical sensation of the warmth from this little squirrel’s stomach is still present on my leg, and it’s something that has been occupying my thoughts for the last two days.

This event has taken pride of place above everything else relating to my trip to London.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it means more to me than meeting a celebrity and standing in the seat of our democracy as an honoured guest and the truth is that this little creature represents (with the warmth of it’s under carriage) the connectedness that I now have with the world around me.

Honestly as I type these thoughts are almost moving me to tears – because every single element of the day that I experienced would have been impossible not so long ago

Even if I’d split the day into segments and tried to experience them on individual days (when I was at my emotionally lowest and physically heaviest point in life) I doubt I’d have been capable of completing one of them. 

Yet now my life is very different.

By the time I went to bed on Wednesday, after walking home from the train station my activity stats looked like this:

  • I’d swum 1km (in the time it took me to swim 500m only a week ago)
  • I’d walked 13.5 miles
  • I’d taken 25,984 steps 
  • I’d managed 211 minutes of cardio exercise
  • I’d spent 20 out of 24 hours standing or moving about
  • I’d climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs
  • I’d burned 2,374 Active and 4,885 Total calories

These are all just numbers though.

Occasionally I look at them and forget their significance, instead thinking simply (and maybe self critically) ‘you could do more’. 

However – there are days (Wednesday being one of them) where I’m just profoundly grateful because I have a life that’s full of wonder.

I’m in awe of the fact that I can not only walk the distances I do, but sit on trains next to someone in complete comfort and pull down the little table in front of me without it resting on my stomach.

I get lost in the magnificence of being about to stand in a queue for an hour, followed by a reception for two hours, and then follow such things with a walk across London for another hour and a half without feeling any pain whatsoever.

I want to cry with joy because my pictures of a squirrel crawling up my leg are unimpeded by a massive stomach, and my leg is now small enough for a tiny little squirrel to hold on to.

I love that every day I can put one foot in front of another and see another wonderful part of the world, nomatter how pedestrian and mundane it may seem to other people.

Every moment of my life is now filled with the significance of insignificance and the wonder of the mundane, because to me all of it is fresh and new.

I don’t know how long my life will go on for, and I don’t know whether or not my health will always be this good, but I want to do everything I possibly can to make absolutely sure that I not only maintain it but show other people by demonstrating how fantastic life can be that they too can be something different.

I want the world to realise that without any surgery even a man who looked like this:

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…can change into this:

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I feel so much joy that instead of the ever present weight of an enormous stomach continually pressing into my giant thighs I can now feel a squirrel. 

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This, internet is the product of a life that is no longer being lived with limits.

It’s the kind of life that needs to be treasured and held onto because I’ve wasted so much of it – and I want to cherish every remaining second that it has to offer. 

I’m still learning to live life – and while I do I’m loving every single moment of it.

Davey

Sounds of science and silence

Whilst being all windswept and interesting is nice I didn’t finish my day yesterday with many miles under my belt.

It might seem like a lot to most but when I’ve stopped at around seven I’m never happy with myself.

To be honest I also probably ate a little too much in the evening – which has lately become a real battleground where my willpower faces down the munchies.

On the bright side the things I (over) eat aren’t awful by any stretch of the imagination – and the worst that’s likely to happen is that I will develop a sudden and probably terminal allergy to plums and gherkins.

It’s not the only thing that’s likely to finish me off mind you – because stupidity is far more likely to get me first.

I failed to secure the lid of my kettle (which is directly beneath the handle) on Sunday morning and as I was pouring boiling water into my cafetière the lid fell off and the steam burned my knuckles.

It could have been far worse.

Although my hands cooked faster than cabbage I very nearly dropped the whole kettle full of boiling water – and at the time my legs and feet below were completely bare.

Oddly I didn’t react on instinct though and with presence of mind held on – even though the impulse to throw it across the kitchen was huge.

Phew.

It’s one of the few things that make me wonder whether living alone long term is a great idea – because when you have a hurty hurty boo boo the only person there to patch you up, commiserate and kiss it better is YOU.

Sigh.

I don’t need a partner just to apply plasters – but maybe getting a paramedic lodger at some point in the near future would be a good call.

However – I digress. Although my hand is throbbing (it’s well looked after and covered in plasters) today I’ve felt really alive.

Whilst I may have been irritated by my sub-par distance yesterday I’ve learned to relax and let stuff like this go – because I find if there’s no enthusiasm or fuel in the tank on one day it will almost certainly be there the next.

Listening to your body and not pushing the issue allows it to recuperate and get stuck in the following day, or the day after that.

I positively bounded out of bed this morning after a great nights sleep and after hopping in the shower (ouch – hot water on knuckles!!!) I headed out in the direction of the park.

It looked smashing at 6.30am.

Yesterday (whilst mooching in charity shops for books) I found The Beastie Boys Anthology for 50p – and I realised that whilst I’ve heard one or two of the most popular hits I’ve never heard any of the rest.

This is a bargain considering its original price label (we used to pay an awful lot for music!!!!) and how much it still costs on iTunes.

I ripped it to my iPhone and cranked up the noise on CD 1.

Oh wow.

The Beastie Boys.

Who knew?

When I was younger there was no way my mom would have ever allowed this in the house – and although some (ahem) naughtier kids in my school were all over this phenomenon in the 80’s it kind of passed me completely by.

I never once felt the impulse to rip anyone’s VW badge off their car and turn it into a necklace.

Oddly I’ve missed out on trending moments in music like this a lot.

I completely bypassed most of the back catalogue of Oasis, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses in the 90’s only to re-discover them circa 2005 when everyone else had moved on.

Still – if nothing else it means there are many bargains to be had and much to still discover.

It turns out that the Beastie Boys are great to walk to.

With their direct support before 9.30am I’d managed to get 7 miles under my belt, go for a coffee and pop into a couple of shops before my friend arrived at my house.

We’d arranged a walk to a garden centre outside of Stratford and I couldn’t have imagined a better day for it.

With barely a cloud in the sky for the majority of the day my somewhat risky strategy of wearing just a light cotton shirt and combats really paid off.

Rather helpfully some gas contractors had also closed off a lengthy stretch of the country lanes that we were walking along – and that meant absolutely zero traffic and perfect peace and quiet.

There were butterflies too. Lots of them.

Apart from the occasional tractor in a field and workman in the road this was how it looked for pretty much the entire route.

The round trip walk we did was just under six miles – which is a major major victory for my friend.

Back in March she unceremoniously face planted in a visitor centre car park in the Lickey Hills and tore some painful things in her left leg (link).

Almost seven months later she’s still working her way back to fitness and bit by bit we’ve been increasing the range of our walks and slowly building back in gradients.

Today represented a lengthy graduation from park walking that I think she’s been itching to get stuck into for ages.

We’ve yet to experiment with truly ‘off piste’ uneven terrain – but we’re getting there – and the eventual hope is that we will manage to conquer the Lickey Hills together as we planned to do way back then.

Soon.

The half way point at the garden centre was not the baked potato heaven I’d hoped for however – and the people going there seemed to consume little else than cake, biscuits, sandwiches, crisps and pastry.

In the end I decided against this and waited until I reached home – which was something of an anti climax – because after 13 miles of pavement pounding I realised that I then needed to walk to Tesco.

A mile is a mile mind you and I really don’t care where they come from.

As always the car keys remained at home and I walked there and back, getting some fruit and soup mix (guess what I’m making tomorrow 😊).

Overall it’s been a busy and tiring (but extremely enjoyable) day.

Not only have I been out with a friend and twalked about lots of interesting things but my stats are satisfyingly back on track for the week!

Boom. 17 miles in the bag internet. I’m back baby!

Davey

So long and thanks for all the fish

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

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

I did so with with a real mixture of emotions.

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

Sometimes it happens.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrenaline and fear.

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

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

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

All three of them were smiling and happy.

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

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

My pulse had quickened and I felt excited.

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

I took an earphone out and said ‘Hello.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither will the people I’ve met.

So long and thanks for all the fish 🤗

Davey

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

Sigh. I’m gonna miss em 😏

Salty caramel treats

The sun is shining today and there seem to be multitudes of people everywhere.

The weather had been all over the place this weekend, so it’s nice to see that it’s not interrupted local events too much.

Yesterday morning started with wind and rain and found me (after group) digging through the back of my wardrobe for a woolly hat and gloves.

I eventually left the house wearing these as well as a warm down jacket and a thick brushed cotton shirt.

By the afternoon I was boiling and it was all tucked neatly away in a carrier bag as I strolled home with my shirt untucked and my sleeves rolled up.

Today there was no rain but temperature wise it was more of the same.

It was really cold when I awoke so when choosing my outfit (what is a boy to wear?!) I decided to hedge my bets and go for combats, light shirt and a gilet before hooking up with a regular twalking buddy for a walk around War Memorial Park in Coventry.

In the background you can see the flags and stands associated with some kind of fun run event that happened to be taking place when we arrived.

For the whole time we walked we were carefully avoiding people puffing and panting their way around (or just staggering from bench to bench) the mile and a half circuit.

My friend has recently returned from a month in the South of France (the poor dear – it must have been a terrible hardship) and was keen to build up her walking distance again after some professional grade hammock based relaxation.

In my view there’s no better way to do this that than nattering as you go.

The one thing that we both noticed though was that very few people running towards us looked like they had prepared much (if at all) for the event – and most looked practically on their last legs at the very first turn.

I wondered how many of them had just decided on a whim (without any other healthy lifestyle choices) to just go for a run and suddenly realised the reality of what they’d committed themselves to.

Many were wearing suspiciously new looking trainers and brightly coloured leggings – and I couldn’t help but thinking that they (like myself) would have been much better served by a mass walk together rather than (a probably demoralising experience) trying to run instead.

At the end of all this as we said our farewells my friend opened her car and presented me with a treat.

She’d brought along not one but two of these.

She knows what I like to eat – and I have to say (having eaten the hi-fi bar equivalent) that I now know that (although I rarely eat them) I rather love salted caramel flavour things.

Carte D’or Salted Caramel is around 5-6 syns per 100ml, meaning that these tasty treats would only set me back around 120 syns.

….

….

If that is I would have eaten them.

Which I most certainly wouldn’t.

(Sorry 😈)

Her next door neighbour had benefited from a bumper harvest of plums this summer and my friend had been given way more than she could eat alone, meaning I’d inherited some rather delicious healthy treats.

Plums in contrast to the evils of Carte D’or ice cream are a speed food – and I felt absolutely ZERO guilt eating an entire tub as I drove home from the park after a couple of laps.

I’m glad I ate them all actually – because when I wandered into town after midday to get a coffee and work on my daily step/mile goals the food festival was once again in the park.

It seems to arrive with ever increasing regularity lately – and is becoming really really popular.

In the past I’ve never been tempted by anything there – but honestly I’m still in a mildly fragile head space – so I made a rather swift bee-line through the crowds and moved on.

Besides – I had a much deeper thought process going on that didn’t involve falafels or craft beer.

Whilst on the way to town I’d been mooching (as usual) and had passed the recycling centre.

Near the piles of stacked picture frames I spotted this.

It’s a collection of family photos in a fixed multi frame that for whatever reason had been donated along with the pictures.

In the third one along the top row it became clear that it was presented to someone’s father to celebrate his 50th birthday.

The frame is caked in dust and all of the special memories are faded and dull.

I stood looking at this for a while – linking the faces to the pictures and trying to mentally establish who begat who.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had caused a life like this to be discarded in its entirety and left in a charity shop.

The more you peel away the layers behind an action like this the more sadness and pathos you find.

Even is this wasn’t caused by a bereavement it shows a complete disconnect with familial bonds.

Not one but multiple family members have been discarded.

It’s impossible by just looking at the faces to know why or how these pictures found their way to the recycling centre or what caused them to have no further relevance – but whatever this says about the people in the pictures it speaks volumes about the impermanence of many things that we consider to be pillars of our lives.

People come and go. Possessions ultimately mean nothing. Memories fade.

So what do we leave behind?

How do we enrich the world with our presence?

Is it even possible in any meaningful sense – or is it simply vanity to even try?

It makes me think that I’ve made the right decision recently to follow my heart – because there is absolutely no guarantee that tomorrow I’ll be here.

There’s almost certainly no chance at all anyone will remember me as ‘the man that valiantly sat in an office doing stuff’ – so what do I have to lose?

Ultimately maybe the objective is not to attempt be remembered – but to accept that probably very few people will be – and take comfort instead in the fact that you can do just as much anonymous good in the world as you can do if people remember your name.

If they do though I’d like them to think that I lived a happy life, cared for those that knew me and ultimately made a positive contribution to my small corner of the world.

I’ve no interest in fame or being in a history book – but I do want to be the absolute best version of me that I can be.

That way when I’m sitting on a table in a dusty photo frame it really won’t matter whether I’m remembered by the person looking at me or not – because in the brief, flickering moment of my existence I lived rather than just existed.

Isn’t that what we should all strive for?

Davey

Creation and consumption

The nature of all things is change – and there’s plenty of it in the air for me.

Over the last few weeks I’ve remained rather cryptic in this blog about everything that’s been on my mind.

In truth there have been a couple of things bothering me – but one of the more troubling ones has been work.

I’m quite careful to keep my writing and this separated. Although I’m very open I try not to discuss work too much because I feel it’s both unprofessional and short sighted to let feelings of any kind on it bleed into social media.

Not every situation or personal interaction can be public otherwise no one would trust me for longer than five minutes and my integrity in personal life and in the workplace is extremely important to me.

I’m not planning to change that any time soon, but since my decision is now official and in the public domain I think I can finally say here that I’ve decided to move on from my current job.

I handed in my notice a few weeks ago – and I’ll be gone before the end of the month.

It’s actually been a really difficult choice to make – because once again I find myself at something of a crossroads and don’t really know what comes next.

I do know that the biggest wrench will come from leaving the people that I’ve worked with in my current company. Until now they have been the deciding factor in keeping me where I am – and that ongoing decision has found me usually with a broad grin on my face.

They’re the absolute salt of the earth – and in my view a nicer bunch of men and women can’t be found clustered so close together anywhere in Warwickshire.

On a personal level they’ve all made my time very happy in my current position – and if I felt completely fulfilled with the content of my role then staying would be a no brainer – but unfortunately I don’t and in my case that comes with wider consequences.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been struggling as a target member recently – and I have begun to recognise that the two problems are (at least in part) related.

When I’ve found myself over eating I’ve been doing it to lift my mood.

I’ve begun to binge watch box-sets on TV or play video games when I come home in the evenings and most worrisome of all have found myself engaging in retail therapy.

eBay in particular has seen a number of frivolous purchases recently that I really didn’t need to buy – but for a brief (and annoyingly fleeting) moment they lifted my spirits and took my mind off what I was thinking about.

Scarily at times I’ve felt like there’s no off switch for my appetite and in the evening I just couldn’t fill my stomach.

I’ve consistently over eaten at this time for around four weeks and then had to repair the damage afterwards.

Truthfully I’ve been in a difficult place – and I’m currently several pounds over my target weight.

I may still be over it on Saturday (I’m trying hard to address it) but that’s OK because now the thing that’s been bothering me is out in the open and I’m hitting the problem head on.

The saving grace (as always) in the middle of all this is exercise.

Although I’ve been feeling down my overall activity has remained relatively constant – and it’s managed to hold some of my more excessive moments at bay.

It’s also enabling me to correct my course currently – and it will continue to be a continuous companion as I work towards deciding what comes next in life.

The wonderful thing is that – partially thanks to being made redundant once already – I no longer have a paralysing fear associated with leaving employment that I don’t feel fulfilled by.

I still have a deep rooted sense of responsibility though and I want to do a good job (and hope I have) when I’m working anywhere – but I also need to feel relevant and like I make a worthwhile contribution to the world.

If I don’t then it’s time to go.

Simply being paid a salary and working with great people isn’t enough for me anymore.

Thankfully- as a consequence of my recent personal improvement efforts – I now know that I’m fit enough mentally and physically to take on any challenge that I put my mind to.

Whatever life throws at me I can tackle it head on, with all cylinders firing and give it 110% – because the world is no longer frightening when you’ve finally learned to believe in yourself.

When you’ve proven that you have within you the determination and grit to move mountains (at least ones that weigh approximately 20st) then there’s no longer any reason to be fearful.

However I’m far from a tower of ego – and my self belief has faltered recently.

When I started to feel that deteriorate, deep down I knew that there was only one thing to do, and that was to take action.

The one that I chose to take may not prove to be the right one – but it’s action, and no good ever came from sitting still.

So – here’s to the future – whatever it may be.

I have a busy couple of months coming up with social and Slimming World events, as well as some other public speaking that I’m hoping to do.

There are also people and friends that I’m looking forward to meeting in person (in some cases for the very first time!) some modest travel plans and time to write.

One of the first casualties of a mind trying to avoid the truth is creativity, and I’m painfully aware that mine has tailed off recently.

In the past I didn’t understand the need for it in my life.

I’d never had the chance to see its benefits or to feel the satisfaction of regularly completing paragraphs filled with truth.

Without little bundles of words explaining honestly how I felt regularly being parcelled up and sent out into the world I’ve felt strangely lost and incomplete.

It’s this that’s caused my bad behaviour elsewhere – because in the absence of creation there is consumption.

Nature (as the saying goes) abhors a vacuum – and something will always fill any gap.

In the absence of positive habits there will invariably be a return to bad ones.

So.

That’s it.

I’m soon to be unemployed again – and I’ll be seeking new challenges and opportunities in life.

My metaphorical page may still be blank, but my imaginary pen is once again filled with ink and my mind feels alive.

It’s exciting to be staring at possibilities on the horizon – particularly because I know that the horizon is always a walkable distance away.

All I have to do is keep putting one foot in front of another.

Davey

P.S.

In other news an anonymous friend with an anonymous illness in an anonymous hospital having a serious anonymous operation is recovering well today and my heart is a lot lighter knowing that despite their crippling anonymity they are otherwise OK.

I’m happy beyond words that the operation went well and I’m think nothing but positive thoughts.

Hugs and love 🤗

They just flow

Sometimes my posts practically write themselves.

They seem to leap out of my head, travel through my fingers and appear almost fully formed on the screen in front of me.

These are the ones that I write in my head, all day long as things happen around me when I find moments of interest or insight.

At other times there is either a void in my thought process – or even more painfully (but thankfully relatively rarely) a completely blank page.

The blanks arrive oddly not because I have too little to say – but instead because there’s just too much – and I become aware that there are deeper forces at work.

Sometimes writing is a catharsis – but paradoxically also realising why you can’t is similarly thought provoking and it too can eventually provide insight.

One recent (significant) decision I’ve made was rooted partially around a realisation of why a creative drought had arrived.

That particular choice will no doubt be discussed at a later date – but to give you a window into the inner workings of my mind here are a few paragraphs that started, but never reached a published conclusion.

I started constructing the following entry several times during the week – mostly in the dead of night – and always with the same result.

I became annoyed with myself and I shut down.

(This was the final attempt.)

It’s 2am on Wednesday morning and I can’t sleep.

No matter what I do I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking about random things and it’s one of those moments where you have a head full of thoughts but answers to almost none of the questions that arise from them.

I’m aware too that many of them (at least for the time being) are unresolvable both in my head and reality.

I’ve just got to let most of them play out and see where they end up.

Outside it’s raining, so rather than waste the rather wonderful ambient silence that appears to be accompanying it (there is no traffic or animal noise, just the sound of running water) I’ve decided to sit downstairs with the back door wide open on a folding patio chair and listen to it.

It’s pitch black in my kitchen and I’m seated in just my underwear with my legs crossed absorbing the sound and scent of the rain whilst typing.

There’s a gentle breeze that’s not quite cool enough to make me get dressed but sufficiently chilly to ensure that I have slightly cold feet.

It’s not an unpleasant sensation though because the temperature has helped slow the beating of my heart…

…and it’s not until I typed and read those last few words back that I realise it was (until I came downstairs) faster than it is now.

(I check it on Apple Watch)

I know that in the great scheme of things that it’s currently pretty slow.

Physically I’ve barely moved for the last 20 minutes but mentally (before I came downstairs) I was all over the place and I realise now that what’s happening to me both at night and during the day is a form of anxiety.

I’m thinking about life issues without vocalising or resolving tensions surrounding them and the impact of turning all of this inwards and trying to ignore it is dribbling into other things.

Over the last month or so this phenomenon has been on the rise but I’ve not recognised it for what it is.

It’s odd because until very recently I didn’t feel this way at all. I tended to see it a lot in others but not when I looked in the mirror.

Whenever possible I’ve tried to process and deal with things as they happen rather than bottling them up.

(I get angry with myself – stop typing and return to bed without finishing but decide not to delete it.

Back to today…)

I don’t want to be seen as an unhappy person and I don’t feel comfortable (even now) writing a post following a similar string of posts that paint me in what I consider to be an unflattering light.

I don’t want to appear like I can’t adequately cope with things – or that I’m wallowing in thoughts when I should just be getting on with life – but clearly running away from writing about how I really feel and exploring this has consequences.

This last week I’ve also been withdrawing a bit again (despite saying I wouldn’t) and trying to solve my own problems in isolation without people around me – and the truth is I just can’t.

I can’t do without them around me – and even when I don’t feel like I can cope with company (have you ever wondered why on earth anyone would want to talk to you when you feel down?) when I force myself to do it there’s almost always a positive outcome.

Last night I was invited to a small social gathering at a Unionist Club locally.

There was live music, some people I knew (it was an ex-colleague’s birthday) and many people I didn’t know.

After the band finished (and I could finally hear myself think) I spent more time talking to the various people there. As the night slowly drew to a conclusion and I talked to them more and more I began to notice a growing inner calm.

It came from human contact.

It came from surrounding myself with it even though (before I arrived) I had felt like sitting alone and withdrawing inside my own head.

Today this continued – and despite not really wanting to I got up and went out really early for a walk.

The world looked wonderful at 7am.

All of the flowers and bushes were covered in little glistening dewy droplets that made them sparkle in the warming sunshine that was slowly peeping over the nearby trees.

As I walked my post was finally coming together. It would be about the band who played the night before (the Zephyrs) and the people that I met.

I’d chatted to some real characters who asked a lot of probing questions about my weight loss. My responses and theirs were still rattling around my mind.

Eventually I sat down outside a pub in Warwick with a coffee – some six and a half miles later.

The square was quickly coming to life.

It was market day – and as I sat nearby the fruit stalls as they laid out their wares in the cool of the shady square my fingers started a new blog.

It would be about my walk in the sunshine and the huge baking potatoes on the nearby stall that would barely fit in my oven, let alone a microwave.

Why on Earth were they so big? The tomatoes nearby were larger still!

Who was growing these massive vegetables?

These thoughts however were unexpectedly interrupted by passing friends who stopped to say hello and ultimately decided to delay their planned breakfast to sit with me for a drink and chat.

They had not long returned from holiday and were keen to show me some pictures of a lovely little corner of the world in Spain – where the hillsides seemed to go on forever and in the distance there were mountains.

‘They’re occasionally covered with snow too!’ my friend said as she pinched and zoomed in and out of the image on her screen.

The mountains looked impossibly picturesque, framed by an impossibly blue sky and for a brief moment I found myself fantasising about walking over them.

It looked lovely – and they both looked happy.

I forgot what I was typing my blog – because I was enjoying talking to them and chatting about life.

I was also fantasising about going exploring in a place with endless vistas and snow capped peaks.

This made me feel better still and my post once more evolved in my mind as we parted company and I walked away.

The flow was being directed toward our conversation. Maybe it would be about swimming pools and villas in Spain with views and hills to walk over. Maybe it would be aspirational. Maybe I too would go to Spain one day and see the mountains for myself.

Now wasn’t the time to finish it though. Now was the time to make my way to Slimming World.

Not just yet though.

On the way I walked idly into a charity shop, and as I quickly browsed I noticed a rack of jackets.

There was a new (still with tags!) grey Jasper Conran one in my size for only £12.50!

I slung it over a my shoulders and it seemed to fit perfectly.

The arms were just the right length!

It also appeared to suit my casual outfit rather well, so I bought it, pulled the price label off, popped it on and headed to my group in the sunshine with a smile on my face.

Today was a different group entirely.

It felt weird.

All week long I’d avoided my scales and tried not to think about Slimming World or whether I’ve doing good (or bad).

I’ve instead tried to stick to plan – have been on it sometimes and not at others – but more than anything I’ve been trying to do away with guilt and worry and just live life.

The theory behind this (following my chat with Angie after group last week) was that I wanted to attend, not weigh in, listen to the talk, feel good in my clothes and remain focused without it all being about a number.

As a target member I don’t have to weigh in EVERY week any more and I don’t have to tie myself in knots, or feel any guilt if I don’t want to.

It felt slightly unsettling to not see a number or have the certainty of knowing exactly how heavy I was but it also felt good.

Somehow I was still in the zone but had no idea what the scales said.

I walked away and as I did the narrative continued to write itself in my head.

It would be a charity shop victory – a moment of shopping triumph – enabled by a shrunken waistline and feeling positive about clothes and life – all bookended by the people I’d seen the night before, that morning in Warwick and also those in my group.

Until the phone rang.

My friend was free earlier than expected and wondered if I wanted to go for a walk before the time we’d planned.

The narrative stopped in my head. I’d have to pick it up later. Walking was way more fun.

My mental typewriter had the page pulled out of it, screwed up and the contents thrown in a little ball towards a brain bin with a basketball hoop.

I changed and headed over to her house.

We’d decided to walk along the canal from Hatton towards Knowle and it seemed like a lovely day for it.

To the ‘Tom o the Wood’ and back again was ten miles and it was always a wonderfully quiet stretch of waterway.

It was prime twalking territory.

It seemed that we both needed it.

There was a lot to chat about and both of us had been thinking complex thoughts about how the week had been progressing.

Nothing felt simple in each of our lives and yet in the sunshine as we talked it through nothing seemed overwhelming.

Life was just floating along and occasionally it was gliding over and serenely nibbling the grass.

By the time we reached the pub my feet were beginning to tire though.

I settled for some pickled eggs and a large coffee as a reward and we stopped to sit under a parasol at a table in the shade for an hour as we recuperated.

My watch said I’d nearly hit 14 miles so far that day and for some reason pickled eggs and coffee felt like an appropriate way of celebrating.

We sat chatting next to a quirky sign in the beer garden and gossiped as our feet recovered.

The sun was shining and as we set the world to rights all the while my narrative was shifting in my head.

I watched her laughing as we talked.

Now it was about the ridiculousness of pickled eggs.

Who discovered that eggs could be pickled and who tried to eat one first?

For that matter who discovered vinegar and pickled anything before deciding to eat it?!

The blog would be about the ridiculousness of pickles – the people that make and eat them and swans on the canal.

We left the pub and as we headed back I took a picture, which (for the umpteenth time that day) my mate shamelessly photobombed.

I put my phone away and we continued home – the topic now shifting to blackberries – of which there were millions.

We walked as we talked and munched.

As we did so she stung her index finger on a nettle whilst picking them. It was her first nettle sting it seemed.

As she complained about the sensation and hopped up and down I rubbed a nearby docleaf into the sting.

‘You just scrunch up the underside and rub it into your finger to anaesthetise a nettle burn.’ I advised.

‘It’s amazing how the remedy for the sting always grows next to the nettles.’ I reflected.

I plucked another juicy, fresh and green docleaf and handed it to her.

‘If it starts again use this.’ I said – and she held onto it as we headed back to Hatton.

Nature. That would be the theme.

Nature, it’s circle of life and pickled eggs.

How did nature provide such a wonderful remedy that was always a few feet away (a possible metaphor for life) and how did people discover pickled eggs.

Quirky.

I liked it.

Weird discoveries and nature.

Boom.

Nailed it.

Upon arriving home (now with almost 20 miles on my clock) I decided to eat and cooked myself a chilli.

As I ate the food (which was delicious!) my blog came into view.

The lovely day along the canal, the swan, the chat, the food and the coffee.

And pickled eggs.

Pickled eggs are weird.

Then I fell asleep.

Four hours later I awoke to a text from my friend – a moment of thought that she wanted to share – and my narrative reformed again.

It would be about people.

Pure and simple.

They were the common theme in all of this.

There wasn’t a magical formula and pickled eggs were just eggs in vinegar.

The attempts to write that had failed had all stalled with anger – and all had concluded inside my own head.

They’d died before reaching the page and expired alone on a bleak literary battlefield – without the intervention of external medics to patch them up and return them to the fight.

Within less than 24 hours of filling my life with people and their quirky stories or perspectives I was alive again.

My thoughts were racing – and not in a bad way this time – because my pulse was even and I was relaxed.

There was no anxiety and the post had written itself (as all the best ones do) because my thoughts were outside of my head.

They had been liberated by others rather than being trapped in solitary confinement – forever trying to escape but not being able to pick the locks alone.

They had climbed out of my mind via the companionship of people and the ability that they all gave me to normalise my sometimes insular patterns of dealing with problems.

When I don’t force myself to be with others and I try to solve everything myself I always end up stumbling eventually.

When I do internet then posts just flow – because they’re filled with the life and friendship of others.

Some (like this one) practically write themselves.

Davey

Lots of twalking

Despite the weather taking a dip recently it’s still been more than clement enough to make sure that I’ve been out for a few evening strolls and kept up my twalking quotas up.

I’ve always found that whilst I love walking I adore chattering to people about nothing in particular even more.

Monday evening was spent with an ‘off piste’ friend wandering around the paths near some fields and quarries in Wolston.

It’s a really lovely place (like most of Warwickshire) and you can be assured that when she gets a bug for exploration you’re going to see parts of it that you otherwise might not have looked at.

Things always go a little off the beaten path when we go out together – but I absolutely love the randomness of walks that contain comments like ‘that’s the way to go’ … ‘I think’…. followed a few moments later with ‘erm that wasn’t where I thought it was…’

Often the outcome is being faced with a fence, huge bush, or in instance like Monday a really picturesque little view of some sheep near a river, which was where we ended up sitting on a log for a while to chat and enjoy the view.

I’m not entirely sure however whether the four mile walk was calorie neutral or in fact burned anything at all because we spent the VAST MAJORITY of our time eating blackberries – which were practically dropping off the bushes locally.

Apart from the occasional one with a slightly tart flavour they were all bursting with sweetness and were so soft to the touch it was difficult to pull them from the bushes without turning them into a juicy paste between your thumb and forefinger.

It’s a lovely place to walk in the dusk though – whether you’re filling your face or not!

When Tuesday came along I agreed that myself and another friend would simply wander into town and have a healthy bite to eat while we twalked.

I’ve never been to Ask in Warwick – and until I walked in (I’ve passed it MANY times) I hadn’t realise how many seats there are – as well as an outdoor patio area. Inside there’s a huge roof light and it makes it a lovely place to sit and eat.

The food was relatively reasonably priced (it’s all a matter of perspective I guess) but thankfully had some rather tasty looking salad options.

If you go to their website and look for vouchers there are loads though – and my fast thinking mate found one for 25% off (during the week) before we went in!

I decided to go for the salmon salad and we also had some olives and the (rather non slimming friendly) zucchini in batter as a starter.

There’s nothing like taking a speed food, wrapping it in batter and then deep frying it!

I’m of the opinion that it would probably be a better choice to just order chips if you fancy something naughty as the portion size is quite small – but hey ho – you only live once!

The one thing I will say is that I originally asked for my dressing already on the main dish but I’m glad they screwed up and put it in a little cup on the side.

It was basically just olive oil with balsamic vinegar and a few leaves floating in it – and wasn’t particularly tasty when I dipped in an exploratory finger – so from a diet perspective if you eat here remember the following rule.

ALWAYS ON THE SIDE AT ASK!!!

My usual option after dinner is coffee – but this week I’ve been suffering with a rather irritating medical issue and the doctor has advised me that caffeine is likely to be an aggravating factor in this.

Those who have EVER read a single post of mine or met me in person will know that telling me to stop drinking coffee is probably the best way in the world to stress me out and wind me up – but there we have it.

That’s now a thing too.

I’m supposed to cut down on coffee.

I have a mild resurgence of gout in my right foot. A nodule that had grown on the joint of my big toe below the nail a couple of years ago has for some reason decided to choose now to go all fiery red and angry again.

So far it’s not disrupted my walking (I love you ibuprofen) but it’s not comfortable and in the wrong shoes it’s a real nightmare.

This meant that last night’s walk (around Warwick Racecourse) with another friend was of its usual three mile length but the normal caffeinated Americano conclusion at a local Warwick hostelry was replaced by a far more cultured cup of tea.

I have to admit I cheated a bit with the above photo (I forgot to take any pictures last night – that’s from a previous visit) because they’ve now surfaced the whole walking loop with tarmac and gravel – making it far nicer for the legions of mobility scooter users that you see around there most of the time.

It’s not so great however if (like my friend) you choose to wear walking sandals. The stones are tiny and almost impossible not to kick up into your feet.

He looked like he was carrying a bag of gravel around for much of the journey and I really felt for him.

So – that brings me pretty much up to date.

I’m nearing the end of a 45 minute hill climb program on my exercise bike because outside when I woke up the rain was absolutely battering it down and for once my rather stoic attitude to walking regardless of the weather faded and I decided to take the car.

It’s fixed and it cost me £653 so I might as well use it occasionally!!!

Exercise however needs to be completed somehow and taking the car to work does not mean ‘lazy’.

If I sit at my work desk without a full set of rings completed on my watch then my OCD will be ringing alarm bells all day long!!!

Anyway internet. I have four minutes to go and I need a shower too!!!

Laters!

Davey

Who needs ice-cream?

Early on Sunday morning (at 9am)  I found myself sitting listening to the clock bells ringing in Warwick town square. The world was slowly waking up around me – and as usual I was already a few coffees into my day.

Although it’s something I used to do a lot I no longer understand any more how people can waste their weekend by lying in bed.

I guess that not having a hangover 24×7 (it’s now over two and a half years since I drank any alcohol) and actually being capable of getting a good night’s rest without my old sleep apnoea makes a massive difference.

Now the mornings are light I’m usually up and out of bed by around 6am at the absolute latest.

These days on a Saturday or Sunday by 9am (if I’ve not already started my day) I’m of the opinion that three hours have been wasted.

Thankfully this wasn’t the case yesterday because I’d already managed to get four miles under my belt before I sat down to listen to the bells and planned to do a lot more before the day was done.

On Saturday when I went to Cheddar Gorge I’d made something of a tactical error though and the following day I was suffering a little.

Before heading out to the wilds of Somerset I’d neglected to apply suntan lotion to any part of my body – and despite carrying it in my bag throughout the whole frikkin day – due firstly to the hill related fun and then the car related stress I forgot all about it.

I ended up getting home that evening with a bright red head and rather pink legs.

This had faded a bit by the following morning and was just a bit itchy. Given how sunny it was I had a rather lucky escape.

Yesterday I was determined not to make the same mistake twice and made sure that I proactively applied lots of lotion to my head and arms before leaving the house.

Furthermore I wore long cargo trousers to give my pink shins a break and secreted a travel tube of suntan cream in one of the bigger pockets near my knee for later re-application.

This proved to be a good call because on Sunday it was a HOT day.

Originally I’d planned to make my weekend a ridiculously intrepid one – and Sunday was supposed to be much like Saturday.

I had originally intended to go far afield yet again and have another day of exploration and adventure.

Unfortunately my car had scuppered that plan completely and was sitting close to death parked outside my house.

Until I could get in front of a mechanic (it’s been booked in for tomorrow) my options were limited.

I could have jumped on a train to somewhere – but I also needed to do some shopping. When you don’t have the luxury of hopping in your vehicle and quickly nipping to the supermarket to get frozen food and heavy items this becomes a bit more time consuming.

I was therefore left with the the unenviable task of carrying various items from distant supermarkets (Some things I can only get from one place – others I can buy from a nearer supermarket) in the blazing midday heat.

By the time 3pm had arrived I must admit that I was feeling pretty worn out – which was when the second ‘hangover’ from Saturday began to make itself known.

Whilst I’d been giddily running up and down the hillsides at Cheddar Gorge I’d not paid any attention at all to tiredness in my legs – mostly because I was enjoying the sensation of feeling the burn.

I was much more interested in how quickly they would recover and how soon I could get my breath back and power forward.

However – my quads (from the downhill segments) had clearly taken a pounding – and as the day wore on I found that I had less and less to give in my legs.

By around 3-4pm my quads had pretty much siezed up and I retreated indoors where it was hot and stuffy – but there was also a nice comfy sofa and a massive pouffe.

Time to chill with the fan on.

Although it’s not a particularly cheerful topic I’ve found myself unexpectedly addicted to a Vietnam War documentary on Netflix recently.

It’s a rather epic series – with around 10 episodes, some of which come in at the two hour mark – so it’s an undertaking not for the faint hearted if you plan to have a look.

However – if you’re at all historically curious it’s a fascinating (albeit grim) look at the potential for hubris in people with great power and the devastation they can cause to the lives of so many when they choose to go to war.

It’s also a fascinating insight into how decisions made by people with the best of intentions can sometimes have the absolute worst of outcomes.

Maybe I should be watching something different to this though – because I’m very much aware that my mood is still one of reflection and introspection rather than relentless buoyancy.

I’m far from down but I also wouldn’t categorise myself as completely upbeat if I was pushed to describe my mood.

Mostly because of this if I’m being completely truthful the last two weeks have been a bigger struggle than most I’ve experienced since I started Slimming World with regard to eating.

I’m (as always) making good choices whenever I can – and food optimising with a passion – but I’m finding that I’m having a harder time than I normally would recognising the moment when I should be flicking the eating switch to the ‘I’m full up now’ position and calling it a day.

The only way to deal with this and not decimate any progress I’ve made is to nibble wisely – and as such I think I’ve probably eaten the weight of a Shetland pony in gherkins and pickled onions over the last few days.

It’s not ideal though because I like to feel in control – and it’s been a long time since I felt that grip slip so noticeably.

It’s not nice – and it reminds me of darker days, which does little to improve my frame of mind.

However – Saturday was a definite turning point – and as stressful as my car breaking down was it took my mind off what had been bugging me for a while.

There’s no such thing as a bad day or a good day – even in extremes.

There’s only perspective.

Often it takes time to formulate that view but it’s possible to view almost everything in a good light.

Sure – things may go wrong but it’s only your perception of an event like a car breakdown that makes it a bad day.

The guy who gets to fix your car earns a living, and the industry associated with making the parts you use to repair it ensure people have jobs and can support families.

There’s often two sides to every coin and the yin to my particular yan was that I had to fill up my brain with nervous energy and think my way around the potential problem I was faced with – and try to find a way around it.

If I hadn’t been able to drive it home I’m sure I’d have found some way or another to overcome and persevere.

It’s just who I am now and I love that deep down I feel a strength that years ago used to be fear.

Today the theme of trying to regain equilibrium has persisted and as I sit here at 10pm writing this I’ve just completed a near six mile evening walk with a friend around the park and am now resting in front of the TV with a full belly.

In that belly is a delicious food optimised dessert made with sweet and succulent blackberries that I picked off a bush on the way home, mixed with some frozen fruit, fat free yoghurt, oats, a banana, cinnamon and stevia.

What isn’t to love about a life where I can walk all day long, pick some of my dinner from a bush, mix it with delicious and wholesome ingredients and feel full up at the end of it?

Who the hell needs ice cream when this is the alternative?

Not me that’s for sure.

Sure – on a day like today the idea seems like a nice one – and when I’m low it seems like an easy choice, but doing that will not improve my mood.

Making the right choices, talking to friends, going out, seeing the world and keeping fit will do that for me – and THAT (dear internet) is what I choose as my antidote to stress and worry.

Davey