Christmas update

I really am a big kid in many respects.

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

It’s why I’m wide awake right now.

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

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

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

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

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

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really is the thought that counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truthfully I enjoyed every last mouthful of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be lots of twalking and lots of exploration.

It’s gonna be fun!

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

Davey

A quick check in

Phew.

It’s been a busy week – without much time to gather my thoughts and write, so I apologise if I’ve been unusually quiet. The weekend that preceded the last few days was no different – but I’m just trying to go with the flow and take things one by one.

Primarily my goal has been on remaining focused on my new target weight and keeping active – because the end of this week is shaping up to be pretty crazy. Work has been very busy and so has my personal life.

To make sure I can do this I just need to keep things going on an even keel and follow my exercise and eating plans as closely as possible, because if I do everything else seems to be less stressful and eventually just falls into place.

So far thankfully I’m managing to juggle it all – and my new weight bracket seems to be holding fast.

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I’m worried though that the end of the week in particular is going to be one where I can’t do as much as I normally would – and with this in mind I’ve been pre-loading my distance totals.

I’ve already walked my weekly 70 miles in the last five days – so anything more is just ‘gravy’.

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As I’ve walked my constant companions have been excellent weather and excellent people – as well as some excellent swanlings – who seem to be flourishing this year.

Their broods seem to be unusually resilient and instead of the positively brutal attrition rate I saw in 2016 at St Nics (only one out of six survived) this year there seems to be a much healthier local population.

There also seem to be a lot of Herons too!

See if you can spot them…

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There was a time that I thought doing more exercise just equalled feeling more tired – but the bizarre thing is that nothing could be further from the truth. The more you do the more you want to do – and the paradox of it is that you don’t get more tired, you just get more energetic.

I’ve been hitting my targets by doing an extra two miles around the park on the way to work every day, which means that by the time I get home I’ve usually hit around 11-12, which I’m really chuffed with – and at over half way through July I’m currently on target for a new PB month!

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I’ve also been trying to mix it up a bit this week with food. I’ve had a lot to think about – and when this happens it’s difficult not to overeat.

It’s just a fact of life though that there are times that you just have to accept that things will happen around you that you can’t really control. When that’s the case you just have to adapt and roll with the punches.

Control of anything is a pointless illusion anyway.

To think otherwise is just a waste of energy. You can do your best to stack the deck but ultimately we’re all just leaves in the wind.

This is as true of work as it is home life and in both cases whatever difficulties or opportunities you’re given you just have to tackle them head on, put your best foot forward and hope things come good.

Exercise helps.

Good food also does the trick too.

After some lengthy talking last night a friend and I hit Las Iguanas – and I treated myself to a chicken enchilada (I had a voucher!) and a vegetarian bowl of chilli. Theoretically it’s two mains – but I’d been REALLY REALLY good all day in anticipation.

I really enjoyed my food!

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What the hey eh? Life’s for living! I have zero guilt.

I’m just moving right along!

For the next couple of days I’ll be out and about and taking lots of pictures – and hopefully collecting some interesting things to blog about along the way, so you can be assured that a quieter period this week will probably result in more to talk about than usual next week.

Watch this space!

Davey

Fitness and life

I’ll be honest – I’ve felt a bit off my game this week.

I’ve had a fair bit on my mind and combined with some rather thundery nights and a dog that’s intent on waking me up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning I’ve lost a fair bit of sleep.

It’s meant that when I have been nodding off it’s been at weird hours and consequently emotionally I’ve felt a little sub par.

I’ve been trying to walk it off all week and first started trying to get it off my chest in earnest on Monday whilst twalking with a friend on the Kenilworth Greenway – but it wasn’t until Thursday or Friday that I began to feel the weight of a few things lift.

I’ll write more early next week about one of the things that’s been occupying my thoughts – but over the last couple of weeks several other more important life related issues have been increasingly competing for my conscious and subconscious attention. Some have been more serious than others but all have equally been making me ask the question ‘what’s it all about?’

I’m being vague and evasive about these because whilst honesty is a theme of my blog, undermining myself or betraying the confidence of others is not – so unfortunately I’ve been left without my usual WordPress outlet. Consequently I’ve found myself writing words that will never be posted in an effort to understand and balance my thoughts.

So – you’ll have to forgive me that for the recent gap in my musings and just trust me when I say that I’ve had good reason – and that not all of it has been bad.

In the middle of all of it I’ve found that the one thing that’s been keeping me on an even keel is a willingness to remain on track health wise. Exercise fills a gap in my life that a few years ago I didn’t even realise existed. Now it’s importance in my day to day existence is something I would never have thought possible and my (maybe obsessive) walking continually provides me with a sense of physical AND mental well being.

I’ve been able to get out during my lunch breaks for a walk now the sun is finally peeping out from behind the clouds – and when I do this takes me away from an office and out into nature.

On my daily 2 mile constitutional I’ve seen some of my favourite things – and just around the corner from where I work there are some new neighbours that have moved in.

As vocal as these little guys are I think we’re going to get along just fine.

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Swanlings aren’t the only local residents I’ve been meeting for the very first time too – and I’ve bumped into a species that in all my years I’ve never ever seen before.

This is a Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) that I found just chilling in the grass near the park. It has such amazing colour on its wings that I honestly thought someone had spray painted it by accident until I got up close.

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It’s truly lovely to see all of these little flashes of nature – and I’d be aware of precisely none of it if I was sat at home with the curtains drawn.

I’m 1000% sure that today as I write I’d feel 1,000,000% worse if I’d just stayed in bed for a week feeling glum whilst playing video games.

In fact I’m now back up to my 10 mile a day average thanks to the much improved weather (the rain has mostly held off this week despite some gloomy forecasts) and after setting myself a goal to hit that metric again by the end of May on the 31st I came in bang on target.

Last month I walked 310 miles.

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This means that my step count is getting back up to an average that I’m happy with – and once more I’m in the 20,000 a day zone after a bleak winter which saw me fall well below.

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Of course all of this movement means that the one thing thats actually the most important (and the one metric that I almost solely attribute my reversal of type two diabetes to) is also looking excellent.

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I’m now once again nearing an average of two hours of cardio based exercise per day – which I’m super pleased about.

This means that hopefully a healthy heart and a long (and illness free) future lies ahead of me – AS LONG AS I KEEP IT UP.

You see – there’s always a ghost in the rear view mirror – and I see my rather massive shadow continually looming when I look over my shoulder. As slow moving as it is I feel that every time I think of slowing or actually slow down it gains a little ground.

I often feel that it’s my sole job in life to make sure the distance between us either remains constant or grows ever wider.

Currently I seem to burn (not through exercise) the calories that are expected of a normal man – around 2,500.

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The crazy thing is that even now – with as much as I do every day – I don’t even come close to burning the amount that I used to – and back when I first began my Slimming World journey (just slumped in my armchair at about 33 stone at the end of May 2016) I could eat and burn off a LOT more resting calories than I do now by waking 10 miles a day.

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You can take this with a pinch of salt or not based on how much you believe the widely accepted ‘wisdom’ that a man needs 2,500kcal (and a woman needs 2000) to survive and not lose weight.

I have limited confidence in these figures as absolute fact. 

However – even if they’re only broadly correct they show the obvious strain that being so overweight and unfit had on my overall health.

Now I have to work much harder to expend the same amount of energy and because of my increased fitness, my lower weight and other improvements I have a another stat that I am insanely proud of.

My resting heart rate.

This really really makes me puff up with pride, because it’s still 41bpm and has been at this level or slightly lower ever since Apple Watch’s iOS finally started watching it back in September 2017.

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In many ways (whilst I’m still really focused on it) my weight has ceased to be the thing that’s my ‘daily driver’. Now I’m just focused on always being outside, and being the best version of me that I can.

Thankfully this also has the (pretty ace) side effect of keeping me in target.

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Today I maintained – and (given how I’ve felt this week) that is a massive cause for celebration.

‘How does one mark such success?’ you might ask internet…

‘With a nice long walk’ is of course the answer…

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Davey

 

Part Five: The road not yet walked

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

By the way – if you’re still reading after all those other episodes then kudos to you for your staying power. You rock.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

We start this time in 2014.

At this point I’m sick. Really sick – way more than I want to admit to myself. As I look back now I have no idea how I was still functioning in any capacity.

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I’ve already been referred to the obesity unit of Covetry hospital and they want to perform gastric sleeve surgery on me. This entails cutting 4/5ths of my stomach out of my body and throwing it in the bin.

I can’t face the horror of it and I’ve retreated even further into my self destructive drinking and eating habits.

I’m only a shade over 40 years old and my medicated and incidental conditions are:

  • Blood pressure shows signs of hyper-tension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea so bad that I could only breathe lying on my left side or sitting upright in my armchair, but still woke up almost every hour in the night terrified I was suffocating
  • Odemas (water retention) in both ankles
  • The beginnings of gout
  • Cellulitis
  • Eczema everywhere (particularly on my hands and face)
  • Wrecked (and very painful) knees that couldn’t support my weight and constant lower back pain – meaning I was barely able to stand after a few minutes unless I was resting on a supporting surface
  • Type 2 diabetes

I’ve become a burden to the NHS and have been given a card entitling me to free prescriptions because I’m likely to need so many things as time goes on. When I return from the chemist this is the typical content of my (rather large) paper bag.

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Walking is agonising.

My feet and ankles are constantly alternating between a sensation of itching, burning or freezing. They almost never stop tingling and I keep getting breakouts of cellulitis (requiring lots of antibiotics) which are so bad that they confine me to bed for at least a week at a time.

The swelling in my feet only reduces when I lie down – which I can’t accomplish easily because if I do then I cant breathe properly. I can also only lie down on my bed because I don’t fit on my sofa.

If I sit in my armchair with my feet up then my huge stomach presses on the tops of my legs and my ankles steadily grow until I have to lie on the floor.

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I can barely get out of my armchair to stand up so that I can relieve the pressure on my legs. If I do I then I soon need to kneel or crouch down to relieve the pressure on my lower back.

I can no longer do this and stand back up because of my knees so I often find myself face down on the sofa with my knees on the floor which is sometimes the only position left to me where nothing hurts. Eventually it too becomes uncomfortable and I can’t breathe because I can’t rest for too long on my stomach.

I have my shopping delivered because I can’t walk the entire way around the supermarket without sitting down and it’s been years since I’ve been able to fit in my bath.

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I can only go places in my car but I’m so heavy that when trying to steady myself I have already managed to snap my steering wheel almost completely in half.

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I rarely go to new places because I’ve become scared that I won’t physically fit into the seats they have. Even if I can I worry that I won’t be able to park close enough to the location and find myself unable to walk there and back or trapped without a place to rest.

This worry starts weeks in advance of any appointment and I continually obsess over the potential problems until the stress is too much and I cancel.

I’ve even missed my brother’s wedding because of this.

However – out of all of these huge problems my diabetes is the thing that’s worrying me the most.

I’ve started obsessing over losing my eyesight (the diabetes hasn’t helped this at all and I need glasses to read) losing the sensation in my extremeties, becoming type one, needing to inject Insulin and eventually having to have things amputated.

When I was first diagnosed in January 2014 I was wetting the bed because I couldnt get to the toilet in time. I hadn’t slept more than 45 minutes at a time for over six months, was absolutely at my wits end and completely shattered.

When the results finally came back from my HbA1c test it showed a level of 94. If it was just a little higher it wouldnt have even been on my doctor’s wall chart any more.

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My daily pill organiser reflects how bad things have become.

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As I’ve mentioned in the linked posts above that even as a young man I was fully expecting to die.

Soon.

HOPEFULLY VERY SOON.

My life had become so agonising, restricted and small that I actually wanted it to happen.

At this point in time I start to admit to myself when I’m drunk (I never tell anyone else this secret) that this is because I am too much of a coward to kill myself. I just want to finally bring an end to the misery of every single increasingly impossible day.

(Autor’s note – I’ve been extensive and frank here because I want everyone to understand how bad things had become. I want them to know this because then I want them to recognise that they too can start to change.)

Now I’ve set the rather grim scene let’s jump forward a little to September 2015.

In order to ease the pain of dealing with my dying mother I engage in retail therapy and buy an Apple Watch.

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It only just fits with the longest of the two supplied straps on the last notch. I momentarily fiddle with it and then largely ignore it even though it sits on my wrist every day.

Now we skip on a bit more.

It’s February the 16th 2016.

I’m around 35 stone, my blood HbA1c is now reading 74 and it’s been just over two weeks since I had any alcohol. I’m still in denial about what its going to take to fix my many problems. However long held opinions about what I can or can’t do are starting to change in my head and my perspective is gradually shifting.

I try to walk to the end of my street (link). I barely make it but establish that my radius is around 400 metres if I take a break in the middle. A week later I try to walk around the block.

I tear both of my calf musles, pull the plantar tendon in my right foot and develop plantar faciitis – these injuries ultimately result in shin splints affecting both legs.

I realise later that the tendons in my legs have stortened because I spent years sitting down with my feet up.

I persist however and on the 29th of February 2016 I try my exercise bike instead. I can only pedal for five minutes before I have to stop (link).

On April the 16th I decide to join Slimming World and as the weight comes off I begin to feel a bit more sprightly – so on the 29th May I decide to get up and go to the park to see how far I can now walk (link).

The answer is ‘not very’.

It’s about 150 metres in my case – but there are a lot of benches so I start going to St Nicholas regularly. I like the swans there and name the cygnets swanlings. They keep me going back because I want to see how they progress. In a way I feel my own gradual growth mirrors the only survivor from a group of five babies.

I’ve been inspired by a man who mentioned in my group that he walks four miles in the morning before coming to weigh in.

He tells me that it takes him an hour.

In contrast I cant yet walk a mile without sitting every 200 metres or so. It takes me well over an hour to accomplish that and my plantar fasciitis is a constant issue – but slowly I start to get better.

Nevertheless it seems like a good idea to walk. I’ve been told at work I’m being made redundant so I won’t be able to afford a gym membership and walking is free. I also want to feel a part of the world again – and not scared to step out of my front door.

So I make a decision to make this ‘my thing’.

In order to try and track this I use an app on my phone called ‘Walkmeter’. It’s crap and crashes all the time – however Apple watch has been gathering a total of the distance I walk and it’s slowly adding up.

Walking also has another benefit.

I’ve lived in such a small world for so long where I just endlessly moved between work and home that I’ve become terrified that I’ll find myself trapped out in the open and unable to get back to my house if my car breaks down.

I very consciously start to try and walk the distances to places that I would regularly drive to by making half of the journey in my car and the rest on foot.

I park further and further away each time and bit by bit I extend my range and reduce my fear.

It’s now late August.

Around this time I realise that I no longer wear my glasses. I can’t remember the last time I put them on.

Bizarrely my eyesight has improved too.

My friend points out that I’ve almost walked the length of the channel tunnel in a week and I’m amazed when I add it up that she’s right (link). A while later I mention this in my group and another friend suggests that I plot my progress over a virtual route – and although I’m initially resistant (I never used to say yes to a lot) I decide to take the challenge on – and decide to calculate how far I’ve walked and compare it to Lands end to John o Groats (link).

It’s now September 2016.

I’ve realised three things.

  1. The whole time I’ve been walking I had a workout app on my watch and I never used it. I’ve now started and it’s really good. It’s saving not only my distance – but an accurate representation of my split times per mile.
  2. The green exercise ring on my watch is set at an un-modifiable 30 minutes because of a massive body of evidence suggesting that 30 minutes exercise a day has incredible health benefits.
  3. Point two is correct

I visit the doctor (link) and I’m told that the results for my HbA1c are now 30. All of a sudden I’m no longer on their chart and I’m told to discontinue one of the two medications I’m taking. My cholesterol levels have plummeted and I’m told my blood pressure is excellent.

I’m amazed.

Over the coming months I continue to up my walking. My increased level of exercise and radically improved diet has enabled something wonderful.

I’m feeling connected to people in a way that I never have before. Everyone seems to be swept along with my newfound enthusiasm to go twalking.

I make sure every time I go for a walk with someone that I’m proactive and try to organise the next walk at the end.

This means that my exercise is never a burden. I’m just meeting people I like to catch up with them about how they are.

I’m finding that is not only cementing good habits into my life but it’s quietly promoting little changes with other people too. I begin to see evidence that people are going for their own ‘twalks‘ and that I seem to be unconsciously promoting good behaviour elsewhere just by regularly doing something in public and showing how it affects me and my health.

By late October I’ve lost an entire fridge freezer in weight (link).

Things like this just motivate me even more and are a huge factor in me pushing myself to average almost five miles a day.

I still suffer from dark moods though – and even though the weight keeps falling off my mind can be my own worst enemy. I’m terrified that I’ll ‘plateau’ and get to a point where I give up.

Although I doubt she realised its significance a lady at my group (who loves the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’) picks up on the moods in my blog and in person – and every time she sees me downbeat tells me to ‘just keep swimming’ (link).

Sometimes little things like this make all the difference. Over time this has stuck in my head and I find that I’m saying to myself and others over and over again ‘just keep walking’ or ‘ just keep putting one foot in front of the other ‘.

This means that whenever I encounter a problem or an emotional rut I no longer retreat to a sedentary pursuit for answers and I instead try to think things through with a walk.

Even if I can’t find an answer it makes me feel better – and often realise that there is no answer needed. It’s just my mind playing games and building catastrophes out of nothing.

So I just keep walking.

The cumulatively increasing effort and distance means that by the end of December I’ve actually managed to do it.

I’ve walked the whole distance I wanted to and more besides.

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I’ve also begun to grasp how powerful the data is that my Apple Watch has been collecting on me since I put it on my wrist. It prompts me to work out how much I used to consume.

I’m stunned to read that I needed 7500kcal a day just to sit in my armchair (link).

Without understanding what I was doing when I put Apple Watch on my wrist I enabled myself to see an end to end view of my fitness. Even when I didnt care it still kept a tally and as time went on I was able to see the gradual progress I was making in almost every area of life.

The more I did the more it made me realise I could do.

It’s now late Ferruary/March 2017

I’ve started a new job in an office. I have to drive there and spend all day long sitting there.

It drives me instantly insane, and although through a combination of my exercise bike and walking during my lunch hour and after work I maintain my exercise levels I know instantly deep down that something has changed.

I can’t just drive to an office every day any more – so I leave after three weeks, feeling like a total failure – but I want a different life now.

Unable to resolve the problem in my mind I resolve to temporarily ignore it and ‘just keep walking’.

Since I started twalking with friends I’d been saying to them (often not fully believing that I would do it) that I’d climb Mt Snowdon, and I start training with little hills (there aren’t many in Warwick) to try and build my stamina.

I do this firstly with Burton Dassett (link) then the more challenging Malvern hills (link).

The latter absolutely kills my knees and I’m completely knackered by the end of the day – but I can do it! I can finally climb really challenging gradients!

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It’s now April 2017 and I have a HbA1c reading of 29 (link).

I’ve already discontinued my diabetes medication by this point and I’m managing my condition by diet and exercise alone.

Furthermore – by the time that my one year anniversary at Slimming World arrives (link) I realise that I’ve not only cumulatively walked from Lands end to John o Groats I’ve walked back again too!!!

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By June I’m regularly tackling gradients and working towards my goal. I spend more and more time in places like Burton Dasset and Ilmington downs (link).

All the time it’s becoming easier.

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When the big day arrives in July I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

I take the first day off Slimming World that I’ve had since I started and on Saturday the 22nd July (weighing around 19.5st) I climb Snowdon with my friend (link).

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Words simply can’t do it justice. It’s a truly fantastic moment. I’ve gone from a man who could hardly get out of his armchair to standing on top of a mountain. I’m quite literally on top of the world.

It’s now August.

I can’t stop now. I love walking so much that I’m incapable of not putting one foot in front of the other.

I use it for everything in life. It’s become part of my DNA and everyone I know asks if I want to go for a walk when they suggest meeting up. I mention it so often that twalking appears to have entered the vocabulary of everyone I know, and many that I don’t.

Furthermore I’ve found another job – and this time it’s local (link). I can walk to work every day and fit my exercise invisibly into what I do.

Once again the job turns out to be something that’s not for me – but during the time I’m there I realise that all the exercise I’m doing appears to have altered my mental capabilities.

I always considered myself to be someone that struggled in classrooms to pick things up and that information didn’t get retained quickly. I always felt that I wasn’t agile enough when others around me grasped new concepts or processes at work.

Whilst in this job I’m the top of the class. I pick everything up way quicker than I ever would have before and for the very first time I realise that my mind has benefited from all of the exercise too.

Not only am I more positive but I can think on my feet and adapt in discussions and meetings like never before. I feel instantly more capable.

I leave the job and with it I leave behind a fear of change that I’ve had my entire adult life.

If I can adapt to anything then there’s no longer a need to be frightened – so I trust that things will just work themselves out and keep walking.

I do it so much that now I’ve walked the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York (link).

By this time I’m regularly forgetting that I ever had diabetes in the first place – but I’m still going for tests (link). When I do they report that my HbA1c readings have now dropped even further and are at a stupendous 28. My blood pressure is also excellent – but I’m still taking Statins.

If in doubt I just keep walking. Whatever the weather.

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It’s now January 2018

Thanks to Apple Watch keeping a dilligent eye on me since I put it on I can see how much I’ve improved over time. I’ve gradually moved from doing less than 5 minutes exercise a day in 2016 to an average of over two hours a day.

Furthermore, after 21 months of trying on the way to work one morning I finally mange to crack the fifteen minute mile (link).

I can now walk four miles in an hour – just like the man in group told me he could back when I started Slimming World.

I’ve never been so fit in my life and I feel wonderful.

February 2018.

I’ve finally found a use for my old clothes.

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I hit my target weight of 14 stone 7lbs (link) and when I do (after I stop crying and find a way out of my old trouser leg) the way I celebrate is with a walk around the park (link).

In a surprise move my friend marks the occasion by secretly arranging for almost everyone I’ve walked with along my journey to join us.

The exercise (twalking) that I have done over the last two years has meant that I spend more quality time with people that matter to me than I have at any other point in my life. My friendships have strengthened immesurably and I feel loved.

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A few days later In what may be my last but one HbA1c test (link) my results now show a reading of 25. My blood pressure resembles that of a much younger man, my resting heart rate is around 40bpm and I’m also told that my cholesterol medication can be discontinued.

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It’s not the only thing I can get rid of. My much hated pill dispenser can finally go in the bin along with my unused pills. It looks very different on its last day of employment compared to when I first started using it.

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So – what’s transpired here?

Well – these I feel are the lessons I’ve learned through gradually increasing and then learning to love my activity.

  • If you can’t go far it doesnt matter. Just try to go a little bit further either day. Start small.
  • Try to do it with friends if you can
  • Do something that’s free if at all possible. Gyms require willpower – but walking the dog or getting a pint of milk doesn’t.
  • Try and build it into your daily routine – then it won’t involve willpower. If you want to go for a coffee make a deal with yourself that you wont use the car when you do.
  • You can lose weight without exercise – but with it you’ll lose it faster, stand a better chance of keeping it off and feel positive and alive, meaning you won’t lose focus.
  • Get a fitness wearable if you can. Mine changed my life.
  • Track your progress and document everything that you can from the beginning even if you hate doing it. You’ll be glad you did afterwards.
  • Don’t lose hope. Not everything can be completely fixed but almost everything can be immesurably improved.
  • You can do more than you ever thought you could. It’s all about trying rather than doing nothing
  • Things might cumulatively creep up on you – and eventually you might suddenly realise that you’ve painted yourself into a corner. But paint eventually dries. You can gently step on it and make your way back from a place that seems hopeless.
  • Don’t end your life. You’re worth so much more.

Finally – this is my complete list of non-scale victories. I couldnt have done it without exercise.

Go HERE.

Davey

Productive Sunday

Although I’m used to filling my day with things to do, sometimes it hits me just how much I can fit in now that I’m no longer wiped out after just waddling to my car and back.

After my less than stellar result on the scales yesterday I decided to go for it today and (probably much to the annoyance of my neighbours) was out mowing my back garden at 7.45am.

I haven’t much choice in the timing really. I had a lot to do today and I haven’t been able to do it for a while. It’s dark when I get home in the week now and I’ve been meaning to get the last mow of the year in for a couple of weeks – but have ended up putting it off again and again.

Today though it hadn’t rained. Instead there was just a lot of dew and most of it was freezing. I’ve never mowed frosty grass before – and to be honest it was a laborious task, requiring a lot of periodic poking underneath the blades with a stick to scrape off all of the clogged up grass.

The back lawn looked a bit soggy and clumpy afterwards (grass clippings don’t like collecting in my lawn mower basket when the grass is frozen solid apparently) but crucially it was done.

The next mow shouldn’t be needed until springtime.

One thing that I actually really like about my back garden is its complete lack of perfection. It’s got things growing in odd places, flaking paint, moss and a healthy population of frogs.

Whenever I investigate the little overgrown or dilapidated bits there’s always something I like the look of.

IMG_0694IMG_0701Although I need to do some weeding around the borders the garden has (for the first time since I moved in) remained well managed and accessible for the whole of summer and autumn.

I’m determined that (whilst I really don’t care about it looking like a bowling green) it will remain in this well maintained state forever more – and never go back to the apocalyptic mess that I let it become when I wasn’t coping very well.

I’ve said before that mowing the lawns used to be a major undertaking for me.

That’s actually a vast understatement- it used to be agony and I often did it whilst rather drunk or drinking with that objective in mind for precisely that reason – because it didn’t hurt so much emotionally or physically during or afterwards.

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I found this gem of a photo that I took of myself mid way through mowing my back lawn in 2012 – far from my heaviest weight. I was sitting on a stool at the time because I was in agonising pain. My back was screaming, I was drenched in sweat and (from memory) already half way down a bottle of strong white wine.

The expression on my face (I think) speaks volumes.

This morning however I finished the mowing, bundled away my tools, grabbed a hot drink and headed off for a coffee with a friend in Kenilworth, which is a four mile walk from my house.

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It was a pretty energetic four miles too.

I’ve been chasing a 15 minute mile ever since I started Slimming World thanks to an offhand statement by a guy there in the early days who said he walked four miles in the morning. When I asked how long it took, he casually said an hour – which I was completely gobsmacked at (at the time a mile took me about 60-90 minutes) so I made it my mission to do the same.

Although almost nineteen months later I’m still not quite there, what I can do instead is demonstrate a lot more stamina.

Whilst I haven’t broken the 15 minute mile sound barrier (yet) I’m still trying and in the meantime getting a lot better at keeping a continued and consistent pace up for a pretty respectable distance.

really enjoyed the walk (and the coffee and chat I had whilst in Kenilworth) but otherwise on a Sunday the place is mostly a ghost town.

Everything is closed.

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However (praise be!) there was a single charity shop open in the precinct near Waitrose – and right at the back, hidden amongst the coats and jackets was a Peter Storm combined fleece and raincoat in a large size.

I was a bit miffed.

It was in excellent condition and it was only £8. Furthermore it was just what I need at the moment as it gets progressively colder and wetter – but annoyingly it was in a large. I have a raincoat and I also have nice fleece – but I haven’t had a combined waterproof and warm jacket since I gave my 3XL supercoat to my dad.

Sigh. I miss supercoat.

We had some good times together.

I decided to try some shirts on instead – but nothing took my fancy.

Although they were nice I have plenty of shirts that fit currently – and there was no need to buy them just for the sake of it. After putting a other nice lumberjack shirt back on the rail I reached down to grab my jumper and gilet.

As I lifted my jumper I stopped.

I thought ‘I wonder how tight it is? Maybe I should try it anyway….’

So – I pulled it off its hanger, threw it over my shoulders, pulled the zip ends together and began to draw it upwards.

I fully expected it to stop at my waist, but the zip kept moving. It passed my belly button and I genuinely felt a flush of excitement. Would it fit? A coat in a large size?

Then the zip stopped dead.

It would go no further. 

….

….

At this point I’d usually sigh inwardly and put the item back on the rack, thinking ‘maybe tomorrow’.

Not today.

THE ZIP HAD STOPPED BECAUSE IT WAS UNDER MY CHIN!!!

THE COAT ONLY FLIPPING FITTED ME!!!

So I bought it.

I am now the proud owner of a new (old) large supercoat. It’s currently drying on the radiator after a spirited turn in the washing machine, so photos will have to wait for the time being – but it doesn’t just fit (and is now florally fragrant) it fits me properly!!!

So – with my super flipping excellent wonderful bloomin fantastic smashing great purchase swinging back and forth in a carrier bag I practically skipped back to Warwick in the late morning sunshine.

The day couldn’t end there however.

I had a bite to eat when I got back, did another hour in the garden and then headed off for a walk to Sainsburys in Leamington on another errand. By the time I got there I was still floating on air and (after getting what I needed and having another coffee) I headed back home – and what a lovely walk it turned out to be.

There was a terrific slow motion sunset that seemed to fill the world with orange and yellow hues – and as I passed the river on the way back to my house a couple of swans decided to float into a perfect position below me just in time for my camera.

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Sigh.

Does life get any better than this?

I think not.

I have so little in material terms nowadays – but I feel like I’ve got everything sometimes. Even a Disney themed carrier bag makes me feel happy.

I miss almost none of the stuff that I used to fill my life with to avoid negative thoughts. It was all just a parade of distractions designed to stop me truly living my life and making the most of every day.

At the time of writing I’ve walked just under 17 miles and in doing so have smashed my calorie burn and cardio requirements for the day.

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Hopefully this will go some way towards making up for my little gain – and maybe even help me have a loss next week.

Either way internet – nothing can take away the fact that today I stood in a charity shop that I walked four miles (in just over an hour) to get to, and zipped up a coat in a size that I’ve never worn in my entire adult life.

That’s a great way to end the day.

Hugs to all.

Davey

Walnut cheeks

If I’m honest I’ve been in a bit of a grump today. Outwardly this (I think) wouldn’t have been apparent – but deep down I know I’ve not been firing on all cylinders. 

I also know why. 


I joked to a friend the other day that if I were to text her a picture of my behind (which I would not) it would look a lot like the puppy pictured above. 

This isn’t funny. 

Well – I guess it is and it isn’t. Today I don’t feel it is. 

The more weight I lose the more my butt begins to resemble my brain, and whilst I’m acutely aware of the mileage this visual parity affords me in terms of jokes and self deprecating humour there are times (like now) when I don’t see the funny side at all. 

I just look at my twin walnuts and think ‘what have you done to yourself you ****ing idiot?’

In moments like this a deeper part of me even asks whether or not I should carry on losing weight at all – and whether I’m just better keeping some of my current heft to fill increasingly loose areas of skin. 

These thoughts don’t come very often but when they do they tend to dovetail into other satellite worries and become more than they really need to be. 

Last night I had an epically real ‘girlfriend’ dream. It was one where I woke up on a high, thinking that the dream was real, that I was happy and in love – until moments later when the penny dropped, which left me feeling crestfallen and lonely. 

Ultimately I got back to sleep and had another (better) dream – but just like with a really bad nightmare the fallout from such subconscious self flagellation hangs around long after it arrives and simply refuses to leave. 

It was in this frame of mind that I started comparing myself to another slimmer on Instagram (not something I normally do) and then at 6.30am on the loo found myself fixating on the fact that he was celebrating getting into a pair of 36 inch waist trousers. He’d dropped 15 stone to do this and was justifiably proud. He’s now around the same weight as I am and he’s doing great. 

In contrast my waistline is between 42 and 40 at the moment. Just like him I started with a 66 inch waist.  

Clearly (to a man sitting alone in the dark on the bog at 6.30am with an arse like a saggy Bassett Hound that has successful relationships in dreams only) this meant I was a failure. 

It’s utter nonsense of course. Nothing could be further from the truth. My posterior may be saggier than it used to be but it is also very muscular under the surface. 

My subconscious relationship worries may play themselves out in my dreams occasionally but I’m not a lonely man and I know when I decide to find someone that it will happen. 

I also know that everyone has a different body type and that other epic slimmer probably carries his weight somewhere other than his waist – which is where most of mine collects. I’m no better or worse and it’s not a competition. 

This mature and well reasoned logical self awareness didn’t stop me angrily storming out of the house and around the park several times before work this morning though. 


Not even the serenity of last year’s grown up swanling (who came over to say hello as I walked past) managed to placate me – and when I arrived at work to continue the day’s training I felt stupid and unworthy for most of the day.  

It wasn’t until much later in the evening (whilst twalking with a friend) that my mood even partially lifted. 

There was a time that (on an unconscious level) I believed that a problem shared was just a problem that two people now had. 

I don’t think that way anymore. Everyone reading this is part of my process. 

Talking is good – either on the page to an invisible audience or to a friend you’ve known for years. 

Even if you aren’t looking for an answer, just saying some or all of what’s worrying you out loud and yanking it out of the shadows is enough – and doing it with exercise mixed in is even better. 

So far (partly because of how I feel) I’m still keeping up my 10 mile a day average (I’ve done 12.5 today!) and it’s this that makes the difference between a day where I sink or swim. 

As long as I keep moving and keep doing something – anything – to maintain my momentum then I’m good. If I do this then I can see progress – even if it’s not on the scales. 


Plus (when I remember to bring food bags) I also get free healthy treats – and tonight, when I’ve finished writing this I’m going to have a bowl of fat free natural yogurt, chopped banana, cinnamon and the bag of blackberries that I walked four miles to obtain. 

Food rarely comes as guilt free as this. 

I’m going to savour this while I eat it internet – and try to think good thoughts so that tonight I get some better dreams. 

Fingers crossed. 

Davey 

Wyken Slough nature walk

Today was supposed to be more inclusive of gradients and hills – and I was originally planning another exploration of the hills and tracks around Ilmington – however at 5am I was awoken by the hammering rain outside my window.

Fields full of livestock don’t make for particularly good walking after a huge downpour – and you tend to find that the corners where stiles and gates reside have two different kinds of deep mud. One smells really bad and the other smells almost as bad…

So my friend suggested that instead we take a walk along the Wyken Way – which is just on the outskirts of Coventry. As it’s somewhere I’d never been before I was pretty happy to go somewhere new – especially one with a nature reserve along the way.

The start of our walk was on the canal – right next to our parking space – and immediately as we crossed a bridge onto the towpath I could see that recent regeneration of the area had taken place. Both sides of the bridge were adorned with some really cool metalwork wildlife sculptures – which (like the signs dotted about nearby) suggested that there were Kingfishers locally.

Sadly – despite both of us saying we’d never seen one before none were apparent as we made our way along the canal side. What was apparent however was that swanlings seemed to have a pretty good life in this area – and even before we got to the nature reserve I saw probably the largest surviving armada of them that I think I’ve ever come across.

Given that the brood that swans normally seem to have appears to be around 6/7 – unlike the swans in my local park – this family looked like all of them had all survived, which was really incredible!

They were all really lively and healthy too – and very inquisitive indeed, coming up to see us and nibble the grassy bank.

Further up the canal we came to a fork – and stopped to briefly ask for some directions. The canal volunteer in the blue jersey retreated into his little hut, and much to the obvious delight of my companion returned with a huge OS map – and proceeded to point to where we were and where he thought we had to go.

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I was quite impressed – but as we moved away twalking and laughing my friend quietly pointed out that hers was a better resolution and showed much more detail.

I could be wrong but I think I detected a teeny tiny hint of competitive cartography in my vicinity. Never compete with a girl’s map resolution. It will end badly.

The opposite side of the canal appeared to mostly be taken up with national grid infrastructure – and there were many warning signs, along with lots of ‘planted steps’ for water voles, of which there were allegedly loads.

However they seemed to be hiding in the same place as the Kingfishers today because despite them having tons of places to climb in and out of the water they all seemed to have gone on holiday.

I imagine they were probably sunning themselves on a nice beach elsewhere while we stood in the rain on the bank opposite their empty homes waiting for a fleeting glimpse of their noses.

However although there were no voles there were some interesting bugs on the opposite bank…

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After a while (and a particularly muddy field full of cow s**t later) we found ourselves on a path to the Wyken Slough Nature Reserve.

As you may expect the rain has been a constant feature of the day – and despite the really rather miserable conditions it can produce (wet legs and leaky boots I’m looking at YOU) there’s also some real beauty to be found when things get a fresh soaking – and along this tiny overgrown lane everything seemed to be about to drip, but not quite making it to the ground. Every bush and branch had a weight and pregnant poignancy that probably only lasted for a matter of minutes while we were there and then was gone again.

At that moment in time everything looked wonderful.

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It was around here that we got a little lost – and spent a while walking into bushes and routes that effectively became dead ends around the back of an industrial estate.

But exploring is fun!!!

Getting lost is fun!!!

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This didn’t last for too long however and we soon found our destination – along with a huge marsh of bullrushes.

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On the other side of the path however was an army of swans, ducks, gulls and coots!

I couldn’t make out whether they were happy to see me and wanted food, or whether I was in imminent danger, as when I moved in for a closer look the swans (of which there were a LOT seemed to be making a rather direct path toward me…

Unbeknown to me my companion (clearly enjoying the sight of me being stalked by a swan or two) was taking a video of her own…

Thankfully I didn’t get mauled and won’t be appearing on in any swan snuff videos on YouTube any time soon!

Shortly after this we decided to head back to a pub we’d passed earlier on the walk at the canal junction and have a bite to eat. We eventually found ourselves inside what turned out to be an unusually busy Tuesday lunchtime service.

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However, despite the Greyhound proclaiming it was a ‘triple award winning venue’ (and I hate to be critical but if the cap fits) it seemed to be staffed by people who had no idea who should be sitting where or the order in which people should served and were surrounded by lots of tables full of customers waiting for their lunch. Each table’s occupant looked either very annoyed or very bored and had half empty drinks glasses in front of them along with irritable, hungry children.

After we’d had our drinks we decided to move on rather than order and wait an eternity for food and have a coffee at home – saving £5.50 for a baked potato in the process.

This actually turned out to be quite fortuitous – because on the way back from my friend’s house (after being pleasantly caffeinated by her) I decided to check Kenilworth to see if there were any unicorn trousers. 

I found not one, but TWO pairs within budget! I’d wanted to pay no more than a fiver – but each were £3.99 – and my favourite of the two was an almost BRAND new M&S pair!

I have no idea what’s going on with the residents of Kenilworth – but the tags were still on one shirt that I picked up today – giving a clear indication of just what a bargain hunt my clothes shopping has suddenly become!

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I now have multiple really really nice outfits of practically brand new clothes in my wardrobe for less than the cost of a single shirt when I was an 8XL guy!

To be honest it’s been a great day. 

I’ve had excellent company and lots of chats with lots of friends. I’m also seriously winning with regard to non-scale victories.

If I ever ever decide to backtrack on any of the good choices I’ve made lately in life I want to remember how I feel today – and I’m so glad that I’ve gotten into the habit of writing it all down so that I can prove to myself if I need to what I feel and sound like when life is good and things are clicking into place.

I can walk for miles, I have great friends, I can get into cheap good quality clothes – and I have a sense of positivity that not only propels me forward, but that occasionally I can see rubbing off on others in a way that it never used to.

Although from time to time I have bad days internet the vast majority of them now are ones where I lift my head off the pillow and I’m just thankful I get another day full of possibilities.

Even if they so far have not contained a single Kingfisher…

Davey

Introducing friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thats over 200kcal saved today!

Finally – Rusty McBike is now back in the saddle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Hero clothes

It might be going to rain later on, but when I woke up this morning the weather report had changed slightly (it looked awful on yesterday’s advance forecast) and the worst didn’t seem to be arriving until after midday.

Furthermore my bedroom was full of sunshine!

I resolved to get up immediately and go for a spirited walk around the park while the weather was nice. I jumped out of bed, had a shower and pulled on my (noticeably loosening) jeans, trainers – and my hoodie.

I’m still not sure about hoodies. I only bought my first one a few short months ago – and each time I put it on I can’t help checking the mirror to make sure that I don’t look too much like an ankle tagged ASBO mugger. Thankfully when I check my reflection I just look like a balding middle age guy in sweats rather than a menace to society, and I conclude that I’m unlikely to scare the elderly.

I opened the front door.

It was bright and fresh as soon as I stepped outside and to compliment the blue sky there was a delightful breeze to cool me down as I walked. I noticed that I felt really light on my feet and all bouncy as I kept pace with my music.

Maybe it’s because I’m in a good mood today.

Aside from the victory it yielded over gravity on the scales, yesterday was a superb day for cheap charity shop purchases, and I found myself with two new (quite literally – they don’t appear to have been worn at all) pairs of trousers and two rather smart long sleeved striped cotton shirts.

Both shirts and one pair of the trousers though are what I term ‘aspirational purchases‘. At £2.75 each for the shirts and £3.50 for M&S grey corduroy trousers they probably aren’t what most people aspire to wear, and on me they’re also pretty snug.

When I use this term I mean that (for me) they’re something to work towards on the very near horizon and represent a progress marker where I’ll be able to fit into something I genuinely like.

The second pair of (grey denim) trousers fitted immediately and were a delightfully thrifty £4. They were a 40in waist! 


As soon as I saw them I knew they were a pair of  Jacamo ‘Union Blues‘ jeans. I’ve purchased a several identical pairs of these in different colours and know the feel of the (rather stretchy and smooth) comfortable material well.

I’d originally started buying these a while back when I realised that I could finally fit into more mainstream online clothes. This is now my 3rd pair in this colour and I rather like them.

I’m pretty anal when it comes to saving correspondence – and I still have all of the original confirmation mails from my Jacamo orders, so I thought I’d go and check how much I paid.

My jaw dropped. 


The price (it turned out) was relatively immaterial – as they were on sale at the time (it’s still a big saving though). What’s more amazing is the size and the date. The mail confirms my very first order is for a 50in waisted pair to them on the 4th February 2017!!!

That means that in the last six months alone I’ve dropped 10 inches from my waistline. 

How flipping awesomeballs is that! I started at a 66in waist in April 2016 and now I’m in my first pair of 40’s!

Mind you – full disclosure here. The M&S trousers are a 42in waist and they’re (ahem) snug – so not every retailer loves me just yet – but how’s about that for tangible progress?!

As I type (I’m sitting on a park bench in the shade by the river) I think the swans nearby agree. This year’s last remaining swanling is also making major headway in life.

When I saw them a while back (I’ve not been in the park a lot recently) he/she was the last remaining teeny tiny ball of fluff out of a group of seven.

How time flies.

Now it’s nearly all grown – and I realise that this is the second St Nics swanling I’ve seen become an adult and move on in life. As I watch them change I’m still going through my own metamorphosis and there’s no sign of this changing any time soon.

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As I leave the park I notice that I’m sauntering rather than power walking, and I take off my earphones. There’s a colder breeze now and some slight droplets of rain – but I don’t care. I foiled the weather’s evil plans and sneaked a glimpse of the day at its best before it was yanked away.

By the time I get home I’ve got my hoodie up and I feel warm and cosy. The rain is spitting but not too badly and the warmth of my body is making the little droplets evaporate shortly after they land.

Life is grand.

I’m now going to put some coffee on to brew and play a video game whilst it pours down outside with my feet up. I’m not going to experience a shred of guilt. I’ve already smashed my daily exercise goals and have lots more planned for the week ahead.

I’m on track and cooking on gas. The universe and I are simpatico.

Another example of our mutual harmony came when I noticed yesterday evening that the game I’ve finally decided to play – after owning it for years (The Legend of Zelda – Windwaker HD on Wii U) appears to be speaking to me in a way that it knows only I can understand…

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Banded demoiselle

Yesterday I walked into Sainsburys to get a coffee and unexpectedly walked out with a bag of clothes that I’d purchased because they were half price.

This in itself is really not unusual I suppose – as clothes from shops like Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys are now cheap enough to make buying them little more than impulse purchases for most people. When the items are half price it’s even easier to make a decision.

What’s unusual about this for me is that I walked out with a bag containing pretty much an entire outfit that I could wear immediately if I chose to.

Although I’ve made spotty purchases here and there from high street shops a lot have been (in my view) slightly aspirational, and were things that I’d ‘shrink into’. This is the first time I’ve been able to go in, take a range of clothes from a sale rack, try them on and just buy them knowing I could wear them the same day if I chose to.

However – almost as importantly – I got two tee shirts, two long sleeved tops, a pair of denims and a lightweight raincoat for £37. This is £3 cheaper than the cost of ONE SHIRT from a specialist retailer when I was in the 4-8XL size range. 

Given how tight money is currently I can’t overstate how awesome this is!!!

I think in all honestly my exercise is helping immensely in this area. Even though according to the scales I’m not flying down in weight any more (my current average is around 2lbs a week) I do seem to be dropping in inches, and I’ve noticed in particular with my gardening a pronounced difference in my upper body. My legs and stomach are also noticeably more at home in my trousers – where I’m forever tightening my belt.

It’s really encouraging progress!!!

Mind you – although I have the garden (amongst other things) to thank for my good news my horticultural endeavours have now moved from a pastime where I could see sweeping visual changes to what’s becoming less rewarding grunt work. Now all the bushes have been cut back I have digging and tidying to do, and ivy is the work of the devil.

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In the process of rescuing my trees I’ve stripped tons of the stuff away from their trunks and roots. I’ve also now cut a clear band completely around the middle of my larger tree and severed all the vines theoretically keeping the leaves and tendrils further up alive.

Not so long ago the trunk looked like this…

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Cutting a band around the middle is one thing though. Getting the rest of the ivy off the tree higher up is another thing entirely.

After hacking through one particularly thick vine yesterday I was amazed to see it peel off the tree into the canopy above me. It came away surprisingly easily. I continued to pull it outwards while it slowly tore away from the branches over my head.

Then I pulled.

Nothing.

So I wrapped both hands around it and pulled a few more times with significant force.

Still nothing.

I then wrapped the vine around my right arm and lifted my feet off the ground, swinging on it like Tarzan.

Twenty stone of chubby man just hung there without a single creak from above or indication that I was anywhere close to breaking anything ivy related. I gave up in the end, and resolved to come back later when it had died.

In the meantime I busied myself with chopping up vines and branches to take to the tip – which now stands at a total of 69 sacks of refuse and counting. I’m not sure the frogs or birds love me any more though, as I’m removing all the fun places they liked to chill out in.

This little guy nearly got bagged and tagged yesterday – but at the last minute I noticed him. He had a narrow escape and would have been heading for the mulching plant if he hadn’t blinked at me from between the leaves.

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Today though (at least for the morning) I left the garden to it’s own devices and went for a walk. It’s been amazingly sunny all day today – and quite draining if you’re not in the shade.

I’ve been drinking water like I had a camel’s hump to fill today and I’ve needed every drop. I’m also pretty sure that despite liberal application of factor 50 suncream my newly shaven cue ball like head may have burned a little. It’s all tingly.

It’s been worth it though.

Initially neither myself or my friend were sure where to go – and had been poring over an ordnance survey map to see if anything jumped out that looked interesting.

(warning –  for one particular reader the next photo may prove unduly arousing.)

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In the end (partially due to time constraints) we decided to go for a walk I’ve done a few times before (link) but that my companion today has never seen – which was along the Grand Union canal and the Offchurch Greenway.

It’s a lovely little five mile walk and easy to do in under two hours if you have a good pace. Today though I was probably a little slower than usual mostly because I was entranced by how the seasons seemed to be so swiftly moving on. Everything was changing so rapidly!

What was once a swan nest on the canal bank the last time I passed…

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Is now a family with four large cute and fluffy swanlings!

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The canal is also home to other juvenile residents, and as well as ducks there were quite a few fledgeling moorhens skittishly darting about in the water – all under the watching gaze of parents sitting by the banks.

However – for me the CROWNING GLORY of the day was not only spotting several banded demoiselles but actually getting close enough to one to take this photo.

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If I had any lingering doubts about whether I should have bought a camera or not then this picture washed them all away. It’s probably one of the best photographs I’ve ever taken – let alone one of the most beautiful.

Step aside swanlings. There’s a new king in town!

Anyway internet – I need to get back to the garden. I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow, and I won’t be able to get to it at all.

 

‘It’s a boy!’


My companion were sitting quietly in a bird hide discussing the view in front of us.

In particular we were focusing on the two families of mute swans on the opposite bank of the nearby lake. Once more we were visiting the grounds and wildlife reserve at Coombe Abbey – but today were both of us were armed with proper cameras and not just our smartphones.

‘I’ve no idea how to tell which is male and which is female…’ I said abstractly – reflecting on a serious gap in my knowledge regarding one of my favourite animals. In front of us as I looked through my viewfinder a small flotilla of them passed serenely by with four little swanlings in a row.

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My friend fell silent – looking at her phone, and I was momentarily distracted by an unexpected flyby of a heron, heading for a small island on the lake to the right of us.

I just managed to point my camera and focus in time as it passed me by. I looked at the camera photo viewer and smiled looking at the result. I’d managed to capture it in mid flight and it was only a teeny bit blurry!

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My friend touched my shoulder. ‘It’s the size of their knob.’ She said, giggling a little.

I looked around smirking. ‘The size of their knob?’ I said.

‘Yes – the knob on their noses. If they have a big knob it’s a male and if they have a small knob it’s a female!’ She replied, and carried on scanning through the article.

‘…but not all of them have big knobs…’ she continued, despite me obviously starting to titter next to her.

‘If they don’t have a big knob the only way to tell is to stick a finger up it’s bum.’ She said triumphantly – seemingly satisfied with Google’s explanation.

‘What will you find up it’s bum if it’s a male then?’ I asked, now laughing.

‘I don’t know..’ she said ‘…you just have to stick a finger up it’s bum!

Immediately I envisioned an offended swan on the end of my finger shouting ‘**** off!’ in a manly voice – and THAT being the indicator of whether it was a daddy or a mommy.

Since I rather like smutty humour I spent the rest of the afternoon chuckling away to myself thinking about invaded swans swearing at their inappropriate investigators in a male Glaswegian accent (their offence in my imagination seemed somehow Scottish) whilst a guy in an overcoat holding a clipboard nearby duly noted that this was a male swan and no longer of the ‘mute’ variety.

Although today was overcast and cooler than my last visit the plants and wildlife were no less fascinating than they were before – and all were somehow subtly different.

Although the herons were hard to capture on their island (even with 30x zoom) I managed to get a couple of shots of them and the geese nearby – who continually floated past in little armadas of orange and brown.

They weren’t the only ones around that day though and I spotted another few I’d not seen before.

Now – I’m not 100% sure about this – but I think (from looking at the RSPB site) that the little grey one with the insect is a Pied Wagtail (although it could also be a Water Pipit) that the large goose is of Egyptian descent while the lovely little guy with the flash of blue on his wing on the log is a Jay.

It’s also been quite a nice day for flowers and fungi!

All in all a most amusing and relaxing day of twalking and bird watching was had by all concerned!

In other news – I’d like to thank my audience for their kind comments regarding my recent emissions issues.

There have been many helpful suggestions for how to stem the gaseous tides – which I will look into and take into consideration. Low stomach acid, artichoke tablets, and brewers yeast have all been suggested as potential culprits and may well be valid.

However the kind offer of ‘a big cork’ by one reader will probably not solve the issue at hand, so I’ve discounted that one.

If things get really bad internet I can always pretend to be a swan and hope that (thanks to my small nose) a kind ornithologist is nearby to help with the blockage…

Davey

Windy day

The effects of dramatic weight loss are (I’ve found) often unpredictable – and throughout my journey I’ve experienced a variety of odd feelings, strains, tensions and pains. I’ve put a lot of this down to my body weight shifting and stressing different muscles and ligaments in the process.

Around the 11-12st mark I started getting a lot of lower back ache while walking. It’s been following me around for a while – but for the most part thankfully it’s now gone.

I’m left instead with another quite bizarre malady.

Epic farting.

I first noticed that this was a feature of walks when I realised that a side effect of rapidly shrinking buttocks was that I could no longer clench with precision and silently allow any offending visitors to exit unnoticed.

It’s led to a few (ahem) ‘noisy moments’ and occasional shifting of the blame to ‘creaky trees’ or ‘naughty dogs’ (sorry Boris).

Although my regular companions are good natured enough to just find this funny I’ve been trying (without much success) to discover exactly what in my diet has caused this – since nothing has changed. I’ve read online many competing theories for what will cause such rampant flatulence, and some sites suggest broccoli is a leading cause. Others lay the blame at the feet of garlic. Some point the finger of suspicion at onions – and the gaze of others falls upon beans.

The problem is that I love all of these things and they’re really good for me. They also happened to be pretty much everything that I picked up in the stampede of cheap food at Tesco last night.

So I cooked them all up with some soy sauce, salmon and prawns, extinguished all naked flames and tucked in anyway.

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Trust me when I say that the duvet covers were billowing last night…

Either way I’ve decided to just say ‘sod it’ and carry on eating the healthy food I love and continuing to fart until whatever is happening inside me goes along it’s merry way and the next odd bodily quirk arrives.

In the meantime I apologise to all in advance for any unusually strained expressions and occasional unfortunate noises. I will though continue to let havoc fly in the great outdoors as much as possible.

The weather has been almost perfect for this today.

It’s been pretty breezy – and although the afternoon has perpetually threatened rain – all the bad bits held off at all the right times. While the sun was shining first thing this morning (now the blackbirds have moved on) I was also able to trim back the last pesky section of bush in the garden and expose the view all the way down the left hand side to the shed.

Once again – here is a ‘before’ shot followed by a ‘current’ one.

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I started this on the 21st May – so it’s taken almost three whole weeks to get to this point and a lot of hard graft. It’s still a work in progress – but it’s definitely coming on. I’ve got another large pile to dispose of on the right hand side (probably on Tuesday as I have plans tomorrow) and then I need to take care of the ivy on the back of my tree before I start thinking about digging out roots embedded deeper in the ground all over the place.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve started abstractly dreaming about the order in which I need to do things out there now so I’m pretty sure this is becoming something of a minor obsession.

In order to have a change of pace from this today I’d agreed to go for a walk with a friend – who is (like me) focusing on getting a lot fitter, and making progress with her couch to 5K app. Although I decided to delay starting mine (we began at the same time) she’s been able to carry on and is doing pretty well by all accounts.

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We’ve been twalking together for quite a while now – and as we briskly strode today (just over eight miles in a loop to the Harvester for lunch and back) remarked upon how when we’d first done that route many weeks ago we’d felt pretty tired by the time we’d got to the restaurant.

This afternoon we didn’t – and it’s rather amazing how with a little friendly rivalry over step counts (she’s shorter than me and I suspect usually wins because of her teeny legs) and heart rates on our respective fitness watches we’ve both noticeably improved.

Compared to where we started we’ve both got faster and are regularly walking much longer distances together.

In fact today we took a slightly more scenic route both to and from our destination and even found the two remaining swanlings (from an original brood of seven) in St Nicholas Park pottering around by the opposite bank.

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We also spotted these strange little beasties ALL OVER a nearby mossy wall just sitting and soaking up the sunshine. I have no idea what they are – and can’t remember ever seeing one before.

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Does anyone in internetland know what they are? I can’t find them in my online searches – and although it won’t keep me awake at night I’m quite curious as to what they are and why I’ve never seen one before…

Anyway. I just had another garlic and veg stir fry – this time with some chicken and Slimming World Chorizo style sausages.

I’m pretty certain that from a rear burping perspective this won’t be a great outcome internet – so I better go and strap myself in for a wild ride.

Davey

Coombe Abbey

When I lived in Wales I was convinced that (maybe with the exception of Scotland) I was fortunate enough to hang my hat in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. I loved every bit of the countryside around Aberystwyth and over the years I’ve continually felt a yearning to return.

However over the last year I’ve come to realise that although the character of Warwickshire (where I currently live) is very different (there are no sandy beaches or craggy mountains for instance) what I have now is also pretty enviable in a different way. As I’ve said before – there are huge parts I’ve just never explored – and had absolutely no idea that they were there.

Thankfully I have a friend with a fetish for maps who is just as keen on exploration as me. Today wasn’t a particularly intrepid walk in terms of exercise (it was flipping hot so neither of us fancied a mountain climb) but it was to a location completely new to me.

She had suggested we walk to Coombe Abbey and country park (link).

Our relaxing 5.5 mile round trip started at Binley woods under the shade of its beautiful little bridleway.

It was about a mile from where we parked to the Abbey grounds – and approaching it from a distance (as opposed to parking in the grounds) was absolutely the right way to go. As you get closer and closer the long tree lined avenue draws the eye in and you can’t seem to look anywhere else but the beautifully framed building in the distance (which is now a Hotel.)

The original Abbey dates back to 1150 when it was founded by Cistercian monks, and it eventually became the most powerful monastery in Warwickshire. It’s primary revenue stream (producing fine wool for buyers all around England) changed the economics of the region and helped to make Coventry an important centre for trade in the middle ages.

In 1603 the seven year old daughter of King James I came to be educated (and live) at the abbey. Two years later Guy Fawkes’ plan to blow up the houses of parliament with gunpowder included a plot (once the seat of government was gone and the King was dead) to kidnap her and install the young girl on the throne as a puppet monarch whilst he and his co-conspiritors worked to return the Catholic faith to Britain.

It’s chequered and often violent history (there have apparently been several successful and failed assassinations on the premises) may explain the moat and boat portcullis either side of the bridge on the path leading up to the (absolutely lovely) hotel.

(or it may just be for decoration – I have no idea!)

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We decided after a little look around the gardens to explore the nearby woodland and headed off in search of shade. The sun (at around 10am) was becoming pretty hot – and before heading in we both stopped to have a quick drink and re-apply our sunscreen.

The grounds and woodland are both incredibly well managed – and it was really nice for a change to visit a formal and ordered garden. Everywhere we looked there were little flashes of colour from both wild and planted flowers.

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Love was also clearly in the air for Ladybirds. They were in abundance by the water and regardless of me peering in on their moments of bliss they didn’t seem to mind and just got on with business…

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I can scarcely imagine better planning of a walk. Today – as the sun beat down above us in a largely cloudless sky we were shielded from the worst of its effects by a continually shady canopy and beautiful dappled light – which from time to time opened up to bathe the forest floor in sunshine.

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We were planning to take the longer of the two walks around the country park (around the outside of the lake and back to the front of the estate – but it seems that this part of the park (at least currently) is not accessible.

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Despite the locked gate there was a really nice little birdwatching hide nearby that was completely empty (we definitely came on the right day) and afforded some really nice views of the nesting Herons.

There was a huge potential variety of birdlife to see – and I think I really need to come back with some binoculars.

Sadly my camera phone isn’t really capable of doing any of the views from within justice.

I uploaded a video to YouTube to give you an idea of the amount of Herons – but what’s really hard to see is the tree that I’m focusing on is FULL of them.

The audio gives an idea though of the variety of birdlife all around…

This is one of those times that makes me REALLY want to get a better camera!

Almost as soon as we’d started it seemed like we (following the medium access route on the above map) were back at the abbey grounds – where patiently waiting for us in the lilly pond were possibly my favourite things in the world.

Swanlings!

Once I’d adored them for a while it was a perfect time to stop for a coffee (my poor bald head was baking) and thankfully there was a nearby visitor centre (also mostly deserted) where we could sit and relax for 20 minutes.

After this (with occasional little fluffy clouds now populating the sky) we headed back out of the grounds, along the bridleway towards Binley Woods and back to the car.

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After another quick coffee at my friend’s house and a hug we parted ways. I needed to get back home and make the most of my time. The day was barely half way done and I still had my garden to think about.

I’ve still got a long way to go – but this week has been a big one with regards to exercise. I’ve spent at least four hours a day working on it and bit by bit I’m slowly making progress.

When my friend and I started on Sunday it (rather shamefully) looked like this.

Since then (whilst trimming and mowing) I’ve pulled what seems to be miles of ivy out of the lawn, chopped up all of the branches I’d previously left on the patio, cut down three large bushes, and uncovered the path.

I’ve taken around 30 large bags of garden waste to the tip and this evening (after filling a few more sacks with ivy and bushes) it looks like this.

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While I’ve been uncovering the real shape of the garden It’s also been lovely finding all the little bugs, creepy crawlies and other resident wildlife lurking in the undergrowth. Wherever possible I’ve tried to leave them alone and make sure they have a chance to carry on living where I found them – such as this little guy who was quietly hiding under a plant pot.

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After taking a photo I quietly put the pot right back where it was and moved right along.

As of this evening I’ve almost finished the right hand side of the garden – although I discovered the hard way (whilst wearing rather thin gloves) that the last bush with the little orange/red blossoms (I have no idea what it’s called) is covered in super sharp evil little thorns.

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Frikkin OUCH!

I’m going to cut it right back to a stump and see if it survives. I rather like the look of the flowers – but in its current state it’s so out of control I can’t see a way of salvaging it without being brutal.

Soooo – on the plus side this week I’ve been exercising my self to bits.

I’ve generally felt like I’ve climbed over an assault course every morning. This means that I’m working parts of my body (mostly the backs of my legs and my arms) that don’t normally get a lot of focus.

On the negative side all the constant aching also means my muscles will probably be holding onto water (especially given the heat) and that doesn’t sound like a great recipe for the scales on Saturday…

I’ve had a good week with meals – but I did last week too and somehow managed to put half a pound on.

(insert unhappy face)

One can only hope for a good result internet!

In the meantime I’m going to carry on with my pruning. Laters!

Davey

Be kind to eachother

I’ve been trying (it’s almost impossible) to avoid the news reports today. The details that are slowly emerging of the suicide bombing in Manchester last night are incredibly moving – and each time I turn on the radio I hear of a parent talking about a near miss or a sense of shared horror that ones so young could be taken so senselessly. 

It’s at times like this I’m glad that I don’t have children of my own. Events like this make you want to pull the world closer to you, protect it and never let go. If I did I don’t think I’d want to let them ever leave the house again. 

However we can’t plan for anything like this. Life is chaos and we can’t control it. We have to accept that sometimes it’s just randomly and brutally cruel. 

The only answer I can give to such an event is to keep trying to find beauty in life wherever it’s hiding and do the best I can to be kind to others. Maybe by doing this in some small way the callousness of a violent minority intent on polluting our society will somehow be offset. 

It seems desperately inadequate to say something like that – but I refuse to feel anger and hate. It just pollutes everything and furthers the agenda of those that would narrow our world view. They hope that by fostering division and distrust that the only recourse we will be left with is to react violently and indiscriminately. 

I prefer to live in hope. 

Hours before all of this carnage unfolded I took some photos of the new swanlings in the park, posting one on Instagram, and keeping some back for my blog. 


At the time they lifted my spirits – and although my thoughts about them have a more somber dimension this afternoon they still do

My friend (feeding the ducks with her daughter) had sent me a photo of them only the day before. When she did there were seven babies. 


Now barely 24 hours later there are only four, but they’re persisting and clinging on to life. 

Specifically because of this today they make me happy. 


Last year only one of an original litter of 6 managed to make it to full term – but I still see him/her occasionally in the park, charting a proud (but currently still lonely) route along the river. 

Anyway… (sigh)

Moving on…

For the last few days I’ve persisted in my efforts to batter the garden into submission and so far the whole space looks loads better.  


After Sunday’s effort I spent most of Monday attacking it as well – on top of some previously planned walks in the morning and afternoon. 

I had planned yesterday to mow the lawn and start on the right hand bushes but as I did so and filled refuse sacks with grass it became quickly apparent that the lawn had become riddled with ivy and I was exposing a rather large problem – a large network of vines. 

I’ve had issues with ivy on the back wall of my house for a while but never on the grass, and i discovered that it had made it all the way (both in the the grass, under the grass and through the earth) to the opposite fence.  

By the time I’d finished yesterday I’d mowed only 3/4 of the area that was strimmed on Sunday and filled 12 garden refuse sacks with ivy (which was a swine to pull out without snapping the tendrils) and grass. 

The upper half of the garden is way worse than the lower part and I’ve still got a lot to rake out. At this rate there won’t be much grass left, as it’s being mostly yanked out along with the 6-7ft tendrils snaking their way over to my other border. 

By the time it came to go to the tip (it closes at 3.15pm and I’d also run out of bags) my back could take no more. When I finally conked out later in the day (after a five mile afternoon walk) I felt like I’d truly had the mother of all workouts. Everything ached. 


Although it got a bit confused with the difference between my walking and gardening Apple Watch reported 32,293 steps – which I think is a personal record for one day’s stats. 

Today all my aches felt worse and I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all when I woke up. 

My arms honestly feel like I’ve been trying to bench press a truck – and the backs of my thighs are in knots. What I’m doing is clearly good for me – but that doesn’t make creaking around the house (or the garden) any more palatable.  

It’s also begun to worry me today that I’m going to be disturbing some lovely bird life as I continue with my drastic pruning. There appear to be thrushes and robins going in and out of the foliage to the left of me all the time and one in particular has been flying back and forth with my newly created twigs and is clearly making a nest somewhere very nearby although I can’t see where. 

Others (Robins mostly) are taking advantage of the dry earth I created with my raking and have been engaging in spirited dust baths, chirping and tweeting as they do so, whilst I’ve quietly watched them at a distance with my coffee. 


One little guy in particular has been inquisitively following me about for two days now, hopping in close to have a look, cocking his head, grabbing a worm and then flying off into the nearly foliage. 

However I’m committed to cutting it all back – but if I find anything obvious I’ll try to cut around it. I don’t want to ruin some little bird’s chance at a life. 

I’m driving on regardless because it’s been looming over me both literally (it’s about 10ft high on the left hand side) and metaphorically for ages. 

The garden started to get really out of control in line with my worsening health and the more that slipped the bigger the problem got. In my head (despite my progress) it remained huge – and had become something that I thought I couldn’t do on my own. The reality is however that things have changed and I’m now capable of sorting it out. 

In much the same way as not wanting to be a marathon runner – but wanting to be able to eventually run – I’m doing the garden predominantly because I can. 

It just so happens I’m also rather enjoying myself in the process. 

Anyway Internet. I must get on. 

Don’t give in to hate and just be kind to eachother. 

Davey. 

Feeling lots better

I’m currently revelling in two different kinds of little miracles – the first as old as time and the latter a far more recent thing.

Firstly – sleep.

Ohmyflippingwordhowmuchbetterdoestheworldlookwhenyou’vehadsomesleep???!!!!

It’s fair to say that some (but not all) of my darker moments in the past week can be traced back to the doorstep of an increasing lack of it – or at least the absence of the good quality and unbroken variety.

Since I repaired my bed and had a good result on the scales however things have improved – and my addled and depressed mind finally shut down and forced my eyes closed at 6pm yesterday. It (and they) didn’t open for business again until 1.30am. After three hours of pottering around the house I nodded off once more and awoke at 8am with around 10 and a half hours of refined weapons grade premium quality highly concentrated sleep under my belt.

I did have a weird dream about standing in a pub full of porridge (up to my waist) and feeding cabbages to the alligators that lived in the gloopy oats however – but I’m not going to even try and unpick that subconscious pile of spaghetti like metaphors. Instead I’ll move right along to number two.

The second miracle is wireless internet.

I’m currently 8.5 miles into my walk for the day and I have approximately four miles to go until I reach home. As I type my blog online I’m eating my lunch in the countryside whilst listening to the birds sing.

How cool is that?!

Although I originally started out with the intention to just do some shopping and go home the day turned out to be so nice that I changed my mind when I reached Aldi and decided to instead buy some bits and bobs for a picnic – and spend the day out and about.

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It’s been a superb choice – and the food I chose was not only totally on plan but cost me only £4.31 – which is a great price to pay for a day out with meals included!

Whilst walking along (munching carrots and apples for my breakfast) I’ve retraced the route I took last week (here) along the Grand Union canal through Radford and Offchurch (and it’s Greenway) before returning via Newbold Comyn and Leamington. This time however instead of parking near the canal and doing a circular five miles I’m doing a ‘full fat’ route from my front doorstep and back.

The canal and countryside has been absolutely FULL of life – and today I saw my first little ducklings of the season all paddling furiously with their extended family to wherever they were heading. These little guys are so cute and they make the most adorable little chirpy quacking noises!

Just a little further along there was also evidence that the swan nesting by the bank that I’d previously met (here) was close to having swanlings of its own. Initially it was quite tricky to pass the nest due to the extremely territorial and sentinel like partner on the bank who tolerated my photography but wasn’t keen on me walking any closer to the nest than the very edge of the canal towpath.

I kept talking gently to them both however and I think they got the message that I was only passing by and didn’t mean any harm. They also let me take a short video before I moved away!

Even though it’s not been all that long since I passed by here before the thing I love about nature is that all you need is some slightly different lighting to change everything up a bit and make the walk interesting all over again as each time it takes on a subtly different hue.

Consequently there’s always something new to look at – and where there are nice views there there are also opportunities for gratuitous selfie shots!!!

(author moves on and then sits down with a coffee to continue writing)

The character of Offchurch is absolutely lovely – and it’s so quiet and peaceful that I’m amazed you don’t see cars crashed into lamp posts all over the place with snoring drivers at the wheel.

I can understand why people will pay a lot to live here. It’s about as close to an idyllic little English country village with thatched roofs and red brick cottages as it’s possible to get – and I’m sure that somewhere in the world (if there’s any justice) there’s a chocolate or biscuit tin in circulation with a picture just like this on it.

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There are very few things that make me want to buy confectionary – but if I saw that particular tin I think I’d end up with a spare room full of shortbread…

The last time I was here I stopped at the pub for a drink and a rest – but this time I moved right along. I had all I needed in my picnic bag and was feeling both frugal and spritely. As I was walking I was also occasionally drinking my flask of coffee and munching a carrot and chicken ‘brunch’ at the same time.

Just outside Offchurch the fields that I’d walked through the previous week were now also full of life – and some extremely chilled out cows were happy enough to be watched and photographed while I talked nonsense to them

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I can understand why they’re so relaxed. As long as no-one says ‘Quarter Pounder with cheese’ for a while they’re likely to stay in their idyllic setting without a care in the world.

It seemed to me that it wasn’t a bad life being this particular cow. There was birdsong all around her, food right under her nose – and plenty of bluebells in a nearby coppice to idly study (if indeed there is such a thing as bovine botanical curiosity). All she had to do in return was chew grass and tolerate an occasional chubby weirdo with a smartphone.

Otherwise she didn’t have a care in the world.

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(the coffee shop I’ve snuggled up in starts to close so I move on to home to continue writing and prepare a soup)

I left the cows and continued through the fields and over the river to where my blog started as I sat to eat lunch. Nearby here was a sign I’d missed the last time around that shows a bit more about the conservation of the area – and suggests that I have much more to explore than I have already.

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I haven’t seen any Kingfshers so far but it’s an incentive to come back again and again if they live around here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the wild before and I’d really like to! Watch this space!

Shortly after I stopped in Leamington for coffee and then moved on towards home.

As I type the final words to my post, in the background I have a hearty beef and swede stew bubbling away on the stove. I like to let it slowly simmer for at least an hour and a half before I mash it up a bit, add some mixed beans and tuck in.

At the moment my living room is full of gentle afternoon light and birdsong from the trees outside. There’s a pleasant aroma of garlic and bay leaves permeating the house and as I sit with my legs upon a tall leather pouffe I can feel the balls of my feet throbbing a little from all of the walking today.

I’m struck as I finish typing this – that at the moment – I love my house and the things in it, despite their associations to ‘old me’. I no longer want to smash it all as I did in my post the other day (link).

It’s folly to be angry with inanimate objects when they are merely reflecting your own negative feelings about yourself.

When I disappear down my own particular rabbit hole I still unfortunately find a lot of regret in there and I’m often annoyed that it took me so long to find what I have today. The silver lining here though is that regardless of how long it took to get to the (physical and mental) place that I currently inhabit – I eventually did, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

Although my aching feet may have a different opinion – but they’ve done me proud. As I write the final line of my post today they’ve walked 25,353 steps and 12.58 (blissfully enjoyable) miles. In the process they’ve have helped me burn 1763/4275 active/total calories and made my picnic and impending dinner guilt free.

Their sacrifice will be not be forgotten as I sit this evening watching Doctor Who with a large bowl of what will no doubt be a delicious soup – which I think is now ready to eat.

Buh-bye internet!

Davey

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Along the Offchurch Greenway

As bank holidays go I’ve zero complaints so far.

If the point of such a holiday is spending time wandering aimlessly from place to place with people you like and talking all day long about life and ‘stuff’ then I think so far all the boxes I have are well and truly ticked. Today I’ve been on just such an excursion with just such a person doing just such things.

Although it’s fair to say I’m no longer a walking virgin in my local area there are times that I still mentally kick myself about all the years I spent indoors – never venturing out to explore what is honestly a lovely little corner of the world. I’m very lucky to live where I do and it really niggles me that I ignored it for so long.

Not any more though thankfully.

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Today my friend had suggested we do a five mile long circular stroll via Offchurch and the river Leam from her Pathfinder book of local walks (link). I’ve driven past pretty much all of this many times – but never once realised as I whizzed by how close I was to the Grand Union Canal, fields and wildlife.

And in the case of the latter – it just so happens to be my favourite type!

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Not long after we joined the canal, nestling right next to the path were two swans – one floating serenely down the waterway, and the second on a large nest – clearly sitting on some eggs and preening itself as I quietly edged closer and closer to take a picture.

I could stare at these guys all day long and never get bored. They always make me happy.

As we left the swans and passed by the Radford bottom lock then under the nearby skewed railway viaduct (the brickwork on this is really impressive!) the path headed up to the greenway with some lovely views of the surrounding bright yellow fields of rape.

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As with the Stratford Greenway that I’ve walked a few times previously (link) this path follows a disused railway line between Rugby and Leamington (laid in 1851 according to the walking guide). It’s got a slight incline – but for the most part is pretty flat and easy to walk on.

It goes on a lot further than our route allowed however, and sadly almost as soon as we’d joined it we had to peel off into a field and then to a country lane heading towards Offchurch.

This is a lovely little village with one of the best uses for an old telephone box that I’ve ever come across. Rather than pulling it down the local community have turned it into a voluntary book lending service! You drop one off, pick another one up, and return it when you’re done. How cool is that?

I absolutely love the knitted sign too!

As we moved further towards the half way point we couldn’t help but pop into the nearby 8th century St Gregory’s church – which had some absolutely lovely stained glass (which as regular readers will know is something of a weakness of mine, despite my agnostic leanings).

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After a look around here we headed to the nearby pub (The Staglink) for a quick drink. It was pretty busy inside – partially because most people were tucking into what looked like an absolutely scrumptious (and seriously sinful) Sunday lunch – but also because it was getting a bit colder and beginning to rain.

The weather reports for today had been awful – and heavy showers had been forecast for most of the afternoon. Mercifully the outside seating had some pretty big umbrellas on the tables and we sat under these whilst sipping our drinks and nattering as the (thankfully brief) rain slowly departed.

After half an hour of relaxing we headed off through the nearby fields, over a few bridges and through a few more rape fields on the way back towards Newbold Comyn and a well earned coffee.

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As I sit at the moment under a duvet, listening to the rain hammering down outside I can scarcely imagine a better way to spend a weekend.

One thing I do know internet is that I’m getting my own copy of this absolutely smashing little book!

Yay for countryside twalking!

Davey

Good golly it’s Molly!

It’s 10am and the canal towpath is already busy with the fleeting scent of jogger and cyclist’s body sprays as they pass by. Occasionally I catch a whiff of what seems like a scent I know – but then it’s gone again and once more the canal falls silent apart from a distant sound of occasional traffic.

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I’m currently sipping my coffee and re-applying the sun tan cream that seems to have already worn off whilst under the cool of a bridge near Warwick Parkway. It’s nice in the shade. The day is really heating up. At the moment I’m on my way to the Hatton Locks Cafe – around four miles away from my house along the canal.

I’m not complaining about this good weather mind you – it’s great – but you just know that my already pink (and slightly balding) head is going to suffer when the weather app on Apple Watch looks like this.

I’ve walked there before, but never there and back (in this post here from last October – and boy do I look different! I was 27st 9lbs – five and a half stone heavier than I am now).

Oddly it’s still something that I think will be hard to do in my mind – but I suddenly realised while lying in bed this morning that this lingering assumption of difficulty is based upon what I could do the last time I tried. On that occasion my friend and I parked a car at both ends and we walked to the Hatton Arms from a mile or so further up the canal in Leamington.

I decided this morning that (despite burning a bit yesterday) I was just going to liberally cover myself in suntan cream and get right back out there to give it a go.

Both ways this time.

When I set out everything ached. My back ached, my bum ached, my feet ached and even my chest (thats new!) ached. I’ve been pushing myself quite a bit recently and clearly things need time to recover.

I’d also woken up cursing my bed. I need a new one. I realised recently that I’m now sleeping in the ever present impression of a man that was 34 and a half stone, and it’s becoming uncomfortable. I’ve been putting it off for a while but I may just have to bite the bullet and replace it in the very near future.

However it wasn’t too far down the canal before I found something to instantly take my mind off stiff muscles and new mattresses. Quite near my house are signs that there will soon be swanlings everywhere. A newly created nest was quite literally being feathered before my eyes as mommy and daddy swans prepared for either the laying or incubation of new offspring.

I couldn’t see any eggs here though – so I’m guessing this Mr & Mrs have some hanky panky planned in their not too distant future…

I haven’t been in a rush today. At least until next Saturday my objectives are less about speed and more about distance, and enjoyment. Sometimes I find that I get so focused on the physical act of trying to walk faster or further that I completely forget to just sit for a moment and appreciate the scenery.

I guess it’s because I used to get annoyed with needing to stop and sit all the time. It took so long before I could walk the entire distance to Leamington (on the shortest route) without sitting on a garden wall or two that I keep trying to walk further and further without stopping to see what my limits are (currently around 5 miles I think) before I need to rest. That’s great – but when I do that and I’m looking at the fitness stats on my watch I don’t want to pause and interrupt its calculations.

I think that’s why my little flower picture challenge last week was so much fun. It forced me out of one mentality and into another, and that was really really nice.

So today I stopped to take pictures and watch the world (slowly) pass by.

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When I finally reached the Hatton Locks Cafe though it wasn’t a moment too soon.

In an effort to alleviate the (ahem, cough, cough) ‘backed up’ sensation of the last few days I’ve been hammering down the water both yesterday and today, on top of my usual coffee.

My aim is a minimum of two litres a day.

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This means however that stops at the little boy’s room are an absolute necessity! To be honest I’ve ignored this more than I should have for a while. Drinking more means eating less and that can only be a good thing!

As I was exiting the lavatory and looking at the cafe menu I heard my name being called. I turned to see the chirpy young daughter of one of the lovely Slimming World ladies saying hello. She invited me to come over and sit with them while they enjoyed the sunshine over coffee and breakfast.

It would have been lovely enough to see some friendly faces and have a natter, but these guys were packing Davey Kryptonite. They had Molly with them – who I’d last seen as an itty bitty pup when she was brought along to Slimming World around eight months ago.

Now she’s all grown up and an absolute bundle of energy!

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After they’d finished breakfast we strolled together back along the canal (they kindly let me walk Molly!) and nattered about what the rest of the day held for us as well as what we were planning to eat during the week.

Their outdoor eating and barbecue agenda made me wonder if I too should do a bit of al-fresco dining soon. If I do however I’ll need to sort out my (quite shocking) rear garden first.

If you ever hear me using the phrase ‘jungle is massive!’ trust me when I say that I’m not referring to a genre of music…

Soon we parted company – and after a little while longer (and several re-applications of cream) I arrived back home. It seems that I have once again caught the sun and am pink and lumpy instead of a pleasing auburn colour – but I’ve enjoyed every moment of my walk. My total for the day so far is a tad under 10 miles and it’s been a great use of my Sunday!

Aside from the fact that walking along the canal is just a lovely relaxing thing to do, I’ve also been able to re-visit a day out from six months ago and see just what a difference the time and weight loss has made.

The answer internet is ‘a flipping lot.’

Yay for moving my ass!

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need a tinkle.

Davey

Mostly broken but still functional 

I felt like a broken man when I woke up yesterday. 

I knew that my enthusiastic tramping around the Malvern hills on Sunday may have repercussions but I was expecting it to be in my knees – and not… well… EVERYWHERE

OK – I’m probably overstating it a little – my upper body escaped largely unmolested – but every time I tried to sit, walk down stairs or gradients my legs started screaming. 

Oddly my knees were absolutely fine. Not a single twinge. I’m actually really glad about this because I always thought I’d done long term damage to them while I was massive. My main issue was instead the front of my thighs which were complaining like they never had before. 

Around this point (whilst gingerly hoisting myself on and off the loo) I received a text from a friend wondering if I fancied a walk around St Nics park. 

We’ve not had a chance to catch up for a couple of months now thanks to various circumstances, so I immediately replied back that I’d love to. It would also be a good opportunity to try and stroll away my aches and pains. 

Sitting down all day would do them no good at all – despite that seeming a very attractive alternative. 

By the time I met her I’d already walked a mile and a half (cursing each downward hill like a drunken sailor with Tourette’s) and was a little warmed up. 

Thankfully though our walks have never been about speed. They’re always just a really nice chance to chat and catch up on family events or Slimming World progress. 

They’re also usually a smashing opportunity to see what’s happening with the swanling and the other people we both meet regularly in the park. 


As it happens the swanling (which I saw from a distance last Thursday but couldn’t get a good photo of) is now all grown up. 

This makes me both happy AND sad. As a friend said on Facebook when I posted this picture yesterday we’ve both grown and changed a lot over the last year – and our progress seems to be inextricably interlinked in my mind. 

To see it proudly and capably making its way in the world is a wonderful thing. I’d be lying however if I said I didn’t miss the little ball of fluff that last summer was busy surviving the gradual demise of its little siblings. 

Still – the world is always changing and we have to adapt and change with it if we want to survive. This little fellow is no exception. 

Neither was the curly haired toddler I usually see wrapped up warm in his buggy with his always chatty mother. She is never less than delightfully complimentary about my weight loss when I see her – so ranks highly on my list of people I like to bump into. I always walk away from our chats with a smile and a little spring in my step. 

Her little one is now out of his pushchair and walking slowly around the park with his mum. This little fellow’s grin (much like the enthusiasm of his mother) is completely infectious – and his impossibly clear and sparkly brown eyes never fail to remind me how wonderful it must be to be a little almost brand new person with the world waiting you to grow up and explore it. 

After a couple of laps my friend and I hugged and headed off in our respective directions to continue our days. 

By this time I felt that if I stopped I probably wouldn’t start again. My legs still felt awful

This could be bad news as I had another walk with a friend planned for the early evening – and we never fail to have an excellent natter. It was something I didn’t want to miss. 

So I kept walking. 

When I’d finished I went home and kept myself moving about with housework and cooking (it’s a soup themed week at SW and I was making an appropriately speedy beef and swede stew) before heading out once more when my friend arrived.

She (like me) is always checking her watch for her step count – and last week I was marginally beaten in our increasingly regular (good natured) battle to be the king or queen of putting one foot repeatedly in front of the other. 

By the time I’d finished yesterday though I think I’d taken pole position (at least this time – she’s quite feisty and I expect spirited competition next week 😄).

I also smashed my record for distance walked in a day – and managed over sixteen miles!


When I awoke today (and multiple times in the night) I was hoping that the aches and pains would be subsiding – however I probably should have taken into account the fact that I clearly don’t know when enough is enough any more. When I should have been resting I instead went out walking like I was on a mission. 

Only a fool would do the same again. 

So today I did the same again. 

As I type I’m sitting in Solihull after a completely unplanned (but immensely enjoyable) early morning walk down the canal and around town to Warwick Parkway three miles away (the out of town train station as opposed to the closer one around the corner). 

I have a coffee in front of me and I’ve been reading a book. In case anyone wondered whether I’m still reading self help manuals – I am – and at the moment I’m making my way through this:


I’ll be honest – so far I’m not a fan. 

For someone that claims to be an optimist he has a pretty gloomy assessment of the world at the start of the book. Essentially his opinion is that everything is out to get us and every social and political structure is designed to control or enslave us. 

This may or may not be true. In some respects I often think it is – however I’ve come to the conclusion that living your life motivated by the claustrophobic awareness that invisible forces are trying to crush you is no way to exist. 

Whether it’s a reality or a fiction I have pretty much zero control over it and I only form such opinions because I’m continually drip fed them by a 24 hour media cycle which at times I feel I can’t escape. 

If I choose not to watch and worry am I stupid or am I just happier?

Personally I find I’m just happier. 

It’s clearly a personal choice though and others may find not knowing or acknowledging what’s going on in the world equally as stressful or upsetting.

Furthermore they may believe that my lack of political engagement exemplifies everything that’s wrong with modern society. They may be right – but I don’t care. It’s all too depressing and I no longer want to engage with it. 

Either way so far the author and I seem to fundamentally differ in our world views and unless he cheers the **** up in the next few chapters I’m moving on to greener pastures. 

So – in the meantime I’m going to indulge myself with some window shopping, and looking at things I probably shouldn’t covet any more (but still do a little bit). 

I can’t help liking shiny things Internet but I’m trying not to!

Davey

Smoother than a baby’s bottom

Today I feel great. Really great. This morning I felt like lightning in a bottle when I woke up.

Although I’m relatively footloose and fancy free I think its important to get up at a good time, and try not to sleep in at all – regardless of what day it is. I got dressed (making a slightly longer than usual trip to the bathroom sink for reasons that will become apparent later), did my usual browsing for jobs with strong coffee, chewed through my employment agency mails, reviewed all of the positions available on the job centre portal and then stared out of the window for a minute or two.

It was disappointing.

There wasn’t anything new out there that I could see and no replies from anyone with good or bad feedback. The whole process of finding a job can at times feel like you’re throwing applications into a huge void where no-one reads anything you send them or is even the slightest bit interested. But I’m not letting it get to me. I refuse.

If you do then you’ve already lost the battle – so it’s important to find a reason to feel good every day.

If I couldn’t find one in my e-mail or on the job centre site then I’d damn well hunt for one somewhere else.

I’d planned to dig up the bush stump in my front garden today with the next door neighbour – but not only was the ground completely sodden (I didn’t fancy a mud bath today) but there were several other things I needed to do in town and elsewhere.

I also needed to get some walking in. I have been trying to get under eighteen minutes a mile for weeks now and on the way into Leamington the other day I came within touching distance of it – but got stuck at some traffic lights which irritatingly de-railed my attempt.

I decided that I’d see what I could do on the flat surface of the park and have a look for the Swanling while I was at it.

I arrived at the park, chose some appropriately loud and socially unacceptable music on my phone (the kind that causes bad driving and teenage pregnancies) and started walking as fast as I could.

Initially my legs didn’t want to play ball. They ached and quickly cramped – but I’ve learned that rather than stopping when I feel like this the best thing to do is ease off the pace a little, bear with the feeling and eventually it will fade. At this point I can speed back up again, and each time I don’t stop my stamina increases a little for the next attempt.

This whole process is a real learning curve for me – and I’m constantly amazed at what my body can do when I push it regularly.

I looked at my watch half way through my lap. It didn’t look like I was going to do it – but what the heck, I wasn’t going to stop trying. I poured it on for the second half. 

As I strode on I passed a group of women I see regularly and greeted them.

‘Hello ladies!’ I called – as I breezed by them. I wasn’t stopping to chat today – but waved behind me as I continued onwards.

‘You’re looking good!’ one of them shouted as I pounded into the distance. ‘Thanks!” I called back. Maybe I’d see them on the next lap and stop for a natter – but today this was more important. I wanted a win.

By the time I got close to the end of the first mile I realised that I was actually ahead of schedule. I put my head down. Maybe I could do this!

I finally felt the double tap on my wrist from my watch to tell me I’d done a mile. I didn’t want to look down. Maybe I’d just carry on and look afterwards. Maybe I could do the second lap at the same pace. Then I’d look.

‘Dave?’

I heard the voice vaguely over the sound of my exercise playlist, and looked up. In front of me, walking with his dog in the opposite direction was a friend I used to work with. I hadn’t seen him since we were both made redundant at the end of July.

‘Bloody hell!’ He said looking me up and down. ‘I thought that was you but I didn’t recognise you at first!’

I smiled and shook his hand, but not before stopping my watch’s workout app. I noticed he was stopping his Apple Watch too.

‘Wow.’ He said – looking me up and down again. ‘You’ve really changed.’

‘I’ve lost a bit of weight.’ I smiled. ‘Ten stone now.’

He looked really impressed. I smiled and stroked his dog, who timidly hid behind his right leg. ‘She’s shy.’ he said. I held out my hand and she gingerly sniffed me before finally letting me pat and stroke her head.

‘Things are good.’ I said, ‘I’ve been doing well with losing weight – in fact you stopped me at an important moment!’ I checked my watch again. ‘I just got my mile time under 18 minutes for the fist time!’

(I’d not only managed to get under 18 minutes. I’d smashed it. 17.23!)

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‘Are you doing more laps?’ I asked. ‘Yep’ he replied.

‘Mind if I join you?’ I asked ‘Sure!’ he said. So for the next hour we (after starting our workout apps again) walked and talked for another three miles, sharing what had been going on with each of us since we’d last spoken six months or so ago. He was enjoying his new job and life seemed good – in fact he was in training for the Stratford marathon in May and was walking because he’d hurt his knee doing this.

It seemed that both of us were working towards fitness goals.

I can’t overstate how nice it is to meet people from my past and be proud of how I look and who I am now. Those close to me will know how much I’ve shied away from people in my past simply because of the embarrassment of being bigger or feeling like a cumulative collection of failures.

Now I no longer feel like this. Each meeting – especially the unexpected ones like this just spur me ever onwards and give me the impetus to carry on.

As we walked I also had the opportunity to introduce him to the swanling – who looked a little lonely today, but as always – a teeny bit more grown up. It’s beak is definitely turning orange now, and it’s tail feathers are almost completely white.

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As we continued doing laps of the park we discussed setting goals and the mental challenge of working towards something like a marathon – and I told him that I was always looking for the next thing to drive me forward. Often it wasn’t about the milestone I was about to reach – but what was next on the horizon. I’m always thinking about what will come after what I am doing – and what will keep the impetus up.

So, after we’d said our goodbyes and shared some good wishes for each other’s endeavours I decided to try something new.

I went to a shop with 2xl clothes and picked a jacket off the peg. This isn’t something that’s easy for me to do (when things don’t fit it can be very demoralising) but I decided I needed to know how far I had to go before this was a possibility.

I undid the zip and swung it over my shoulders, expecting the arms and shoulders to be tight.

Only they weren’t. 

In fact the ONLY problem was at the waist, which was probably about 4-6 inches away from me being able to do the zip up!!! Otherwise the jacket felt like it would fit!

Holy crapola! 

There are also mainstream shops now that do 3xl clothes, so I need to find one and try one of those on. I’m able to wear 4xl shirts now – so maybe I don’t have as far to go as I first thought! This means a significant decrease in the cost of clothes compared to specialist shops that cater for 4xl and above men.

Shirts and trousers suddenly become more than 50% cheaper!

So – today I’m laser focused, and that makes me happy. I have several objectives, and they’re ALL do-able. All they need is time, effort and positivity – which I either currently possess or can manufacture in unlimited quantities.

Although my chin feels a little chillier today. I decided this morning that I’ve been hiding my fat face behind a beard for so long (that’s actually why I grew it in the first place) that I needed to know what I really look like underneath – and get used to the real me for a little while, even if I grow it back afterwards.

So internet – here’s bald Davey. He’s smoother than a baby’s bottom and is being unveiled in public for the first time since 2009 – having just managed to get under 18 minutes a mile.

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The beard will probably be back soon – but for the moment I’m enjoying the baristas in Starbucks doing a double take when they see me 🙂

Davey

It’s not a maze – it’s a choice

I imagine that the medical profession have a covert diagnosis for many that walk through their doors in January. 

IJFJ is the acronym that springs to my mind (I’ll leave it your imagination but three of the words are January, It’s and just) and the more I talk to people in my life the more I realise that this is about appropriate as descriptions get. 

Everyone has some form of cold or flu, most are missing the holiday period, some have relationship issues and others just feel a bit rough after several weeks of drinking Baileys and eating mince pies for breakfast. 

I’ve had some sleep for my part. Not great sleep if I’m honest – but cumulatively the chunks I’ve nailed down have steadied the ship and combined with yesterday’s loss I feel quite good. 

My new walking shoes however may ensure that tomorrow I will be hobbling into my job interview like a pensioner. They’re working muscle groups in my shins and calves that previously appear to have been chilling out in my (sturdy ankle supported) boots. 

I’ve done only three miles so far today and they’re on FIRE! 🔥 

This is great as I’m actually beginning to enjoy this kind of pain – mostly because it heralds the arrival of physical improvements that didn’t exist before it was there. 

Maybe it’s the sleep, maybe it’s yesterday’s weight loss, maybe the planets have aligned – or maybe the ham and tomatoes I had for breakfast had fairy dust in them but today I feel POSITIVE

What’s more I feel like sharing this with the world – and I’m a big believer in practicing what I preach. 

I’m making a conscious effort (and have been all day) to smile at everyone I meet and say positive things. 

Many years ago I realised that I had lost my happy face and that what I was seeing in other people was simply the reflection of my own less than positive demeanour. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again (and again) before I’m done with blogging but…

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. 

It’s something of a confusing statement when you first hear it but I think few things in life ring as true as these words to me. I may sometimes fall short of my aspirations in this respect and forget my own advice – but every time I come back to them and consider what they mean it’s like a moment of mindfulness and they combine to spiritually uplift me. 

If you smile at people they invariably smile back. If you’re positive with them then they will often be positive back. Before you know it you’re consuming the harvest of the happiness you’ve seeded in others. 

I’m always amazed by people that see nothing but the worst in situations or others – and sometimes despair that they have such negative world views. However – more than that I’m struck by how poorer this ends up making them as their social circles shrink more and more until all they are left with are those that share their diminished world view.

This is the worst case scenario however. Most people (myself included) go through dips – but that’s all they are

Every fantastic rollercoaster needs to slowly climb from the bottom before it can see the world from on high and experience the rush of stepping off into the unknown. 

All of my slimming world buddies are doing just this. They’re putting reminders of past achievements on kitchen cupboards, clubbing together for exercise, posting pictures of new recipes they’ve tried and are gathering their happy thoughts to begin again. 

So – IJFJ internet. It’s not a big deal. 

The leaves will grow back on the trees, the sun will come out, the relationships will repair themselves or better ones will come along, colds and flu will disappear, friends will pop over for cups tea and soon, before we know it there will be more little swanlings in the park, struggling to survive and propelling fatties like me along the river with smiles on their faces. 


It’s not a maze. It’s a choice. 

Enjoy your day Internet 

Davey