Das Auto?

It’s unsettling when something you rely on becomes unreliable.

I have an intermittent fault with my car – an elderly but much loved 2003 VW Passat. There’s an odd juddering coming from the engine. It doesn’t happen all the time – just after a period of driving (usually on the motorway at speed) which is very disconcerting.

It’s making me worry about how much time the old girl has left.

Part of the problem is I’m not a bloke. At least not in the stereotypical sense.

  • I have no idea about the workings of an internal combustion engine, or indeed what to do if a car goes wrong (aside from exhibiting mild panic).
  • I have never called the RAC to change a tyre – but only because friends have taken pity upon seeing my helpless and sad face when I have a flat and swapped it for me.
  • I own a powerful hammer action cordless drill but until now have been too scared to drill my own walls with it. When I needed to put up curtains a few years ago my friend helpfully drilled the holes for me.
  • I have a rough idea how to knock nails into things but typically they end up very bent. My pictures rest on the floor instead of hanging on the walls for this and the previous reason.
  • My petrol lawn mower recently would not start. I looked at the mystifying ‘user serviceable’ innards for a whole two minutes before going out and buying an electric one. I have four lawnmowers and three strimmers in my shed, all in varying states of disrepair.

I could go on.

Cars contain magical pixies and run on fairy juice for all I know or care, so when things go wrong I’m already on the back foot.

I therefore feel a bit vulnerable when I go to a mechanic – although in that respect I’m sure I’m not on my own.

Since my usual tame grease monkeys have changed ownership recently and keep forgetting to return my calls I decided that I would take this issue to a main dealership. In the past I’ve had excellent experiences with VW and despite my pending joblessness I want a good inspection and a proper fix. I need to keep my current car on the road rather than buy a new one.

My old mechanic used to investigate problems for free, is close by, and reachable on the bus.

The VW dealership wanted £60 just to have a look under the bonnet and getting there and back requires two taxis.

However my old mechanic has failed diagnose or to fix this recurring issue twice in the past, seems currently disinterested in my business, and I’m forced to conclude that sometimes in life you tend to get what you pay for.

Over the last couple of months (on the RAC’s advice rather than theirs) I have replaced at the ‘cheap’ garage all of my coil packs, spark plugs and the compressor in my aircon, which finally (at least temporarily) saw the problem disappear.

So this morning I arrived at the main dealership expecting the best service possible. It was all shiny and white and made of glass and had a new car smell when I opened the door.

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The enthusiastic greeter (they have a greeter!) met me, already knew my name, shook my hand, welcomed me to their establishment and showed me to some comfy chairs.

‘Would you like a coffee?’ He said politely.

I indicated that I would. Soon enough my wish was granted and the free coffee fairy arrived.

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‘Someone from servicing will be with you in a minute’ he said and went back to his desk.

Happily I set about blowing my hot free beverage and browsing the web on my phone. There was an excellent 3G signal here too. Five bars! I might consider moving in.

However, soon I began to notice that people were coming in and talking to attendants, handing over keys, leaving and being replaced by other people, also handing over more keys after chats.

Maybe their queries were different departments?

I looked at my watch… I needed to get home and log on for work. My coffee cup was now empty.

Thirty mins had now passed.

I caught the greeter’s eye as he passed to voice my discontent and ask when I would be seen.

With what appeared to be genuine horror the greeter realised I had not been processed at all and immediately set about the task of finding someone to see me. If nothing else I was impressed by his concern. Within a moment I was seated with him and a representative from servicing to discuss the issue.

‘Mr DWK’ he said ‘ I am so sorry we have kept you waiting. Your inspection will be free of charge.’

I was a bit stunned. Wow. I couldn’t argue with free! That made my hourly rate approximately £120.

‘Thanks.’ I said ‘I appreciate that!’

He introduced me to and eventually left me with left the servicing representative, a well organised lady, who continued to take some extremely detailed notes about the nature of the issue. These were on top of the details I had already given them over the phone.

As she read them back I noted that these were extremely accurate, and listed almost exactly what I had said a few days previously. I was impressed. I hate poor note taking.

Once this was done I told the nice lady that I would need her to give me a couple of hours warning about when to pick the car up as I would be relying on taxis.

‘Would you like me to get one of the team to drive you home Mr DWK?’ she said.

Blinking a little I replied ‘Yes – erm… That would be very helpful thanks!’

So approximately 10 minutes later and roughly £67 better off than I had expected to be by that time of the morning I arrived home in a pleasantly scented chauffeur driven 2016 Silver Golf Estate and logged on to start work with a cup of coffee.

Moments later my mobile rang. The number calling was the car dealership.

What could have gone wrong? Did I leave something in the car?

‘Hello Mr DWK its xxxxx from xxxxxx Volkswagen’

‘Hello’ I replied.

‘It’s just a courtesy call Mr DWK. I’m from the sales department.’

‘OK…’ I replied, my jaw tightening a little.

‘I see that today you’ve brought in your VW Beetle for servicing and I notice that it’s 13 years old. I was wondering whether I could interest you in any of the deals we have on our new range of Beetles?’

‘It’s a Passat.’ I said flatly.

‘It says on my documentation its a Beetle Mr DWK.’ He replied.

‘Well nevertheless it was a Passat when I dropped it off – so I hope you haven’t made too many other modifications…’ I said.

I waited. There was a tiny pause while he regrouped. His funny bone appeared to be firmly set in place and had not been triggered.

‘Would you like to see any of the great deals on our Passat range?’ He said with the same identical tone of voice.

‘Well I’d love to…’ I replied ‘but sadly I am facing redundancy and will be unemployed in less than a month. I don’t think its a good time to be entering into large finance agreements.’

‘No… OK…’ He said, typing in the background.

‘I’ll give you a call in 3-4 months.’ He said. ‘Have a good day Mr DWK.’

I put the phone down with a sigh.

Not. Good.

Several hours later in the afternoon the call finally came to explain what had been done. The problem could not be found. Irritatingly the issue had refused to manifest itself on a test drive. However – they noted that there had been a factory recall on my coil packs and they had replaced them all free of charge.

When I picked the car up it was indeed running just fine.

I’m not entirely sure what to think now. I’m theoretically paying more for improved service, but have received better and worse service simultaneously (and a potential fix) – but for free.

They have shown excellent record keeping and awful information handling all in one neatly wrapped up bundle. I mentioned why I needed to keep my old car running to the servicing department in the morning, and despite their knowledge of my pending employment hurdle they still referred me to the sales department.

My coil packs had been potentially failing due to a manufacturing fault – however I had never received a recall notice, and had already replaced them out of my own pocket six months or so ago.

I’m completely bemused. It’s rare I see such excellent service rolled up in a bundle with such average (and with regard to the recall potentially unsafe) service.

Do I go there again?

Internet – I have no idea… I’m bemused.

Davey

Syns

Given the positives of Saturday I awoke on Sunday in a good mood. 

Sadly, despite it being a day of rest for all sane minded people I had to go to work. However there are worse things than sitting in an air conditioned office for the day, so I planned to make the most of it and do some worthwhile things with my time.

As I was up early I cooked myself some vegetable stir fry, with 4 small new potatoes and 2 salmon steaks and popped it in some tupperware.

Breakfast wise things in the fridge were a bit sparse yesterday morning – and after a rather unfortunate sniff test of some less than fresh bacon resulted in a rush to the OUTSIDE bin (grrrr – waste of money) I was more in the mood for cereal.

It would have to be ‘overnight oats.’  

I tipped the last dregs of my natural yogurt into a tupperware box, added an apple, a handful of blueberries, 35g of oats (thank you fry light cap), a sprinkle of coconut flakes (approx 4 syns), some cinnamon and a spoonful of stevia.

I also took an extra ‘snack’ apple.

It was just as well I planned ahead as thanks to some pre-booked holiday and a few sickies by others I was the only guy in the office on Sunday until later in the afternoon.

I’m not keen on being on my own in the office. It’s really boring when there’s no-one to chat with occasionally or make cups of tea with/for. It makes the day go a lot quicker regardless of what you have going on.

I tend to eat when i’m bored.

However – I could play my music as loud as I liked and there was no-one to complain. So there’s that.

As I munched on my apple later that morning (not long after breakfast) I was thinking about my dad.

It seems like my father is keen to set the example at the moment, and since his own journey with Slimming World is just beginning he wanted to show me on Saturday evening what a plate of speed food really looks like.

It seems I am a rank amateur.

I’ve been trying to ensure that food doesn’t overload the narrow confines of my plate but my dad has other ideas, and is willing to regularly challenge gravity with his evening meal.

However – given the content of his boundary infractions I can’t say he’s doing a bad job 🙂

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My Dad has always been a big fan of vegetables – just like me, but shares similar weaknesses for other food. 

His preferred treats are mostly sweet however, whereas my vices are completely savoury. This rule ceases to apply though when you place him in the vicinity of cheese – at which point all bets are off.

I’ve often been afraid that one day he will fall victim to a baited mousetrap, and (unable to resist its cheesy delights) will be found with his neck and arms wedged in one unable to move.

So far however he remains at large and has managed to avoid capture. Long may this escapology continue.

Sadly there was no such plate waiting for me when I got home last night. I was hungry and I’d not really planned my evening meal – despite having items to cook, so I stopped off at the M&S nearby and bought some ham pieces and mini gem lettuces.

Every time I think of ham I think of Angie saying she wraps it round tomatoes.

Everything with speed food.

I do the same with the lettuce and parcel my ham up before it goes in my mouth, as well as drink water. The evening’s ‘cheat’ meal however left me peckish – and I ended up eating 3 (not at once, but irritatingly picking at them later) hi-fi bars and 2 apples, accounting for a further 9 syns.

I know Angie has cautioned against trying to avoid having Syns – but I still view (some of) them as the enemy. There’s always an element of guilt for me after eating one.

Maybe it’s a bit daft to think that way though because I did 13 in the entire day and the rest of it was either ‘free’ or ‘speed’ or a ‘healthy extra’.

Syns worry me though, and I can’t get over this vague feeling of unease about them since reading something on another blogger’s site that resonated with me.

I’ll try to explain what that was…

Per day ladies get 15 syns, men get 20 and extra special guys like me (with more X’s in their shirt size than you) can allegedly do 30.

But what is 30 Syns?

Well – its a large Ginster’s Cornish Pasty (28.5 Syns).

It’s a portion of chips. 440g of chip shop chips are 28 syns. (I bet, just like me you used to take some scales to the chip shop with you. I’d ALWAYS be asking him to take a few chips off until it got to the right weight. Pffft yea. Right.).

It’s less than a portion of medium sweet popcorn at the cinema (Odeon ones are 38 syns! What kind of a freak has a MEDIUM when you can go large for 30p more?!).

It’s 3/5ths of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice-cream (11 syns per 100ml gives you 33 syns). But who here hasn’t finished a 500ml tub in one sitting before?)

I honestly do not think that I’d be loosing weight if I ate any of these things regularly, and truthfully I really wouldn’t want to.

I suppose what makes me angry about eating syns like hi-fi bars is that I see it (maybe wrongly – and I don’t want my guilt to affect other people’s success) as a fudge or a cheat. It’s somehow my brain still being unable to come to terms with the fact that the processed ‘foods’ I ate all the time prior to starting Slimming World CAUSED all this in the first place.

I want to get out of the habit of viewing food with the underlying belief that I can still eat the same KIND of things and somehow cheat my way around all of the crap that made me fat to start with.

I don’t view my sprinkle of coconut the same way though. Thats a good syn. Olives are a good syn. I’ve started having a desert spoonful of cod liver oil every day. That’s a good syn (although I still can’t find out exactly how much it is). I need to include some nuts in my diet, which I haven’t so far and will this week (maybe hazelnuts or almonds?). 

They are good syns.

I understand why syns exist. We live in the real world, and its unrealistic to expect anyone starting a healthy living plan to suddenly switch to cress and lentils for breakfast. They just wouldn’t follow the diet.

I wouldn’t. 

I wouldn’t have even started.

I still think longingly about a Double Sausage and egg Mcmuffin when I drive past McDonalds. They’re 28.5 Syns each. I used to have two for breakfast quite often and they’re delicious.

I’m no vegan crusader wanting an organic macro biotic lifestyle.

Yet.

But who knows what will come of this? My mood changes all the time about food and exercise. I’m becoming a different person bit by bit. Truthfully if syns weren’t there to begin with then I’d probably have struggled to start at all.

Anyway – today is another day. I’m going to prepare my dinner (Chilli con Carne) and breakfast (Overnight oats with Strawberries and Blueberries) for work and start some food in the slow cooker (beef stew) for this evening so I don’t snack tonight. Hopefully if it stops raining I might get a walk around the park in too later.

We’ll see internet. Today seems full of possibility – and hopefully (if I can resist) less syns.

Davey

Hugs to the peoples

I can’t see any swanlings in the park so far. They seem to be absent and there are just a few ducks in their place. I like ducks though. They almost always move around in couples and I think that’s a lovely trait.

I’m walking before my weigh in to start my day on a high note and interact with the world. I don’t want another dark day like yesterday and positivity doesn’t happen by magic.

You have to go out and make the effort. Even if you’re not 100% feeling it.

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I’ve been sitting by the river for a little while and feeling the cool breeze on my neck while I watch people go by. As usual I’m slowly moving from bench to bench. I have an hour before Slimming World and I’m in no rush. I’m Just taking my surroundings in with my customary flask of coffee.

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Pleasingly I’m not so out of breath today and inch by inch I can go a bit further without sitting down. I’m half way round and I’ve used one less bench than normal.

This in itself makes me feel more positive.

At the moment I’m not sitting because I’m exhausted but just because it’s pleasant. The birds are singing and I can hear people playing football behind me.

Two teen goths passed me hand in hand a moment ago. Both were dressed completely in black apart from the girl’s single concession to cheerfulness – shiny silver converse pumps.

To ensure she otherwise remained in character her tall clear drinking flask contained a blood red smoothie which she sipped as they walked past.

Goths in love. Sigh.

I adore conscious Nihilism in unconscious revolt.

(Time to move)

Well – I’m back at the car and feeling pleasantly warm. I did the lap with 3 less benches than it originally took me when I first tried to do it – however I wasn’t going for any speed records today – just enjoying the activity so it’s probably not a like for like comparison.

If I’m honest I have my friend and colleague to thank for this. He reminded me with a text after last night’s post that I needed to get my ass up and do something this morning, although he said it in a much nicer way. He knows who he is and he gets a big Dave sized virtual hug 🙂

He was absolutely right.

Now. I must have a wee before stepping on the scales and offload my coffee. I don’t want it to ruin anything.

(Off to Slimming World.)

Well – SW is done for the day, and it was an emotional one – at least for me if not for others. Some were struggling today – and I feel their pain acutely.

I don’t care what your milestone is – if it’s something you feel you need to achieve then its something that’s not easy. It really doesn’t matter what everyone does with weight loss (although it’s easier to say than it is to accept) it’s just important that you stay to group even when it is really difficult to do so.

Whatever happens before or after THAT’S A WIN.

I lost a pound today – less than I wanted – but I’m trying to take my own advice. It’s been a difficult and emotional week and I’m frankly amazed I managed to loose anything at all. I’ve struggled with portion sizes and snacking – but crucially I’ve eaten within the boundaries of the plan and not climbed Mount Kebabnchips.

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My one pound loss also took me over my two stone mark and I got a certificate for it 🙂 Part of me (the reserved blokey bit) thinks – I don’t need a certificate, but I totally really do with bells on it and a cherry on top. It means the world – especially when I’ve not been at my best – and it just reminds me what another friend and colleague said to me two months ago.

Even slowly moving forward is still moving forward.

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This stuck in my head and I get a lot of comfort from that thought. It’s carried me through some tricky weeks so far and is so true. Since posting this all those weeks ago I’ve noticed others using the above picture that have read my blog (originally sent to me by my friend) and it’s a reminder that when you help someone – even in a seemingly small way – you never know how much that act is going to spread out into the world.

I mentioned it to someone at group thats been very supportive today – and if she’s reading I hope she takes it to heart and uses it to find her own strength.

You can do it 😉

Despite writing this blog and sharing it with people digitally I’m still not really comfortable in the physical limelight. Although logically I understand that’s all in my head I was dreading today’s group because it was their chance to choose their ‘man of the year’.

I have only been attending for a couple of months so it feels something of a con even to be considered – but its nice to be mentioned in the same breath as this. It was also a good opportunity to listen to the other guys too as we all described our own journey, and how we’d come to be sitting on the hateful little red chairs in the school hall.

Two of the guys there were following the plan both for their own health’s benefit and to support their partners, and it was really heartwarming to see how they were working together as a team. Another guy had really embraced the exercise aspect of the plan and was up and down Welsh mountains like a whippet on a weekly basis from the sounds of it.

I walked up Snowdon myself a few years ago and I know from experience it’s no mean feat. He makes me want to do it again.

They were all doing really well, and if I’m honest it spurred me on to hear their own statements agreeing that they couldn’t do it without the group – and the practical benefits of weight loss such as less snoring (which appeared to be a definite boon to the ladies!!!).

I’ve also noticed – but until today ignored – the fact that I too can almost breathe when lying on my right side in bed. I couldn’t do that before. This is progress! Maybe soon I’ll be able to sleep on both sides.

I shared my own thoughts with the group as we went around the men in turn – and decided to tell the unvarnished truth.

I wanted the silly little things in life. I wanted things like a bath. I can’t fit in mine at the moment and it taunts me every time I have a shower. I told them I wanted to avoid gastric banding, and how I couldn’t walk very far but it was getting easier every time. I mentioned my diabetes and my struggle with portion sizes.

As always no-one was anything less than 110% supportive – and if I ever needed convincing (I REALLY don’t) that I was in the right place for my journey today was a good reminder.

Then, rather embarrassingly Angie announced I was man of the year.

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I’m not quite sure what to do with this info – and honestly wish I could split it with everyone there (although I’m not sure how the girls would take being men of the year!).

I’m instead going to take it for what it is. A massive and generous compliment from a bunch of people trying every bit as hard as I am to do exactly what I’m doing. If anything it means that much more coming from a bunch of guys and girls in exactly the same boat.

So internet – yesterday was shit and today is not. What’s changed? What made it appear different? Why am I not feeling so bad?

People. Pure and simple. Without them I would still be face down in my mental mud, and struggling to lift up my head. They rule. All of them. Hugs to the peoples.

Oh. And coffee. Thats good too. Big shout out to coffee.

Davey

How we affect others

I sat down this morning to write a card of condolence to the mother of my friend, whose father recently passed away. 

I’d put it off for a couple of days. I didn’t really know what to say. Who does in situations like this?

It’s impossible to know what’s right or wrong so I settled instead on trying to tell her in the card what her and her family mean to me. 

Sadly a couple of paragraphs can’t encapsulate what that is. 

Although I don’t see my friend’s mom anywhere near as much as I should lately she’s a very important person to me, and came into my life at just the right moment. 

My friend’s grandfather sounds like an inspirational man from what I’ve heard of his life. 

I met him a few times – but not enough to say I knew him. 

However his daughter’s family became a huge part of my life two decades ago when problems in my own family and personal life found me sleeping at their house probably way more often than was polite. 

At the time I don’t think either of our families were having an easy ride from life but I remember being bowled over by how they welcomed me into their home. 

I could for several weeks and months either be found sleeping on their sofa or on a camp bed in the dining room. 

Sometimes this was just convenient after a night out, but at other times it was because I couldn’t face what was waiting for me in my own home. 

My friend’s mom had more than enough going on in her life but she still found time to talk to me and we bonded. 

After writing and delivering the card today I’m ruminating on the often unintended influence people have in the lives of others. 

I think this began a few days ago when my friend described her grandad to me, and how he lived. 

I realised that his attitude to family and the world had probably benefitted me too. The kindness that his child and her children have shown me over the years has probably got a lot to do with his parenting. 

For this reason I feel I too should be grateful for his time on earth and as such this Sunday finds me in a reflective mood. 

I’m also feeling thoughtful because I’ve been reading other people’s blogs today – and I’m struck by how there is a spider’s web of cause and effect that stretches out from each and every one of us when we share our inner selves and (whether we intend to or not) try to help people or enrich the lives of others. 

Lately I’ve been feeling the benefit of support and honesty from individuals I’ve never met. They are often somewhere else in the world, many miles away from me and are dealing with their own battles. Yet still they take time out to say positive things when I struggle or feel the pressure. 

One such person is positivelymar. She has been wonderfully generous in the last few weeks and I feel it’s time to give her a shout out and say thanks. She can be found here with her latest cheery post:

https://positivelymar.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/week-4-on-weddings-and-things/

Keep going Mar 😉 you can do it!

Also I’ve been perusing a blog recommended by the ladies of slimming world called 

http://weightlossbitch.com

I can definitely relate to the things she writes – and the abuse she mentions from strangers who have called her names in the street is something that I’ve experienced in the past and posted about a couple of times. 

She’s also very frank about nearly opting for weight loss surgery – which I too almost went for until I veered away from it like she did.

Although I don’t deny it may work for some I can’t get away from the word that filled my head when I finally said no to the whole process. 

The word was ‘mutilated’. 

I finally realised that as well as continually abusing myself with food that that (instead of changing my ways) I was willing to let someone cut whole chunks out of me and literally throw them in the bin. 

So, I have a lot in common with this lady and her (constant) struggle. I hope she continues to do well, and stays away from gastric bands. 

So – there are my thoughts for the day. 

People impact our lives. All the time. 

You never ever know how that contact will pan out and what it will mean to you decades from now but I know that I am a much richer man because of my friend’s mom and the kindness she showed me when I needed it the most. 

She will always be in my heart and I hope the impact of her loss becomes easier with time. 

We can do coffee when she’s ready and have a longer talk. 

Anyway Internet. That’s enough heavy for one day. I need to go and buy some oily fish to keep my brain working as it should. 

Love the ones you know and love the ones you don’t know. One day they may become the ones you know and can’t do without. 

Davey

She speak a my language

Well the morning so far is going way better than expected. I woke up before my alarm at 8am and I’d decided what to cook for Slimming World.

Stuffed peppers.

The recipie in the Slimming World magazine looked easy enough – but I’d NEVER cooked stuffed peppers before – so it was a bit of a gamble.

It was time for a little challenge.

I’d double the ingredients and make enough for 8(ish) peppers – which chopped up should be enough for the group.

I started with the filling as directed – and two large onions went into the frying pan on a low heat to soften up. Before long the kitchen was filled with a warm caramel aroma.

These were joined before long with some garlic, and then a few moments later some mince (5% fat pork) and tomato puree.

Initially I started to measure the tomato puree with my spoons (I love my spoons) but then realised that it was a ‘free’ ingredient and guesstimated.

It looked about right.

Once the mince was browning off I added two cartons of chopped tomatoes with mixed herbs and two tablespoons of oregano (dried not fresh as I couldn’t find any in Sainsburys)

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While this simmered I topped and de-seeded the peppers. These had to be placed together tightly in a baking tray so that they they all stood upright while cooking. My battered old enamel one seemed to fit the bill, and they all looked really nice and summery when sitting together.

I was already thinking that I’d made the right choice – this would look way better than fishcakes.

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After 20 mins or so the mince and tomato mix had reduced down and was almost ready, so I turned off the heat and focused my attention on the feta cheese. This was not QUITE feta (but as near as dammit) as I decided to go for a healthier option.

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This was the one thing that needed weighing – as guessing this could result in my fellow slimmers getting sabotaged and that would NOT do.

I cut a chunk off the block that was just under the 90g I needed. It seemed surprisingly small – but I guess you don’t need much!

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So – since I was now cooking 7 peppers (it was all that would fit in the pan!) I was pretty careful about the amount that went into each. Instead of mixing it into the mince as the recipe suggested I portioned it up and put it individually into the peppers as I filled them.

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Once done they looked pretty cool and were ready to go in the oven.

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The recipe said 20-25 mins in the oven at gas mark thingy or electric heat whateveritwas.

I’m always a little unclear about cooking things in the oven for the first time at pre-set temperatures as I have no numbers on my dials.

My brother managed to scrub them all off years ago with a brillo pad when enthusiastically cleaning – so anything placed in my oven cooks at the speed of guesswork and finger crossing with a little bit of occasionally burned around the edges.

It wasn’t until they’d been in the oven for over 15 mins that I realised I had forgotten to add the Worcester sauce. It was just sitting on the work surface, unmolested with its plastic anti tamper wrapper intact.

Bollocks!!!

I opened the oven. The tops were already browning but I could totally save this. I individually lifted them off (HOT HOT HOT!!!) and with a teaspoon made a ‘sauce hole’.

Drip, drip drip. OK thats enough for all of them. Three shakes each. I put the pepper lids back on and popped it back in the oven.

(10 minutes pass.)

Ok – the tops of the peppers are cooked but the bottoms still look a bit crunchy.

I took the tops off and laid them out (in order) on another baking tray so that I knew which little hat went on which pepper. I then put the bottoms back in on the oven, set my timer for 10 mins and went to get changed.

I looked around for the lightest pants, tee-shirt and socks that I had, and my featherweight jogging bottoms. My top had a front print, but the combined weight wasn’t as heavy as my black tee-shirt which was made of thicker cotton.

Short of standing naked on the scales my outfit was the minimum I could possibly wear in polite company without them thinking my nipples were looking at them.

I wanted to lose weight this week more than anything and despite my clothes feeling loose it was the loss that meant the most to me. I wanted my two stone award so badly I could taste it – but I really really thought it had been a bad week. I wasn’t expecting anything but grief.

(note. There are two REGULAR readers who know who they are and will appreciate the bold type and extra special efforts on the last paragraph.)

My watch alarm pinged. It was now 10.20 and group started in 10 mins. Hopefully my peppers (which took way longer to prepare than the recipe said) would be done.

I padded downstairs in my lighter than air, spray on pants and opened the oven.

Phwoooar! Pepper porn….

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I’d cooked 7 but could only get 6 in my tupperware. That would have to do. I think each one accounted for 2 syns – so if they got halved it would be 1 syn per taste.

By the time I got to the meeting things were in full swing – and I popped my food on the table.

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There was quite a variety of food on the there already – and I was keen to try some of the things people had made. But first things first. NO FOOD UNTIL THE SCALES HAD BEEN STEPPED ON.

I took off my shoes, emptied my pockets and stepped on the scales.

I immediately found myself saying ‘I think its going to be bad. I think I’ve put on this week.’

I had to place it in context before the lady saw the horror and had to give me the bad news. I braced myself and waited for the machine to beep.

‘Four off.’ The lady whispered with a smile in her voice and looked at me with a grin.

IN YOUR FACE FAT!‘ I said (maybe a bit too loudly) and grinned from ear to ear. This takes me irritatingly close to the two stone mark.

Just 1/2lb away.

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But either way I’m edging ever closer! I also got slimmer of the week and got a basket of treats – which was a big boost, and gave me another little sticker for the back of my book (although now I have enough teabags to start a coffee shop lol!

While we waited for Angie to start her usual talk the group chatted and people started comparing notes about what they had cooked and how they did it. I took my chance to ask for some slow cooker tips as I’ve still not tried to make pulled pork.

Hopefully now I’ve been armed with enough info from the responses I will be able to give it a go!

Angie briefly then took centre stage, talked through what was on the table and how it was made – then it was time to eat!!!

My particular favourites were a loaf (which I need to get the recipe written down for as I’ve ALREADY forgotten it) made predominantly from beans and rice and Angie’s absolutely divine mini quiches (Ham base in a fairy cake case filled with bacon, leek, quark and eggs) and some little meringue thingies – which just melted in my mouth for (a totally worth it) two syns!

People seemed to like my peppers too (including me I’m ashamed to say!) and I think I’ll definitely make them again.

I have to say the meeting was brilliant – absolutely my favourite of all so far.

Some people had big losses after working REALLY hard for the week and most others kept moving toward their goals. Even the ones who’d struggled that week looked happy after Angie had finished with them!

She really is rather a good egg. 🙂

Everyone today seemed in a really good mood as they left, and while clearing the hateful little red chairs with the others I spent a while chatting to one of the ladies about blogs and weight loss in general, which was really really nice – and she pointed me at another blog which I’ll have a look at later.

I have to say it was totally worth getting up early and making the effort. 

I’m beginning to realise that Saturday mornings is now part of my routine. Although I approach it with mixed feelings (either hope or trepidation and it’s never a pleasant moment stepping on the scales) it’s a positive and life affirming start to the week. We all get together and try to make sure no-one falls off the wagon and if they do they’re helped back on again.

As I left one of the girls said:

‘Remember Dave – even if you think you’ve f**ked it up then f**k it. Come anyway and get on the f**king scales.’

Honestly internet I couldn’t have put it f**king better my f**king self.

She speak a my language.

Davey

Gooseligans and fishcakes

‘Spend a bit more on a good cream.’ The GP said. ‘Spray on suntan lotion just comes off. You need a better brand – try Ambre Solaire.’

Honestly I had been trying to economise last week. Everything that I’m buying now represents money that I will not see replenished for a while so all of a sudden I’m Mr Frugal.

I’d bought some Sainsburys own brand sun tan cream – factor 50.

Shortly after weigh in last Saturday on a warm but overcast day I walked around the park for an hour in my cut price lotion.

The consequences a few hours later were not good. As the day wore on I realised that I’d burned. Burned unusually badly – even for me. I bought some Aloe Vera and covered my arms in it. It made no difference.

All I could do was scratch, and it was driving me crazy.

When I sat in work on Monday to hear the bad news it was still raw, and embarrassingly itchy and flaky. Since I was going to the doctor anyway to discuss my heel pain later that afternoon I also took the opportunity to mention my skin.

For this reason I now have unusually expensive suncream in my rucksack, and thank goodness for spending a few pounds extra. The sun got worse (I’m aware some may describe this as ‘better’ but not me) as the week wore on – and for once there were none of my preferred grey and overcast days.

I hid indoors because of my arms until Thursday and by then the problem seemed to be getting better. My right heel was also feeling good so I decided to cover myself from head to foot and head out in Arrow Valley for a walk around the lake.

When I arrived the park was buzzing. As I locked my car and started my walk meter app a small army of mothers emerged from a fleet of mini vans and SUV’s. They were heading out en masse (it seemed like some kind of club) with prams and toddlers, ensuring that if nothing else most of the benches would be filled up for the majority of the way.

However as it was a nice day I decided that if I was thwarted by the presence of alien bottoms at my usual pit stops I’d just sit on the grass instead.

The floor however was full as well to begin with – but not with the outward bound moms.

Unlike Warwick, Arrow Valley has no swanlings, but there are some similarities between parks. Like the pigeons in Warwick the geese appear to have recently been engaging in sexy time.

Lots of sexy time.

They are EVERYWHERE.

They also have a slightly more ‘Redditch’ attitude – and despite following everyone that looked like they were in possession of a loaf there appeared to be a hardcore of hissing and quite annoyed ‘Gooseligans‘ that were doing nothing but trying to intimidate their benefactors (and the poor ducks) by hissing and pecking at them.

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Redditch goslings look cute but given that they all seem to be growing up to be vicious little f*****s I think I prefer Warwick Swanlings.

Otherwise the walk was lovely – but tiring. As well as sweating so much I turned my entire shirt a shade darker than it was when I began, I managed to hurt an entirely new muscle group in the front of my right thigh.

Lord knows what it’s called but I am now 100% sure how it feels when you pull it. However – its embarrassingly close to my man parts, so for the time being I’ll just ignore it in line with established male medical practices and wait until something falls off.

It took slightly longer than last time – but it was HOT and I spent a while being harassed by geese.

Overall however the GP recommended suntan cream proved to be a resounding success and despite my sweaty demeanour it had somehow remained in place. My arms looked an odd (healthy?) shade of brown today rather than my usual ‘bright red and burned‘ or ‘albino bubble boy‘ looks.

When I got back to work from the park I was the only one there. So many people have changed shifts for job interviews, exams, training, fallen sick or had holiday booked etc that there was simply no-one in the office but me.

I’ve never had that happen before. It was quite sad.

I looked around the room (which holds about 150 people), initially amazed to see it so quiet, and then decided that the best thing to do would be to get my music out and put it on full blast.

When the evening shift arrived over an hour later I was still doing this – and a bemused pair of colleagues found me bopping along to Robert Palmer ‘Addicted to Love’ at my desk with a lack of shame only displayed by a man who thinks he is completely invisible to others.

After chatting briefly to them about the current state of affairs I left work for the day and entered a whole new level of stress.

There’s a food tasting session at the Slimming World group tomorrow and as well as my usual worries about weigh ins (I think I might have put weight on this week and I’m crapping myself) I have absolutely no idea what to cook.

Through yesterday evening and today I’ve been agonising over what people might like, how to present it (I’ve never made finger food!) and what to take it in.

I was discussing it this evening with a fellow (very supportive) dieter at work – and thought I’d hit the nail on the head with him.

Initially I had settled on fishcakes – and he liked the idea. We had looked at the picture in the SW magazine together and they did indeed look pretty.

However after 45 minutes in Sainsburys this evening trying to decide which fish to use (the one in the recipe was apocalyptically expensive) and in what quantities (how many would I need?!) I decided against it.

Plus I had no idea how big to make the fishcakes – and if I made them a lot smaller would the cooking time vary?

Arrrrrrgh!!! I’m almost the only guy there and if I turn up with tiny squares of beans on toast in fairy cake cases with a swirl of HP sauce I’ll look like a complete nugget!

Thankfully I bought enough ingredients to do a couple of things and I’ll get up early tomorrow to make a start on one of them. Inspiration will have to wait until the morning. Necessity will be the mother of invention.

Although… I think I’ve settled on stuffed peppers.

No. Wait. Fishcakes.

No. No. Stuffed peppers.

Gnnnnghhh!

Dammit internet- you’re no help!!! You’re supposed to be telling me what I should make!

I guess tomorrow morning I’ll just have to wing it. Tune in tomorrow for the post carnage report.

Davey

What do I love?

I struggled to focus yesterday – and my mind was in a million different places (or so it seemed) all at once.

I started the day cooking. Cooking lots. Three meals at once. This was a sure sign that hunger was on my mind and that I was in a danger zone.

Truthfully I’d been in one all week. The stress of life has made me want to eat anything not nailed down – particularly sweet things which is very unlike me.

I’d had a lot of nightmares, woken up stressed and thinking about food.

If I pre-prepared everything for the day, measured it, boxed it and put it in my rucksack then I’d be safe. Failure would be impossible.

Firstly I prepared my oats – a Slimming world favourite of mine. 35g of rolled oats are classed as a healthy extra, and I mix them in a tupperware box with natural yogurt, cinnamon, Truvia, strawberries and blueberries. They’re delicious, natural, and waaaaay better than a bowl of crappy coco pops.

Ok – breakfast done. The first box is ready.

Then I turned my attention to the stir-fry, which was already taking shape on the hob. 

Lean pork strips and a bag of pre prepared stir fry with additional soy sauce and a couple of cloves of garlic.

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This would see me through work until the evening – and the protein would keep me feeling full. I stirred the contents of the large frying pan and added a bit more soy sauce.

Hmmm. I might need a snack.

I picked a chilled red apple from the fridge and placed it in my bag.

OK – what about my evening meal….

I couldn’t come home hungry. I’d be chewing the door to get into the kitchen otherwise.

I would fill the slow cooker – that makes a bowl and a half of something or other.

Curry – I’d do a chicken balti stew and use my new measuring spoons for the curry paste. That’s 2 syns measured and accounted for.

I got my spoons on eBay. They’re magnetic, stick together – and the red matches my crockery. 

I really like them!

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I’ve never before owned a measuring spoon – and certainly not a tablespoon. Honestly I wonder who does as I’ve never seen them in anyone’s kitchen but they seem omnipresent in almost all recipes.

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I finished filling the slow cooker with ingredients, turned it to low, boxed up my stir fry, wrapped several carrier bags around my tupperware to avoid leakage, placed them in my bag, and made my way to the car, and then work.

As the day wore on I talked to many colleagues while they milled in and out of the office for their appointments with HR. They’ve all asked me and themselves the same question.

‘What are you planning to do next?’

Some have pre-prepared and surprising answers, ranging from chainsaw wrangling to HGV certification. Others feel they will waste a lifetime of study if they change professions and are laser focused on finding something as close as they can to the current status quo. Some still want to pursue roles that may be available in other parts of our company.

There isn’t a unifying response.

At the moment I can’t answer for myself and what I want. I’ve tried a few times – but when the question is asked it ultimately leaves a void hanging in the air that doesn’t currently seem to be fillable.

It’s awkward.

As I type though I’m struck by the fact that I seem to have come full circle since my very first blog post. When I wrote it I was preoccupied with the question ‘What do I love?’

At the time I couldn’t answer.

The question had been gnawing at me for a long time and had made me realise that my life was largely superficial. 

I liked many things but loved nothing. The way I lived had numbed me to most of what surrounded me.

Honestly although some parts of me still feel that way from time to time I definitely feel like I’m different now. 

Not just physically, but mentally.

Although it’s nice to know people read my blog (and I like it to be interesting) I never really set out to do anything other than prove to myself that after years of simply consuming the work and content of others I could once again create something and sustain that creativity.

As life moved on so has my blog. In a relatively short space of time it changed from being about dropping out and getting a dog to facing up to a long term problem with alcohol and the death of my mother. I used it to confront my feelings about these in much the same way as I would use a mirror to come to terms with my reflection.

The act of editing, spell checking, re-writing and trying to ensure honesty has in the past left me exhausted. 

Clicking ‘publish’ when everything is linked to Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Facebook can sometimes be quite daunting. People you have never met will sometimes see you at your worst and once you have presented this version of yourself then it can’t be taken back.

It’s out there. (cue spooky music)

My diarising has moved recently to another battle – this time with weight, and the theme has become one which I am intensely uncomfortable with – physical fitness.

This is something that I’ve always felt out of place talking about (I still more often than not feel like a failure and a fraud even with minor successes) but like everything else I’ve experienced, the revelation I’m faced with is not that I’m unusual, but how much like everyone else I am.

Funnily enough, they’re also a lot like me. We all periodically struggle for one reason or another and we all feel frail from time to time.

Writing about this has often brought people into my life that I didn’t know who have shared similar experiences, or just feel like they’re also struggling. 

Because I’ve been open they have been kind enough to do the same with me – and often what’s been shared has been truly humbling. The more honest I am, the more people comment or directly share their experiences with me – and the closer I have become to many of them.

I never realised before I started writing that there was a wall around my life, and the world was standing right behind it – within touching distance.

I think what I’m trying to say is that today – amongst all the questions about what to do with my life I realised that I can now say that I have something that I love in my life, and that’s writing.

I think about it all the time, and I now look forward to it as an act of combined creation and therapy. It’s made me think differently about everything and look for the simple things in situations that can enable me to describe how they make me feel.

For a while I tried to use mindfulness to relax, but now I use the structure of words, sentences and paragraphs in my head to bring order and calm. If you see me drift off it’s highly likely I’m considering how I would write about whatever is happening around me.

Every moment has become part of of the creative process, and I cannot imagine at the moment how I ever lived without writing about my thoughts and my life – good or bad.

 Internet – even if this isn’t what I end up doing for a living it really doesn’t matter, because I now know the answer to my question. 

I have two things I now love.

Writing and honesty.

Dave 

Moobs

The other half live pretty well by all accounts.

If the Bupa clinic I was sitting in was anything to go by then life in the healthcare private sector was both financially rewarding and relaxed.

Faced with a choice of several exceptionally swanky looking seats when I arrived in reception I chose one of two striped sofas in the corner with a head height back and arms.

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I sat myself down gingerly (things tend to unexpectedly break with me if i’m not careful) but I needn’t have worried.

This felt gooooood. It was sturdy and comfortable! I liked this sofa. I could snuggle up in it and the world couldn’t see me. It was great!

I looked at the selection of magazines on the coffee table.

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Uh-Oh.

This appeared to be unfamiliar territory. I had never heard of either of these publications.

I needed to be careful not to betray myself. They mustn’t find out that I was a commoner. I mustn’t seem overly impressed.

Play it cool Dave.

‘I like your sofa!’ I shouted to the receptionist, who was out of sight on the front desk.

‘It’s got really high arms!’ I said, checking around me in case anyone could see me before I bounced up and down on it. ‘And its springy too!!’

‘Thank you.’ The receptionist replied, shuffling my paperwork before calling me over to sign it.

I’d booked myself in for a health MOT to see whether my efforts with Slimming World were making any difference, particularly to my diabetes.

Two years ago I’d refused to do this when asked to because I couldn’t face up to the truth. Now I was trying to think differently.

‘Your nurse – Emma – will be with you in a minute.’ The receptionist told me.

I returned to my place of rest, moved the coffee table to the right, extended and crossed my legs, sank into the sofa, folded my arms and looked at my surroundings. I was early for my appointment and I might as well relax and take in the luxury.

Beside me were rows of shiny light green doors, all a perfect uniform colour – each with their own room number etched onto a brushed aluminium plate. If Ikea made hospitals – this is the kind of hospital it would make.

Later than expected Emma arrived to find me half asleep and cordially greeted me with a handshake before leading me upstairs. On the way the young nurse discussed what my health check (paid for by my soon to be no more company health plan) would entail and started asking the first of many important and searching questions.

‘Do you want a wee?’ She asked.

‘Ummmm…’ I answered.

‘If you can do me one I can test it.’ she said – handing me an impossibly small sample container with a smile.

‘It needs to be mid-stream.’

‘I think I might struggle at the moment.’ I admitted – immediately knowing I’d be unable to produce anything of value working to a deadline.

‘No problem. Would you like water?’ She said – already pouring me a large glass from the tap.

She turned and handed it to me.

I played it cool again.

‘Your glasses are green – just like the doors!’ I said.

‘Yes.’ she replied and led me a the room, ushered me in and motioned to a comfortable fabric seat.

‘AND the chairs are green as well!’ I enthused.

‘Yes. They all match.’ She agreed.

‘AND the walls!’ I said, pointing at the wall.

‘You’d be really screwed if I had a phobia of green things!’

‘Yes. We would.’ She smiled.

I think I pulled it off. Casual and worldly. Nailed it.

The exam began. We started with an ECG.

‘We’ve had problems with this today.’ she confided. ‘Its hot and the pads aren’t sticking. People are all sweaty.’

Sure enough, nothing stuck. Little sticky pad after little sticky pad fell to the floor or flopped onto the gurney. Sweaty is clearly my super power.

I suggested surgical tape – but she looked crestfallen and said that she had none and that more drastic measures were needed. She leaned over me and produced a small plastic safety razor from the drawer.

‘Is it ok if I shave you?’ She asked.

‘Ummmm… OK…’ I replied.

I learned later when she took blood and sellotaped cotton wool to my arm that this was a convenient fabrication and there was tape. I now realise that this was instead an excuse to shave a trench between my moobs (much to her amusement) and give me an incredibly itchy (and messy) landing strip…

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(please forgive the borderline pornographic and arousing nature of this intimate photography)

After this ritual humiliation my blood pressure was investigated with not one but two cuffs – and then followed by blood tests.

Emma hinted at my sample jar but I shrugged. Wee was still a distant dream. We ploughed on regardless.

Soon she went to collect my results. I was hopeful for a win from the efforts over the last two months with Slimming World – and keen to see the current state of affairs. Pleasingly my blood sugars appear to be more under control than they were in January when I was drinking like a fish and eating like a pig.

My Hba1c test shows 51 mmol/mol, which is a lot better than the last time it was tested. An HbA1c level of 48 mmol/mol or above indicates type 2 diabetes, so I’m now just above the minimum amount classified as diabetic. When I was first diagnosed and my levels were at their peak I was pissing like a racehorse every 30 mins and it was 96 mmol/mol.

My blood pressure is also good – resting at 112/72 mmHg meaning I’m firmly in the green. On occasion in the past this has crept up – and since I got told I was being made redundant yesterday I’m pretty pleased that I’m this chilled 🙂

Cholesterol however is not so great. I’d decided a few weeks ago (after reading about Statins and their relationship with diabetes) to stop taking the Simvastatin prescribed by my GP and see if my healthy eating would have the positive impact that I was hoping for.

Sadly it’s crept up without the pills and is now 6.57 mmol/L whereas I’d previously had it down to 4.1. Looks like I’m taking the pills again 😦

Oddly I’m also deficient in HDL cholesterol which is irritating because I’m eating oily fish like it’s about to disappear from the planet. Many Mackerel have fallen on my dietary sword lately, and it looks like many more more will have to in the future, along with increased volumes of nuts and seeds.

Tests have proven I also have excellent hearing – which will irritate my brother no end as I’m sure he thinks I’m deaf. I can now prove in arguments beyond any doubt that actually he talks really quietly!

Yay for science!

So – my efforts with Slimming World and elsewhere appear to be having benefits. I’m in a good mood about my Hba1c of 51 mmol/mol– and glad I had the tests. It’s good motivation to keep up with the exercise and the diet and keep moving onwards even if I hit a low week (so far this one has been tough on so many levels.)

Well internet – if you’ve managed to retain your lunch after looking at my moobs then I wish you all the best. You’re of hardy stock. Man cleavage will soon be a thing of the past however, so enjoy it while it lasts!

I will continue to waddle onward and upward (or maybe on the same level – verticality is very tiring).

Davey

Wallet wide open

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I hugged my curly colleague. I haven’t seen her for a while. We air kissed as we said hello (it’s how we roll) and both laughed.

She’s been on maternity leave for a few months and her hair looked different. Was it longer? Or was it just darker?

Darker I decided. It was a different shade. As always she was casually well dressed and looking both summery and relaxed. However – for her as well as the rest of us being in the office today wasn’t just a chance for reunion but also to discuss endings.

Forty nine people from different teams and shift patterns stood together in the same room for probably the first and last time as we all waited for our HR department and VP to arrive and give us details about what would happen to our jobs.

I looked around the largely empty room (so many have gone already – it used to be filled with life and energy) and I knew all of them by name.

I also know in a lot of cases the names of their wives and husbands – even the names of their children and siblings.

I remember some of them back when they had no significant other, and in the case of the ladies quite a few when they had different names.

I’ve seen them angry, sad, happy, bereaved, getting married, celebrating, commiserating, falling in love (sometimes with eachother), arguing, saying sorry, getting drunk, getting sober, working, playing, doing naughty things in Amsterdam and just generally being lovely people.

I could leave my wallet wide open on the desk in front of any of them and I’d come back a day later to find it exactly as I left it.

Many have offered me and eachother help in times of trouble and given liberally what they had to people who are in essence like family to eachother.

Out of work I know some of them as best friends – confidants who can be trusted with the most personal of secrets. They have shared their weaknesses and faults with me as I have shared mine with them.

They aren’t complete saints though. They’d all have stolen my milk from the fridge without blinking an eyelid.

When it comes to cow juice they all turn into cat burglars.

They’ve also led me astray in the past and on several vaguely remembered Christmas parties, weddings and in Dutch coffee shops (back when I partook of alcohol and cigarettes) we have encouraged each other to drink and smoke waaaay more than was a good idea.

We’ve also shared hangovers.

All of these thoughts and more crowded into my mind in one go, and I instantly felt overwhelmingly and desperately sad.

I can get another job but I can’t replace these people. They’e all unique, and it feels right when they are all together like this.

The news was not good. Every last remaining part of my business unit in the UK was to be dismantled. In two months the office will be silent – the fridge empty and the non existent milk un-pilferable.

My curly colleague (who used to delight in bringing order to this often chaotic communal penicillin factory) will have to focus on her own fridge, and not the one in our rest room.

Initially the reaction was quiet. Some hushed whispers behind me voiced dissent in angry tones, others eventually asked blunt questions and queried the wording of the news.

Some challenged the wisdom behind the decision – others asked whether there was any chance the company would change its mind.

There would be no reprieve, came the answer – and no stay of execution.

Some ‘lucky’ people may (they said) be able to transition elsewhere in different parts of the business but it was made clear that such positions were few and far between and no preferential treatment would be given.

The vast majority of us therefore (if not all) would have to hand back company property, clean our desks and go in under two months. In the meantime it would be business as usual – although I’m really not sure what ‘usual’ is now.

Everyone seems to have had the stuffing knocked out of them. Myself included.

So – that’s that. I’ve zero interest in staying to be screwed over further down the line and I’m not convinced I could stay even if I wanted to.

This it seems is an end to it, and we will all have to decide individually what to do next.

Thankfully an end these days isn’t what it once was. Facebook exists, e-mail exists, mobile phones, text messages and chat apps exist. People don’t loose contact any more – or disappear like they used to when I was younger.

We all have a digital presence and since we’re all already connected I dearly hope that we manage to remain in contact – and occasionally meet up as a group to remember the good times.

Although it might not seem like it today – there were a lot over the years and I wish there had been time for more of them. Maybe before we go our separate ways we will manage to fit in a few new memories to take with us on our travels.

Hopefully when the day finally comes it will all end with a smile and not with sadness.

Davey

Burned but virtuous

It’s Sunday – a day of rest.

I in contrast feel like I should be doing anything but resting.

I’ve spent most of my adult life doing nothing but sitting, sleeping, sitting some more, lying down and just generally avoiding the world.

Today though my body is betraying me.

Honestly I think it owes me more than a bit of payback given the abuse I’ve subjected it to over the decades. Today though it’s making up for past insults in spades. As well as chronic heel pain my sensitivity to sun is beginning to become a problem as the weather improves.

Despite having factor 50 in the car and the house just in case – and liberally covering myself in it before going outside or driving to work I burn so easily that in the past it’s continually stopped me from going out at all.

Yesterday a journey around the park with a cloudy, rather than blue sky (liberally covered in sun tan lotion) resulted in seriously burned and now swollen and flaking arms. This happened regardless of the lashings of aloe vera I covered them with when I realised how bad it was.

Needless to say my willingness to go for walk today or mow my lawns in the currently blue and very sunny environment outside is greatly diminished, and I feel it’s really unfair.

I only have one long sleeved item of clothing that fits and it’s a fleecy hooded top, which is not ideal to mow the lawn or walk in on a hot summer day. Even in the winter thanks to my excess timber it makes me feel hot and sweaty.

I feel I should get something new but then I stop myself before I do.

I don’t want to buy more huge clothes at the moment because frankly I don’t intend to need them much longer. I have suitcases full of nice shirts and jeans of all sizes and I plan to use them again one day soon.

Plus, knowing the UK as soon as I buy long sleeved tops the sun will disappear.

Not so long ago bravado and an unwillingness to change my habits often found me telling others that I hated gardening, the outdoors and exercise – and that they were for other people – not me.

Underneath my smokescreen however was someone that loves the (shady parts of the) outside world, and gets immense pleasure from nature – even if it does currently wear him out.

At least now I feel the impetus to be different – and that’s something thats worth holding onto, even if at the moment I can’t go outside.

I did recently look into the cost of joining a local gym (shady environment), but honestly with redundancy coming up I’m more focused on saving money than adding to my bills.

I just cancelled Netflix for heavens sake and that’s only £7.50 a month!

Nuffield Health locally is £69pm!!! There are other cheaper ones like Living Well at the Hilton – but that’s still £20pm.

Plus I have a gym quality exercise bike at home.

Also, the last time I was a member of a gym I joined to meet people with a similar mindset for camaraderie and realised the hard way that no-one talks to anyone in such places unless they can absolutely help it.

They put on headphones and they’re focused on the task at hand. They absolutely do not make eye contact, unless they’re in the changing rooms and then they wander around with their dangly bits swinging back and forth talking incessantly about work.

Not really my scene.

Plus I’d rather walk outdoors than on a hamster wheel. Its free and when I’m not burning I like it.

As I can’t do this today I’ve taken my mind off things with some nice coffee, a bit of writing and some cooking.

My virtuous food choices since my weigh in have been excellent ones. Despite being peeved with my 1lb loss I haven’t screwed the pooch and I’ve stuck to the Slimming World plan.

Yesterday evening I had a fruit and vegetable salad, and for the very first time combined  an orange with an apple, tomatoes, carrots, peppers and lettuce in the same bowl – with surprisingly good results.

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I’ve never put an orange into any kind of salad – but I’m now left wondering why!

Aside from a dash of cider vinegar the food didn’t really need dressing as the orange and the apple did all the heavy lifting, adding a citrous and tangy twist to what would otherwise have been a mundane collection of vegetables.

This morning, breakfast (originally intended to be a bacon, egg and lettuce toasted sandwich) was a Quorn stir-fry.

I know it’s an odd choice of food for the start of the day, but (inspired by a lady at slimming world talking about throwing everything she could find in soup on Saturday) I decided to cook everything I had left before my shopping delivery arrived and clean the remnants out of the fridge.

Carrots, broccoli, chestnut mushrooms, courgette, garlic, Quorn, soy sauce and some (slightly floppy) coriander all combined to make a rather tasty start to the day with absolutely tons of ‘speed’ food.

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I’m beginning to like the idea of having more meat free meals – which previously I’ve not thought highly of. Occasionally having entirely vegetable based dishes is a great way I think to accelerate my objectives.

I don’t want to cut meat out entirely though – just have a better balance.

At the same time I made this I thought it would be a good idea to pop some ingredients into my slow cooker (new favourite toy!) and make something for later in the evening.

Although most things start off in the slow cooker looking decidedly average they seem to end the day tasting completely awesome! I honestly can’t believe I never bought one before!

(Well – technically I still haven’t as this one was gifted to me almost brand new by a very generous friend)

At 12.30pm approx the slow cooker took on board some cubed lean casserole steak, a potato, mushrooms, an onion, a carton of chopped tomatoes, a beef stock cube and some garlic. I set it to high and completely forgot about it.

In fact I only remembered it was there shortly before 7pm when a heavenly smell drew me to the kitchen. The vegetables now looked like a rich ragu and the beef was simply falling apart on my spoon.

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In the past when I’ve cooked these kinds of things on a hob they’ve always stuck to the pan and there’s been endless stirring involved. At the risk of using a pun, its ‘driven me potty.

Nothing could be further from this sour experience than my wonderful new toy. It’s also a doddle to clean – which is a major win!

So today hasn’t been a total bust. Plus I now have all the ingredients needed for the first of two new salmon dishes I intend to cook from scratch this week. Angie has been at pains to remind everyone that eating the same stuff over and over will not result in weight loss – and I’m trying to have as much variety as I can.

Sigh.

Oh well – tomorrow is another (hopefully less sunny) day and I’m sure I’ll feel less itchy at least.

Emotionally however things may be not so ok, as the entire office (including all of the shift workers who are normally on nights or on days off ) are being summoned by HR to hear the company’s plans to streamline the business.

We’ll no doubt delight in how they plan to pay shareholders fatter dividends whilst at the same time removing the cumbersome burden of employing us.

Internet – its going to be wonderful – I just know it.

For the time being I must go to bed, despite knowing I will not sleep.

Bon Nuit.

Davey

It will just take a little time.

While in Starbucks yesterday I was seated next to an old man.

When I arrived at my seat he was by the window, in a chair that if I’m honest I’d have preferred instead of the one I sat in just opposite him.

He had a better view.

I looked around for another similar chair – but none were available. I’d have to make do with one by the wall.

He wasn’t drinking anything, and I assumed that someone was waiting in the queue to get drinks for him, but as time went on no drinks arrived. He was just quietly sitting there.

He was slenderly built, had dark thick rimmed glasses and neatly combed silver (not white) hair. The collar of his white shirt was unbuttoned, and over the top of it he wore a blue v-neck pullover with grey slacks and black polished shoes.

His freckled hands were resting, one on top of the other on the table in front of him, and his attention was on the car park. He seemed serene and peaceful, and while I worked on my laptop he made no movements that I noticed or said anything.

Instead he continued to watch the passing and parking cars and the people seated outside his window.

About half an hour into my stay an elderly lady arrived and with her back to me she began talking quietly to him. I couldn’t hear the words but she clearly seemed intent on privacy.

She then stepped back from his seat very slightly and out of the corner of my eye I saw him grasping shakily on the side of the table, which moved as he tried to lift himself from the chair. He steadied himself against the window and tried to rise.

The table moved a bit more and he sat back down firmly in the chair.

The lady stayed still, her arms slightly outstretched.

‘I can do it.’ I heard him say firmly but quietly to the elderly lady standing in front of him.

‘I know you can.’ She replied in a hushed voice, now shielding any view of him from the rest of the coffee shop with the angle of her body, but still not touching him.

As I looked at her from behind I doubted she could have lifted him or caught him. She was very slender, and looked quite frail.

Again he grasped the round table in front of him and leaned against the window with his right arm, raising himself from the dark brown wooden chair.

The small table again moved, and with nothing to hold on to on the side of the window he slipped and again sat down heavily.

He sighed.

I turned to see if I could catch their eye. Neither were looking at me, and the lady was now leaning in closer to him, still whispering.

They continued to talk quietly for a few minutes and he didn’t attempt to stand again.

‘Can I help?’ I asked in a hushed voice behind them. ‘I don’t want to get in the way if you want to do it yourself, but if you need help I can give you an arm.’

I was acutely aware that just by saying this I risked his humiliation – and I was probably the very type of person his wife was trying to help him avoid, but I found it impossible to not say anything.

‘No thank you’ he said, leaning forward and looking around his wife. ‘I’m OK but thank you for asking. It will just take a little time.’

‘Ok no problem.’ I said ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking – I just felt I needed to offer.’

I turned my attention back to my laptop and carried on typing, trying to ignore his continuing struggle out of the corner of my eye.

Over the course of a few minutes, with the gentle encouragement of (I assume) his wife, the man eventually managed to get upright, and stood to the right of me with one hand resting on the coffee table.

His wife started walking back toward the supermarket. As she moved away he turned to face me, standing upright.

‘I keep falling over.’ he said quietly when she was out of earshot.

“It’s silly really. I’ve been walking all day and I’ve been fine. At home I can get about OK – I know all of the rooms and I move about fine. Here, its different. It’s silly really.’

‘I understand.’ I replied. ‘I know what it’s like to worry about where you’re going and where you will sit.’

I looked him in the eye. ‘It’s not easy.’ I said. ‘I understand how you feel.’

I smiled – trying to absorb his embarrassment and make him feel he wasn’t alone, but it didn’t seem to be working. He still seemed like he needed to explain.

‘It’s silly really.’ He said again, now looking a bit sad. ‘There’s no problem at home. I used to be fine…’

He went quiet and looked after his wife, who was now out of sight.

‘Well you’re up now’ I smiled again ‘and it’s a nice day out there!’

He looked outside and nodded, then looked back at me with a slight smile.

‘Thank you.’ he said, and then turned to follow his wife.

I watched him as he walked away from me just in case – but he was right. He was walking just fine, and looked perfectly steady.

I’m not sure why early in the morning I’m still awake and still thinking about this man – or why I’ve been playing this brief conversation and meeting over and over in my head.

He looked like a nice guy, and his wife (or friend) looked like she cared about him. They were getting old together, and she wanted to shield him from embarrassment – whereas he just wanted to be the man he had always been – and be confident in his surroundings.

I can definitely relate to him, and his wife – and I also admire his dogged determination.

Even when it would have been easier and safer for me to lift him out of his seat he chose the difficult and scary alternative. He lifted himself, and stood up under his own steam, in his own time, and then walked off, un-compromised and unaided.

Maybe he should have accepted my help, but (although I’m glad I offered it) I’m glad he didn’t take it. He remained an independent man for another day, and in doing so lodged himself in my thoughts.

Davey