Christmas Tree revisited

This may sound silly but although I make up titles for my blogs on the fly I rarely forget them. To me they’re often quite prescient and are rarely disposable words that mean nothing.

Sometimes I can hide things in plain sight with them and their meaning is only 100% obvious to someone in the know – because they’ve been lifted from a conversation and are openly private.

Someone I’ve known very well for many years does the opposite to me and always creates his titles before the content underneath – however for me the process is different. Usually I let creativity take its course and decide upon one at the end of writing a post. Consequently they’re typically based on what I consider to be the most important item of content and more often than not seem to fit.

One that I think I’ll never forget is called ‘Christmas Tree‘ (link).

If you want to have a look I’ll wait.

I’m in no rush.

Help yourself (sips coffee).

No – seriously – the rest of what’s coming will make more sense if you do.

(Sips coffee again)

Ok – now you’re all caught up I’ll continue.

This blog has undeniably been an extremely useful tool, because it’s not only helped me change my life, but it’s given a voice to many of the thoughts that I’ve experienced along the way and (on rare occasions) it’s also inspired true transformative change in others.

From time to time I get messages from people, just like me, who were lost and then found themselves again. They tell me that they managed to turn things around because they read about a man that had achieved something incredible – and that when he started he too didn’t believe he could accomplish what he ultimately did.

As they quietly followed what he wrote (never telling him that they were watching) they too realised that no-matter how bad thing had become, or how low they felt they’d sunk change was still possible.

It’s nice to think that words I’ve written have impacted, or even in a couple of cases changed lives for the better.

It’s extremely gratifying.

Up to the end of my last post (according to my cumulative stats) I’ve written a mind boggling 857,693 words on this site.

To put that in context Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace contains a mere 587,287 (link).

I’ve almost written as many words as JK Rowling did for the entire Harry Potter series!!!


Sadly mine have not yet proved anywhere near as lucrative – so I guess volume isn’t the only skill to work on if you want to make yourself rich with writing.

Even though there are a lot of my words out there they’ve all individually been very important to me at one time or another and they have taken many hours of agonising about where they sit in sentences to produce.

However, even after all that effort I feel I have to give them away to ‘the internet’ and I genuinely feel purged when I do.

Once they’re in a blog I just fling them out into the ether and the relief I experience is palpable – but I never know what will happen to them and can only hope that they’re received positively.

Sometimes they provoke comment, but at times there’s complete silence. Once in a blue moon (wonderfully) they change others – but occasionally (even more wonderfully) they can also change me.

My Christmas Tree post was just such an occasion – because it marked a turning point where a passing acquaintance (whom I met at Cheddar Gorge partly because I was looking for something to write about – link) decided to reach out to me.

I was in a moment of personal crisis and on that day I felt like an open wound.

I was alone and also in the process of realising that I was truly lonely. It had taken me many years to admit this to myself, and when I did the realisation hit me like a brick in the face.

Worst of all (despite trying) I felt completely incapable of fixing the problem.

In my head I was sure that I carried with me such huge volumes of baggage regarding the past that I was completely unlovable. I had no idea how to explain to someone new in my life who I was, why I was so physically scarred or how things had spiralled so out of control for me.

Every time I had attempted to it left me feeling diminished and broken.

How had I become this man and why would somebody want to inherit the wreckage that was left?

most hated photo 2 (1)

How do you spin the narrative behind a picture depicting a man so vast?

When you’re a your lowest and you can’t see things for what they though are a blog can be useful. They’re two way streets – and sometimes when you need it the most a voice reaches out in the darkness. You’ve touched them somehow and they need to tell you that something you’ve said has resonated with them.

Or they want to help.

After writing about my tree I drove to a friend’s house, and on the way I did something unusual.

I screamed.

I did so until my voice broke and I couldn’t speak properly. I did so until the pain of loneliness seemed less and the frustration it caused was reduced.

I felt in that moment like everything I’d done to lose weight had been a waste of time. It all meant nothing. It didn’t resolve anything. It just made me like everyone else – but instead I was now decades behind everyone I knew and alone.

While I was busy screaming I received a message from the person I’d met in Cheddar. She was complimenting me on my Christmas tree, and ended her text with ‘You are welcome to call whenever you want a chat x’.

At the time it barely registered but I mentioned it to my friend when I arrived.

This was lost in anger though. I instead spent far more time ranting about how I felt regarding several other texts I’d received (from elsewhere) and why they were the cause of my screaming.

As I blew off steam over a cup of coffee in his living room I was completely focused on how much pain I was feeling rather than on a random message out of the blue.

He let me vent and then pointed out that the wording seemed kind and that I should pay attention to it.

Maybe I should even reply to it?

He made me promise that I would and so (while talking to him) I fired off a quick thank you note.

Once this was done he made me agree (and contacted me the next day to ensure that I was complying) that I would follow it up and get to know the person at the other end a bit better.

He couldn’t have known at the time how much difference that would make to my life.


It turned out that this person, concerned for my well being, and reaching out to help someone in pain that she had begun to get to know through the words of his blog was my partner to be.

My blog had not only caused our first meeting, but had also enabled her to get to know me better, to decide whether or not she liked me and whether I was worth developing a friendship with. Everything changed that day – and as we gradually got to know eachother better the completely unexpected happened.

We found love.

My other half has a way with words too – and she often says things casually that end up sticking with me for a long time.

One of the most memorable was when (chatting about the circumstances in which we finally connected) I complained about how difficult it was to find anyone on a dating site.

It all seemed endlessly superficial – and all of the swiping left or right just reduced it to a volume based looks contest, meaning what you wanted from a life partner got lost in the need to scroll though thousands of pictures and reduced to thoughts about who had nice teeth or pleasing hair.

Even if you managed to get someone to respond things didn’t get better.

‘Often…’ I whinged ‘…people leave the truth about themselves out of their profiles and don’t tell you the full story until you’re already talking to them.’

‘They say that they’re single and without strings when actually they have an ex still on the scene with lots of children, or fib that they’re a social drinker when actually they consume a bottle of wine a night, or are homey when in fact they appear to be married to their career and will only be able to see you once in a blue moon.’

I sighed deeply.

‘I’m so glad I randomly found you face to face because I could never have waded through person after person on a website until you popped up.’

She laughed.

‘I couldn’t have used a dating site.’ She said.

I looked at her quizically. ‘No?’ I replied.

‘No – because even if I’d written down everything that I’d wanted to find it still wouldn’t have worked.’

I waited.

The punchline was coming.

‘I didn’t know what I wanted until I found all of the things I didn’t know I needed in you.’ She said whilst looking me in the eye.

The memory of these words still put a lump in my throat because I knew when she said this that she’d somehow managed to reach down deep inside me and pull my own thoughts out that I didn’t realise were there and give them form.

She was right.

The profiles I’d created and persons that I’d looked for were not her.

They weren’t even close.

Like many of us the mistakes we make are not based on us looking for what we really need – but what we think we want – when the two are often completely different.

I’d been so preoccupied with finding and fixing what had gone wrong in the past when I’d created dating website profiles that I’d missed who I was in the present. I’d failed to recognise what a man who was now very different to his younger self needed from a partner.

I know now.

At times I feel like I’m looking in a mirror when I stare at her – and it’s scary how alike we can be in so many ways.

As much as I’ve learned about how (and why) she ticks I’ve also learned about myself – and in the past year I’ve had to re-write much of my own internal narrative.

This is because I’m now being viewed through the lens of someone that loves and cares for me and this continually forces me to re-appraise my perception of myself. I can’t spout bullshit about being a bad person, tell her that I’m not worthy, or that I’m a failure without a swift incoming reality check, and I don’t allow her to do similar things.

When we see the worst in ourselves we also simultaneously see the best in eachother.

She’s made me realise with patience and compassion what’s possible between two people – and I’m amazed that I never understood the depth of it before.

To think it all began with some Cheddar and a Christmas Tree.

Here’s to the next year together and to many many more anniversaries after that.


Rage walking

I decided recently that I’d up the frequency of my posting again.

The truth is that I rarely run out of things that I want to explore in my mind – and writing my feelings down definitely results in a ‘release of pressure’ whenever I do it.

My blog means a lot to me partly because of this – but I also want it to be as authentic as humanly possible.

The biggest compliment I think I’ve been given regarding my blog (when I meet people for the first time in person) is that I sound the same in real life as I do on the page – and for me this equals success.

It means I’m being real and honest in everything that I write and for someone to ‘recognise me’ when I talk to them (after reading what I’ve written) is the highest form of flattery.

However in real life (just as with my blog) there are things that I often leave out of conversations.

I don’t want to appear miserable.

Self perception is a funny thing – and a long time ago I realised that although I considered myself a pragmatic realist others saw this as pessimism.

The flip side of this perspective is that these pessimists (realists?) can also consider optimists as deluded fantasists.

There’s no right or wrong way to think about things though and I’ve discovered the hard way that being relentlessly cheerful can cause just as much damage as being relentlessly negative.

If you don’t allow yourself to feel bad you can’t begin the process of dealing with whatever is getting you down.

I’m always hyper aware though that (in my view) I’m very much a down to earth realist and that my realism can often take the form of ‘expect the worst but hope for the best’.

To me it means not being wasteful with my resources or just expecting everything to go right – but I’m aware that it can also make me look more dour than Andy Murray talking about why he was beaten in a Wimbledon final.

I don’t like others to see my inner Murray and so (like most people I guess) I often self censor, so that my lows are mitigated in the eyes of those around me and I don’t get a reputation for being a miserable git.

This often means less blogs getting published – paradoxically at precisely the time I need to write more.

My recent spate of silence over the last few months has resulted from two things.

Firstly my personal life is very happy indeed – but it’s also quite private.

Secondly my work life is not so great.

The other issue is that the first point affects the second in a way that I really never expected it to before I was in a relationship. When I was single it was no-one’s business but my own if I couldn’t find my way in life and occasionally felt down about it.

If I couldn’t navigate through a down period then it only affected me and after a while it invariably sorted itself out.

Now (as well as being hyper critical of myself for my current inability to get the job I want) I have to navigate the guilt of how any moods I may experience in relation to this may affect someone else.

I want to be a productive and vital half of a couple, rather than someone that’s struggling and dragging someone else down.


Before anyone highlights what a muppet I am – and that this is all in my head, let me assure you that I’m not only aware of this but I’ve been told on many occasions by my significant other that I’m just fine the way I am and that I have to let other people support me in the same way that I do for them.

I’m loved and I’m no island – and I need to continually remember these things.

It’s tough though – especially when you get ignored by agencies and employers (I feel as if I may as well post my applications into a furnace at times) or get turned down again after a another lengthy interview for a job that you know that you could do standing on your head.

‘Thanks – but no thanks’ is becoming a familiar refrain and this week it’s been in my face continually.

It’s also now been joined by ‘over qualified‘ (just to add insult to injury).

This continuing state of affairs has really dented my mood – and I went from standing on the scales yesterday morning and seeing a 2lb loss (compared to last week) to eating like there was no bottom to my stomach throughout the whole of Friday and this morning posting a 1/2lb gain.

I could look at this one of two ways.

I could say that I’ve failed and hammer more mental nails in the coffin of my already potentially downbeat mood or I could look at it as two weeks where I’ve lost a combined total of 9lbs.

I’m trying really hard to maintain the latter perspective – but it’s not easy.

Normally I don’t suffer from nightmares – but the night of my second employer refusal of the week left me with a doozy and I’m still struggling to shake the feelings it dragged to the surface.

It was definitely allegorical – but I really didn’t have to peel much away in terms of subtext to find the true meaning behind it.

My ex-girlfriend from many years ago was front and centre – and wanted to finally gave me closure about something that had been bothering me for a long time.

The dreamed revelation she delivered (although almost certainly fictional) was a kick in the teeth.

It turned out that she’d lied to me about moving on, finding someone else and getting married shortly after we broke up.

Instead she’d said this because she didn’t want me in her life.

In her eyes I was a failure and consequently there was good reason to lie and make sure that I had no more to do with her. In her mind the best way to do this was invent a fictional marriage – so told me she that she was in love with someone else and moved on.

I was a liability to be cast aside.

This has always been something that’s loomed large in my head. I couldn’t be the man I am now back then and the guilt drove me into the ground for years.

In the dream I also noticed that her skin tone was changing – along with other physical attributes.

I realised with horror that she was beginning to look just like my current partner – and as the nightmare continued it became more about what I could lose in the present rather than what I’d already lost in the past.

I awoke breathless and sweating at 4am in the dark and cold of a frosty morning.

I was both distraught and muted. I didn’t feel able to answer when an arm reached around me and asked if I was ok – I just held on tightly and told myself over and over that none of it was real.

It upset me though – and left me with a huge sense of dread and loss all day long.

I proceeded to eat both of my conscious and unconscious feelings – and started with popcorn for breakfast.

You know that the day isn’t going well when you’ve nailed 2000kcal of popcorn before lunchtime. Several tonnes of salad, cottage cheese, ham and fruit later and I still felt no better.

The truth is that this week hasn’t really resembled last week in terms of eating. Toward the close of it I’ve definitely been relying on my exercise to keep things under control.

On Thursday (whilst driving home after meeting a lovely friend in Oxfordshire) I received a call.

On it I was turned down by an employer for the first of two times this week – and upon reaching my front door found myself both angry and willing to harm myself with food.

I stood looking at the contents of the fridge for a while…

Rather than eat myself silly I elected instead to go for a ‘rage walk’ – which turned out to be a six mile route march in the rain around the streets of Warwick and Leamington Spa.

It’s rare that I get out of breath or perspire while walking – but when I got back later that evening I was soaked from both the rain and my sweat.

On the plus side these days I’m capable of walking 15 minute miles continually for at least 6 miles.

On the negative side I felt like I had to because I knew what was coming later that evening – and I also knew that the chances of stopping it were practically zero.

I was planning to fill my face and I did.

So – that’s how I feel currently.

Hopefully I don’t come across as too miserable – and you’re not all thinking that you should untick the ‘subscribe’ button on WordPress or block me on Facebook.

If there is hope and happiness to be found inside my head today it’s contained within the knowledge that tomorrow is a special day – and despite how I may feel about my (lack of) employment there are far more important things in my life to focus on.

I’m still getting up every day and trying.

I’m still loving life and loving my ability to physically move through the world every singe day.

I’m still in a good place – and a couple of crappy days does not equal a life of failure or days that others will follow it.

Tomorrow is as yet unwritten and I aim to try bending it to my will, and making it a good one. In the meantime I’ll just keep on keeping on.


Starting somewhere leads to sudden inspiration

Who knows where inspiration and motivation come from? I certainly don’t because oddly when I’ve looked for it (and by this I mean the true change inspiring kind that lasts) I’ve rarely found it.

I remain convinced that (like the chicken and egg paradox) you can’t have inspiration without some element of forcing yourself into the mindset to begin with.

Once you’re on the cusp of belief, and the ball starts rolling then it becomes a self generating phenomenon, and quite out of the blue you start to look in the mirror, feel upbeat, have a spring in your step and realise that you’re making progress.

Since Saturday this is what I’ve been doing – and it might be because there’s a phrase that’s been ringing in my ears. It was something (almost throwaway) that my consultant Angie said to me in Slimming World that’s been playing over and over in my head.

I popped into another meeting yesterday, not to weigh in but to keep my head in the game.


Angie said to me in passing that I’m in a new phase of my life now, I’m happy and I’m settled, but that I haven’t yet found out what my new motivation is to stay at target – and that I just need to find something that works for me.

After the session ended I found myself walking and thinking about what she’d said.

My initial motivation to give up drinking in January 2016 (way before I joined Slimming World) was to be as unlike my mother as it was humanly possible to be. If I managed that then then the next thing on my list was to be was to still be alive afterwards.

The fact is I realised both objectives and more. I’m still here and I’m healthy (an emphatic tick in one box) and I’m also not a bitter, vindictive, manipulative or an isolated man (a tick in the other.)

The truth is though that whilst we may all arrive somewhere the journey is really only part of the experience. Settlers in a new land (after plonking down the contents of their wagons and pitching their tents) know instinctively that the process of remaining alive starts once they get to where they were going.

I would argue that it’s maybe the ability to survive upon reaching a destination that defines success rather than the difficulty of travelling from A to B – nomatter how epic the voyage was along the way.

Although I’ve always felt uneasy about the use of the ‘I’ word in the past to describe my path toward my target weight (link) I’ve also been very uneasy about people mentioning how incredible it was to lose 21st.

To be honest while I was doing it the numbers really didn’t mean much after a while. All I really cared about was that they were going in the right direction.


Although I visualised them at the start by comparing them to physical objects in the real world (my favourite at the 7 stone mark was a fridge freezer – link) the truth was that although it was initially helpful to visualise my losses as time went on it became more and more nonsensical.

I tried to use things like a boat trailer and a huge gold ring that weighed 10 stone for their shock value (link) but objects I found online to provide these material representations of my milestone losses became so far removed from my everyday reality that (impressive as they were) they quickly ceased to be much of a personal motivator.


By February 2018 I’d lost the weight of three fridge freezers or (rather mind bogglingly) two cement mixers (link) – but even now when I look at it knowing that it’s true such a thing doesn’t seem to be possible.

After a while it’s all just numbers, and nothing more.


Then all of a sudden (around the time of the cement mixer) the unexpected happened. For the very first time in my life I had people telling me that I looked too thin and making me promise not to lose any more weight.

Instead of people being worried I’d eat myself to death they actually appeared to be voicing concern that I may diet myself to an early grave instead.

What does someone who’s struggled with weight all his life do with being told he should relax and that he needs to put weight on?

Well – obviously he relaxes and takes his foot off the gas – which brings me back to my original point.

How do make sense of all this mental spaghetti, deal with a weight gain and find the inspiration to turn it around so that you are motivated again?

Where do the inspirational go when they need to be inspired?

Many many people have asked me (and I think this often comes from the perspective of someone that’s never been seriously obese) ‘what was the moment that you decided to change?’ or ‘what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?’

Whilst I can understand the reason people ask things like this (they want a simple answer about to how to kick start their own route to success most of the time – or they simply want to have a concise and easy to understand soundbite to help grasp the enormity of it all) the simple truth is that almost none of the physical issues I suffered prompted me to change.

It was not wanting to be like my mother that started the ball rolling.

This for me has always been an issue – because I began a very positive journey from a place of emotional pain, and instead of moving toward the light I was instead moving away from the darkness.

This is an important distinction – because I didn’t start out in 2016 with the positive ‘can do’ worldview I have (more often than not) these days. I wasn’t someone that could. I was someone that hated the alternative so much he slowly began to change.

If you want to see how bad my life got without me doing anything to reverse course then have a look at my nonscale victories (link) and you’ll see how much I was capable of putting up with at 35 stone.

The fact is that when people ask why I didn’t do anything sooner (and as MOTY they did – a lot) they imagine themselves, already well and mobile. Then in their mind’s eye overnight they become the moribund lump that I was and they can’t conceive of how they (I) wouldn’t suddenly say ‘that’s enough – no more – I’m changing!’

Often people who ask me this question fail to recognise that cumulatively we can bear a lot and soldier on because ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back‘ often never breaks it.

The camel (in this case me) just got slower and slower and suffered more and more each day, never truly realising how bad things had become. It just accepted that is its life was normal because its memories didn’t stretch back far enough to remember a time of comfort or happiness. Pain has become all it knew.

It couldn’t believe things were ever otherwise and because of this change seemed impossible and the status quo inevitable.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve always been worried that my motivation wasn’t ‘to be the best me I could ever be’ or to ‘awaken my giant within’ (I hate Anthony Robbins and his square jawed face that so readily invites a rapidly moving clenched fist).


I’ve always moved at light speed away from people like him.

You know…

The inspirational ones.

Maybe I’ve hit on another approach though – because in the absence of a stocky American in businesslike braces I think that the paradox of the chicken and egg is an important one for me to keep at the forefront of my mind.

Maybe there doesn’t have to be an answer or a motivator.

Maybe you just have to learn and accept that there are cycles.

Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. Sometimes you’re sad and at others you’re happy. Occasionally you’re rich and at other times you’re poor.

Life happens.

The trick is to remember that to recover from all such phases it takes is a starting point and a recognition that such periods are temporary. If you don’t start trying to be better or positive it’s highly likely that nothing on earth will make you that way. Even if people offer to help ultimately you have to be the one that wants it and chooses to accept it. In order for there to be happiness you have to create it or the conditions for it to arrive and then thrive.

Who knows where the first smile came from? They only seem to arrive when others smile at you first or do something to amuse you. I make a point of smiling at people to generate smiles in return because it makes me feel good – but I learned that behaviour from other people who did the same.

The first smile had to be created by someone somewhere – but where and how?

We’ll never know – and I will never know truly where inspiration (if there is such a thing rather then just a bunch of abstract moments and reactions) comes from – but I know that when I hit the swimming pool this morning I turned into a man on a mission.



Currently as I type (it’s almost 9pm) my Apple Watch reports that I’ve also walked 11.16 miles and burned almost 3800 active calories today. Crazily that puts my overall expendature for the day at almost 6000!!!

Honestly the last time I did something like that was when I climbed Mt Snowdon (link).


You might be worried that I’ve decided to go into austerity mode and starve or exercise myself to death in order to eradicate a gain – but nothing could be further from the truth. I really did’t intend to swim as far as I did until… well… I did.

I’m also cooking large, hearty meals that are full of speed and free foods for me and my other half. I’m just making sure that they’re all on plan and that they stop us craving the wrong things.

The point is I’m trying again and that alone makes me feel great.

Success is something else entirely and I just have to trust that this will eventually come if I keep working at it.

I can sense the self sustaining positivity starting to build and it’s a familiar and warm feeling that doesn’t involve me condemning myself or my inner monologue berating me for being a failure.

It’s almost positive enough to tell me that I look just fine in this photo taken before the ball last week with Alan Carr and Margaret Miles-Bramwell (which arrived today).


It doesn’t really matter that in the photo I’m above my target weight – or that I felt awful and had a burst blood vessel in my eye. Weight is all just a number really. As long as I’m healthy who cares what it is – and I’m also not stupid enough to think that anyone could tell any of that just by looking at this picture.

They just think it looks like a great photo.

I suppose I do too.

So – here’s to not tying myself in knots, trying hard to be better and getting a respectable loss to start the ball rolling in group next Saturday.


Groove in a Mercedes

As I begin this post it’s currently 6am.

Although there is rarely a brighter smile in the room during daylight hours it’s fair to say that my partner is not as ‘morning capable’ as I usually tend to be and as I type she is nursing a cup of tea next to me with her familiar ‘early doors’ expression.

It’s quite amusing when she’s of this persuasion though because I always enjoy the challenge of turning her frown upside down.

Since we pinkie promised to both have a specific loss this week on our Saturday weigh in (I opted for 3lbs) our joint objective is to go swimming in the morning three times this week to keep our activity levels up.

Body magic is important if you want to be slim and healthy and it’s not enough to just eat less.

My other half is totally in agreement with me – but at this time of day the well is often dry.

I’ve attempted to replenish it with her customary jump start (a cup of tea) and whilst I sip my double espresso I’m patiently waiting for ‘daytime mode’ to arrive.

For the time being while it gradually rumbles into the station I am periodically grinning like a loon and occasionally prodding her rib cage to provoke mirth.

I know.

I’m not irritating at all – just insanely loveable – and depending on how quickly she remembers this in the next five minutes I’ll either get a punch or a laugh.

One never can tell at 6am – but I’m feeling good either way because despite the cold and darkness outside we now have our costumes on under our clothes ready for walking straight into the pool when the doors of the leisure centre open at 6.30am.

(Author goes swimming and picks up the narrative a few hours later with yet another coffee)

As I blogged on Saturday (link) my drive is not YET where it needs to be with regard to weight loss – but I’m taking strides toward MAKING it that way.

It doesn’t happen by magic. You have to work at a good mood. Get one day at a time under your belt and gradually it gets easier.

As a starting point after my crappy weigh in Saturday turned out to be a good eating day – and I already felt less bloated when I went to bed.

I also managed to get a good (although it could have been better) amount of exercise in along with the right amounts and types of food.

Sunday however was rather epic.

Initially we had planned to do something else but instead opted to go for a long country walk.

The inspiration for this was mostly due to the weather.

Yesterday started as a lovely (but chilly) Autumn morning with barely a cloud in the sky and for the first time in living memory it wasn’t chucking it down with sideways rain.

Rather than going for a swim where we couldn’t spend quality time together (or natter endlessly) I could introduce my partner to a part of Warwickshire that she’s not yet seen.

I’m gradually helping her get the lay of the land in her new surroundings and instead I took her to explore around the back of Hatton.

The route we took led us through some lovely green spaces and then down to the cafe at the top of Hatton Locks (where we stopped for a cuppa) before threading its way back along the Grand Union canal and into Warwick before finally we headed home.

This route’s not for the faint of heart – as the total distance is almost 11 miles – but once it was completed it was certainly enough to give both of us a virtuous feeling for the rest of the day.

Since we had an excellent Sunday immediately after an excellent Saturday (we had almost no treats and consumed only totally on plan meals on both days) I think it’s fair to say that our weekend was a success.

It wasn’t the only success though.

I rarely have non scale victories these days – but oddly enough (maybe the universe recognised I needed a win) one came to call unexpectedly when I found myself unable to get into my car on Sunday afternoon.

I rarely use my car but I needed to nip to the supermarket for the weekly shop.

‘Can you move your car please?’ I shouted up the stairs to my partner – who was in the middle of some work. ‘I don’t think I can get into mine without scratching your passenger door.’

‘No problem…’ came the answer ‘…but have you tried getting in your passenger side?’

I almost replied ‘I can’t!’ but then realised that I’d actually never tried to climb into my seat that way.

‘Ok’ I replied and headed back to my car.

Parking used to be a major issue for me in 2016. Because I was so wide I always tried to park with the drivers door next to something static like a kerb, trolly park or wall.

I’d been doing this habitually for years because if I didn’t then i knew it could result in big problems.

This was predominantly because of an event in the past that had made me so paranoid about parking that I often drove home again instead of being unable to place my car both close enough to a shop or place of business (I couldn’t walk all the way around even a small supermarket if I didn’t park outside the door) and with enough room to ensure that there was no way I could be blocked in.

Logistically if I couldn’t get into my door and had to wait for another car owner to return I was pretty much screwed without a nearby bench.

I simply couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time in one place without my back and legs being in agonising pain.

The chance that I could cause damage to another car though was always my prime motivation for parking so assiduously.

On the 21st April 2009 I was forced to get out of a colleague’s car with limited space in my workplace’s car park.

I was too embarrassed to tell him at the time that I didn’t have enough room to get out so instead I struggled and breathed in as best I could before squeezing out of the car as his door rested against another car.

Although I tried to be careful there was no way for me to gracefully exit his and after I’d closed his door my heart instantly sank.

I had managed to gouge a deep scratch in the door of my director’s Mercedes – which I quickly realised was who we had parked next to.

Although he was (and still is) a lovely man it’s also fair to say he wasn’t the type to suffer fools gladly – and was known for speaking his mind at all times.

Since he was such an equitable man (rarely are bosses so supportive) you always knew that if you got a the hairdryer treatment it was well deserved.

His Mercedes was his pride and joy and (I learned later) had been bought on a very special occasion.

Despite probably being the oldest of its kind in the car park (back in those days we all had generous car allowances and it wasn’t usual to see someone pull up in a new sports car) he loved it to bits and scowled at anyone brave enough to criticise him for not getting a company car with a more current registration.

The ensuing conversation where I had to explain what had happened to him was both embarrassing and painful.

He was justifiably miffed but ultimately very good about the whole affair and despite me offering to pay for the repairs required he declined to accept my money, opting instead to leave the groove in situ.

This state of affairs persisted until a few months ago he restored the entire car, and in the process of doing so finally removed the reminder of my tubby transgression.

He even noted when he did that ‘The Lancaster scratch‘ was finally gone.

I wish he’d allowed me to pay when I did it, because despite the fact it wouldn’t have been cheap to fix as a one off repair I wouldn’t have had to see it in the car park every day for the next seven years.

Each time I did I felt the associated guilt and shame about why it had happened in the first place.

This may seem like a pointless story to tell – but this event had lodged itself so firmly in my psyche that on Sunday when my partner suggested I enter my car from its passenger door, my instant reaction was panic.

I couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t have enough room.

I wasn’t flexible enough.

I’d break my car or damage hers.

Then, all of a sudden I had a ‘Neo’ moment from the matrix and heard a voice saying ‘He’s beginning to believe…’

I went outside, got into the passenger side and without any trouble whatsoever climbed over the centre console and into the drivers seat.

Who knew it was possible?!

Not me that’s for sure – and on reflection I have no idea why because it should have been obvious.

The moments where I realise things like this have changed so dramatically are becoming less and less as time goes on – but when they hit they never diminish in terms of their surprise value.

In some respects I find it intensely irritating that there such blank spots remain in my self perception – however there’s no denying that when I notice them they can prove very useful indeed.

In this case it reminded me just how bad things can get when I don’t try, how low I used to feel at that size and (even though I’ve regained some weight temporarily) how much better my life is now.

I used this positive energy to propel myself out of bed this morning and because of this both myself and my partner benefited from some great exercise.

My 1k swim was far from my fastest time or longest distance (mostly because I’ve neglected my swimming a little of late which has no doubt contributed to my gains) but it’s also a milestone of its own – and a far cry from where I started.

Amazingly it’s now over one whole year since I first plucked up the courage to go swimming (link) on November 16th 2018.

Crazily at the time my self image was really struggling.

I was (in my mind) too fat and too much of a visual car crash without my clothes on to ever inflict myself upon the eyes of others.

Yet I did it.

I took that first step and gradually began to improve.

Consequently today I’m still swimming – even though I’m around 2 stone heavier than I was back then – but crazily I have nowhere near the same demons to deal with.

Sure – I still struggle with my perception of how I look but I’ve learned to swim better and with my head under water – which I could never do before.

I have lots of loose skin and a belly that’s never gone away – but up to this point I’ve never seen another PERFECT person swimming in the pool alongside me.

Everyone I meet is also there to improve themselves and they all have wrinkles or fat or cellulite or hairy backs or post pregnancy tummys or flat feet or knock knees.

I’m not alone.

None of us are.

No one I’ve met goes swimming because they’re already super fit or heathy.

They go to improve themselves, become fitter than they already are and feel better all the time because they have more energy.

So – here I am on day three of trying to re-set my thought processes and I’ve just complimented my swim with a couple of laps of the park.

So far the world has been very accommodating. It’s not thrown anything awful at me, it’s burped up a lovely sunrise for my post swim stroll and it’s reminded me who I am now as well as why I did what I did to lose over 20st.

This forgiving world also (eventually) put a smile on my other half’s face – which ultimately put a spring in my step too.

Everything is cause and effect – but it all starts somewhere.

Whatever your goal is you just have to remember that you can do it.

You have to work at it though – and remember that even though you might not feel it today or tomorrow or even the day after – eventually you will because trying to make a positive change feeds positive outcomes and doing so puts a smile on yours and other people’s faces.

So if you’re in doubt about what to do – just keep swimming.


(Otherwise known as Dory)

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

I’m certain that it’s not just me it’s affecting but the weather currently is sapping my willingness to move. My usual enthusiasm for walking and getting out and about has been noticeably absent in the last couple of weeks. I’ve done it, but I’ve done less of it and I’ve not enjoyed it.

It’s not so much the rain that I’m bothered by – but more the cold that seems to be accompanying it.

To add insult to injury my boiler seems to be malfunctioning at the moment too – which to be fair is probably something that was inevitable.

Its usual reliable unreliability has been absent over the last couple of years -highlighted by the fact that its regular annual breakdown hasn’t materialised for a worryingly long time.

Yesterday (whilst shivering like a soaking wet lost lamb on a hillside) I realised that the heating that I’d put on an hour earlier had completely failed to materialise – meaning they washing that I was doing would not have a single warm radiator to dry upon.

After a while it did turn up – but only after a lengthy period where it was continually switched off and then back on again, which greatly amused my partner. I’ve managed recently to make her watch every single episode of The IT Crowd on Netflix and ever since she’s been quietly delighted by problems in life have been solved by this particular technical fix.


We’ve also been bingeing episodes of Car Share together lately – and I think (despite her initial misgivings and general resistance to him) I have created a new fan for Peter Kay.

This mushroomed into us subsequently watching some of his stand up shows and now I’m not only able to deploy geeky IT Crowd jokes (is it plugged in?) and raise a grin, but when I reference garlic bread and double shovels I’m not left looking at a clueless expression.

It’s good that we have the ability to laugh about the same things because when we do it genuinely lifts my mood. I really need it at a time when the sky is grey and the mornings are dark, wet and cold.

I look out of the window when it’s like this and I just want to fill my face.

I know that there’s always an excuse for poor eating habits and lately the weather and being ill have been mine. In the past (when I lost an average of 3lbs a week for two years until I’d nailed 20st) I’d have been the first to metaphorically slap myself for making a listless excuse when I’d chosen the wrong type or amount of food.

I’d like to report that my ability to control my eating has been superb since the ball – and that I’ve been focused and on point – but if I did I’d be telling fibs because I haven’t.

I’ve not felt either motivated or in control – and annoyingly almost all of my excuses for bad behaviour are now gone. The cold I was suffering with appears to have finally shifted (sadly moving it’s place of residence to my other half) and since Wednesday I’ve begun to feel decidedly more human again.

My blood filled zombie eye is also returning to normal and I’ve been sleeping better again – which frankly is a blessing from the gods.

I can do with less sleep than most thanks to my already erratic nocturnal patterns but when it comes to getting only two hours a night every night it’s not long before I can’t cope anymore and begin to overeat.

I ummed and arred about whether to include my results on the scales today in this blog because frankly it all makes me feel like a colossal failure.Part of me wants to drift into anonymity now that I’m not MOTY but I have to remind myself that I was open and honest about my problems well before Slimming World gave me an award. This blog came before any such success and it (for better or worse) is a record of my highs and lows.

My weighing in book doesn’t lie, and neither will my blog.

I’m still struggling.


The honest truth though is that if I hide from what’s happening it will only get worse – and although I don’t want people to reach out with advice or support (at this point it won’t really make me feel any better because I just need to get my head back in the game) I think that it’s only fair that I be open and frank about it.

I now have a lot of work to do but in the meantime its important for me to show others what’s happening in an effort to let them know that no-one is infallible, and even those who may appear to have discovered the magic formula for success are just as capable of falling from grace as the next person.

So – as grim and painful as it is to be failing in public it’s also important, because as soon as I do I feel the (literal and metaphorical) arms of others around me in exactly the same way that I’ve done for them in the past.

Going to group is the perfect place for that, and as always (despite really not wanting to face up to the scales) I went this morning for the love and support that I always find there.

It wasn’t easy though, and there was some tough love to be had – which to be honest I almost certainly needed to hear. My group leader Angie (always the concerned friend) shared with me some upsetting news today.

A male member of our group had passed away recently.

He had presented himself to her at the start of his journey with similar demons to the ones that I had (and in some cases I still have) but his path through life concluded more abruptly than mine. As she told me what had happened the tears were rolling down her cheeks.

It was a sobering moment, and watching the waves of emotion flowing through her as she told me left a huge lump in my throat.

It’s still there.

It’s been a tough time for things like this recently and as with the death of Gillian Woodward I discussed in my last post (link) this hit me where it hurt the most because four years ago I really wanted to die. It irks me even now that I had such a cavalier attitude to my own mortality – but back then things were very different. I had zero mobility, my life was all about emotional or physical pain management and I felt (probably very incorrectly) that if I passed away I’d leave nothing but a sense of relief behind me.

It was a convenient fiction however – and bizarrely existed because it was much easier to deal with than the truth – which was that ALL OF IT WAS FIXABLE – but I had to want to change and I had to work hard to do so. Gilllian’s death affected me because Glyn had been robbed of his life partner and the happiness that they had.

I now have someone to lose that I never did before.

With all of my newly found happiness comes a corresponding fear of loss.

I’ve joked in the past that it would be ironic if now, after all my efforts, a piano fell on my head and wiped me out – but in Glyn’s case the unthinkable actually did come to pass and when I spoke to him I couldn’t let go of his hand.

I wanted to take his pain away (even though I barely knew him) and reverse the tragedy he’d endured with every fibre of my being, but in that moment I felt guilt guilt wash over me. Rather than being completely selfless and compassionate I knew that I was also seeing myself reflected in his eyes alongside the potential for loss that I now have.

Angie reminded me today though (without saying as much directly) that it’s not just those I love that I can lose – but myself as well.

When I drop my focus I’m forgetting all of the pain and heartache that I caused myself in the past and neglecting fill my thoughts with the truth. I need to focus on the consequences that will come to pass if I choose the transient comfort of eating over health and well being.

It felt like crap to stand on the scales today and I didn’t enjoy it one little bit.

Am I therefore completely motivated to change?

Paradoxically not yet…

I do know though that this doesn’t happen overnight, and that if I have a good day, then another good day, and then another, followed by yet another that I will feel my positivity and drive return.

Motivation never comes out of thin air, and daydreaming about what you need to accomplish instead of getting up and making a start on doing it never resulted in anything.

You have to get off your ****ing arse, go for a ****ing walk, go for a ****ing swim, eat less ****ing food and make an effort to think more positive ****ing thoughts.

I need to take my motivation and turn it off, and then turn it on again.



Slimming World Ball 2019

History seemed to be repeating itself yesterday – and (for those readers with a long memory) I found myself once again really rather ill when I should have simply been enjoying the Slimming World ball.

Last year after the ball I ended up with vestibular labyrinthitis (link) and to say it was a terrible experience was a vast understatement because frankly when it hit with debilitating ferocity on the way home I have never been so scared.

When Saturday morning rolled around this year I was already at the tail end of a week where I’d barely left the house thanks to the onset of an awful head cold/flu which had slowly migrated to my chest.

I was also sure I’d put weight on rather than lose it – mostly because I’d barely moved and had been eating way too much in a fruitless attempt to cheer myself up. By Friday evening I felt like absolute crap and wasn’t feeling even mildly sociable.

Consequently my tuxedo trousers felt uncomfortably tight, meaning that my ever patient partner had to mollycoddle me as I moped about with an (even greater than usual) mess of paranoia and self deprecating thoughts.

People often say I’m way too hard on myself (they admittedly have a point most of the time) but despite deep down knowing this is true I can never stop the onset of impostor syndrome when I know people are likely to compliment me or call me inspiring.

I just don’t feel like I measure up to mine or Slimming World’s ideals lately (did I ever?) and rather than going out on ‘a low’ I’d wanted the whole event to feel like a triumph where I felt both comfortable and in target (which I’m not).

After practically no sleep on Friday night (as I tried to breathe through the phlegm on my chest and ignore the swollen feeling in my throbbing sinuses) I had given up trying to nod off and instead migrated downstairs to sit upright in my armchair. Time moves slowly in the dark when you can’t sleep and you know you have a long day ahead.

You think too much, and you rarely think positive thoughts.

My head hurt.

My eyes ached.

I felt fat.

The clock was still ticking though the time to leave the house was slowly approaching. My partner (aware that I was ill and stressed) was now sipping a cup of tea on the sofa nearby looking at me with concern.

I weakly smiled, passed her as her hand grazed mine and moved to the bathroom to trim my hair and beard.

It was at this point (half way through turning and trimming the left hand side of my head) that I noticed at least part of the reason why a painful sensation behind my eye had suddenly subsided when I had sneezed moments before.

It looks worse than it is – but it looks absolutely horrible.

Of all the days when I needed to feel confident about my appearance (where photos and selfies would be taken left right and centre) I suddenly felt that I looked my absolute worst.

My eye was filled with blood and my (usually dormant) eczema felt like it was in full swing.

I’m not going to lie. Standing in the bathroom, feeling ill with a half shaved head and looking like I was an extra from The Walking Dead the very last thing I wanted to do was be sociable.

I actually just wanted to cry.

Would I call someone and make my excuses?

I really really wanted to, and talked it through as my partner peered with concern into my eye.

However, much of the last few weeks has in some way or another been about both of us working toward a gradual ‘ball readiness‘ – so to just discard all of our preparation for the evening seemed like a major anti climax.

It had been an extremely enjoyable time doing this together (despite our often shaky self images) and one where we’ve demonstrated yet again how well we work together.When one is struggling the other effortlessly seems to notice and pick up the slack.

When we’ve been in and out and town we’ve been collaborating to find little bits and pieces for eachther that match our outfits and complement our personal styles. Often we spot things that the other one hasn’t – or even suggest a way around a problem that the other hadn’t considered.

Up until I fell ill this meant that (for the most part) it’s worked out really well – like this lucky spot of a delightful (and cheap!) sparkly necklace!

We’ve both relished the task of finding things like this in charity shops and reducing costs wherever possible. Some things we haven’t been able to find very easily though – and when we’ve met brick walls we purchased brand new things to fill gaps.


In most cases we’ve been lucky enough to find pre-loved bits and pieces but getting ball ready still hasn’t been what either of us would call cheap.

It had still been a blast though and I’d been hoping we’d enjoy the night purely because of the joint effort that we’d put in and how much pleasure it had brought us. Then the flu unceremoniously stepped in and when we set out for the Hyatt hotel in Birmingham (mercifully she agreed to be taxi driver for the occasion) on a rainy grey Saturday spirits were slightly deflated.

This is one of those instances however where we lift eachother up.

We ended up talked and laughed along the route into town, nattered about silly things and generally tried to look on the brighter side of life.

Soon after setting out (it was a relatively uneventful drive with no traffic) we had arrived, checked in and done our best to look smart (but casual) for a photo and cuddle with Alan Carr.

This particular part of the day was mercifully brief.

My interaction with people (despite my tiredness and somewhat downbeat mood) was actually rather painless.

For some unknown reason I finally moved from being largely monosyllabic to verbal diarrhoea when I entered the photo booth (no selfies allowed sadly) putting my arm around Margaret & simultaneously pointing out to Alan Carr (nestling in my other arm) that he had embarrassed himself by wearing the same blue felt jacket and denim combo as me.

He took it well but I’m sure his confidence was crushed – because despite my walking dead-esque eyeball horrors I think I edged ahead with my tie.

Alan went with open neck and casual.

IMAGE 11-11-2019 AT 10.34


The truth will be in the official photos, which I’ll hopefully get a copy of in a week or so – and then we’ll see how wasted or surprisingly alive I look.

After this we headed back to the hotel, got changed into some slightly more casual attire and headed to Wetherspoons nearby for a spot of lunch. Shortly after this (both dog tired) we plodded back to the hotel room and within moments could be found snoring away on the bed with the drapes closed and the lights off.

Thank goodness for blackout curtains and quiet daytime guests is all I can say.

After a fitfull snooze (which was no-where near long enough to make up for the awful kip I’d had two nights in a row) we hopped out of bed, had a shower and started to apply our respective war paint and clothes for the evening event.


I think it’s fair to say that anyone would be proud to stand next to my better half.

I know I certainly was – and as we made our way across the skybridge from the hotel to Hall 3 of the ICC a lady (who I realised later the top target consultant winner Kathryn Cooke with her husband) asked us to take their photo – and in return she took one of us.



The event was massive – and compared to last year an extra 1/5th bigger than 2018. As Margaret began her speech she told the room that there were another 500 guests in a third hall watching the event on a huge video monitor.


In my case I was literally right at the front of the stage.

When the winning contestants (in this case the finalists for the 2019 woman of the year) were introduced by Margaret and led out to speak to Alan Carr there was absolutely nothing in the way to spoil my view!


The whole event seemed to pass by much quicker than last year (Alan Carr was very funny indeed) and before long there on stage was my replacement.

Ben Muscroft – the 2019 Man of the Year.

For those of you that remember the event in November 2018, my consultant Angie announced on stage after I received my award that I was ‘single and ready to mingle’.


It provoked a well meaning storm of hugs and later kisses that night (I even got a hug from Rylan!) and although being majorly embarrassing at the time (I never know how to accept compliments) was in its own way a big turning point – marking a shift in my emphasis from weight loss to the search for someone with which to share my life.

Unknown to me I’d already met that person and she was quietly reading my blog whilst making her own gradual decisions about whether she liked me. Consequently events directly related to that evening brought us together and because of that the 2018 ball is very significant to me.

You can imagine therefore how I felt then when Ben (someone who I’ve periodically been in contact with since the event in July) announced on stage that he had become engaged to his partner, having also found love and happiness with a fellow member of his local Slimming World group.

Alan called her up onto stage, and in a wonderfully life affirming moment they stood together looking as happy as it’s possible to be on a stage in front of 2500 screaming consultants and guests.


As you might imagine with so many inspiring stories there were many moments during the evening that put a lump in my throat, but this was one of the two that meant the most.

I went over afterwards to tell them both how great they looked and how much happiness I wished them both.

‘To me it’s personal.’ I said.

‘I never thought that this was the way that my life would go. I thought it would end – and now I’m in love because of all of this – so I wish you all the best. Enjoy it because you deserve it.’

If they invite me to the wedding then I’m going.

The second poingnant moment came before the couple of the year 2019 were announced. I already knew what was coming because Angie had let me know some weeks before. The ABSOLUTELY LOVELY 2018 couple we’d met backstage at last year’s awards had suffered a tragedy.

Glyn was on my table, but his wife Gillian was not – having died a month prior from a sudden and unexpected illness.

He was there (I found out later whilst talking to him and holding his hand because I wasn’t sure how else to convey how I felt) that in the middle of the numerous and unexplained ‘events’ (I will not go into detail) she had suffered before she died she had told him that she wanted him to be happy, to live the life they’d both fought so hard for, to not be lonely and to go to the ball without her.

I honestly don’t know how to process how hard that must have been for Glyn, but there he was, smiling and getting on with things when deep down, with every hug and well wisher that came over to talk to him he must have felt like he was being pulled apart.

I had and still have a lot of respect for him. They deserved better – but I’m glad he and his wife got to win the award and have some really happy times before she passed away.


In happier news I also got to speak to the 2019 winners (Katie and Tony Viney) and pass on my congratulations – despite Tony completely upstaging me in the most wonderful tuxedo jacket (and golden irregular choice shoes) I’d seen during the entire evening!



Once all of the awards had finished and the massive tickertape parade after the 2019 Woman of the Year had exploded onto the stage we all headed up for one final moment facing the audience.

Once that was gone, I and all the others stepped off and breathed a sigh of relief. That was it for me. No more events. The MOTY 2018 experience was at an end – and what an experience it had been. Now it was time to enjoy the evening – and enjoy we did, because the rather delicious food arrived soon after!

By this time (around 8.30pm in a room full of people who love food) I think it’s fair to say that we were all hungry – and the masses quickly set about the business of eating and drinking. All around me those who had noticed a serious over abundance of blood in their alcohol streams developing began to set about returning Prosecco and Rosé wine to required levels.

In other news its nearly four years now since I touched a drop of booze – and despite what many may think I don’t miss it one bit!

Screenshot 2019-11-11 at 12.01.03.jpg

Once all was done the live music started – which turned out to be Scouting for Girls – a band who I’m familiar with but don’t really know any of their songs.

My partner on the other hand sang along throughout and was absolutely in her element!

IMG_0805 (1).jpeg



They were on stage for around an hour and did a quite varied set – although nothing that I felt I could bop along to.

I’ve always struggled with live music as an accompaniment to movement – but I can’t help myself when the DJ drops the right track at just the right moment on an old school set of decks.

The honest truth was that I never thought that I was the kind that could dance without some form of enhancement – but the fact of the matter is that it was just another thing I was scared of doing.

Now I don’t care what people think of me.

When the beats dropped (Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson was the rallying cry) I certainly stepped up – and with all said and done I must have been on the dancefloor (despite being filled with sudafed, ibuprofen and sucking strepsils) for around two hours.

In between this I also ended up having absolutely shedloads of selfies taken and people asking me for hugs – which was really really lovely!

Quite unexpectedly I bumped into a fellow blogger’s consultant – Amanda Bartlett Hill from Slimming World in Essex (Instagram link) after being asked to keep an eye out for her and grabbed hold of her to prove to my friend that we’d met and send her a pic!


So – here it is! Proof – and a reminder of the promises made that evening 😉

Not all of the selfies were quite so flattering however – but none were more amusing than this one which I had to include just because


Although the last dance was something I’d planned to have with my partner, when it came down to it we were so tired that we left before the song came on, walking back slowly and somewhat gingerly with ringing ears from the noise feeling more than a little elderly, but very very happy.

I said it to her that day and I meant it.

My partner was not only the main reason I ended up attended the ball (I don’t think I’d have made my own way on the train in the rain feeling as crappy as I did) but she was also the punctuation mark at the ‘end’ (nothing ever really ends) of this particular part of my journey.


I’ve gone from a shut in recluse, drinking and eating my life away in an 8XL hoodie to dancing the night away with the focus of my world felling blissfully happy and complete even though I felt (and still feel) really ill.

We helped each other get ball ready – but ever since I met her she’s made me life ready.



Monster gain

Well – regardless of how I say I feel about weighing in and being significantly over target today is the litmus test.

It’s 8am on Saturday morning and I’ve got two hours before I have to go and stand on the scales. It’s been eight weeks since I last faced the music and as a (in name only currently) target member I need to do this or my membership will lapse.

I’ve already walked around the park and back to home and I doubt it’s made any difference. I feel bloated this morning and I know the result will not be great.

(Author potters about, shaves his head and heads to group)

Ok. It’s confession time.

I already knew what the damage was going to be – but I also know that it actually represents a win of sorts.

If I’d weighed in two Saturdays ago (when I went to group with my partner but could barely speak to anyone because I was so upset with myself) I would have been around 16st 10lbs.

I know this because on Saturday morning buck naked on my own scales at home I weighed 16st 8.5lbs and my lightest weigh in clothes are 1.5lbs.

I was over a stone and a half out of target after several weeks of off plan emotional eating.

Today my scales told a slightly more encouraging but still rather sad tale.

So – on the up side I’d managed to drop over half a stone in two weeks.

On the down side at group I got an apocalyptic black mark in my book which now looks like this.

The kind lady on weigh in neglected to write the full gain down but I know.

It’s sixteen pounds.

However – it’s not as if I’m not trying to address it, and I’m not slumped face down in a multipack if crisps with a takeaway menu next to my phone.

I took it on the chin, went home and had a bowl of weetabix and some fruit followed by a few carrots and some ham.

Not long after I walked to the supermarket and did some healthy shopping before cooking a lovely on plan evening meal (chilli) for my partner and me.

Furthermore even though it’s rained for most of the day I have still managed to get eight miles under my belt and stay positive.

Screw depression and screw feeling like a failure.

I’m just another person continually battling demons and trying to find a happy medium.

As long as I keep sight of that and just keep swimming then I’ll be back to target in no time flat.

That’s the plan anyway!


Batsford Duckskull

There are apparently tiny little creatures everywhere.

I can’t see them – but it seems they follow me all the time – and only those with the right mindset and equipment can track their movements. Unbeknown to me ‘Duskulls’ have been occasionally lingering in my shadow and watching me while I thoughtfully munch on apples.

They were following me in the Cotswolds just the other day…


Thankfully I have a protector – and in an effort to catch all of the assorted creatures (there are also other far more outlandish ones!) that apparently congregate and float about my person she has recently invested in technology that hoovers them up in large quantities.

If you see her in out in the wild she usually has this weaponry to hand.

It’s called a Pokeball (who knew?!) and it’s now guarding our persons 24×7. Occasionally it vibrates on the coffee table or in her pocket to alert us that it’s automatically hoovered up a new captive. This buzzing also functions as a reminder that once caught they need to be properly cared for – because if such things aren’t exercised then they may stage a mass escape.

Consequently we must go out and regularly socialise them with others in the wild. This is rather useful when it comes to my willingness to go exploring, and so far the half term break has been characterised by plenty of park wandering with a little spherical cage.

Almost exactly two years ago (where does time go?!) I passed by Batsford Arboretum with a friend of mine (link) and we both thought that it looked lovely from a distance.

At the time we did say we’d go back but for some reason never got around to it.

That particular day of exploration was characterised by our usual tendency to get slightly lost (as well as discover deep mud) and although we meandered very close to the outskirts of this lovely little area of managed woodland we never actually ventured inside.



I’ve meant to go back ever since, so on Tuesday we booked some tickets online and set off to explore.

It’s dependant upon your perspective as to whether this kind of outing represents good value for money (as well as the petrol it cost us almost £18 – which is actually cheaper than two cinema tickets) because it’s entirely reliant upon the time of year that you visit, the willingness of nature to yield a riot of colour when you do, and whomever beholds all this leafy goodness possessing an underlying interest in nature.

If you like staring at a myriad of little buds, sprouts, flowers and mushrooms (that are everywhere) then I suggest Batsford Arboretum is worth your coin.



It is however worth noting that if you fancy visiting somewhere like this for a lengthy brisk walk then you’ll probably end up feeling disappointed – because to travel around the entirety of this little wooded park won’t take a very long time.

Even completing several circuits won’t add up to a massive distance – so if you’re a slow mover or not especially fit then this could be viewed as a bonus. There are some hills though – so just bear that in mind (you can rent a mobility scooter at the pay desk if you’re so inclined).

It’s all good though – because instead my usual ‘distance = virtue’ approach to walking on Tuesday was switched off and I was definitely in more of an exploration mode. This was fortuitous because Batsford Arboretum requires that you take the time to wander and explore – searching for all of the teeny tiny details – then there are some absolutely lovely things to see.

All in all we spent four hours there and every time we stopped there was something like this hiding in plain sight.


If I’m honest (once new Pokemon had been captured and long term inmates exercised) we spent a lot of our time taking shameless selfies with the autumnal canopy as a backdrop.

The faux bokeh depth of field effect on modern smartphones with multiple focal depth lenses makes an area like this a real joy to play with – and I have to say these are some of the nicest photos I’ve taken of my partner, and that I think she’s taken of me.


Of course – the arboretum itself is almost as lovely as my other half (who looked delightfully autumnal too) and both of us spent the majority of our time stopping, zooming, cropping, re-framing and generally fiddling with our nature photographs.

There’s also quite a lot in the arboretum that has a very oriental theme, and alongside the plantings (many of which come from Japan or the surrounding region) there are little architectural features all over the grounds that underpin the style of (then far away and exotic) landscapes that the architect was attempting to portray to those walking around the woods.


As well a lovely Japanese house (which I sadly failed to take any pictures of) there are also lots of cute bridges above streams and some really really wonderful sculptures.

There’s a lot of more traditional Cotswold architecture to be seen as well – and on top of the delightful thatched sandstone houses and grand county mansion there is a wonderful little church (St Mary’s) that’s clearly loved by the local community because it’s in fantastic condition.


You’d think that this kind of high brow day out would inspire lofty and reflective thoughts in those who immersed themselves in the surroundings of the sympathetically planted surroundings.

Most would imagine that the calm tranquility would have a similarly calming impact upon it’s visitors.

We however are not your average visitors….


It’s true to say that although we both love nature we seem to love having a good time even more – and when we’re together a slightly… mischievous side emerges in both of us.

This can lead me to be quite naughty at times (as mentioned a few posts ago staying on plan with Slimming World has been a recent area where I’ve struggled) – but thankfully we can also inspire more virtuous behaviours in each other – and despite some treats such as a Sunday lunch with all the trimmings, a birthday party cake at the weekend (I only had a little sliver) and a couple of ‘skinny chicken burgers’ (basically two chicken breasts in a bun with some salad) at Wetherspoons we’ve collectively been doing rather well of late.


I am stepping on the scales at group this coming Saturday, and whilst I am definitely going to have a relatively sizeable gain compared to my last weigh in eight weeks ago there is a positive takeaway, because on my own scales I have lost a significant number of pounds in the last two weeks.

This is something of a relief, because in just over one frikkin week’s time I am going to the Slimming World ball.

This morning (after some gentle persuasion from my partner in crime) I tried on my tuxedo, and it fitted. Well – maybe ‘fitted’ is something of a stretch. What I mean is that the buttons did up, but overall it was still a little snug.

However, in many respects this is immaterial, because although I thought I had my outfit all planned and laid out today the world threw me a curve ball, and I found the most wonderfullest thing ever in the whole history of ever with a cherry on top and took it home in a carrier bag.

My initial plan was ‘try to look half decent’.

It’s now (thanks to the contents of my carrier bag) changed to ‘I plan to look freaking awesome!!!

This goes double for my partner, who has also found a really cool outfit that fits her like a glove. I’d go so far as to say I melted a little bit when she tried it on – and every subsequent time since I’ve become more and more convinced that it’s absolutely perfect.

It’s been really cool to be looking for little things and trinkets together, and nattering regularly about what will go with what, which shirt will look best with which waistcoat, and which necklace, earrings or clasps will work to accentuate neck and backlines.

It’s (in many respects) a world away from this time last year, when I was planning outfits on my own and scouring charity shops buying more than I needed to make sure that I had what I wanted.

This time I’m going to be over target on the scales – but even though I’m a bit heavier I’m also going to be infinitely happier.

This may well be my last public appearance for Slimming World and I’m damned well going to make the most of it – I want to go out feeling good about myself and what I’ve accomplished and numbers on scales are only half the story.

Today I’ve spent a wonderful half term day off that started with me loudly waking the house up at 6.30 (dancing at the end of the bed in my pants to eye of the tiger was just what my other half needed to laugh herself out from under the duvet), swimming 1.5km, driving to Coventry, walking through Memorial park, into town, round town and back again, coming home, cooking tea, and now writing a blog.

At the start of January 2016 I could do none of this.

I had no-one to share my life with and I was busy drinking and eating myself into oblivion. Now, where there was despair and hopelessness there’s love and companionship underpinned with fitness and vitality.

I’m going to the ball with my head held high. I have nothing to prove because I have a life and a purpose.

That’s why – sober as a judge (nearly four years now!) I’ll be smiling my ass off and swaying back and forth with my significant other to the last song of the night on the dancefloor without a care in the world.

I may struggle to realise it sometimes but honestly life is good.


Be more bear

Last week the weather really got me down.

Every time I looked out of the window it was grey and dull – which was invariably accompanied by rain.

The mornings are now cold and dark and it’s tough to climb out of bed when it’s warm under the duvet and there’s someone to put your arm around.

The snooze button has never seen so much action.

Although I have a lingering cold (not flu – just a runny blocked up nose) I’m oddly buoyant at the moment.

The scales are definitely moving in the right direction and I’m currently significantly lighter than when I stepped on the scales at the weekend.

It’s amazing what following the Slimming World plan can do when you have your head in the game.

It’s not rocket science mind you – and one of the simple changes I’ve made that’s really helped is having a pint of water with each meal to make sure that my appetite isn’t caused by thirst rather than hunger.

It doesn’t do a lot to stop me fantasising about eating lots of lovely things but it does seem to stem the tide when it comes to overeating at meal times – although I’m aware that everything is relative.

I’ve still got a big appetite – but for now at least it seems to be under control during the day – which has been my major issue over the last few weeks.

If start eating during the day sometimes I just can’t stop myself.

This led to some rather unusual dietary habits – where often I wouldn’t eat until after 5pm – which I did on and off a lot when I was single.

It’s not really compatible with relationships though – and it’s often quite hard to avoid breakfast and lunch when you’re alone if you’ve become used to eating it at as a couple.

I used to think I was a bit weird when it came to my ‘not before 5pm’ habits – but then I watched a programme about type two diabetes reacting positively not only to the types of food you eat but to the times.

In the case of many people a significant factor that helped reverse their raging blood sugar levels was intermittent fasting.

I never consciously tried to fast during the day to reverse my diabetes (for the longest time I didn’t think it could be done and didn’t dare to hope that one day I’d be medication free) but I now realise that I did do it quite a bit – and I’ve always wondered whether this had an impact on my condition.

To be clear – I’m not advocating people suddenly start fasting. It may have implications for some that aren’t particularly helpful and I’m no expert.

I personally didn’t eat during the day purely because when I woke up and for a long time afterwards I had no appetite. Since I find it hard to switch this off when it finally arrives I tend to make the most of periods where I’m naturally not hungry.

I don’t agree with the whole ‘kick start the metabolism in the morning’ approach simply because I don’t think that there’s one rule that fits all.

If my hat doesn’t fit someone else then why should my diet?

In my case though I felt absolutely superb if I just listened to my body and didn’t eat until I was hungry.

I guess that I’m a slave to impulses in both extremes. I also listen too closely when it’s telling me to stuff my face as well, which really doesn’t help.

What does help is random encounters however.

I was waking down my street today under a grey sky in a miserably drizzly shower heading into town when a lady I haven’t seen for ages hopped off a bus, saw me and said ‘Wow! You look FANTASTIC!

I don’t usually get such random compliments on the street – but it genuinely added a spring to my step. I had a sub 15 minute per mile walk into town as a direct result.

It was really nice of her to say so – and it’s a pleasure to meet someone that tries to do the same as me. If someone looks nice I ALWAYS make a point of saying so.

You never know when (just like me) a lift like that will make all the difference – and believe me when I say it did.

This morning not only were the scales kinder but my clothes were too.

I can now just about fit into two of the jackets that I could potentially wear to the Slimming World ball – and I’m working toward the waistcoats.

I have no idea what I’ll eventually decide upon yet (I need two outfits on a budget) but I want to feel as good as I can – so I’m trying to be as open to patterns and styles as possible.

I spent ages stressing about this last year as well and it nearly drove me potty then – and that was without the added hassle of having to lose weight on top of it all!

Last year’s informal jeans are way too snug currently so it’s all up in the air!

I have to say though it’s extremely helpful to know that I’m not alone in these kinds of struggles.

My group leader Angie is also trying to publicly reverse a holiday gain that she’s been very open about with our group – and I doubt either of us would feel toogreat if we were forced to climb back into last year’s outfits right about now.

All of my blogging friends appear to be struggling as well and absolutely every one that I usually chat to or follow has managed to put weight back on too.

Maybe it’s just the time of year.

If I was a bear then no one would mind.

There’s a competition in Alaska for people to spot the fattest bear they can (link) and post it.

Meet ‘Holly’.

I’m not sure whether Holly even knows that she has a name – or that her furry booty is being admired around the world – but her ambling twerk has been recorded for posterity (or maybe I should say posteriority) and she’s the 2019 queen.

One thing’s for sure – no one would hassle me if I chose to s&&t in the woods at that size.

Maybe I should give up worrying about the ball and focus on the simple pleasures of arboreal defecation instead. It seems to work for Holly.

The upside for her is also that she doesn’t have to find a smart outfit to look dashing in either.


Be more bear. That should be my new motto. I should just twerk my chubby furry booty and move right along.

Nevertheless I need to dress to impress and I’m in research mode.

The one thing I’ve noticed whilst perusing windows is that checks seem to be in vogue at the moment. Every shop window dummy appears to be rocking some kind of pattern that only a few years ago would have probably been considered as kitsch and disgustingly unfashionable.

Personally I’m not sure that when I feel so curvy covering myself with what essentially boils down to the fabric equivalent of graph paper is such a good idea.

I can deal with vertical stripes – and even horizontal ones these days if the cut is right – but both?

That’s a brave way to roll and I’m not sure that I’m that intrepid currently.

One thing I do like about these examples however is the bold coloured waistcoats which draw the eye in to the (in one case delightfully flamboyant) ties.

I have quite a few nice ties – but what I don’t have though are many cotton patterned ties.

I’ve become a really big fan of Liberty print shirts and cotton ties lately (link) and the idea of a matching one with a smart pocket square fills me with glee. This is mostly because it’s a billion miles away from the tent sized drab clothes I used to be forced to wear when I could only fit into 8XL items.

Let’s face it. If you want to go full flamingo then you get some matching dog accoutrements too right?!

I’d absolutely dress my furry little buddy (if I had one) in outfits loud enough to make Quentin Crisp blush if I had the chance – and since I’m heading down south soon it’s even occurred to me that a hat for the day may be in order….

This years’s guest star is Alan Carr (who I plan to get a hug photo with) so I’m sure that I’ll be in hood company if I choose to go a bit nuts.

There are plenty of outlandish options if I choose to go down the ‘wear it once’ route – and as I’ve noted in previous posts there is a lot to be found if you’re willing to pay high street prices instead of being an astute charity shopper.

Thankfully my other half appears to be quite happy to let me indulge myself when it comes to patterns like this – and never seems embarrassed when I’m dressed like I just got thrown out of the Chelsea flower show.

I’m sure this is because she too secretly likes to accessorise…

While I love shoes like this:

She loves ones that express her own personality – which in her case is always delightfully quirky!

So – I’m once again on the up and full of thoughts and possibilities rather than negative clouds and stormy skies.

It may be grey and rainy – but it never bothers bears.

Be more bear and twerk it baby!


Maybe I can

Sometimes a holiday is in order.

In my case I haven’t physically been anywhere but I have been taking a break from social media.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been almost completely absent online and it’s been a very nice change of pace.

At some point a few years ago I made a conscious choice to become a very public person – and once I had it soon became my new normal. Blogging about everything I went through and sharing photos of my life soon felt as natural as a morning visit to the smallest room of my house.

There are times however (particularly in recent weeks) that I feel it’s just not appropriate or even very comfortable to write about how I feel and what’s going on in my life.

The really frustrating thing is that this (in something of a chicken and egg way) tends to coincide with a period where I don’t cope very well overall.

I’ve never fully figured out whether a lack of writing is caused by or in itself causes the mood dips I experience – but they definitely feed each other and quickly become related even if they don’t start out that way.

The other thing that gets fed in instances like this is my stomach. The hands I have connected to it decide that they will pass the time by picking up anything in the fridge and consuming it relentlessly until it’s all gone.

My efforts to stick with #onplanoctober (writing everything down and being good) lasted a mere 8 days – and then I just threw myself under the culinary bus. I ate and overate and then overate some more.

Once I’d done that then I grabbed a bit more food and overate it until it hurt a bit.

The net result?

Well I don’t really want to go into forensic detail because I’m ashamed and feel like I’ve been letting not only myself but the entire world down.

To add insult to injury none of my lovely lovely shirts fit properly at the moment and my waistband is noticeably tighter.

Some of my smaller sized jeans appear to have shrunk even further in the wash…

There’s a line that must be drawn – and on Sunday (where I inexplicably found myself awake early and feeling motivated) I drew it.

The truth is I have to weigh in soon at Slimming World.

I haven’t done so since the first week in September and need to do it every 8 weeks – and when I do it’s not going to be pretty.

Furthermore I have the ultimate ‘imposter syndrome’ moment looming in my calendar in the shape of the Slimming World ball.

The invites arrived in the post the other day and honestly they filled me with dread.

I’m invited as the outgoing MOTY and truthfully at the moment I don’t feel in the least bit worthy.

Instead I feel like a complete fraud because the suits I usually wear over all of my nice shirts that don’t currently fit don’t fit either.

I can sense what you’re all thinking though – and from experience I know what a post like this will provoke in terms of comments.

I’m pretty certain that people won’t take long to pick me up on my self deprecating tone and remind me that I should be kinder to myself.

I know I know.

If I was treating myself as a friend in crisis I would say what many people in my life have already said to me.

I’d tell myself that I have nothing to prove.

I’d tell myself that I still look good and that I’m still doing well in life.

I’d tell myself that no-one (including virtually every other slimmer of the year or weight loss prize winner ever) is perfect and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

I have it on pretty good authority that they are all a little heavier than when they won their award and they have mostly across the board found a weight that suits them, even though it may not coincide with what they thought they originally wanted.

I’d say to myself if I was a friend that it’s just a number and that I can totally fix any gains because I know how and I’m not the same person that I used to be.

In my mind however the ‘truth’ (if you can call it that) is poking me with a sharp stick.

When my back is against the wall I hate that I still use food to cope.

That’s never changed (although the types of food I teach for have) and I don’t think it ever will.

I’ll almost certainly be riding an emotional rollercoaster for many many years if not forever in this respect.

There are other considerations however because it’s not all about the ball.

I’ve taken my eye off the ball a little for a number of reasons.

Firstly there’s always the ever present ‘what to do about a career’. Thankfully I think I may have found a way forward on that score – so hopefully in that respect things will soon be on the up.

Secondly there’s having a new home dynamic.

Living alone allowed me to be obsessive in the extreme in some respects – but now I’m part of a couple rather than a single guy.

My tendency to punish myself isn’t something that I can easily do any more – and there’s nowhere to hide.

If I hurt myself then I hurt my partner and I don’t want to do that.

My relationship is frankly more important to me than anything I can remember in recent memory – and my ways of coping with stress have had to adapt because of this.

This has been going on for some time – but now we live together I’m trying to deal with some very entrenched habits (basically going quiet and withdrawing from the world) that can no longer exist in solitude – but that instead someone else gets to see and feel.

When my mood dips and I begin to retreat they also feel the impact of that – because happy Davey leaves the building.

We all have these moments – and they shouldn’t be stemmed or buried because they’re natural, but if (like me) you’ve been single or even with someone but not living together you’ll be more used than you think you are to dealing with emotions and problems by burying your head in the sand (or in my case cement) from time to time.

What used to be a period of quiet and solitary sulking and wound licking before a gradual return to the world several days later that affected no one but me now has an impact on someone else.

Consequently the temptation to hide my mood dips because of this is immense.

It’s not the way to go though.

Burying everything leads nowhere – and it’s been my policy to hide nothing.

It’s also selfish – because if I’m only ever giving help and allowing no one to help me in return where does their sense of satisfaction and self worth in a relationship come from?

So I allow myself not to cope and I force myself to show that sometimes I can’t ‘adult’ any more.

Sometimes I need to be carried – and part of learning to live together is remembering that’s OK.

I can’t say that I haven’t felt guilty about being (in my eyes) less than a positive force for a little while though – but the truth is that you have to let people step in and support you.

You’re stronger when you’re around others – despite the unease that you might feel when you realise that it’s someone else’s job all of a sudden to be a chirpy and cheery person.

On Saturday I could barely speak.

I was so mortified by what I saw on the scales at home that when I accompanied my partner to our Saturday group I could hardly talk.

I nodded at people and forced a smile or two but that was about the most I could manage.

It was an important moment though – because although every fibre of me wanted to run away I stayed where I was and sat to hear the group talk.

I’m not sure I would have been able to do this without someone holding my hand however – and to see my other half step in and take over conversations or feel the warmth of her thumb nudging my leg at just the right moment made it all doable.

In the middle of all this (making it all much harder) the entire country seems to have received a mail from the NHS with my face plastered all over it.

It’s busy proclaiming how successful I am at turning things around at precisely the moment I feel like I’m struggling to do so.

I regret nothing about being chosen to receive (and accepting) the MOTY title – but there are occasionally times that I wish I could put this particular genie back in the lamp.

No one else has ever put any pressure on me because of the award (especially not Slimming World who always ask rather than expect when it comes to publicity) but it’s been difficult to live with the knowledge that when I inevitably fail I have to fail publicly.

I suppose that someone has to though, and maybe the whole point of being a public face dealing with issues related to personal perception is that I am seen not to be perfect but continually trying to be better than I am.

Which I do.

I’m currently back to swimming daily after not dipping a toe in a pool for almost two weeks and also back up to an average of around 10 miles a day (it recently dipped temporarily below 6).

Although it’s probably not real weight loss (fluid etc has a big impact) my numbers on the scales have plummeted. Both the additional exercise and the positive progress since Saturday morning have caused me to feel a lot better and once again I think I’m winning.

I’m not only making forward progress in terms of my waistline mind you.

After boarding my entire loft I decided to try my hand at replacing my coal bunker door – which was in a bad way when I moved in to my house over a decade ago and hasn’t been touched ever since.

I’ve always wanted to do something about it but felt that I lacked the skills, confidence and tools to attempt the task.

After successfully completing my loft boarding I decided that it was time to have a go – and after purchasing some exterior pine cladding, a couple of lengths of wood for a frame, a few hinges, a latch and a bunch of screws I decided to rip the old door off and give it a go.

The first issue was that the coal bunker was full of crap…

Thankfully that wasn’t an issue for long – and after a small amount of dragging and yanking the detritus and rotten cardboard that I’d stuffed in there years ago (along with a ton of unhappy earth worms and spiders) sat forlornly on my patio.

I’m far from an accomplished carpenter – but I did do a year or so of woodwork at secondary school and (even if I do say so myself) made a pretty swanky pencil case that I still have knocking around somewhere.

The simplest thing to do seemed to be to copy what existed previously, and before I knew it I had a perfectly serviceable frame with a simple join to put my new door into.

Once this was done the tongue and groove cladding that I’d bought made creating a shape to fill this hole surprisingly easy and within another few hours I had a makeshift door already wedged in place.

I only made one small mistake and if you can’t spot it then I’m not saying anything!!!

This whole process was continually hampered though by the frankly atrocious weather (note the tarpaulin) which illustrated quite plainly what a complete pain in the arse sawdust is when it rains.

It sticks to everything and gets everywhere.

It also doesn’t help much with expansion or contraction of the material that you’re working with – and (as I learned later on) it’s worth making a door a few millimetres smaller than you think it needs to be so that it doesn’t expand in its new home and become completely wedged tight when you paint it and leave it open to the elements.

When I’d eventually finished trimming, sanding, generally tinkering with the hinges and modifying the fit of the door with a plane this was the end result.

I’m quite proud of this even if I do say so myself.

One by one the times where I tell myself I can’t do things as opposed to starting jobs with a mindset along the lines of ‘maybe I can if I try’ are diminished.

Proving I could lose weight and change my life altered a lot more than just my new waistline.

I seem to have found a new interest in DIY – which initially I used to fill the gap created by not having a job – but is now becoming something else entirely.

So – maybe I can get into a suit for the ball.

Maybe I can feel good about myself on the day.

Maybe I can also change the washer on my bathroom tap – which frankly scares the living s**t out of me.

Hopefully my next blog won’t be called ‘how I flooded my home’


Life and lofts

It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog – and in the meantime life has been rolling along at a rather sedate pace.

If I’m honest I’d prefer it to be a lot quicker – and the truth of the matter is that I’d prefer to be experiencing it whilst being gainfully employed – but that’s sadly still not the case at the moment.

In the absence of a job materialising I’ve been trying to make myself useful – and (rather out of character) have been engaging in some DIY.

In a similar way to how I used to tell myself that I hated exercise and couldn’t understand why people engaged in it (joggers are crazy right? I mean who RUNS voluntarily unless they’re about to miss a bus?) I still regularly tell myself that I dislike decorating or using power tools.

What I am actually saying in both cases is really ‘I am scared of looking silly and of making mistakes.’

The truth is that in exactly the same way that I never used to be able to swim with my head under the water or do any kind of exercise without drowning in perspiration I am woefully inexperienced when it comes to making or mending things with my hands.

To illustrate this further I’ve had a dripping tap in the bathroom for four years now because I’m terrified of changing the washer.

True story.

So – no one could have been more surprised than me when the closure of my local Homebase (and its subsequent stock clearance) catalysed me into action and I started buying (AND USING) items to improve my home.

Specifically my loft.

Although I bought and paid for this area of my house along with all the rest in 2007 (and it represents around 1/5ths of the total available space in my property) for over 12 years I’d never used it or even climbed up into it to have a look around.

Physically of course this used to be impossible.

First of all aluminium or wooden ladders typically only support up to 23st of body weight – and since I was 35st not only would it be dangerous for me to stand on them at height but I was completely incapable of doing so.

This was relatively immaterial however – because even if some temporary miracle of reversed gravity had propelled me up a pair my loft hatch above them would have been too small for me to get anything more than my head and shoulders through.

When my weight dropped I became a tiny bit more intrepid and ventured slightly closer to the rafters above my bedroom.

I purchased some sturdy stepladders, lifted the mysterious hatch, poked my head through and tentatively pushed some random planks up there next to the opening.

This enabled me to initially store one or two light boxes of cables and computer stuff.

Soon though I felt that I needed to put some more things up there so I pushed up a few extra bits of random wood I had lying around in my shed and slid a few boxes of paperwork in on top of them.

Everything up to that point was just within reach of the loft hatch, but soon after a few seasonal items like my Christmas tree and fans followed and things began to change.

It didn’t take long before I had begun to forget what I’d put up there – and since most of it had become quickly obscured from view (there was no light in the loft) I lost track of where things were.

Then – in the closing Homebase I saw these

The roofing section was labelled as 25% off – and try as I might I couldn’t find a pack of these boards cheaper online or anywhere in bulk or the same pack size.

It seemed like a bargain that was too good to pass up.

I guesstimated that 10 packs (30 boards) would probably be overkill – but that if I bought them I’d be compelled to use them and have enough to make mistakes too.

I piled them up on a flatbed trolly and went hunting for some decking screws.

However when I got everything through the checkout and home (along with several other purchases of wood, a long saw and linoleum for other jobs that needed doing) I realised that the boards would need to be cut with a circular saw if they were to fit the joists (and into eachother) successfully.

Now – this is where the panic set in because I hate using power tools.

They really scare me – and not because I’m inept or inherently clumsy but because I have no experience of using them.

No one has ever been around in my life to show me the best way to do such things and as such there’s no small level of worry associated with drilling holes, sanding things or (god forbid) cutting through stuff with motorised blades.

So I watched a few YouTube videos about how to do everything, nipped to Argos to buy what seemed like an appropriate instrument and dusted off my (unsurprisingly pristine) black and decker workmate.

The truth is that cutting wood with power tools is actually scarily simple and also rather fun!

The circular saw goes through high density chipboard like a warm knife through butter – and with some appropriate glasses and earplugs it didn’t feel like it was going to do me an injury or reduce my available digits.

I was on my way – and with my trusty partner in crime standing behind me as I made my first few cuts as well as holding the ladders when I dragged them upstairs (and occasionally pinching my ass when I had my head in the loft) I climbed up through the hatch and started to screw my trimmed boards into place.

I soon realised that ten packs of boards weren’t even close to the number I needed to do the entire loft.

My loft is split into two halves – with a big supporting beam in the middle that oddly stops half way along.

It has a total of 13 rafters end to end and on the side where the loft hatch is needs six planks per span (excluding the closed off eaves and odd places were there would be small bits of boards needed) meaning I required at least another two – three packs.

Even if I didn’t board the other half and worked around all of the random ‘sticky uppy’ bits of wood, pipes and cables that seemed to be up there under the insulation I’d need almost twice as much.

I decided in that case that I’d be sensible. I’d do only half of the loft rather than the whole thing.

After all – why go nuts? This was already way more than I felt that I was capable of.

On the other side behind the beam were the pipes from my boiler to my shower and these sat above the rafters.

I didn’t want to disturb or damage them and it terrified me that I might fall through between the rafters.

The boarded half that I felt comfortable with would be more than enough to store things and would represent a significant step in the right direction.

As the boards went in though bit by bit my confidence grew and I realised that I was rather enjoying myself!

When I embarked upon this I’d waited until the weekend to begin.

Truthfully I needed my partner around to help boost my confidence and tell me I was doing ok.

This was without a doubt the tipping point between me not doing anything and not starting and making a shaky start.

However as I progressed I quickly realised that I was more than fit and nimble enough to cut, carry, lift, nail, screw and saw things in the confined (and dangerous) spaces where I needed to bend double, and crouch or kneel on slender rafters with heavy weights.

Honestly – this was all something of a revelation.

I was doing it! I was actually boarding a loft!!!

After the first day on the job I ached all over though.

My back hurt, my hands were frozen into claws from screwing screws into wood and my thigh, calf muscles and knees were screaming with indignation about being forced to crouch and bend for so long.

The second and third days I had to take things a bit more slowly and (as I was now alone all day long) made sure I was being very careful.

Then – almost as soon as I’d begun – I had reached all the way along to the wall.

I celebrated by buying a telescopic loft ladder so that I could make sure that not only I but the infinitely foxier other occupant of my house could get up there if she needed to.

There are actually few things that feel as satisfying as working all day long, then having someone come home to see you – then for them to look both pleasantly surprised at what you’ve achieved and beam with pride at your accomplishments.

The thing that was bugging me though was what to do about the pipes on the opposite side.

Although half a loft was more than enough to pile all of our collected things that weren’t needed day to day – the fact was that to get to them when we needed to would be problematic at best if our things were all stacked on top of eachother.

What was really needed was a larger space where everything was ordered and visible so that the loft wasn’t just a complete dumping ground.

I wanted it instead to be a place where things lived temporarily or were disposed of if we decided we didn’t use them any more.

That wouldn’t happen if everything was just piled up willy nilly in giant heaps.

So I decided that the other half had to be tackled as well.

The important thing was though that the pipes needed to be accessible in an emergency with a minimum of fuss and unscrewing.

The only way this would happen it seemed (after some further research and watching of yet more YouTube videos) was to use some form of loft leg to raise the boards higher up and create a platform where things could be stored above the pipes.

These would raise the floor by 175mm – but at a cost in terms of extra effort and money because they are £14 a box (before discounts) for 12.

Up to this point I’d screwed the boards to the rafters – but if I used legs I’d have to not only cut the wood even more precisely to fit on tiny little raised anchor points but secure each of the legs to the rafters with four screws.

To add insult to injury the holes in the bases of the legs were not pre-drilled.

This meant that each leg had to have four screws forced in by hand prior to being screwed into the beams.

I calculated that I needed five boxes (60 loft legs) meaning this would have to be done 240 times.

I’d already moved away from screwing the boards in by hand and gotten over my fear of using a power drill (fatigue is a great motivator) but this was still going to make the second half of the task immensely harder and longer than the first.

The only way to do it though was make a start – and so I did. Soon the first set of legs were in place and I began to tentatively place the newly cut boards on top.

All of this ‘pre screwing’ was taking a serious toll on my hands though – and after stabbing myself in the left palm with a screwdriver and almost popping a blister that was swiftly forming on my right palm I decided that the rather swanky Kath Kidson gardening gloves that materialised in my house around the same time my beloved arrived rather suited me.

Soon my flowery little begloved hands had produced a veritable production line of pre screwed legs – and although the task at hand got no less arduous with time as I plodded on it did become a little quicker.

Since I needed five per joist I prepared them by hand in batches of ten and then screwed them in with my power drill.

After around a week of climbing in and out of the loft, cutting planks in the garden, trimming joists and planks in my roof, disposing of junk I found hidden in the eaves (I’m looking at you random poster of Elvis) I’d actually managed to board out the whole FRIKKIN roof!!!!!

This meant that (at least in my mind) I’d fulfilled a promise to my partner that I’d made when she moved in with me.

This was that everything (with the exception of some larger furniture) she wanted to keep from her flat after the move could not only be kept but would be available and close to hand at a moments notice if it was needed.

I wanted nothing she owned to be hidden away and inaccessible – but if it wasn’t frequently needed it could be stored and safe – ready for when it was.

Of course – the same is now true of all of my belongings too – and once again I’ve proven that even though my default starting point may be self doubt I am capable of doing a lot more than I give myself credit for.

To say that I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished (even though I could have done a better job in some places now that Ive gone back and looked at all the little mistakes I made) is a vast understatement.

I’ve reclaimed one fifth of my house and in the process created an easily accessible and almost inviting space for both of us.

It’s so cosy that I actually fell asleep up there one afternoon on my beanbag while taking a break!

Maybe once again my theory about the universe listening was proven to be true because although I was chuffed beyond words with my DIY I wasn’t feeling quite so happy with my adherence to healthy eating principles.

Elsewhere a wake up call was working its way to fruition.

I think that it’s safe to say that for around two months I’ve been struggling to keep a lid on my appetite as well as not using a dip in my mood (related pretty much solely to my employment status) as an excuse to overeat.

I’ve frankly failed more than I’ve succeeded in this respect and this is always noticeable in the shirt department. Things are tugging around the waist – and I need to get back to ‘Davey’s happy waistline place’.

I decided on Saturday morning that I was going to do two things.

Firstly I was going to once again focus on #onplanoctober (where I commit to writing down everything I eat) and secondly that I was not going to look at any numbers on any scales until I absolutely needed to weigh in again as a target member.

I have been nailing myself into the floor with numbers on scales and whether they mean I’m a failure or a success.

It’s stupid and I’m sick of it.

If I fit my clothes and my waistband is loose then I know if I’m on track.

Half a pound here or there doesn’t make me a success or a failure and it’s about damn time I accepted that and instead started focusing on living a guilt free life that contains no continual self condemnation.

With this in mind I made an effort and dressed up smartly for Angie’s Slimming World 50th birthday party celebration on Saturday morning.

The theme was black and gold – and it was a great excuse to deploy a jacket that I bought a year ago but never found a reason to wear.

As always the 10.30 group was lively and friendly. All of the food tasting sessions usually are – but this week Angie has made an extra special effort with the decorations.

Before leaving in the morning I’d quickly made two big Tupperware boxes full of sweet potato and potato wedges (with garlic, rock salt and paprika) but everyone else had made some smashing recipies.

Of particular note were a weetabix loaf and some cheese and quinoa bites – both of which I secured the recipes for because they were ace!

One of the things I rather like these days is that I can kind of melt into the background at these groups and just be a member again rather than an inspiration.

I know it’s all in my own head and that no-one but me has an expectation that I have to be perfect or that I am not allowed to fail – but it’s never been any less than hard work for me to go to a Slimming World group when I feel like I’ve been letting not only myself down but everyone else that’s ever seen me in the magazine and in newspapers.

As great as this photo of me at the Ritz when I won the MOTY title last year makes me feel it also represents something of a pinnacle that often I feel I can only fall down from.

I looked and felt awesome on that day even though I was stressed and sleep deprived. I was on the top of my own metaphorical mountain – having climbed higher than I’d ever thought possible.

The thing about mountains though is that when you reach the summit eventually you have to make your way back down to carry on with real life – and make sense of what it all means.

My life has since taken other turns thankfully and in every measurable sense (other than my waistline and my job hunting) I’m in a happier and more secure place now than I think I’ve ever been in my entire life.

Slimming World will always be a part of my life and remain very important to me but it’s no longer my sole focus. Learning to live with different priorities whilst not going completely off the rails has become the next major challenge I am still trying to rise to.

Imagine my surprise then when I found out that an award I made for myself many many months ago (if it doesn’t exist you have to create it) had finally became a reality.

Angie called me out in group and when I was up front with her she gave me a golden envelope!

All of a sudden I was rather glad I’d made an effort to look smart!

Inside it was a £50 voucher and FINALLY an OFFICIAL award for losing over 50% of my body weight!!!

There really are no words.

The universe does indeed seem to be listening.

When I feel low and think that I can’t do things or that I’m not good enough then something comes along to remind me that I did and can.

More than anything else it also reminds me that I can’t do things totally on my own.

Just like I needed someone to hold my ladders to begin with as I started the loft I can’t bang my dietary head against a solitary brick wall and fix everything myself.

I’m stronger when I have the support of others and I’m happier when I’m surrounded by people because it brings out the best in me.

So – I’ve got five weeks left to get ready for the Slimming World ball.

I’m going to try and use all of them wisely and make sure that when (for the final time) I present myself to the great and good in the assembled crowds of consultants and their partners I feel both upbeat and positive.

Regardless of what happens though I’m sure I will be – because I will be hand in hand with my rock.

I aim to make absolutely sure that when the last dance finishes in November that we’re the last ones still swaying back and forth together next to the stage.

The last kiss of the night will be mine.

I may struggle to see what my place in the world is sometimes – and I’ve never ever looked forward to any sort of planed future before – but now I do.

I may not know what it holds but I know who I want in it.


Life and lofts eh?

All you can do is your best and hope that the universe listens and that everything works out in the end!


Little competitive

The sun is intermittently peeping out from behind clouds today and Warwick seems to be alive with people thanks to a cycle race going right through the centre of town.

It’s causing no small amount of pedestrian and traffic confusion and I’ve overheard a few surly pensioners already questioning the marshals as to why all of a sudden they cannot cross the road due to loads of barriers.

For my part I’m not particularly fussed if I’m re-routed because I’ve already managed to cram in my morning exercise.

I’m in no rush.

I was in the pool though.

I like to think I’m not a competitive person – and I’ve told myself this pretty much all my life – but I guess what I really meant was that I didn’t like to lose.

Now things have changed physically I find that my competitive side occasionally reads its head and pushes me to be a little more ‘spirited’ around others than I otherwise would.

If I’m in a swimming lane on my own I’m quite happy to amble along at my own pace – but if there’s someone nearby I find myself trying (if it’s vaguely possible) to match their pace and stamina.

There was a guy near me in the pool today – and (to my mind at least) he looked fitter than me when he got into the water.

I know that I have a distorted image of myself at times – and I’m aware that what I really mean is that he looked normal.

By this I mean that he didn’t have any loose skin, saggy bingo wings or appear as if he needed to lose anything more than a pound or two around his love handles.

I on the other hand have all of these – and when I see someone like this I can’t help but try and match or exceed their speed.

Today I initially matched and then exceeded his pace, and by my reckoning in the twenty minute period we were in the same lane I watched him stop for a breather three times and do six less lengths than me.

He got in after I did and I was still swimming continuous lengths when he got out.

I felt pretty chuffed – and my quicker than normal time for 1km above appears to reflect the extra effort I put in.

It’s all relative mind you – and a similarly minded young girl (who was around 12 years old and with with her dad in the next lane) absolutely SMASHED ME INTO THE GROUND with her times and completed two lengths for every one that I managed.

So – I take the rough with the smooth, but it’s great to know that there’s at least someone that I can beat at sporting things as opposed to no-one, which was the way that things used to be.

If I look back at why this state of mind exists I’m sure it relates to sports at school – which were anything but inclusive in my childhood.

I’m not necessarily in agreement with children getting participation medals just for being involved (life after all has winners and losers and I think it’s a good idea to get used to that early on) but when I was young I was last in every sport possible.

Cross country? Last

Swimming? Could barely swim

Football? Never picked for a team and always ended up in goal

Basketball? Couldn’t jump so always did the scoring

Badminton? Lost every game

Cricket? Could hit the ball but couldn’t do runs between the posts

Rounders? Couldn’t hit the ball and couldn’t run around the diamond.

The list went on and and on with the humiliations cumulatively stacking on top of one another over time until they no longer registered any more.

This all just led to me choosing to no longer take part – because if I wasn’t likely to win what was the point?

Sadly I think that this attitude eventually bled into other areas of my life, and although academically I was no slouch I began to not try very hard in other areas too. The sting of failing after trying to win or do well was just too great – and when I looked around me every role model I had in life appeared to have already given up too.

It’s refreshing therefore to discover that this element of my personality is still alive and well even if it hid from view until my mid 40’s.

I’m also not a bad loser it seems – and with the possibility that I might just prevail against others if I try hard enough I find that even if I don’t win I rather enjoy taking part.

If you’d told me that sport or exercise would do this to me 10 years ago then I’d have laughed you out of the room – but there we have it! It’s infected me.

There’s also another reason I’m in the zone today – because yesterday I ended up with a rather ‘off plan’ end to my Saturday.

It all started so well – but as with all of the best laid plans of mice and men it didn’t finish with me covered in glory.

Quite the opposite in fact.

The blame lies squarely at the feet of snack food – and me not being arsed with preparing meals.

I could kick myself – as it was a really hard fought loss yesterday on the scales and I really don’t want to screw it up this week.

I’m totally sick of yo-yo’ing back and forth around 15st and I want to get back to (at least) 14st 7lbs.

I’ll be perfectly frank though. I’m conflicted about this weight.

I don’t feel uncomfortable or unhealthy. I don’t have a problem moving, exercising, fitting into my clothes or anything like that.

My partner likes me just as I am and I’m (relatively) happy with how I look.

However a letter arrived in the post the other day asking me to confirm my attendance at the Slimming World ball in November.

I’m the outgoing man of the year and it’s my last official engagement.

I replied that I am definitely going and that this time around I’ll be bringing my partner.

I paused over the email and re-worded it to emphasise what I felt was the most important part.

I would like a double room for once. Not a twin.

It’s a nice thing to be able to say finally – because all of the other events (as nice as they’ve been) have remained entirely solo affairs with friends in tow.

As great as that is though the event itself comes with no small measure of accompanying stress – because I’m a stone heavier than I feel some of my suits, waistcoats and jackets will comfortably allow – and I really don’t want to look like a muffin or buy something brand new for the occasion.

My motivations are conflicted.

Do I want to personally be thinner?

Mmmmm maybe not so much.

Do I want to feel like a success rather than a failure at the ball?

Absolutely I do.

These conflicting feelings and levels of willingness to be something different to who I am now keep colliding in my head – and so far they’ve absolutely prevented me from getting into diet mode.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing though.

I am sick to death of feeling like I’m in a boom and bust cycle – and I just want to level out so that I eat and exercise at an acceptable level.

I don’t want to feel like I need to starve myself to get anywhere in life and I don’t want to feel like I have to walk or swim a million miles to make up for shitty behaviour.

Mind you – I know that I’m reassuringly just like everyone else at the moment – because if group yesterday was anything to go by I’m not alone in struggling to find my motivation again. I’m also not the only one that’s annoyingly out of their target range – and when Angie herself is struggling with exactly the same issues you know that there’s absolutely zero point in beating yourself up.

You just have to accept things for what they are and move right along.

If yesterday was a bad day so what? Today can be different and so can the day after if you want it to be.

I’ve seen people dealing with cripplingly difficult life events, and having to support everyone around them whilst still getting up each day with a smile on their face and trying.

When there are these kind of people around you’re reminded of what gaining a pound or two really means.

Not a lot really.

There are way more important things to beat yourself up about. Pick yourself up, move along and keep on trying to be better.

You never know – you might even find yourself feeling a little competitive.

It could happen internet!


Kiril Valdez wants to be me

It’s been a while but today I’m back (just) in the fourteen stone bracket.

I’ll be honest – given the work I’ve done to lose the pound and a half represented in this picture I do feel a little dispirited.

I genuinely feel like I deserved to lose more – but when I break it down there is probably a very good reason that things are only just beginning to recover for me on the scales.

The last month – actually the last TWO – have been anything but ‘normal’ (if there is such a thing) and it has taken a while for new routines to bed in.

My house and my life are slowly becoming our house and our life together – and I’m continually amazed at how easy all this has been.

I’m sure that one day (when I stand on a Lego brick or slip in a mysterious puddle of tea) an apocalyptic argument or disagreement will arrive – but it hasn’t happened yet and I can’t see it on the horizon – even with the stress of unpacking.

All of the boxes are now gone but I’d be lying if I said I knew where half of my stuff was – and that’s not my usual norm.

I’m pretty sure that whilst all of the drawers and doors on our respective wardrobes and cupboards are closed neither of us has the foggiest where around 50% of our belongings are.

I completely forgot that there was a telescope under the dining room table.

Who knew?!

There is a semblance of routine edging in now though.

Meals, snacking and exercise seem to be all reassuringly under control once more and since my partner in crime recently obtained her gym and swim membership we’ve been to the leisure centre every day except for the bank holiday.

My other half also been investigating the classes and is once more getting her yoga fix – which made for a beamingly happy and bendy demeanour throughout the day.

Consequently our mutual results for for calorie burning this week have been very much improved and we both got a positive result on the scales.

Mine personal stats are definitely on the up now we’re into a routine that’s being carried out together.

Although this screenshot might not seem like a stratospheric amount of exercise I am now eating much less than I was previously.

Also the week before it without so much swimming was noticeably more sedate.

The ones before that were even less stellar…

The problem is that it’s always easy to eat the same amount that you normally do – but maintaining consistency when it comes to being active requires a more focused approach – and sometimes life just doesn’t promote it.

In my case I’ve only swum 12 times this month – and that has had a big impact.

Not getting into the pool represents 400-600 extra calories that usually get burned but simply haven’t been.

This has been a combination of injury (my shoulder is thankfully finally getting better!) and the process of combining two lives – but whatever the causes are I think I’ve conclusively proven that less exercise when combined with the same amount of (or more) food equals weight gain.

On the bright side being a little bit more porky doesn’t stop people wanting to impersonate me.

If there was ever a form of backhanded flattery it’s when the internet considers you interesting (or good looking) enough to use for catfishing some poor souls.

This week – once again my open online social media presence was used to create a fake Davey.

This probably should worry or annoy me but that’s never going to do me any good – so I’m looking upon it as a bonus.

No one would have wanted to impersonate me when I was 35st – so it’s a tick in the ‘win’ column from my perspective.

Whilst walking and swimming many many people contacted me to alert me to a scam account using my image.

I got out of the swimming pool and whilst changing unexpectedly met Kiril Valdez – my new alter ego.

Kiril (who I’m sure you’ll agree is a very handsome fellow with a rather dashing and debonair flair about him) had been sending everyone on my Instagram list friend requests until an eagle eyed person reported him and got the Instagram account banned.

Amazingly it seems 11 people responded to and accepted the friend request!

Regular reader may remember the first time this happened (link).

Incredibly is was almost a year ago when my image was last used to create a fake online persona – and on that occasion some evil sausage lured an unsuspecting woman into an internet tryst.

I was apparently in a committed relationship without my knowledge for three months before I was made aware that I had been horribly injured in an accident.

Shortly after this photo was sent to her the catfished lady in question was convinced to part with her savings. This was apparently to help me fictitious Davey out with hospital bills – so I was rather relieved to see that another similarly sorry saga had ended before it had begun!

Other than despicable fake me rearing his (rather handsome) head this week it’s otherwise been a rather blissful few days where we’ve been walking, talking, and doing things like gathering apples and blackberries from bushes and local trees.

You really can’t beat free food – and there’s rarely something that tastes better than when you’ve literally just pulled it from the branch or stem.

We’ve been using the (rather large) stash of now frozen berries that we brought home to make both breakfast (porridge) and desserts with.

Coupled with a yogurt maker (natural yogurt made with skimmed UHT milk is ace!) have been eating extremely cost effective and healthy meals.

I’m slowly working through the duplicate items in the cupboard too – and have been making use of rice, pasta and noodles way more than I normally would.

Although you can barely see it this naked chicken fajita was accompanied by some basmati and wild long grain rice.

Whilst this haddock and prawn stair fry had some Chinese dry noodles thrown in to soak up the stock in the wok.

I like using up things like this because not only does it cheaply bulk up a meal but I really want to recover a little shelf.

In other areas not so long ago it rapidly diminished…

My coffee storage cupboard – previously a place of highly caffeinated ‘Daveyness’ – suddenly became increasingly tricky to fill with packs of coffee machine pods.

This sudden lack of available shelving is a total mystery to me and I’m still trying to figure out precisely how it happened.

Thankfully very little gets past me and one day soon I’m convinced I’ll get to the bottom of it.

There isn’t a mystery out there that I can’t eventually solve.

Anyway internet. That’s my day so far. The rest of my evening will almost certainly be spent attempting to bring order to my study and resurrect an ageing PC that I built a long time ago. I’m currently kitting it out (on a tight budget) with some relatively new components.

It turns out that if you’ve been using a Mac for a decade though (instead of Windows) that things have moved on considerably in the land of Bill Gates.

To put it bluntly I have a lot to (re)learn.

Windows 10 seems almost as alien now as it did when I first turned on a PC with Windows 95 – although thankfully I still know my way around a bios.

On the bright side my 2nd hand (bargain) small form factor Geforce 1050ti arrived as expected this morning from eBay and despite all of my expectations worked first time when I installed it and it’s drivers!!’

I can only hope that the extra memory (which is still in transit from the internet) is recognised by my motherboard just as easily.

The online manual for it (an ASUS P6T) irritatingly contradicts itself on the topic of exactly what the maximum RAM is that I can put in the slots (intel’s XMS3 protocol in DDR3 is not a simple standard to understand or manage) and I’m fully expecting to be frustrated and thwarted by the experience when my new (old) modules arrive.

On the bright side all of my Steam games appear to have a new lease of life and a (frankly astonishing) frame rate boost in almost all cases.

Right. Geek update over. I’m off to the man cave.

Laters Internet.


P.S. Please try to refrain from pretending to be me.

Parks challenge

There has been a lot of inconsistency in my blogging schedule of late – and this is particularly galling when I think upon the subject because it’s quite a long way away from where I started off.

In February 2016 I began for the very first time writing down how I felt about life (link) and ultimately decided to set myself the challenge of writing down every day what was on my mind and (rather counter intuitively) sending it out for everyone to read without hiding behind a pseudonym or anonymous account.

Back then I had no one to talk about but me – and my life was as insular as it got.

I was recovering from the death of my mother, trying to take my mind off wanting to (but not actually) drink three bottles of wine a day and deal with a variety of health conditions.

Oddly though I was more preoccupied back then with an absence of love – and I didn’t mean romance.

That seemed impossible – and an issue for another day.

The problem instead was that I couldn’t say with any definitive truth what it was that I felt passionate about – because ultimately I didn’t really feel passionate about anything.

I binged on video games and box sets for my pleasure and consumed media in much the same way that I consumed food.

I gorged myself on it in an effort to feel the next emotion.

New game?

Great. I’ll preorder it because it will make me happy.

New season of xxxxx TV show?

Wonderful. I’ll get the wine in and do a marathon session.

Then through writing, (a small amount of) meditation, exercise and self improvement I began to see a new truth.

In trying to understand what it had been that was missing in my life by writing about the problem I unwittingly came to realise that the method of investigation was actually my passion.

I loved to write.

Furthermore I loved to be honest.

It was right there in front of me and I grabbed onto it with both arms and held tightly. Truth was my addiction now (although occasionally coffee took its place) and I was fast becoming a two a day man.

I dreamt blogs.

I spent all of my time writing them in my head.

Everything I saw was a new post just waiting to to take shape.

This was all wonderful – but you have to be careful what you wish for – because if you find out what you truly love then get it – what do you do once you have it?

If it’s there, in unlimited supply and all it takes is you being absolutely and completely truthful with the world then what would you do?

In my case I agreed (with myself at least) some ground rules.

I would write about no one but myself without express permission, I wouldn’t say bad things about others (even if they were tossers and deserved it) and I wouldn’t talk about my professional life.

The issue is that if the things on your mind are all of the above how do you carry on doing what you love?

My quiet periods are therefore moments where I choose to say nothing instead of something bad (or maybe even something good if it’s private) about a job, a personal relationship or finances.

When those things are pretty much the only things on my mind it leads to a kind of forced mental constipation – where I feel like I want (or more specifically need) to write but can’t.

No matter how much I strain or agonise the end result is always the same. I won’t break my rules and I won’t lie about my life just to force one through the gates.

However lately my life is in a good place and it’s given my posting schedule a laxative effect.

I’m feeling less backed up.

Everyone I want to write about is ok with me including them, every event is relevant and (at least in my mind) worth writing about and the weather is lovely.

Today (since I have a partner in crime with a new swimming subscription) I hit the pool early on and we hammered out a few lengths.

Very pleasingly (after around 40 mins of swimming) I was reminded by her that we both had to do Apple Watch’s bidding to get our badges for the ‘national parks challenge’.

I love that there’s someone else in my life just as addicted as I am to our little wrist mounted miracles and their motivational objectives.

In this case we had to walk three miles in a single workout (let’s face it this is hardly a problem for me) and there couldn’t really have been a better day on which to do it.

We wound our way around St Nicholas Park, along the river Avon, down the Grand Union canal, through Victoria Park and around Jephson Gardens before finally coming to a (rather sweaty) stop outside the park cafe where we took on tea and coffee.

The fabulous thing is that it’s not just me now.

We’re planning activities together, working towards objectives together and all of our goals in life appear to align in a way I’ve never experienced before.

I don’t care if the world is sick of hearing that I’m really happy because I am.

On the plus side it means I feel that all of the things that would normally cause me to curl up into a little ball and not write are completely absent.

On the downside part of that is because I’m deferring some of my problems and worries until later – so this particular state of affairs may not remain the same forever.

Next week and the week after will no doubt see me once again beginning to agonise about what I want to be when I grow up – and I’m really not looking forward to that.

Many things in my life are sorted and settled in a way that they never ever have been before.

Others seem more broken than ever – and their resolutions appear to be so far away in the distance that I’ll never find my way to them.

However – for the meantime I feel great.

My diet is good, my life is good, the weather is smashing and I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s hoping that you guys out in internetland feel the same way too.


More alike than different

In real terms I guess the week food wise has been a success.

After a rather off plan week leading up to last Saturday (while my other half was on holiday) I chose not to weigh in.

This was mostly because I knew I’d gone up a few pounds and also partially related to the fact that Angie was also away on holiday.

I like the variety of guest consultants as much as the next person – but nothing beats your own one when you’re feeling a little vulnerable.

Today Angie was back from holiday, so any semblance of an excuse not to stand on the scales had evaporated.

I had to rip off the band aid.

So far this week I’ve been losing weight – but in an annoyingly gradual way.

Sure – I get it. Losing weight sustainably shouldn’t be a boom and bust activity, and dropping a pound a week still equals 4.5st per year.

If I’m brutally honest a lot of my losses toward the end of my journey came this way – and I’ve played a game for a long time where I ‘sin’ and then ‘repent’.

Lately this behaviour has become more evident than ever and my Slimming World book shows the reality of me eating good some weeks to make up for others that are completely off plan.

On the plus side I only put on half a pound compared to where I was two weeks ago.

I guess I’m not alone in this kind of outcome because when I talk about this type of behaviour in group or to friends I get a lot of knowing nods.

As I helped tidy up after the session this morning I started packing away the new member table – and low and behold there was this sitting in the middle of it – which I’d never seen before.

I’m really proud of that particular photo – but the story behind how it came to be taken and the build up to winning MOTY also represents a significant amount of stress.

I was very aggressively focused on getting to the weight I needed to be that day and in many respects I lost that all important last half a stone completely the wrong way.

The ‘impact’ (if you can call it that because it sounds a little melodramatic) of this has remained with me ever since.

I’ve struggled an awful lot to both maintain the weight that photo represented and also keep up the austere mindset needed to keep eating only just enough to ensure that I didn’t balloon again.

For the whole of the last year I knew that Slimming World were likely to call upon me at any time (and they occasionally did) and if that happened (although I could say no to anything I didn’t really want to because I felt very responsible) I needed to be able to get into my smart clothes!

It was really stressful.

It still is.

I always end up hating myself when I eat like a pig after a period of abstention and then resent having to reign in bad behaviour to once more get to where I need to be.

It’s not a good way to live your life and I don’t want to do things that way any more.

My current drive is to establish a ‘new normal’ where home life involving myself and my significant other is as far from the land of yo-yo comfort eating and snacking as possible.

We both have the capability to do this to ourselves.

Scarily we’re more alike in so many ways than I ever thought possible and sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror.

She’s even a ridiculous geek who loves Pokémon like no other person I know.

When we purchased a copy of the new Nintendo Switch game ‘Let’s Go Pikachu’ yesterday (if ever I needed confirmation) I was immediately reminded that she was the woman of my dreams.

The fact we’re also similar in other areas has the pleasing side effect of us both understanding each other’s positive and negative dietary behaviours, accepting one another for who we are and enables our continually supportive collaboration.

Simply put we don’t allow each other to be negative about ourselves and we absolutely avoid any individual behaviours that may sabotage our mutual efforts to be fitter and healthier versions of who we already are.

There’s no sneaky eating and we never hide wrappers or stuff empty food packets to the bottom of the bin when we’ve been bad.

After all what’s the point?

Honesty needs to be everywhere in a relationship and you can’t expect to get it if you don’t give it in the first place.

Hiding who you truly are is a waste of time and I want us to be stronger together not isolated in the same painful behaviour patterns that have dogged both of us in the past.

For my part I’ve been hard at work making sure that I prepare (and we eat) regular and healthy meals.

This not only benefits us from a health perspective but it also cuts down on food waste on top of saving money.

In fact since my partner moved in my (now our) food bills have remained unchanged – because I was eating huge meals.

Now I’m sharing that same volume of food – meaning that in real terms the household shopping costs are the same but my personal intake has roughly halved (it’s probably closer to 5/8ths of what I was previously consuming) but over the last couple of weeks I’ve also been doing a bit less walking and a lot less swimming.

It’s been a busy time and as well as getting used to living with eachother we’ve still got a lot to do with regard to organising the house.

The latter is changing as of today though because now we both have a swimming subscription, meaning that there’s no excuse not to go for a dip together – which we did immediately after group.

There’s a reason though that I’m focused on this at the moment though – because I still have one thing outstanding related to my Slimming World MOTY title.

In early November (around 10 weeks away) is the 2019 Slimming World Ball – where I officially hand over my 2018 title to the new 2019 winner Ben Muscroft (link).

He looked super svelte in his photo shoot and the very last thing I want is to appear as if things have slipped for me since I last stood on the stage.

In so many respects the pressure is off – but in others it’s just as bad.

I want to look and feel the same way that I did on that day in November last year – and my objective is to gradually chip away at my gains until I’m there.

Keep your fingers crossed Internet! It’s by no means a forgone conclusion!!!

Although if nothing else it will give you all a good reason to come back here to check up on me occasionally as well as leave a supportive comment below!

Until the next blog….


What is my motivation?

Well as always I find it next to impossible not to beat myself up over what I perceive to be a total lack of impetus and progress on the whole ‘getting back to target’ question.

In real terms I’m currently only half a stone heavier than I was when I first hit target back in February 2018 – and in that respect I feel both fit and healthy.

That was a great day and I felt justifiably proud of my achievements.

I’ll never forget the overwhelming sense of accomplishment and how I cried when I got my target member certificate.

It meant the world to me then and it still does.

Logic tells me therefore that if I was a success in February 2018 then I must still be a success now – because I’m practically the same person.

There are however always other thought processes at work, because for a time after reaching my first target I carried on going.

I lost a further half a stone after that before I came MOTY, taking my weight down to 14 st – which (if I’m honest) became a real struggle to maintain.

Unexpectedly my life went and changed again – and before I knew it (flushed with the endorphins associated with a new relationship) I completely lost my appetite and dropped yet another seven pounds – taking my total loss to a rather mind boggling 21 stone.

For a while this seemed like a good place to be – but eventually I had to face facts. It happened because I was eating practically no food at all.

The same thing was going on with my new girlfriend and between us the weight flew off over a really short space of time.

Then things stabilised.

My appetite returned, I became less worried that occasionally I might fart in front of my partner and that if I did it would make her run for the hills.

She also confirmed that if I used the loo for a number two that I wouldn’t be ostracised from her life.

This came as a great relief – particularly as we had started to spend more than a couple of days together.

As my ablutions returned to normal and we started to have meals together I felt like I wanted to just enjoy life.

In some respects this meant that I also enjoyed it maybe a little too much because eventually several months later I found myself hovering around the 15st mark.

I will admit that this has some consequences – because a stone and a half means larger means that some of my ‘snug’ shirts and waistcoats (many of which were purchased at 13.5 – 14 stone) are now seem less than flattering and that’s a little depressing.

Fundamentally I’m a bit of a shirt addict.

However – these are just clothes and my body feels absolutely fine.

I’m still swimming, walking, spending quality time engaging in energetic activity in many areas of my life and just generally feeling as happy as a pig in poop.

Like most people however that sense of zen like calm quickly evaporates when I try on something that doesn’t fit.

I’ve become very fond of my cargo trousers lately and I’m ashamed to say that it’s because I feel like they hide a multitude of sins.

This is patently nonsense mind you.

I am not fat any more.

This is something that I still occasionally struggle to remember and keep at the forefront of my mind.

I always worry that the guy above is lurking in the background – just waiting to reappear – and by being 7lbs out of target I’m more like him than ever.

Crazy right?

It’s midday and I’ve already walked 6 miles and swum a kilometre.

We couldn’t be further apart and I’m undeniably fitter than I’ve ever been in my life.

Yet some of my shirts don’t fit.

I promised myself that I would never go back and buy larger ones – but maybe I’m just being stupid.

Maybe a wardrobe with ‘options’ is what ‘normal’ people have and they just accept that they will go up from time to time as well as down.

Or is this me trying to excuse my gain (which I view in my mind as a consequence of bad behaviour) and get out of the disagreeable task of losing weight.

I’m struggling with this at the moment – and it oddly it is NOT because I’m eating the wrong food.

The meals that I’m preparing are being consumed by both myself and my partner and she seems to be losing weight currently (which is wonderful because it’s what she’s aiming to to) whereas I’m remaining totally static.

I’m practically taking on the appearance of a bowl of salad due to the amount of fresh vegetables I’m consuming and yet it seems to make no difference.

I’m remaining static on the scales.


So – I’m happy, healthy, comfortable, fit, settled, and in a very very nice place in life. I feel loved and because of that I also feel attractive.

The latter may have something to do with the fact that I have someone constantly pinching my bottom while I’m cooking or washing up – but also because it’s pushing me to face up to how needlessly hard I can be on myself.

Again and again I was told I was too thin at 13.5 stone and that now I look healthy and ‘just right’ – but I’m still struggling to believe it.

The reality is that the jeans in this picture appear to fit me.

I tried them on the other day in Debenhams (despite all of my mental barriers about wearing ‘slim fit’ anything) and they were pretty darned comfortable.

What’s more I actually ended up buying them and my other half definitely approved – because I can confirm that the number of impromptu ‘butt grabbery’ incidents whilst working in the kitchen and putting together garden furniture practically doubled yesterday compared to my experience whilst wearing cargo trousers.

So what do I do?

I want to get back to my old target – but at 14.5 stone many of my shirts will still not be as loose as I’d prefer or simply not fit at all.

Does that mean I just accept that I’m this weight for the time being and stock my wardrobe accordingly or do I keep beating myself up and pushing myself back to my current target of 14st?

I just don’t know – and I’m wondering what my real motivation is at the moment.

I don’t have an underlying health issue to fix.

I don’t feel unloved.

I don’t feel unattractive.

I don’t feel unfit.

I’m wearing slim fit jeans.

What on Earth is my motivation to be anyone other than who I am?

If anyone needs me I’ll be pinching the bridge of my nose and looking thoughtful.


You’re worth it

Often I’m moved to write blogs not because something interesting has happened in my life – but because occasionally I feel there’s something more important to say.

A lot of the time this is because of private conversations and this leaves me with something of a quandary – because I don’t betray people’s trust and I certainly don’t write about them without explicit permission.

Their lives are their own.

Although some of the tales that motivate me to write are not mine to tell occasionally the sentiment behind them is universal and makes me feel that to do so is important so I’ll try and write today with the privacy of (many) others in mind.

Forgive me therefore if a certain generic vagueness on my part seems apparent because in this case it’s necessary.

Although this isn’t really about me there have been times in the past where it could easily have been – so I will begin by using myself as an example.

When I met and got to know my partner (who is not the subject of my thoughts in this particular case but is a good illustration) one of the things that initially surprised me was how long she’d been single.

It was roughly the same time as myself and this was (like me) completely by choice.

I wasn’t sure how this was possible at the time. She was lovely and instantly made me feel comfortable in her presence.

When she smiled her whole head lit up like a light bulb and made me grin right back at her.

Now – we tell ourselves convenient fictions at times. Mine for many years was that I was too big to have a partner.

It was a lie of course because all you had to do was (at least before the show was cancelled) turn on Jeremy Kyle and you could see that it doesn’t matter how big or small you are there is someone willing to be with everyone.

Accepting a partner on this basis this may not yield the right person for the right reasons – but if you prefer company to loneliness then compromises can easily be made.

Sometimes this is a conscious decision to accept second (or even third) best, and at others it’s an unconscious one.

Sometimes we don’t realise why we chose who we did until it’s too late.

Occasionally (particularly after a significant change such as weight loss) it takes us a while to realise why we share our days with someone that may not be the one for us.

Life in this respect is always a learning curve. Most of us don’t get it right first time – and that’s ok.

Personally I chose some time ago to be single instead of being alone in a relationship.

When I recognised the same trait in my current partner I instantly felt more attracted to her.

Here was a person that also chose occasional independent loneliness instead of feeling isolated in a relationship with someone she didn’t love – and that was compelling to me because it meant that when she decided to choose me (and vice versa) there was a damn good reason.

It meant there was a connection and a respect between us that seemed as if it was already underlined in bold ink and it also meant that if neither of us got what we needed from out relationship then it would not last long.

When two people who have successfully managed single lives for years decide to change their mutual status quo it’s profound because what those people have already proven is that they are strong enough to go through life alone.

When you meet and enter into a partnership with someone like this you know that if you’re an idiot, if you take them for granted, if you mess about or if the love is not real that they can (and probably will) walk away.

They can re-use the self belief and empowerment that they had before you came along, rekindle the flame of their personal independence and move right along.

It works both ways.

I had to accept that I need a lot from a partner and that I’m damn well deserving of it.

I deserve to be wanted.

I deserve to be loved.

I need to be thought about as special enough to make someone’s heart skip a beat for no reason other than I crossed their mind on a busy day at work.

We all need these things in a partnership – and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have them.

The motivation for me writing this comes from not one but several people and this is because over the last few years losing weight, speaking in public, being active in social media and being MOTY (meaning I’ve spoken to a frankly absurd number of people I’ve never met before and probably will never meet again) I have come across lots of individuals who don’t yet fully understand the importance of being single rather than being in an unhappy relationship.

Something that a lot of them have in common – and a worry they all seem to share (at least when it comes to weight loss) is to do with excess skin.

I’ve been asked about it over and over again and what I plan to do about it.

Interestingly the question is often framed within an expectation that once you’ve lost all your weight then the very next step you’d logically take is to undergo surgery.

Many TV shows seem to popularise this and many celebrities seem to do the same.

Somehow we’ve come to think that this is completely normal and consequence free – however the surgery (if you look into it) is not a quick and easy procedure.

It’s dangerous, can be life threatening – and it carries with it major chances of serious complications.

A tummy tuck (if that’s what you plan to undergo) has a seriously long recovery period and its execution is brutal.

It’s also not free on the nhs – and once you start where do you stop?

Create a clean spot in the middle of a dirty kitchen and see if you can resist cleaning the rest up. If you’re like me I bet you won’t be able to.

When I’m asked about MY skin however people aren’t really enquiring about what I look like under my clothes.

I’m not that interesting.

What they’re really saying when they approach me is ‘I’m terrified that no one will love me if I look this way in the mirror and I don’t know how to deal with that. Please help me.’

I get it.

I really really do.

We all think that for one reason or another someone will struggle to accept us for who we are.

Cosmetic surgeons prey like vultures on people like us whilst social media and glossy magazines fuel our collective sense of worthlessness when we look in the mirror.

We’re not pert enough. Our noses aren’t straight. Our teeth aren’t white enough, our lips aren’t as plump as they should be or we have laughter lines on our foreheads and around our eyes.

We are not perfect.

The secret is that none of us are and we don’t have to be.

Perfection does not exist – it’s simply a construct that we use to beat ourselves up with.

We can’t all look the same, with perfect boobs or skin that’s tighter than a snare drum – and neither should we try to.

Instead we all (especially those who have lost or are still losing weight) should aspire to do is make the best of who we are.

To do this we need to begin to love what’s inside – and recognise that by caring about and accepting your inner self you find confidence to speak to others.

This above all else is fundamentally the most attractive thing that you can bring with you into a partnership.

How many times have you seen someone wearing a ridiculous outfit that you’d never wear in a million years, but even though they have chosen to look LOUD they own that look?

Admit it.

You may not want to wear the same apparel but you admire them don’t you?

They don’t care what you think and they like the way they look.

They’re comfortable in their own skin (which is probably also not perfect) and they stand before you neither bothered if you agree with their choice of clothes or diminished if you don’t.

You suddenly realise you like them because they’re confident.

It’s attractive.

By this point their weight, stretch marks, laughter lines or anything else about them rapidly becomes irrelevant.

They’ve hooked us (either as a friend or prospective partner) with their inner confidence and how they use it to light up a room.

When they do they seem to effortlessly get our attention.

As hard as it’s been to deal with from a confidence perspective I’ve never wanted to remove my skin or enhance any other part of myself with surgery.

For better or worse I am what I am.

Furthermore (and this is important) I do not accept this has anything to do with whether I’m a man or a woman.

I’ve been told more times than I care to hear that it’s different for women – that men aren’t judged the same way.

Only up to a point can I accept this.

Sometimes there are different standards set for different sexes and it’s galling when they become apparent.

David Cameron wore the same suit for practically the whole time he was a Prime Minister and no-one cared – yet Theresa May was lambasted continually for her clothing choices.

One might argue that the media should have spent more time either intelligently focusing on them being sub par politicians or treating both equally – but I won’t delve any deeper into that.

My point is more fundamental.

We all end up eventually (either metaphorically or in actuality) naked in front of someone whether we do so as a man or a woman.

At that point being male or female doesn’t matter – because by the time we present ourselves in a swimming bath, a doctor’s surgery or a bedroom we can choose to either apologise for who we are and what we look like or we can say proudly ‘I don’t care – because this is me and whatever you think about how I look is irrelevant because I know I have value.’

This is just as true incidentally if you’re a disabled man or woman as it is if you’re an able bodied one.

Your confidence (or lack of it) will ultimately become the deciding factor in the level of happiness you’re eventually going to achieve in life.

It’s something of a lonely path at times however and this is not an always an easy choice to make – because it means that you will have to occasionally say ‘I prefer to be without someone’ rather than accepting a person into your life that does not love you and does not make you happy.

The trade off is that in the meantime the confidence we can all achieve attracts new people to us and because of this we already stand a better chance of leading better lives.

Your self worth will inspire others, and that they in turn will probably inspire you right back again – and that may be just when you need it the most.

Your quality of life will improve if you choose to love yourself before expecting it from others.

If you make this your mission in life then eventually you will have love in your life that does not require compromise.

You will not have to accept second best and there will always be a person to give you a hug – even if for a time that is not in the form of an intimate relationship.

There are a lot of people in the world and more ways than ever to connect to them.

Everyone can find friends on their journey.

Learning to love and cherish yourself may not come easy to you – but then nothing worth having ever does.

The truth is though that you can’t ignore the need to achieve this state of mind – and I would argue that you can’t do without it.

You’re a better human being if you take time to cultivate this side of your personality and it’s never too late to start doing so.

If you don’t have confidence then now is the time to start working on it.

Look in the mirror – put on a ridiculous shirt or blouse or go into a shop and try on something LOUD.

Walk out of the door in what makes you happy and remember it does not matter.

If what’s seen by everyone when you step outside in your bright top doesn’t worry you then extend that to your skin.

It’s the one thing you can never take off.

You can’t hang it on a peg and you should never be made to feel that you should remove it or that there’s something wrong with you because of the way you look.

As you sit now you’re as nature intended and whilst you can take steps with exercise to improve who you are there is no scenario that should involve you cutting off, trimming or tucking anything because another person tells you that you need to in order to keep them in your life.

You don’t need to get rid of skin – you need to get rid of the shallow idiot that doesn’t love you for the frankly amazing person that you already are.

I’ll be honest though and say that (even now) I occasionally have days where my confidence is in the toilet. Sometimes (although not currently) every waking moment seems like a struggle to accept the way that I look in a mirror.

One thing however is true above all else.

I would rather be alone than in an unhappy relationship – and that will never change.

Thankfully I’m not alone.

I’ve found someone that makes me feel both happy and accepted – but there are many I’ve met who have not and still struggle with this.

From time to time people reach out to me – and individually I regularly try to help – but for once I’m shouting this collectively to all of you that are reading.

If you don’t have this in your current relationship then you deserve more.

Believe it can happen, work towards loving who you are – and you will achieve it it.

At the end of the day you’re worth it.


Box throne

Boxes are getting pretty tiresome.

There has been a lot of unpacking done over the last week – and now we’re down to the last few ‘sod it’ boxes.

These were the ones where the task of organising and packing at the originating end had become so tiresome that we lost interest and just threw it in a box.

In other instances there were just bits and bobs left that we decided were to be kept but that didn’t obviously go together with similar items in an easily unpackable collective container.

This is irritating enough – particularly when it seems like there’s no discernible end in sight – but also because we’re struggling in many cases to find room for the everyday items.

I’ve lost count of the bags of pasta and rice we now collectively have.

I’ve enough bacofoil to roast an elephant, enough cling film to wrap it in (as well as the herd from which it sprung) and enough greaseproof paper and muffin nests to make a lot of ele-cakes and ele-pies afterwards.

I also have more than enough Tupperware to store the ele-cakes and ele-pies in and enough knives and forks for a small army to eat them with.

If they can’t consume it all in one go then I have about a thousand food bags in which they can take their lunch home with them.

If the army returns (still carrying their packed treats) they can happily heat their meals up in one of the two microwaves that we currently have.

If that wasn’t enough there’s also a second sofa in our hall that we have no idea what to do with.

The original plan was to take it to the charity shop in the Leamington recycling centre – which was partially why we hired a van last week – but it seems that anything Transit Van sized is not allowed on to the site without incurring commercial vehicle charges.

If you want to go in as a residential customer then you can do so with six ‘free tokens’ that you have to apply for online. However you have to own the van in which the goods are to be transported and that needs to be registered in a Warwickshire postal code.

This set of hoops is particularly unhelpful if you’re a resident who hired a van rather than one that just happens to be lucky enough to own such a vehicle.

If you ask the council to collect your item instead they charge £35.

Even then the next pickup is at an ‘undetermined future date’.

It’s no wonder people fly tip.

We’re trying to do the right thing but the powers that be don’t make it easy.

Charities also won’t collect for weeks (and want the item to be ‘saleable’ but aren’t particularly specific about what that means leaving me unsure about whether or not to schedule an appointment weeks in the future only to be told it’s not wanted) so if we want to see the back of it then we’re basically in a position where I have to take a hacksaw to it or leave it in my hall permanently.

I might try my luck on Facebook and see if anyone wants it before I get the power tools out though.


Worse things happen at sea I guess – and today is weigh in day.

I know that I’ve lost weight since I last stepped on the scales – but how much is still to be determined by the official scales at group.

(Author goes to group)

Well a week and a half of making good food choices (even when eating out) and cooking great meals for two appears to have paid off – and although I’ve not yet sorted out the gain from two weeks ago I’m on my way to getting things under control.

It’s annoying to see blips like this – but also encouraging to remember that they are just that – blips – and that there’s no point turning a molehill into an insurmountable mountain.

It will come back off eventually. I just have to keep on chipping away at it.

In the meantime, between boxes there have been moments of blissful normality where I’ve been able to continue introducing friends to my partner, and (whilst I’ve been writing this) watch her indulge her passion in Pokemon – which she’s been playing the new demo of on my Nintendo Switch.

As a detached observer of this gaming phenomenon over many years I’ve never quite managed to figure out the allure of it – but if there’s one thing that I do love it’s watching someone take pleasure in an activity.

That lady loves to catch Pokemon!

She also knows all of their names!!!

I can totally get how games like this can suck people in – and it’s quite comforting to know that whilst different genres may float our particular boats, once again we are more alike than we are different.

As comfortable as we feel on this score however we can’t yet see a point where every possession we own has a home. That seems to be light years ahead in the future.

There is however a distant light at the end of the tunnel because we can now see the (middle of) the dining room carpet again – and if nothing else that’s cause for celebration.

All we have to do now is find a place to put the Ikea delivery that’s coming in the very near future.

That’s a worry for another day though.

Tonight I go to bed a happy (and slightly lighter) man, because behind the bedroom door the mountain of folded cardboard is now a little bit higher.

My box throne grows…



My initial response to my weigh in today was that it was ‘brutal.’

I said as much when I texted the galling news out to various interested parties.

They all responded supportively (as did my lovely SW group) and without exception started to re-frame the narrative for me and provide words of consolation.

In the words of one dear friend however it wasn’t brutal.

It was instead ‘epic‘ – and on reflection I think I prefer her wording – because whilst my gain can’t really be looked upon as a entirely positive trajectory it can (in the great scheme of things) be termed a victory of sorts.

It’s been three weeks since I last officially stepped on the scales and things have clearly changed.

However my victory comes not from the result scribbled in my book but from the attitude I have towards it.

I sat smiling throughout my group knowing that firstly yesterday morning (before eating pretty much all of my shopping stuck in various traffic jams for around four and a half hours on the way home from Sussex) I was weighing in at 15st 2lbs.

Therefore this isn’t all a gain that’s ‘real’. It’s the cumulative impact of lots of carrots, ham and plums.

It’s also related to several rather nice (reduced) Waitrose salads that disappeared at Oxford services around tea time.

I blame the evil woman with all of the little yellow stickers that compelled me to impulse buy all of the nice things and I blame the traffic for boring me into eating like a porky pig all afternoon!

However I’m not getting too bent out of shape about this.

I could have gone to KFC instead and experience tells me that the impact of this little blow out will be gone fairly soon.

Secondly I’m no longer Man of the Year.

This doesn’t make gaining weight my new goal, and it definitely doesn’t make it ok – but it DOES mean that when I slip up I no longer feel the added pressure to be perfect.

I’m just me, going to a group (relatively) anonymously again and having to look for support rather than being an example of relentlessly good behaviour.

I wish yesterday hadn’t unfolded quite the way it did though.

Irritatingly until then I’d been totally on plan all week and had been preparing and consuming wonderfully speedy meals for two every day while I’ve been down south helping my partner with her packing.

(These are baked stuffed peppers – which I highly recommend – the recipe is here link)

In some ways though my gain has been totally called for because I’ve done a lot less exercise recently due to being busy rather than active.

My right shoulder has been giving me problems ever since I pulled it three weeks ago carrying shopping and it’s not been quite right ever since.

It’s not like me to be kind to myself and rest up – but this time (having learned the hard way) I decided to just back off and stop pushing myself so hard.

Swimming regardless of the pain in my shoulder wasn’t going to repair a damned thing. In reaity there was more of a chance it would make my recovery even slower and until I hit the pool this morning it had actually been over a week and a half since my last swim.

Even though I’ve been doing less, in all truth I’ve carried on eating like a man swimming around a kilometre a day.

Regardless of whether or not you eat good or ‘bad’ food you can still eat too much of it.

I’m back on the case now though and with regard to my swimming my pace has thankfully only dropped a teeny bit since I last went.

I might be heavier but my cardio fitness is still there!

So – what else have I been up to?

Well – truthfully I’ve been relaxing a little over the last couple of days.

There’s still a LOT to do with regard to the move (there’s only 6 days to go!) but there’s only so much packing and stressing a boy (or girl) can take – and as such my partner and I disappeared to Brighton on Wednesday and then caught up with family and friends on Thursday.

Brighton was amazing – and on (almost) the hottest day of the year so far we wandered up and down the beach, stopping only to drink tea and coffee or admire the endless beach and blue skies.

When it got too hot we found shade behind some gabions on the beach covered in local photography.

There’s also a really cool little cafe on the prom near the i360 now which is a really amusing little bit of architecture.

I can’t help but admire the way that Brighton manages to be a little bit left-field, even in the traditional seaside cafe space.

There’s plenty to geek out to as well – and a mooch around the snooper’s paradise market is absolutely guaranteed to make a certain Dr Who obsessed person a little perkier.

(If you want to imagine a voice over to this picture it’s basically ‘got this, got that, have the audiobook of that, that’s good, got that, want that…’ etc etc etc.)

I also found a pair of dungarees that a I knew certain fellow blogger would love – and I wasn’t wrong.

It took a mind bogglingly long five minutes for her to order them online from the moment that I sent through a photo on WhatsApp!

She’s slipping lately.

I would have expected a much faster turnaround previously.

As well as bee themed clothing being a thing in the shops (they seem to ‘bee everywhere’ 😏) it’s also getting close to pride week and consequently everything is a little bit more rainbow 🌈 than it usually is.

I just love the inclusiveness and diversity that this brings out in people and the vibrancy of the clothing that it promotes in Brighton.

It just makes me happy whenever I’m surrounded be people just letting it all hang out and being completely truthful to who they are inside.

In the spirit of the place (and because I probably need to get a sun hat – my bald noggin got absolutely frazzled on Wednesday) I couldn’t help but try some alternatives a little outside of my usual comfort zone…

As well as rainbow hats I couldn’t help but marvel at all the beautiful shoes (and shirts) that the town has to offer – and thankfully it doesn’t take much to get my partner to have a look in Irregular Choice.

I can never quite figure out whether I’m dragging her in there or whether she’s dragging me….

The pair that grabbed my attention this time around were more suited to her than myself – but I love the clear sole and the pattern underneath (although I gulped when I saw the price – hence the rapid thumb movement!).

(Link to Instagram video of them)

I’m also quite taken by a pair of pumps in Schuh that I really think would suit my other half – but again at £75) they’re outside of my current comfort zone.

Every time I see a pair of Adidas superstars like these I’m transported back to the 80’s where I’m sitting watching (in black and white because we didn’t have a colour tv when I was little) Run DMC’s video with Aerosmith of ‘Walk this way’.

(Skip to 2.32 for the bit where they walk down the stairs in their bright white superstars! I just LOVE this moment!!!)

The pair I picked up are slightly different though. They have some really funky pearlescent stripes which add a cool ‘zing’ to their retro look when you see them moving.

I think they’re great – but are they worth the price? Personally I think not – but then again I’m pretty frugal.

Thankfully so is my other half so we left empty handed rather than £75 lighter.

We have more than enough to collectively shell out for at the moment with the upcoming move – and I’m really aware all of a sudden that I don’t want to make any impulsive purchases that aren’t needed.

It’s a bonus that we’re completely aligned in this respect.

This afternoon, when I was listening to a radio four trailer for a programme called ‘the money clinic’ (it’s on next Saturday link) I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief that this is the case.

There’s so much conflict to be found in relationships with regard to money, the lack of it, the way it should be spent or because one half of a partnership is more materialistic than the other.

I know from experience that this can be really damaging over time.

In a previous life I had a serious mis-alignment with a partner about how I should (or should not) spend my money and it caused more than a little resentment to develop between us.

It was also the reason for more than a few arguments and prolonged periods of frosty silence.

In many ways I tentatively entered my current partnership half expecting many of the issues I’d previously encountered in past relationships to once again be present.

Part of me assumed that it was only a matter of time before I found something that worried me, and I’d convinced myself before we met that a huge amount of compromise in any relationship was just a hidden reality waiting to make itself apparent.

I was certain that I’d never be able to be myself and that I’d only be accepted if I played a part rather than be truthful about what I needed and who I was.

When I began to fall for my partner I was ultra diligent (having been burned before) about looking for what I call ‘smoking guns’.

By this I mean that without fail every time I’ve had to look back and evaluate why relationships failed I’ve realised that I knew pretty early on (within the first few weeks typically) what the ‘straws that broke the camel’s back’ were going to be.

Without exception I thought ‘I can live with or change that later’ and in every instance that conclusion proved to be naively delusional.

In the cold light of day I usually had no-one to blame but myself because I realised that I’d known from the very start what the issues were – I just chose to ignore them.

I found out the hard way that if you go into a partnership wanting someone to be any different to the way they are when you meet them them then you’re already setting yourself up for a potential failure.

If you love what they are from the beginning and don’t expect them to change for any reason other than their own ambitions and hopes for the future then it makes life a lot easier.

Saying this is all well and good though.

When it came down to it I never expected this to be the reality of any relationship I found myself in. It seemed like an unobtainable idea that I’d ultimately have to compromise on if I wanted to find anyone.

Against all of my expectations it seems to have become a reality though because I love what I have right now and I don’t need anything to be different.

Something else had to change though to make sure that the same was true in reverse.

I don’t want anyone to see me as a ‘fixer upper’.

I’ve had to change in many ways in order to be capable of having a productive partnership.

Not only did I have to get rid of many bad habits but I’ve had to accept that in past relationships that I’d more often than not completely failed to communicate how I really felt about certain things until they became major issues.

I don’t do that any more.

I’m up front about what I like or don’t like and I try and be forthright and truthful.

I’m as honest in my real life as I am in my blog. There’s nothing hidden in the confines of my relationship, even if it’s painful, paints me in a bad light or is embarrassing to talk about.

One can only hope that the future is bright because of this because I certainly can’t control it.

It’s lunacy to think you know how anything is going to turn out. All you can do is build solid foundations, throw truth out there and hope that it brings love back with it.

So despite my gain I feel epic today Internet – and not just because my friend re-framed my wording – but because the future seems ridiculously bright.


Surrounded by boxes

There have been a few watershed moments in my life over the last few years. Some of them I’ve very much seen coming and have actively worked to achieve – however others have been less predictable and maybe because of that have been infinitely more significant.

I knew (at least after a while of proving to myself by giving up alcohol and losing weight) that I’d get to target.

I became single minded enough for this to be a foregone conclusion.

The only question left unanswered to me was the one of how long it would take.

I expected to reach my goal.

What happened when I reached that was totally unexpected. My success with Slimming World and the awards I subsequently won came completely out of the blue.

Once they’d happened in many ways my certainty evaporated and I tried to make sense continually of what it all meant. After much (over) deliberation I thought that I knew how they would impact me.

I expected to be more visible in marketing campaigns for SW. I hoped it would enable new career opportunities and I fully embraced anything of this nature when the opportunities arose.

There was no sudden cataclysmic ‘bang’ however.

I had a trophy and a title – but I was still me.

That ‘me’ as many readers will know is someone with a lot of baggage.

I wasn’t really prepared for what it all meant emotionally and how much I’d look upon it as a ‘weight of responsibility’ in the coming months.

It started to unravel a little in my mind fairly quickly if I’m honest – and after a particularly awful week of wondering ‘what it all meant’ on top of ‘where I should go next in life’ at the start of August 2018 (a little over two weeks after a press call at the Ritz in London) I found myself significantly outside of my target weight.

I couldn’t face my Slimming World group that Saturday morning, and instead I decided to go for a day trip to somewhere I’d never been to before and get some exercise.

If I couldn’t face the scales at least I could do something to help shake off my gain.

That walk on the 4th August last year turned into a random conversation with a Geography teacher on the top of Cheddar Gorge and it changed everything.

It couldn’t have happened without all of the other changes in my life – and even then – if not for a random convergence of circumstances it may never have happened at all.

If I hadn’t won the award I’d have never felt the added pressure and I may have attended my group instead.

If the sun hadn’t been forecast I may have stayed at home.

If I hadn’t had a second cup of coffee in Starbucks at the motorway services my life would have probably taken a different course,

As the chance decisions stacked up on my side, elsewhere on a camp site someone else had woken up in a camper van and was making her way slowly to the same spot that I was.

She was trying to make her own decisions in life and was also wandering and contemplating.

We consequently met on the top of a hill in the middle of the countryside doing something we both loved to do and just started talking.

We didn’t say much at first – and it was only the briefest of encounters – but it was enough to plant a seed.

That took a while to germinate but when it did it grew virulently and has taken root in every aspect of our lives.

I worried for some time about who I would be if I was no longer losing weight.

It’s all very well to say you’ve lost over 20st. It’s not easy to do, and consequently there are few that can lay claim to such a statement.

Sadly there are fewer still who can say it’s gone for good but if you can say these things should they define you?

Did I really want this accomplishment to be sole focus of who I was?

For a time it felt (through necessity) that it had to be that way. If I hadn’t made losing weight the fulcrum of my existence it may never have come to fruition.

I never wanted it to be all I was though and as I got closer to my goal I became increasingly concerned that this was what I’d unwittingly engineered.

Would I ever be able to disengage from what I’d done?

I have an uneasy relationship with my accomplishments relating to weight and fitness because whilst they represent proof of what I can do if I put my mind to it they also represented failure.

That might sound crazy to many – but think on this.

It’s impossible to have achieved such a milestone in life without first flushing everything away so epically in the first place.

I destroyed myself so diligently that by January 2016 I stood on the verge of death.

I was unable to care for myself and in comparison to everyone I’d ever known I was drunken a 35 stone disgrace.

When your ‘success’ is based on your ability to simply begin to do what everyone else around you has already done for the vast majority of their lives how can you not feel shame every time someone pats you on the back and calls you inspirational?

I did.

I was only too aware that what I’d done was reset my personal clock to zero.

In life terms I was now where I always should have been.

I was fit and healthy – but now also middle aged, single, unsure what to do with my future, and behind the curve in almost every measure of my life.

Externally I was suddenly a success, but internally

What was I left with?

What would happiness be?

Where would I find it?

In many ways this angst was the real gift that I received when I hit target and won my awards – but whilst it could have destroyed me, instead it propelled me.

I wanted more.

I wanted to feel the world and the life I’d missed out on during all those years of self destruction.

I wanted to say yes to all the possibilities that I’d said ‘no thank you’ to before – so I did.

In doing so something special happened.

Now I’m just days away from the next step in my journey because in just over a week my home becomes mine and my partner’s home.

‘Mine’ will be ours.

It’s been a stressful road to get to where we are now though – and at the moment I’m sitting in a flat full of boxes after a lengthy few days of packing, meeting family, DIY and boiler installations.

Her life is packed and almost ready to go.

She’s upended all of it to take a chance on me and move to Warwick and as I look around words fail me.

I had no idea how I’d ever step away from my losses and live a normal life (if such a thing exists) yet here I am.

I’m surrounded by someone else’s life in crates – packed solely because she needs me as much as I need her, and because neither of our lives make sense any more when we’re apart.

The crazy thing is though that while these contain possessions of a life the same length as my own I’m confident that much of it fills a mental space that’s similar to the ones back where I live in Warwick.

I’d push them all off a cliff tomorrow without hesitation if I had to make a choice between having this person in my life and not having her.

I know she feels the same – and it lifts my soul.

Her life is contained in these boxes – and she’s turned the rest of it upside down for us.

She’s telling me with everything she is and owns what she wants.

It makes me want to go back to the hillside on which I met her and shout aloud to the world how happy I am to be alive how lucky I feel.

This was my true gift to myself back in January 2016 I began to care about myself once more.

Inexplicably, and against all expectations I started to crawl out of the pit I’d dug for myself.

Now I’m here.

Now we’re here.

Life is beginning anew and I feel joyous.

Surrounded by boxes.