Seven and a half stone off.

Today I feel oddly deflated, which is particularly perverse given that I’m actually back on track. After a week of going back to basics and writing down EVERYTHING that passed my lips I pulled back the 3lb gain last week and nailed my seven and a half stone award.

Since I promised in my last but one post about portion sizes to be open about what I’d consumed over the last seven days – here is the remainder of my week of eating.

——

Wednesday

Chilli – 250g mince, half can kidney beans, half red pepper, broccoli, half can chopped toms, half large onion, mushrooms (remaining half of Tuesdays meal)

Chicken and bacon soup – chopped garlic, carrot, swede, onion, broccoli, courgette and potato with a can of mixed beans and a large handful of red lentils. Made with a can of chopped tomatoes and a carton of passata (two breakfast bowls eaten – saved the rest for Thursday)

Half a jar of pickled gherkins

Thursday

Rest of chicken broth (2 bowls, same as above)

2x salmon steaks half a punnet cherry tomatoes + half tub cottage cheese

2x medium potatoes, can of tuna in spring water, 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard, Sainsburys light mayo (approx 3 tablespoons), carrots, tomato, yellow pepper, celery, lettuce and red wine vinegar

Several carrots while watching TV

Friday

Lettuce, carrot, green pepper, pickled onion, celery, tuna and whole grain mustard salad served with 6 x mini quiches (made in a muffin tray with 2 medallions bacon, courgette, onion and ham with 3 eggs and 1/4 tub quark)

(same again saved for Saturday’s lunch)

——

Well before I recieved the good news that I had lost weight I woke up worrying about standing on the scales at 3.30am. I simply couldn’t get back to sleep.

Eventually after staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity I finally ended up sitting downstairs in my armchair shooting aliens on my xbox until it was time to go to SW. Consequently when I arrived and stood in the queue my eyes were dead tired and I felt like I’d got absolutely zero energy.

I walked to Slimming World this morning – despite it not yet being a week off my feet (as recommended by the doctor on Monday) and my shin was throbbing.

As I waited in line my mind was still racing away – busy working overtime to convince myself that I’d messed up my week. I was mentally examining every aspect of how I felt and busy churning through stupidly negative thoughts over and over again. Did my clothes feel tighter? Did I feel bloated? How was my jacket fitting? The zip didn’t seem as loose. Was my poor mood noticeable as well?

I’m no good at hiding it when I feel low and I was so sure by the time I sat down (even with my good news) that I looked like a huge grumpy puss that I’d have honestly preferred to just climb into my wardrobe at home and not let anyone look me in the eye.

It’s stupid. I don’t know why sometimes I end up mentally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I should have felt positive and energised but even when I’d weighed in and clearly done well I still couldn’t shake off my negative thoughts.

My feelings about my success and self worth seem to bear little relation to reality this week and I know I’m honestly not feeling myself. It’s only been 5 days without getting out for a good walk and I’m already feeling a massive difference in my mood.

I have been told again and again this week to not be so hard on myself – to focus on my success and how far I’ve come and not this little blip.

I’ve found it really hard (actually next to impossible) to do.

Somehow I seem to have decided this week that the only way to succeed in the absence of exercise is be ultra critical or hard on myself and to feel guilt for everything imaginable (both past and present).

I know I’m doing it. I can see it coming a mile off, and logical me knows its stupid – but I find myself occasionally slipping back into old habits and convincing myself (quite wrongly) that I need to hate myself in order to change myself. I thought I’d gotten past this kind of self destructive thought process and moved on to better ways of dealing with my problems.

Maybe not.

Several people on Facebook and in group have also suggested other exercise I could do in the meantime – but for me these (well meaning and helpful) ideas are serving only to remind me I can’t easily get around outside under my own steam at the moment.

This might sound daft – as all exercise is beneficial to my cause – but I have my own internal ‘logic’ sanctioning why I feel this way.

Over and over again I’ve said I don’t want the body magic awards at SW. I’m still proud of what I personally achieve but I don’t want my exercise tracked simply as ‘Dave got his heart rate up for 30 minutes today and got a tick in a box’.

The idea of exercise simply for the sake of it at a gym or on my bike indoors leaves me completely disinterested. For me it’s all about being out in the world and although walking speeds up my weight loss it’s not the main reason I do it.

Being indoors just reminds me of what I often feel has been a largely fat and unproductive life and I don’t like it any more.

Whatever comes after Slimming World if (when) I reach a reasonable weight has to be organic and part of my everyday routine. Walking for me must be an everyday necessity that’s woven into every part of my life and ideally I want it to remain a very social pursuit. Strolls with friends are something I genuinely look forward to and the people I meet up with motivate me to get out of bed and moving toward my goals way more than staring at a wall while I pedal like a hamster on a wheel.

As I write and read all of this back I’m almost at the point of wiping it and starting again. I think I sound ungrateful for my success and just plain miserable. I wonder what people will think of me. I’d rather they thought I was happy.

But I won’t delete it. Where does not being honest get me?

No-where.

It’s how I feel at this exact moment in time and regardless of whether its consumer friendly or not I almost feel I need to pour it out of my head onto a page to get rid of it

Despite the content of my post seeming (to me) largely negative and downbeat it’s genuinely how I am dealing with life at this particular moment in time. I want to record it so that when I don’t feel the same way tomorrow or the day after I can look back with fresher eyes.

Hopefully when I do it will reaffirm that emotionally kicking myself for nothing all week has brought me no more success than being happy with myself on other similarly successful weeks.

I live in hope that eventually I’ll realise that feeling like this is a complete waste of time, and be better able to snap myself out of it when I see it coming on the horizon.

Maybe not at the moment though internet. I’ll get right back onto feeling positive in a short while.

Davey

 

Lands End to John o Groats

Something that I haven’t done for years is go to the cinema on my own during the day. In my youth when I was a student I did it a lot, and really loved sitting there in the dark with some popcorn and disappearing into fantasy for a couple of hours.

I’d wanted to go and see Morgan for a couple of weeks now – and so far no-one had been available to go and watch it with me. Since I’d recently signed up for discounted tickets at my local cinema on Tuesdays I decided today was the day. I’d go on my own and just enjoy the film. 

I can’t have the popcorn anymore though. 

Well – actually I can have the popcorn. I just choose not to. A large sweet one is 48 syns, which is a bit unfair but also a fact of life. 

Instead I ate some ham pieces and cherry tomatoes shortly before I went in and smuggled in a flask of coffee. 

I’m not sure why I hid the flask in my pocket under my shirt. The lone attendant clearly couldn’t have cared less, but smuggling in contraband made me feel a little naughty. 

I’d avoided adult prices with my discount (I paid child rates) and didn’t buy any over priced sugary snacks to make me feel like crap later. I was a paragon of economy. 

When I sat down I soon realised that I also had the cinema to myself. 

A private screening!


I sat right at the front and stretched out my legs. It was nice to take a weight off and relaaaaax

I’d started the day in the park with my mate and Boris – his French bulldog. We’d done a couple of miles and were deciding whether or not to do a third lap. 

My foot had been hurting all morning and initially I hadn’t wanted to move. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to go too far either according to my mate. 

By all accounts when I roped Boris into a 3rd lap last week he was all achy and creaky for a whole day afterwards. The poor little fellow only has teeny tiny legs. 

He’s also got a curved spine, and walks slightly at an angle with his back legs about two inches to the left of his front ones. My friend calls it crabbing. 

He seems content enough though, and after a couple of miles (at least from my perspective) any aches and pains that the three of us started with had melted away. 

The human body is a wonderful thing – it’s always repairing itself! I was good for more, but maybe Boris wouldn’t see the same benefits. We called it quits and headed for a coffee instead. 

As we headed to our cars we met a blonde lady with a Doberman – a lovely friendly animal with a proud pointy nose and a sleek black coat. When we strolled past she was busy rewarding its good behaviour with little biscuits from her right hand pocket. 

Boris could smell the dog treats in her body warmer immediately and stopped to look up at her longingly, putting both paws on her leg and sniffing the source of the biscuity scent. 

She laughed and stroked him. We said hello and began to slowly walk and talk together as we headed out of the park. 

‘Did you have him as a puppy?’ She asked my friend.

‘No – I got him later on. His previous owner used him for breeding.’ He replied. 

‘Awww – the poor little thing.’ She said smiling at him. 

I bit my tongue and smiled. It didn’t sound a bad existence to me. Boris had a start in life (back when he still had his family jewels) that most dogs would envy. His chief concerns extended no further than eating, sleeping and procreating. 

The stoic little fellow did not suffer unduly from what I can see and his expression now shows a contented dog with only fond memories of the past. 


I do however have a tendency to anthropomorphize when it comes to dogs and pets so he could just be thinking ‘sausages‘. 

Who knows?…

While we sat drinking and talking at Starbucks (it’s easy there to sit outside with a dog) I showed my friend the new goals I had set myself in my post yesterday.

We talked about segmenting my weight loss into managable chunks with memorable goals and I mentioned that one of the ladies from Slimming World had come up with a really good idea. 

She’d commented that it would be a nice to add up all the miles that I’d done day by day and plot it against a virtual geographical walk – similar to the channel tunnel approach from the other week

I liked the idea so much I immediately started wondering where I could (virtually) go, and it struck me that I was really impressed as a young boy when the cricketer Ian Botham walked from Lands End to John o Groats in 1985

This is a pretty epic distance (by road it’s 847 miles) but what the hell – I’m in no rush. I’m going to do it!

I’m going to use Apple Watch to track it as it keeps tabs on everything I do and saves a daily log to my phone. I can’t think of anything more impressive than saying many months from now that I managed to walk that distance while loosing weight. 

Since I could hardly walk at all when I started Slimming World in April I think it’s a good idea to take my first meeting as my starting point. Firstly I’d like to see month on month how I’ve improved and then exactly how far I’ve walked since I started to lose weight. 

Apple Watch is a little imprecise sometimes in my experience – so there’s a some margin for error, but it will definitely give me an accurate(ish) total based on total daily steps counted by the pedometer and distance moved in GPS on my phone. 

I’ve had a look at how to export the data into a spreadsheet and once I’ve made it look pretty I’ll share the results. I have no idea how far I’ve walked since April as I only started looking at the stored data recently. 

I’m excited to find out!

As I left the cinema all of this was on my mind. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the film (although the twist was blindingly obvious within the first 10 minutes) and was mulling it over along with my goals as I walked to the car – parked a mile or so away. 

Every step now had a bit more meaning – and by the time I was putting on my seatbelt I’d spent an hour meandering and criss-crossing all over town. I suddenly felt just a little bit closer to John o Groats!


I’ll hopefully see you on the way Internet! Check back tomorrow to see how far I’ve travelled to date and what the difference has been month by month. 😄

Davey

Daveyprune

One of the luxuries of being recently unemployed is just deciding to get up and do something and not worry about where you have to be the following day. 

Yesterday evening I was talking to a lady on Facebook and (as is my tendency lately) I started being very honest about my day. I’d wanted to go into Birmingham on the train – but last time I went it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I got verbally abused. 

I’m also (probably overly) paranoid about getting too far from home, hurting myself and not being able to get back. 

After this conversation I sat thinking about my limitations and how many are real vs how many are imagined. 

I think that although my physical problems are not insignificant (I’m just over 30st now) it’s true to say that I’m afraid a lot. 

I’m afraid of pulling muscles, I’m afraid of straining tendons. I’m aware that heart attacks happen and I’m a prime candidate. 

But none of this should stop me from trying – it should just remind me not to be stupid. 

So today, after booking a hotel late last night I am in Aberystwyth and I’ve just walked up Constitution Hill. 


(I’m not doing a pirate impression. The sun is in my eyes lol)

This may seem a little random but years ago I lived here, just at the bottom of the cliff railway. Although I’ve lived other places for longer I still consider Aber to be something of a spiritual home, and I haven’t been here since I started gaining weight. 

This is particularly shameful as my dad also lives here and I’ve not visited him for a decade. Instead he has visited me in Warwick. 

I just sent him this picture on iMessage and the daft brush thinks I’m in Brighton! I’m going to pop over after I walk back down and take him for lunch in town.  

(Picks up Gandalf father for lunch. Some may recognise him from a previous blog)


One of the nice things about coming here after loosing weight is parking. Aber is a small town – and finding a place to put your car can often be a challenge. It used to be the case that wherever I went I had to park right outside. 

Not today. I’ve parked at the opposite end of the pier and we’ve both walked into town. It’s been a LONG time since I walked along the front by the sea. 

Dad (after reading my blog) is also going to slimming world – so the walk is good for both of us!

The tide is currently out and everyone is checking out the rock pools for crabs and limpets. There are dogs with them who keep jumping into the shallow water and splashing their owners when they get out. 

It’s been so long that I was here that I had completely forgotten I used to go down there and explore too. I love this part of Aber!


(Stops further on for lunch and a catch up)

Well – after a virtuous salad (beetroot and raw garlic with balsamic) with a baked potato and beans we walked all the way back along the promenade and down to the end of the pier to see all the boats in the harbour. 


So far my Apple Watch appears to think it’s been stolen as all its little rings are filling up and overflowing. My calories burned is currently almost twice round the horn and I’m feeling epic. 

(More time passes)

However now I’m somewhere else I haven’t been for a VERY long time. I dropped Santa dad off at the North Pole and headed for the next (well deserved) objective.

This baby. 

Oooooooh yeeeeaaaaah!

It probably seems like nothing to you readers but although I’ve never missed a day in the shower (sometimes I get soapy twice a day – I’m a water baby lol) it has been a decade since I had a bath. 

Last night I thought ‘screw it’ and paid the extra supplement to get a whirlpool BIG bath. Right now guess where I am?

This is my first bathblog(tm) lol! 

You saw it here first – and hopefully not for the last time. 

Unfortunately it’s bubbles are broken- so I’m in still rather than sparking bubbles. I will complain only when I’m so wrinkly that I look at least 3 decades older. 

I would take pictures but there are ladies with delicate constitutions out there who will have to imagine the hippo like splendour of my relaxation. My room is all steamy and I’m loving life!

So – to the Internet and (most importantly) the fantastic ladies of slimming world – talking to you inspired me yet again to step outside of my comfort zone and now I look like a tired and happy prune. 

I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves as well. 

Although I’m not sure how you can without a four poster bed and a miniature love pillow…

Davey

Boris and the swanling

It appears that murky foreign powers may not be getting the plans to a fully operational Death Star after all.

Elderly power walking oriental lady with neat hair, whom I had previously suspected of nefarious intentions today finally acknowledged me after a month or more of me grinning at her, saying ‘hi’ and nodding as we met each other in the park.

Hello she said (and nodded!) as she walked past me, lifting her hands in sweeping motions to chest height with each stride as she passed.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

It was a victory for persistence as far as I was concerned. The power of smiling had finally won the day, and I must now conclude that she probably is not spying after all on our communal recreational spaces to determine their offensive military capabilities.

She was gone almost immediately – for a moment leaving in her wake the usual faint sound of loud Oriental music from her headphones – but she couldn’t take it back. I had scored my vital ‘hello’ and given her a big grin in return.

Tick in the win column!

Today my park walk was unusual. Up until now I’ve been very much running my own race – and have been more than a bit self conscious about the frequency of my breaks or being out of breath, so my laps have been a solo activity.

Now though things are easier. I can talk and walk (slowly) at the same time – and as such a social element is now becoming possible.

My good friend and his hound (Boris – a French bulldog that some may recognise from previous blogs) joined me today a short way into my walk. It was REALLY nice to have the company, and watch his pooch sniffing flower beds and checking out the other canine honeys as they trotted past.

Boris is absolutely stuffed with personality and has the most expressive little ears!

As we all strolled my usual route I commented that the park was full of what I now see as ‘the usual faces’, and mentioned that the familiarity of meeting these people almost adds a family feel to my activities, even though so far I’ve been alone.

The pink Lycra wearing ladies with dumbbells arrived half way through our second lap and were (as usual) loud, proud and delightfully enthusiastic as they strode briskly past us – saying hello, noting we hadn’t seen eachother for a while (they need to get up earlier!) and enquiring what was in my flask.

‘Coffee!!’ I replied with a big twitching caffeinated grin. ‘What else would I have?!’

However – the absolute cherry on the cake today was a sighting of the final remaining swanling – which followed us as we walked along the river at exactly the same pace. It was gliding in and out of the lilly pads and reeds by the bank looking for food and occasionally ducking under the water to forage on the river bed.

He/she is getting REALLY big now and isn’t that far off being as large as its parents.

IMG_6882.jpg

This remaining swanling appears to have become something of a tiny phenomenon amongst my small readership – and (quite rightly) people who regularly follow my tubby exploits do not refer to these delightful creatures as cygnets any more.

Subscribers to my blog have reported sightings of others in Stratford, further down the river in Warwick and even waaaaay further afield in the south of England. One nice fellow even sent me a picture of his local swanlings after following them with his son in a boat!

They’re so cute!!! Fingers crossed that these survive!

Today the solitary heron in the park was also out and about. As usual it wasn’t particularly keen on me getting too close – and (maybe because of Boris) took flight as soon as I moved into its comfort zone. Thankfully I had just started slow motion video in time on my phone and got a really cool little shot again of it taking flight.

It’s got really majestic wings and flies so low across the water its almost like there’s a wire or rail underneath it!

After a couple of laps we headed off for a drink, and sat chatting for a while about life and writing (I am toying with the idea of trying to put together a book) as my friend ate a rather delicious looking melted cheese baguette.

Boris looked very interested in what I had to say on the subject, and I’m sure was about to interject and discuss with us some insightful thoughts about character and plot development, as well as sharing his own detailed experiences of constructing a compelling narrative.

Sadly he instead became intensely preoccupied with his master’s sandwich before he was able to impart what I’m sure would have been some incredible literary revelations.

Maybe next time Boris…

Shortly after he and my friend left I sat writing for a while and going through the photos and videos on my phone, deciding which to use on my blog and wondering what to do with the rest of the day.

Then, the phone rang. It was the charity that I’d applied to do some work with a few weeks ago informing me that they might have found an appropriate situation that I could help with. They would like to hook up with me early next week to discuss some health and safety info and then get me started.

Yay!

I’ve been really looking forward to this – and although it’s not many hours a week I am hoping it will enable me to do something good in the local community, and make people happy in the process.

Who knows internet – if I like it (and if they like me) maybe there’s more I can do – and it might even spark some thoughts about what will come next in life.

Only time will tell!

Davey

The wedding shirt

‘What a difference a day makes’. 

As well as being a lovely song it’s often something I think about a lot – how you can wake up 24 hours after a significant event and feel completely different – or that your circumstances have changed dramatically. 

It can be very poignant sometimes – but today it doesn’t ring true at all. In my case it should read a bit more like ‘What a difference three months of effort makes!’


The photo posted here is significant for a number of reasons. 

In December 2014 my wonderful friend of many years got married and I had nothing to wear. 

I looked online for some smart clothes (men like me can rarely walk into shops on the high street) to wear and bought a pair of trousers and a nice shirt. 

When they arrived very close to the date of the event I was mortified. Neither fitted, despite what the label said. The shirt was a whole size smaller than my others and the trousers looked like Lycra leggings. 

Eventually I went to the wedding in dark jeans and a shirt I wore all the time. It was a real low point. 

It’s not the only time I’ve had cause to feel weight related guilt about a significant event like this –  but that’s a story for another blog entirely. 

This morning I woke up early and went for a walk around the park. Two laps this time, and only two benches. This is definite progress. The time it takes me to do two laps now is almost the same time it used to take me to do one. 

It still tires me out though so I came home and had a short snooze in my armchair.

(Zzzzzzzz)

When I awoke I felt like I needed a new horizon, and it’s been many years since I tried to stroll around Leamington with no purpose. 

Just walking for the fun of it. What a novel idea. 

I parked in the same place as I did the last time I came into town (that time with a purpose) 12 weeks ago and started to meander to a whole different range of coffee shops. 

The last time was NOT easy at all – and back in May I wrote about the experience of meeting my brother at the Fat Birds cafe. 

It wasn’t a pleasant walk. I urge you to follow the link and re-aquatint yourself with how I was doing back then. 

This morning I thought ‘why not just give it a go?’ Often the fear associated with things like this in my head is very different to the reality. Honestly I never know what it’s going to feel like until I try it. 

After a quick shower I started to get dressed and reached for one of my usual shirts in the wardrobe. Then stopped. 

What if… What IF the wedding shirt fits?

I took it off the hangar, pulled it on and buttoned it up. It fitted!!! Furthermore it felt nice and loose! The material was comfy too. It wasn’t cheap when I bought it. 

I went into the spare room and uncovered my mirror. It’s hidden for a reason. I hate the ****ing thing. 

Mentally I punched the air. It looked goooood! 

This is the shirt JUST before my next size range. In a few weeks I can begin to burn my bridges and THROW AWAY ALL OF THE SHIRTS AND JEANS I WILL NEVER EVER EVER WEAR AGAIN. 

(Ahem)

So – now you know why that pic is important to me. So important in fact that I immediately sent it to my awesome friend, telling her it should officially be considered a wedding photo. 

I’m not sure it will make the album, but y’know – better late than never!

Anyway. I’m now in a coffee shop. 

The walk to here is relatively easy now compared to my previous blog. No sitting on the way, no burning legs, no fear of dropping dead – just a walk into town. 

On top of two and a half miles around the park

Sure – I still get out of breath a bit, and my legs tire still making me pause occasionally – but it’s a nice excuse to stop and look at shop windows and street signs, which today seems to have been placed in front of me with great serendipity. 


Internet – I can’t help feeling that this is a perfect motto to end on. 

Whatever you are or want to be – be a good one. 

A day may make a difference but a victory won with sustained effort is infinitely sweeter when it arrives. Here’s to all the other shirts on the horizon and the next hard won milestone!

Davey

People watching

It’s Wednesday afternoon. Despite a damp start to the day it’s now become unexpectedly sunny with a cool breeze. There’s cloud cover but I’m taking no chances. Before I left work I covered my arms liberally with suntan lotion. 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, and for the last 30 minutes I’ve been watching people to relax myself. It’s fascinating and highly recommended.

Behind me on a comfy bench there is a Polish sounding couple and their discussion is chugging along at a high tempo. The heavy set gentleman (boyfriend?) that the lady is talking to seems irritated and his girlfriend (?) has the tone of a woman discussing a toilet seat that has been left in the upright position. 

He’s tapping the back of the bench quickly and displaying obvious irritation. I think his dinner may well already be in the dog, and judging by his body language he knows it. 

In front of me a young Indian guy in a sharp blue suit with neatly coiffured hair (he looks like a go getter) is interviewing someone for a job of some kind. 

His prospective employee has an ill fitting shirt and it’s tugging at his waist. I know this feeling well and I can see him occasionally re-adjust his shirt just above the belt to introduce a gap in the front – which sadly just tightens the back. The process is repeated at front and rear every few minutes. He looks nervous, and occasionally places his hands flat on his legs to tap them to an invisible beat. 

Behind them is a man who may have Tourettes, although he’s most likely just anti social and doesn’t care who knows it. He came in with a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi and between him and his friend they drank the lot without buying a single beverage. 

They played Pokemon Go for quite a while – discussing their monsters loudly behind the interviewing pair before they finally left to annoy other people. 

I’m listening to the slow Jazz music in the background and wondering what I will do with my days next week when I have no work to fill them. 

So far there’s a friend coming up to meet me on the 2nd which I’m looking forward to and another windswept and interesting chum has an art exhibition at the end of the week in Leamington so I’m going to that as well. I could also go to the cinema. I haven’t hidden in the pictures during the day for ages…

I think I may also try walking in the REAL world, and it occurred to me that to save yet more money I could try to stroll to the park, go once around it, and then walk back, instead of driving there and doing a couple of laps. It will save petrol, get me used to some gentle hill walking and be good exercise. 

I’ve also got a lot to do in my back garden – which once again I’ve neglected. I’m sure I heard Tarzan out there last night swinging from vine to vine – and that’s not good. Cleaning up ape shit is a real nuisance, but excellent cardio depending on the quantity. 

The fact is that I’m probably going to need to move my lardy ass twice as much next week. I’ve struggled with my mood (as I mentioned in the last post) but also my sleep since Monday. Drinking nothing but green tea hasn’t helped much either. 

This has a bit of a corrosive effect on my willpower, and in an effort to stop myself going off the rails yesterday afternoon on the way home I stopped in at Marks & Spencer. 

This is the wrong place to shop if I’m soon to be unemployed and in truth I’m a bit annoyed with myself.

The alternative though was a bag of chips – which I’d been fantasising about all the way home in the car – and having a bargaining dialogue with myself about how I would feel if I did it. 

Would the disappointment in myself be worth the crime?

I’m not certain it would. I think it would actually do more harm than good. I get way more happy feelings from loosing weight than I do from the momentary pleasure of stuffing myself with fast food. 

Plus, a new acquaintance from Slimming World posted in our Facebook group that she had gone for a burger in a bun on a night out. Afterwards she said she felt heavy, bloated and wishing she hadn’t. 

Her post was on my mind when I bought some (free) ham pieces, some (speed) celery hearts and a pack of 6 (free) Jazz apples. 

It was maybe a little further from my mind when I practically inhaled three 120g packs of (scrummy) ham, a 450g punnet of (free) cherry tomatoes and all 6 apples for dinner – but there we go. 

It could have been way worse, but it still annoys me when I have ‘binge’ moments. 

Although the food I chose limited the damage the impulse to overeat is very much still with me and I’m intensely irritated by what I perceive as a weakness. 

I know that I’m being unreasonable with myself – and that I should forgive the inner me – but frankly sometimes I feel like I let the naughty little sod get away with far too much over the years and from time to time he deserves a bloody good spanking. 

Maybe today is not the day though. I have more than enough to get through without needlessly beating myself up – and what happened last night can’t be taken back so I just need to carry on and not stress about it. 

Tonight I am returning to some veg in the slow cooker which should have reduced enough by the time I get back to fit some frozen Quorn chicken pieces in with them. I’ll leave those in for half an hour then add some fresh coriander before watching more from season 4 of Downton Abbey (it makes me feel dirty but I love it 😄 !!!!)

Internet – If I don’t find out how Lady Mary is coping with inheriting Matthew’s share of the estate then I think I’ll just die! 

Davey

The steal of the century

I’m in a reflective mood this evening. I have been for most of the day, including yesterday afternoon.

In many ways the end of my current period of employment can’t come soon enough. The knowledge that we are all being made redundant and yet still having to be present in the office makes a single moment seem endless at times.

So – despite wanting an end to this lingering death I find myself in a strange no-man’s land.

In this weird landscape I’m faced with a paradox where time seems like it’s stopped altogether and I can’t wait for the end of the day. As soon as I’ve worked through that feeling I’m faced with thoughts about the finality of it all and the knowledge that one week from now it will all be over. It’s difficult to know how to feel from one moment to the next.

I do know that today I don’t want it to end.

One workmate (whilst we made tea this afternoon) pointed out to me that his son was now a precocious teenager – an energetic 14 year old.

I’m not sure how this happened. I’m not sure where time went.

I remember the day he announced in the office that his wife was pregnant. All of a sudden it seems like yesterday. We joked about the time he trained me on a new discipline a couple of years after I started, and how he broke up the long sessions of dry technical information by playing Kylie Minogue videos and remarking on her perky antipodean posterior.

We both laughed about this – and were transported right back there into the moment.

I’ve bonded with colleagues through a variety of shared interests – and my current (unexpected and inexplicable) addiction to Downton Abbey prompted someone else to tell me today how much they love afternoon teas.

I suddenly found myself saying that we should schedule regular lunches, to make sure we didn’t loose contact. I’ve felt it important to say that to people, although it may already be obvious. I don’t want to be a stranger to any of them.

Another talked about his experiences of the office where we first worked, and how close he had come to ending his employment on his first day (with an act of cavalier parking) before he had even walked through the front door. The security there could be ferocious, and his memories underpinned my own recall of their almost terminal lack of humour.

One person walked away upset when I hugged her today – and she left me feeling quite the same. I didn’t quite know what to say as she hurried off. I made light of it to those nearby – but that wasn’t how I really felt.

I remembered that we once sat together in a corner office being bored to death by a visiting American who drew Six Sigma Ishikawa fish diagrams to explain how our jobs worked. We both earnestly paid attention to him throughout and then agreed between ourselves it was pretty much all bo****ks when he left to go home.

He kept saying over and over ‘In God we trust, but everyone else needs to give me DATA!

I’ve been reminiscing all week with different people about things like this.

There have been comic stories about DIY jobs performed by colleagues gone awfully wrong, people’s sometimes odd but now accepted habits, drunken tales of christmas parties, office romances and office scandal.

We have talked about people who we didn’t know at first but eventually came to trust, then respect and in almost all cases finally became friends with.

I’ve also realised today (and it seems so obvious now) that next Friday when we say goodbye there will be no more managers and staff, just people who know each other like family, saying their goodbyes.

Oddly I’ve never felt managed really. Just befriended, so maybe it won’t be that different after all.

Soon I won’t regularly see these people any more but (thanks to social media) we’ll still remain in each other’s orbits as we migrate to new lives.

But it’s not quite the same is it?

I won’t be able to cheerfully walk through a door and see them all at the same time, engrossed in their tasks, or making cups of tea for one another, or saying hello as I pass them and the pot plants to get to my familiar desk with its ornaments and fan.

(…………)

Anyway internet – I’m trying to keep my chin up. Lots of people have already found new jobs, and those that haven’t are an excellent sort and will find something soon enough. I have faith in them, even if one or two may be a bit downhearted at the moment.

What other employers don’t know yet is that they’re all getting a bargain – the steal of the century.

They’ll find out soon enough though. Which is a good thing all round. All will be right with the world eventually.

Davey

Love eachother

For once I’ve been at an impasse when I’ve tried to type my blog.

Over the last few days I’ve sat with my phone, tablet or laptop, started typing and then abruptly stopped again a few moments later.

Everything I’ve created has been almost instantly deleted. Normally I don’t suffer from writer’s block. I haven’t since I started my blog – nor have I had this problem in the past.

I’ve been trying to write since Saturday on topics I’m clearly not that concerned about because the subject that has fully occupied my mind – the thing that I really want to talk about – makes me feel intensely uneasy. Consequently nothing I’ve written has seemed ‘honest’ and instead came across as ‘forced’ when I read it back.

So, like everything else in my life I’m going to try and put what I’m REALLY thinking in print and get rid of the feelings that have been building up.

Firstly I have to point out that although I have a strong sense of right, wrong and of social justice that I’m not a political or religious person. I try whenever possible to avoid displaying strong opinions on either of these subjects – although from time to time I do have them, just like anyone else.

If I can I try to apply a live and let live policy to everything and everyone in my life.

I’m someone that relishes diversity. It’s immaterial to me whether that manifests itself in a social class, whether it’s gender specific, based in ethnicity, sexual preference, religious following, or in someone’s idealogical beliefs.

People are people – and I try hard not to discriminate.

The chances are that I will like you – whoever you are. It’s often my default position. This is only modified if you’re a complete ass to me or people I love – and then I’ll decide I don’t like you based on ignorant things that you say or do.

It has nothing to do with where you come from or what God you believe in.

The UK however seems to have hit something of a crisis point with the recent ‘Brexit’ vote to leave the EU, and it has resulted in upset and ugliness in places that I didn’t expect to see it.

I personally think that a lot of the underlying problems this vote is exposing have always been present in the UK.

There has for a long time been an undercurrent of ill feeling about immigration and its impact on jobs, public services and housing. Some of the fears seem to have a basis in fact – others appear rooted in a more fundamental distrust of other cultures and faiths.

People have seen very real changes in their communities and lifestyles in the last decade, and in my view there has been little political will to acknowledge why that has been the case – or any real work done to resolve the often negative and stereotypical feelings that have arisen because of this.

It’s been all to comfortable to label people as intolerant and move on. We’ve ignored this fault line in our society for a long time.

Unfortunately the Donald Trumps and Nigel Farages of this world build much of their (often very charismatic) political capital upon these foundations. They mix some truth and some fiction with real and imagined fears and target people who often feel they have already lost more than they feel they can afford.

In times of economic hardship such people’s feelings of disenfranchisement can quickly become something altogether more ugly. Before long they begin to see others who are ‘alien’ as the cause of their problems, and those seeking power continue to fan the flames.

In the UK the rhetoric used on both sides of the Brexit campaign has (in my view) sought to scare people either into staying in the EU because of the financial consequences of withdrawl or terrify them into leaving for strikingly similar reasons.

It has left a toxic stew of raw emotion in its wake and magnified many already intolerant views held by a very vocal minority.

This is bad enough – but the tone of the campaign has also managed to simultaneously categorise the public perception of other ‘leave’ voters with the same racist and intolerant labels as people on the far right fringe of politics.

It’s dividing the country in a way I’ve not seen before in my lifetime, and honestly it’s making me fear for what will be left behind in the months and years to come.

People I know directly and indirectly have been abused in public – targeted because the colour of their skin or their accent and have been told they will be expected to ‘go home’ or be forced to leave.

Others have implied on social media or in person that anyone who voted for Brexit has in effect supported or agreed with the positions of those in the BNP or Britain First. They have branded those that want separation from the EU as both stupid and racist.

Many who have made these sweeping generalisations were previously considered friends (and in some cases are relatives) of the people they are now accusing.

I know from speaking to many who voted leave (this is just my circle of friends and colleagues) that their motivations were rooted in economics and a feeling that the EU in its current form was not what people in the UK originally voted for. They felt that we had lost our voice in Europe and that we were ruled effectively by unelected officials.

I know others (from watching the media, rather than personal experience) frustratingly voted with bigotry in mind and it saddens me that this is still a part of our society.

Our country is clearly divided like never before.

For my part in this sorry fiasco I became aware very early on that I’m not an economist, politician, lawyer, sociologist, banker, employer or indeed anything that would give me a good enough understanding of the consequences of staying or leaving. Whilst initially thinking I wanted to go I realised I couldn’t support my view with any solid reasoning and it was probably an opinion based on what I’d heard from others rather than my own choice.

I just didn’t know enough. I decided therefore not to vote at all.

This seemed to make some people even madder – and I have a friend that has experienced a similar backlash. I now find myself facing individuals annoyed that I don’t agree with their politics in the first place and also outraged that I didn’t use my vote.

Everyone just seems angry.

Except me. I just feel sad. Really sad, and I want everyone to get along.

People who are friends and family to eachother are saying things that I fear they will not be able to easily take back – and I sense that the divisions this is highlighting and creating will have repercussions for a long time.

If ever there was a need for political reconciliation and compassionate leadership in the UK it’s now – yet our PM (love him or hate him) has decided that it’s the perfect time to step down.

He leaves the country divided completely down the middle. 52% vs 48%.

I’m not sure how any politician will gain popular support in an environment like this but I genuinely hope one rises to the challenge that’s capable and compassionate. They will need to repair a lot of wounds.

In the meantime – people should remember we have laws regarding intolerance and racist abuse. If someone is racist to another person or incites racial hatred then report it.

Don’t just sit there and shake your head. Phone the police. 

By the same token please don’t apply this label to people that don’t deserve it. The vast majority of the 52% of this country that voted for Brexit weren’t racists before the referendum and I’m pretty damn sure that they aren’t today.

Finally – the pro-exit people that ‘won’ in this vote (if indeed anyone can be counted as a winner at the moment) need to be magnanimous and courteous to people that wanted to remain. Watching Nigel Farage on television today shamelessly gloating in the EU assembly and acting as a mouthpiece for the UK made me feel like I was watching a drunken British football hooligan fighting in another country.

If we are to get anywhere in the short and long term we need to do it with humility, tolerance and mutual respect.

If you want me internet I’ll be here trying my level best not to fall out with anyone.

Davey

She speak a my language

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

Stuffed peppers.

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

It was time for a little challenge.

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

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

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

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

It looked about right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bollocks!!!

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

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

(10 minutes pass.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phwoooar! Pepper porn….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just 1/2lb away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She really is rather a good egg. 🙂

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

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

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

As I left one of the girls said:

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

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

She speak a my language.

Davey

Circling the drain

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I woke up this morning after a nice day off yesterday with a thumping headache and a nose crammed full of snot.

I’m not one to over exaggerate but honestly I think this may be the start of the zombie apocalypse. My eyes look vaguely normal in the mirror at the moment, but who knows when I will slip into a coma and awake craving brains?

I’ve listened through the curtains and I still can’t hear the sound of people screaming, so it must just be affecting large cities at the moment. It’s only a matter of time before the panic reaches Warwickshire and cars are on fire in the street.

There’s no point going to hospital, they will already be overwhelmed and trying to understand why so many are ill.

The news doesn’t seem to be mentioning a viral outbreak but I’m sure this is because the government will want to restrict knowledge of civil unrest. It’s unlikely we’ll all know the truth until it’s too late. Men in power created this virus by accident in a lab anyway so they will be reluctant to confess to their crimes.

I’d better fill the bath with water in the meantime so that when the looting starts and the fabric of society breaks down I still have something to drink.

Food is also a concern but hopefully the Sainsburys driver will deliver my weekly shopping before he starts eating people – or one of his customers in a more advanced stage than me eats him.

I hope this doesn’t happen because I have a lot of carrier bags I need to give him for recycling.

In the meantime I think I have a Lemsip sachet that might hold it at bay for the crucial seconds needed to pick up the TV remote and slump into my armchair.

I will need to make it downstairs though and boil the kettle. This could be the end.

Goodbye cruel world!

Davey

 

Apple Music Sucks

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I cancelled my subscription to Apple Music recently – which I’d been meaning to do for ages, as I’m really not getting what I would consider ‘worth’ out of a streaming music service.

I’m also beginning to think that maybe I’m not all that willing to embrace what appears to be the future. I rather resent the fact that I will end up paying for the same album again and again and again over the life of my subscription, and I can’t store it anywhere or put it on a CD. Plus if the internet drops dead then my world becomes completely silent. This has happened a few times and honestly there’s nothing more annoying than your music just stopping while you drive.

Apple Music appeared initially unwilling to let go, and like a jealous ex stalked all of my devices for a few weeks after we broke up. Its music was still everywhere and during this period of initial separation I had access to all of the playlists I created while using the service.

Then the jilted Apple music decided to cut one leg off all my jeans, take custody of the family pet, and close down our joint accounts.

I looked at my music collection and without warning it was a shambles. Somehow music I had never listened to now filled my iPhone and all playlists containing my OWN music were now gone without a trace.

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However, sometimes an event like this is a positive thing.

The very first time this happened some years ago I had innocently clicked ‘yes’ when Windows Media Player asked me if I would like help organising my music.

Until that time I’d been very impressed with Windows XP, and had no concept of how bad things could get when you let Windows manage tracks that had not been ID3 tagged when ripped from the original CD.

Microsoft’s efforts produced approximately 80gb of music with no album art relabelled as ‘unknown artist’ from numbers 01-10000 mixed in with…. ‘less legitimate’ tracks harvested from Napster which had been renamed seemingly at random.

At the time there was no such thing as a hashtag, so I instead went for a really long rant on the phone telling anyone that would listen what a bunch of ****s Microsoft were.

This was one of the things (but not the only one) that initially propelled me to Apple – at the time a plucky rival to the evil of Bill Gates’ Behemoth. The simplicity of the iTunes eco-system when I had my first iPod seemed way better and a billion times more intuitive.

It was a breath of fresh air.

It existed just to manage my songs and make them look pretty. I spent a very long time repairing my albums and re-adding art, genres and higher quality files. It took me about a year here and there and I was quite proud of the outcome.

Lately however I feel when I open iTunes that I’m using something that’s becoming increasingly bloated and shaky.

My music is still there and well ordered, but iTunes is no longer lean and useful. It’s become a badly bolted together Swiss army knife being used for purposes that it was never intended and sadly it shows. It’s creaky and unreliable and I feel that its designed to thwart me at every turn. I feel something needs to change or they may loose me as a customer.

One of my favourite stories about the power of starting over is that of Robert Louis Stevenson’s initial treatment of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.

As most will know – this is the story of a good man struggling with his uncontrollable duality, and the devastating consequences of human experimentation. The themes it explores resonate with almost all who have read it (myself included).

Writing in a fevered state of illness Stevenson produced a huge first draft that he showed to his wife Fanny so that she could critically assess his efforts.

Fanny – believing (after reading it overnight) that his initial attempt was so poor that it should never see the light of day immediately committed it to the flames of the fireplace in the family home, destroying it completely.

Initially distraught and angry, Stevenson had no choice but to sharpen his pencil and begin again.

The rest is history, and an initially bloated and badly written novel became a smaller, leaner novella that is still extremely popular 130 years after its original publication. The Penguin Classics version is only 96 pages long, and proves that sometimes taking the best bits an throwing away the rest can be a sound recipe for success.

Musically today has been a wonderful journey down memory lane thanks to my new ‘Stevenson playlists’.

Rising early this morning, I deleted all the random crap skulking on my phone and started adding various music from my collection to my phone in preparation for a Saturday in work. Anyone sitting in an office that’s largely deserted will know how much music can help time pass quickly.

Thankfully the day (and journeys to and from work) have been greatly enhanced thanks to Apple Music’s jack booted approach to my files, and I’m still listening to a wealth of tracks that I haven’t heard in years.

I’m also working through some older playlists – some created nearly a decade ago – and they’re really fermenting the nostalgia.

Due to these uniquely ordered songs I’ve been mentally travelling back and forth in time, buying my house, living with my brother, driving to Cornwall, eating homemade cake, buying a huge leather beanbag, going to weddings, playing video games, visiting friends and sharing time with people I care about…

There’s also now a huge amount of space on my previously jam packed phone.

It’s made me think about things outside of the limited, digital sphere of my music, and about my house.

Its currently not just full of my mom’s crap, but my own crap. Some of it has been in boxes almost as long as I’ve lived at my there.The more I’m wondering why I need it all, the more I think that I’m just doing what my mom did and holding onto loads of crap that’s just gathering dust, that I will never use again, and that desperately needs to be shredded or thrown away.

Thanks Apple Music – you’ve inspired me with your fat, flabby digital underbelly. Next week is the start of some serious de-cluttering at Casa de Davey.

(I’ll be listening to my own music while I do this.)

Davey

 

My Guardian Angel

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I left work a bit early today to visit the funeral director for the last time. I’d been putting off collecting my mom’s rings for long enough.

The traffic was absolutely awful, and as I sat at a complete standstill on road after road watching swarms of schoolchildren crossing behind me, in front of me, to the sides of me and (it seemed) underneath me I realised what an idiot I was to think I’d picked the right time of day to make the journey.

By the time I got to my destination I was about as annoyed as it’s possible to get when faced with largely stationary traffic and idiots in Range Rovers who try to drive round you as if you have eyes in the back of your head then cut in to traffic to save precious milliseconds whilst nearly causing a collision.

It isn’t enough that these impatient arseholes survived natural selection. They have to rub your nose in the reality of their continued existence by driving a car thats 10ft feet higher than yours with tyres that would suit a bus.

Such desperately retarded brain donors then suddenly loose all peripheral vision when stuck parallel to cars they’ve unsuccessfully attempted to cut in between of and pretend to be absolutely oblivious to your presence.

After my third lengthy effort to stare one of them to death resulted in abysmal failure I resolved to calm down, move the radio on to Classic FM and focus on the task at hand.

The point of my journey if I’m honest had definitely contributed to the tension. I didn’t really want the rings.

My mom’s ashes were already long gone. My brother and I directed them to be scattered at the crematorium, as there didn’t really seem any other appropriate place. Her physical remains therefore were no longer an issue. The only task left was to pick up the jewellery that we had been unable to get at the hospital when she died.

Mom never stopped wearing her wedding ring after my father and her divorced, so it wasn’t surprising to find that it still on her finger when she passed away. I’d always assumed that the other rings were related to Dad, as she had two gold bands and a third, smaller one.

I rarely paid attention to her jewellery, which was mostly eccentric, covered in butterflies and sourced in Poundland along with anything that had ‘silver’ written on it.

However tonight, when I got home and looked at one of them I noticed that it housed a tiny stone and had a delicate inscription engraved around the outside.

‘My guardian angel this day be at my side to light to guard to rule and to guide’

Not being of a religious persuasion I Googled this and the majority of the links appeared to point to this being a Catholic prayer. My father is most definitely not of that faith and I couldn’t imagine him giving her anything like this.

Curious, I contacted him and asked whether the ring had any special significance. It seemed however that this wasn’t from him, and neither was the smaller gold wedding band. He didn’t know where they were from.

Only the larger gold band appeared to jog any memory, and it was this one that symbolised their marriage.

The others it seemed were most likely the remains of my mother’s first marriage in 1962, which was to a Catholic.

She and he had (by all accounts) a violent and tumultuous relationship, which resulted in her absconding a year after they married and ultimately divorcing him in 1972 before hitching her wagon to my dad.

So why was she wearing the rings from her first marriage when she died?

She still bore her first husband’s surname when my dad and she met, apparently having no willingness to officially separate unless she was going to re-marry (according to my uncle).

I’ve never thought it odd that she kept wearing my father’s ring, as she was completely unable to let go of the fact their marriage had failed and despite her bitterness professed love for him (usually in a manner that suggested the absolute opposite) until the very end.

This marriage (just like her first) took close to a decade to legally draw to a close – and despite their estrangement she bitterly fought against a second divorce. To her such a thing was inconceivable.

In conversation my mother often retreated to the events of the past in order to provide justification for the arguments of the present, and seemed unable to move on from any event where she felt harsly treated. When I was at home her daily reality often hovered somewhere between 1968 and 1978 and she chewed over the fat of this part of the past whenever she could.

This period was in retrospect one of recovery from violence, and renewed love. It was also one which letters showed was not easy for her, and she did not end up with the life she expected.

One had to be careful therefore (both then and in later years) to avoid heading toward many subjects relating to this period. Whilst this pivotal decade provided her with many happy memories these could quickly link to ones of bitter unhappiness. Once you entered this territory there was rarely an exit sign that was easy to find.

I never heard in all the years I knew her a single reminiscence of her first husband that was positive or forgiving. Given the level of violence I have been told about independently of her version of events this is probably understandable.

I’m not sure then (with these contexts in mind) quite how to view the three of these. Part of me wants nothing to do with them, but like with her bear I know that if I give them away or sell them because I don’t like how they make me feel, in the long term I will do myself a disservice.

One of them symbolises her union with my father, which is a good thing (despite its many tempests) because my brother and I are alive and are inseparable friends. My Dad is also slowly beginning to find peace with the past as I am, so that too is positive.

The other two symbolise a violent, impulsive and often confused past. A part of her life I thankfully wasn’t alive to experience.

The three combined could be interpreted as an unwillingness to let go of the past and move on… but also maybe they show a need to remember past love, however wrong it may have ultimately turned out.

I don’t own any other item that is made of gold since I’m not much into bling or displays of wealth, and I’m not married. Because of this I’m surprised by how heavy these small items are when I hold them in my hand.

Their emotional weight is much the same.

I think I’m going to keep these rings, and get them out of storage again in a few years. It will be interesting to see what they mean then – and what I will feel when I look at and hold these strange little bands of metal.

Davey

Nosferatu

The sun is shining today – and although I will burn faster than an albino in a furnace I’m braving the outdoors on a morning break at work.

I’m sitting on a little orange brick wall, leaning my arm on a fibreglass salt bin that’s cracked and weathered after years of being outside.

The faded yellow of the bin sympathetically blends with the brown rusty fastenings of its lid, which is slowly making its way to the ground due to a broken hinge languidly hanging on its left hand side. I can just about see its gritty contents from where I sit through the gap this creates at the top.

The smooth surface of the bin has the texture of a beach pebble and is oddly pleasing to the touch. Having already bathed in the sun for hours before I arrived it is radiating gentle warmth beneath my arm.

Behind me is a field of sheep, and in the trees separating them from me (usually lashed with rain and wind in the UK climate) birds are singing as they sway gently in the breeze on the branches.

Nearby I can hear the generators and a hum of machinery that feeds the building in which I work.

Unlike my own lawn the grass here has a regulation length, and never grows above it. It’s learned to comply after many many years of regular maintenance. Similarly when leaves fall they are quickly moved and disposed of by a man with an iPod and a leaf blower.

I used to work nights as well, and have stood and sat here in a variety of weather at all times of the day. I’ve seen this little part of the world in dense fog, covered in snow, iced over, soaking wet and blisteringly hot in the summer.

This spot has also been where I’ve stood talking to friends while we smoked, drank coffee, shared frustrations and triumphs – bemoaned our lives or relationships and celebrated births and marriages. We’ve also supported each other in times of loss.

One colleague who passed some years ago even practiced his golf swing out here in the middle of the night under the watchful eye of security cameras, hooking the occasional cheeky golf ball over the fence, much to the mirth of those watching.

People have left this campus for happier reasons too. They’ve headed off to take other jobs many times through the brown windowed door in front of me, and occasionally I’ll get texts or mails from them telling me how life is and how their family and careers have grown.

A lot of people have gone lately and as I sit quietly typing this in the sun I’m reminded of them and what they meant to me when we worked together in the office.

They were almost all friends, and people I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet from all ages, backgrounds, faiths and walks of life. Nomatter where they came from we all shared jokes and hot drinks.

One of the plus sides is that my various departed team members are in some cases leaving to work with each other yet again in different locations, so hopefully they won’t have to completely start over.

They won’t get to stand here with me any more though.

The uninitiated might say with a brief glance that this industrial little brick wall by a car park on a concreted patch of land, next to a security fence topped with barbed wire is ugly.

If I didn’t work here I might agree, but it seems that beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder.

I love that a little orange brick wall and a salt bin on the right day and in the right moment can bring all these memories of people back to me, which currently are warming me almost as much as the sun.

Which is actually frikking burning me. I have the skin of Nosferatu.

Dammit. I’m going back inside.

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Davey

T-Rex

I’ve been trying not to overdo things lately.

OK – when I say ‘overdo’, what I really mean is do things a lot.

OK OK – thats not strictly true. When I say ‘do things a lot’ I really really mean do them obsessively.

Basically I do a lot of things obsessively. Or I do a lot of things not at all. There’s not really a middle ground.

  1. Drinking. Whilst involved in this pastime, a glass of wine will never suffice. Two bottles might just hit the spot however. Maybe three if i’m feeling thirsty.
  2. Food. A packet of crisps. Why have one, when there are two (or three or four) there?
  3. TV shows. How about one episode? Two? Three? Nahhhh – lets do the whole box set. In fact lets do it in a week. I’m looking at you Breaking Bad.
  4. Video games. Why play for short periods of time to fit in with a healthy lifestyle when I can make the game become my lifestyle? ‘Destiny’ – proud record holder and owner of the title ‘game that I lived on most of all’ shows 640 hours of playtime online…

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My previous manager can attest to the fact that I’ve taken weeks and weeks off work so that I can play certain games. When I do so I’ve cleared my timetable of everything and just buried myself in the imaginary world at hand.

Destiny is not unique. Not even close.

I recently nailed 243 hours in Fallout 4. Prior to that I took two weeks off work to concentrate on The Witcher 3. I spent almost 18 hours a day playing it and updating my YouTube channel with content from it, for 14 days solid, only stopping for the toilet when REALLY necessary.

When I returned to work I was shattered.

It gets so bad when i’m doing this that I can’t sleep, and without fail I dream incessantly about the game world and the characters in it.

This can be fun sometimes, but most of the time if I’m really honest it’s not. I tend to get locked into ‘levelling up’ or collecting ALL of a certain item, and I can’t stop.

I had such bad RSI in my thumb after playing Borderlands 2 obsessively that I couldn’t move it properly for nearly 3 weeks and couldn’t play games at all for nearly 2 months. It still hurts now when I play some games, and aches even when I don’t.

At times if I’m honest I wonder what I’ve gotten out of the activity. Maybe a sense of order, or satisfaction at a ‘job’ completed?

I’m not sure.

I also obsess over words I like the sound of – and get hooked on one or two, sometimes for weeks – even months saying it over and over in my head. They too visit me in my sleep continuously. Parochial was a recent culprit, which is still on a post it note on my PC at work, because I’m worried I will forget it and its meaning.

I struggle to stop doing things like this and I’m aware its not normal. It’s addictive behaviour.

In the past I’ve read that Cocaine users are always chasing the feeling of their first high, but its actually unobtainable because the body will never react the same way again, and each hit they take brings a diminishing return.

Anyone that’s drunk a lot or (like myself in the 90’s) taken drugs to excess will understand this. Either you get locked in regardless and do it till the bitter end or realise it’s a fruitless pursuit and give up.

Around the time my mom died I stopped playing almost completely.

I remarked to a friend in an unguarded and honest moment a few weeks after this that I was scared that I would go back to playing obsessively, and that it would detract from dealing with events in my life. Gaming was ’empty’ time  and I didn’t want to get locked into the same behaviour patterns again.

However there are two sides to everything.

Just as in ‘real’ life you make friends at work through shared experience and common goals, you do the same while gaming. It’s a bit like being a pigeon fancier, but less specialised.

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When you meet someone with similar gaming interests you instantly have a wealth of past conquests and memories to share, stretching back decades. Gamers often have a strong bond because of such shared interactive experiences (‘Do you remember the first time you met the T-Rex in Tomb Raider? How cool was that!? etc etc), and they come from all walks of life, both male and female.

I realised on Friday that I had mostly cut myself off from these people when I stopped six weeks ago and had removed the all the gaming good from my life along with the gaming bad.

I’d gained contemplation and creativity time but also lost a lot of the ‘people’ time I had when I played games with my friends and idly nattered.

Despite the geek stereotypes, people that play games together don’t just talk about games. They talk about life. They talk about whats going on with each other, and they do it in an environment where they’re relaxed and usually open because they’ve having fun and the game provides common goals.

Sometimes we also just take the piss out of each other all night and have a laugh – which is also really important.

So, last night I rejoined my friends for a game out of the blue and it was really really good. we killed baddies online in ‘The Division’ for a while, set the world to rights, joked around, sneakily blew each other up when we thought we could get away with it for comedy value and generally had a great time. When all three make believe good guys were tired and needed to go to bed we hung up our controllers and went hunting pillows instead of terrorists.

Last night I didn’t dream of the game. I just slept well.

I’ve decided that I’m (for the time being at least) only going to play this game when they are around and use it to keep in touch with them and how they are.

I’m hoping to get more tips on obtaining balance in life when I start my counselling properly in a week and a half, and this is just one of the areas that I’m going to try and deploy that knowledge in.

Until then, as the subtitle of the blog reads (which my dad finally noticed for the first time today after reading my blog for a month 🙂 ) I’m just learning to live life.

Davey

Maybe

Some people are complex and confusing. Just when you think you have a measure of who they are you’ll find something out about them that seems out of place or character.

Oddly the death of someone can answer almost as many questions as it poses, as you sift through their personal belongings.

My mother didn’t do regret in my experience, or from what I saw during her life, forgiveness. She harboured resentments like priceless property and took many of them – particularly with regard to my father – with her to the grave.

As I’ve said before I am beginning to come to terms with this, and try to remember my mother more compassionately – to let go of the negative emotions that I feel about her.

Its one of the reasons I’m writing so much. I need to examine it and talk it out with myself.

The last time I saw her in hospital she said she had no regrets to my brother. This wasn’t really a revelation, given that she also never said sorry (certainly not with any sincerity anyway).

She then thought for a moment after this and revised her statement. She actually did have regrets. She regretted that he hadn’t come to see her more. She then added ‘And I regret your brother didn’t come to see me more as well.’

My mother it seemed really didn’t get the idea of regret being something personal, where you feel you’ve made a mistake or failed somehow in your duty to others or yourself.

At the time I was greatly annoyed when I heard her say this. She had a habit of displacing all blame onto others, and this seemed no different.

Time changes perceptions though.

My mom’s vocabulary sometimes let her down, and her written English (although sometimes insightful) was always littered with grammatical errors.

My mother was an artist rather than a writer, and spoke through her drawings and paintings rather than words, which routinely failed her and caused conflict.

While going through her photos I came across several family trees this evening in various states of completion, which not so long ago she had (for reasons of her own) started to compile and send to myself and my brother.

The ‘master’ copy has black and white photos from 1940 or thereabouts with some serious looking people on my mother’s side of the family. Some of them are in military uniform, and they look like there is preparation for war.

There’s a sense in the descriptions that mom is trying to understand where she came from, and why she is who she is.

The passages of text describing her own parents are extensive. They contain no critical comments (of which she made many over the years) and instead she remarks her mother and father were ‘kind to the pet animals that the three children occasionally took home’.

Their treatment of their children however is described only in terms of them working hard and providing food, clothing, ‘necessary’ school uniforms and equipment.

Oddly parental love is never mentioned. Instead terms relating to honesty and reliability are used to describe her father and nothing at all to describe her mother.

Her sense of kin and wanting to belong to where she’s come from is self evident throughout the first third of the binder, but whats missing speaks louder to me than what’s included.

Later in the album photos of her own family begin to overwhelm the narrative, and there are lots of myself and my brother growing up, many of which I don’t ever remember seeing before.

Then, starting around my adolescence, there are massive gaps. My father no longer has dark hair, I become quickly old in the photos, my brother taller with facial hair, and the period in which we all don’t see each other holds little information.

There’s a sense however that she is desperately holding onto every scrap of information about our lives that she can find as I and then later my brother gradually cut off contact. She begins to write what she thinks we are like as if it is fact. She begins to imagine who we are and that becomes her truth.

Mom also begins to refer to me in the past tense underneath a photo from 2008 and says ‘David had various hobbies, which included computer games, driving his car, music, films, with a bit of gardening.’

It’s sad that she knew so little about me. I hate gardening usually and I drive only to get from A to B which is normally only where I listen to music. She’s right about the games and films though. That much is true.

It’s partially my fault she didn’t know me. It takes two to fight and I was to blame as well in some cases.

As I read the album before me I know that it probably wouldn’t be any different if we had the time again, but it still makes me feel bad, wishing things had taken another path.

Its not until I get to the back of it however that I find something that surprises me.

A poem, by Kathleen Gillum:

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Maybe mom’s regrets were really just things she was sad about, things that she wished had been different, and didn’t have the power to change any more.

Maybe behind her stumbling vocabulary were feelings, trapped in a painting or drawing that she no longer had the power to bring to life. A piece of imagined art that said – ‘I’m sorry. I wish things had been different, and I loved you both.’

Maybe.

Davey

It’s all lies

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Something that’s never ceased to amaze me is just how many people think it’s cool to hang out of a car and call someone names.

It’s happened to me as long as I can remember – and in many ways it’s something I now accept as a fact of life, but can drastically change my mood.

I have almost developed a spider sense for when it’s going to happen these days and when I hear a car slow I know something akin to ‘you fat c**t’ isn’t far behind.

While this anti social behaviour is both embarrassing and threatening it’s far from the worst thing that happens.

After all – these stupid people driving stupid cars with stupid exhausts playing stupid music while driving stupidly can reasonably be expected to be stupid.

Laws of natural selection suggest that eventually they will meet a car coming the other way driven by someone similar and I’m fine with that. Totally on board. Knowing that karma has a good chance of catching up with them helps.

They’re legion however, and appear to have a high birth rate so this doesn’t diminish the frequency of such an event.

This happens to me every few weeks when I least expect it. Usually when I am on my own – often when I’m walking outside.

I use platitudes to overcome it such as ‘I’m the bigger man.’ (note the self deprecating humour built into this for another personal joke at my expense) or ‘its beneath me’ and the all time great ‘I’m used to it – it doesn’t bother me.’

It’s all lies mind you. Absolute bollocks.

Happiness evaporates in seconds on these occasions and I play the event over and over in my head for hours and hours afterwards, even if I lie to other people and say I’m really ok. Usually I’m saying that to stop them feeling bad, not because it’s true.

Sometimes this makes me stay indoors, other times I am more resilient.

Sadly it’s not confined to idiots in cars and it’s much harder to deal with the innocent.

Children say what they see and often tell their parents about unusual goings on nearby. They choose their timing wisely and for maximum effect usually wait until crowds appear in supermarkets.

‘Mommy – look at that fat man!’ is a common comment – probably sitting at number one in the top 3.

‘Mommy look at that man’s tummy!’ comes in around number two, while ‘Why is that man so fat mommy – is it because he eats a lot?’ probably gets number 3.

Parents invariably have zero idea how to handle this and probably out of sheer embarrasment often choose to ignore it altogether.

The opposite approach just makes it worse. This involves disciplining the child gently in full earshot of everyone else in a checkout queue, ensuring that attention is drawn to the subject for anyone that missed it the first time round.

Presumably they do this for my benefit, as well as to make their little darling a better human being and to ensure he isn’t hanging out of a car hurling insults in later life.

The polar opposite of the vocal kids there are staring ones. These little guys are just in awe of whatever they behold and can’t tear their eyes away. Again parents deal with this one of two ways – ignore or chastise.

The ignores are bad. Children do NOT stop staring. EVER.

I decided to handle this years ago by staring back, until I realised that you can’t win and they’ll never back down. They take you staring at them as acceptance that what they’re doing is OK.

Plus it makes you appear like a member of the Jimmy Saville fan club, which is not a good look.

So basically it’s either option one – focus on the floor or the task at hand and pretend it never happened (my current weapon of choice) or option two – go full WMD on the issue and start deploying the F bomb or some other finely crafted PG-13 words.

Option two in the past (with the mobile idiots) has caused a car to reverse and start following me. It’s not suitable for streets. I always use option one.

Similarly, challenging a child (even with PG-13 language) is like kicking a fresh turd in a parent’s face and they will always (naturally) protect their young. It rarely works if you tackle the parent instead of the child either. After all ‘kids will be kids’.

So. Endure it. That’s what I’m left with.

Endure the humiliation of it over and over until I change and look more like the people who belittle me.

Just once I’d really like to walk through a shop, park, supermarket or shopping mall and not feel like I was being evaluated this way, because honestly I can’t remember how it feels to not be noticed.

Davey

Flat white

I was wandering through Sainsburys the other day with my brother when I happened to stop in the tea and coffee aisle and ponder a particularly decorative box.

It was labelled ‘womankind’ and clearly not aimed at me, but I like shiny things and couldn’t help but stop and look.

This pink box was swathed in floral artwork and would have easily looked at home on the shelf of Laura Ashley with perfume or moisturiser inside it next to some nice curtain material.

On the front, amongst its flowery battle camouflage were its feminine credentials.

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‘A delicate dance of organic cranberry, rose and sweet vanilla’

Girl tea danced! Why didn’t my drinks gayly cavort in this manner?

I wondered what the inevitable blue box for boys covered in footballs and cars would contain and looked left and right for ‘Mankind’. It was nowhere to be seen.

Nothing had been made to sway rhythmically for me. Quite the opposite in fact. There were no man specific herbal teas with infusions of diesel oils, essence of brick dust and a delicate bouquet of football turf made as a companion to this most ladylike of beverages.

Only oestrogen was on this side of the aisle, and it seemed I was trespassing on its territory. As a woman reached over me to grab a box of Womankind I looked around wondering where Pete had gone.

Over on the dark side of the aisle my brother was browsing the weaponised caffeine and hunting for something without a hint of roses or organic anything. It would be fair to say he is a big fan of coffee and can occasionally be heard remarking that beans have been burned (or something) and coffee not made correctly. I nod like I understand when he says such things.

Recently he and his wife introduced me to a new drink.

A flat white. It sounded boring.

‘What’s that?’ I asked, calling him on the way to pick them up at Coffee Architects in Leamington one day a month or so ago.

I’d never heard of a flat white but on the other end of the phone Pete and his wife were extremely enthusiastic. My sister in law Yuni (having been a barista) does not recommend coffee lightly.

‘Just try it – you’ll like it.’ My brother said with his wife chattering in the background. ‘We’ll get you one and a Pastrami sandwich as well.’

I wasn’t convinced. I fear change. But they mentioned food. My kryptonite. I was caught off guard.

‘OK cool.’ I replied.

They’d been raving about Coffee Architects for a while and I’d been meaning for some time to see what all the fuss was about. Some time ago the owner had made me a diabetic friendly fruit cake for my birthday (on Yuni’s instruction) which was truly fantastic.

Now they wanted to introduce me to ‘architected’ coffee.

Honestly my flat white was smaller than I expected – but boy did it taste good. Probably one of the smoothest cups of coffee I’ve had. Ever.

‘Niiiice!’ I said turning to my brother as I drove.

I carried on to our destination, gripping the steering wheel tightly and pressing the accelerator further to the floor.

It appeared that this was white coffee with attitude, and came with an outboard motor to strap to the back of your head. Sadly however it didn’t come with a pillow for me to fall face first into afterwards when the inevitable caffeine crash came.

I looked the drink up after my withdrawal headache had subsided and realised that it was an Australian delicacy (introduced relatively recently to the UK) that was basically two double Espresso shots with not much milk. Because it masqueraded as normal coffee it went down fairly quick and gave a hell of a buzz.

I’d like (in a rare moment of increased testosterone) to say that it’s a man drink – but my diminutive, hardcore sister in law destroys this argument in its entirety. She just necks that kind of drink straight from the kettle while laughing before strolling off to arm wrestle some builders.

I’ve been trying a lot of different beverages since I gave up drinking alcohol in an effort to pass the time – particularly where there is a large libation gap in the evening.

Chai tea latte and I recently had a brief flirtation in the hours before bedtime but ultimately she left me underwhelmed and with an odd taste in my mouth.

We broke up recently, mutually deciding to call it a day.

Then I bought a big box of herbal teabags with various fruity flavours. They all smelled lovely but tasted like I was licking the underside of my lawn mower.

I hope they are happy in the bin and I wish them well on their way to landfill.

Camomile and Spearmint teabags have been nice at work (I ran out of Earl Grey – don’t judge me) but fail to give me any ‘oomph’. Also, upon further inspection I noted the container stated they would give ‘A moment of calm’. This clearly isn’t what’s needed to motivate me 9-5.

It also has flowers on the box and I think I should steer clear of this poison.

My body is used to craving stronger coffee based motivation, and I know where it’s come from.

Womankind.

About three years ago my friend gave me a Nespresso machine as a housewarming gift.  The first fix was free it seemed, and I had a pack of 20 pods in the box to get me started.

Clearly knowing how the addiction would pan out she also kindly purchased a further 200 pods of insane strength coffee that could legally wake the dead. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Making sure there was no way out of this spiralling dependency, for Christmas she also purchased me a milk frother. She might as well have been selling me crack.

Starting the day without my product red Starbucks flask (also bought by my ‘dealer’ friend) full of the largest sized ‘Lungo’ is inconceivable.

It never ceases to amaze me that I regularly forget to take my morning diabetic medication – but have never once had to drive back to the house for emergency coffee.

It has it claws in deep.

Still at least while I’m lying wide awake in bed at night, I can be assured that one drink that was intended for this particular man prompts rhythmic motions.

Unfortunately however instead of dancing this is the procession back and forth to the smallest room in the house, after which I lie twitching until I’m completely worn out and finally nod off.

I’m sticking with coffee despite its inconsequential and minor flaws – Womankind are welcome to their organic twigs and berries.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Davey

 

Craggy faces

If there’s anything scanning photos teaches you its that if you buy a cheap crappy camera then you take crappy pictures.

Tonight I’ve scanned nearly 100 and they are universally awful quality, with grainy images of filtered memories. I remember the way the camera they were taken with creaked as you held it. I can feel like it was yesterday the strong tension in the shutter release as it failed to give under your finger because the film wasn’t wound on enough.

Its hard to imagine nowadays winding that film along with my right thumb, taking individual shots as the disposable flash cube’s bulb flared, died, rotated around, flared again and eventually got discarded for a new one.

I used to like the smell of the popped bulbs though, and the heat the cube gave off when you held it in your hand after pulling it off the camera.

It’s even harder to remember the agonising wait while the photos, trapped on the sensitive film in the camera went to the local chemist shop, and the excitement when you went to pick them up.

This was only tempered by the disappointment of a half exposed shot, a picture of a foot, or even worse – a quality control sticker on someone’s face.

I never took many photos as a boy or a young man, mostly because all of this seemed like a lot of hassle, and my cameras were always universally awful.

It wasn’t until much later in life (about 16 years ago) when my friend’s boyfriend started getting into photography and developing his own black and white shots at night school that I began to realise how interesting it could be.

Until that moment I couldn’t for the life of me understand why on earth anyone would want to use black and white when colour existed. I mean – why not make the shot ALL it could be?! Then I began to understand, and ever since I’ve been drawn to images of New York in black and white – and faces. The craggier the better.

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Around the time I realised how much I liked it the landscape of photography changed, and bit by bit film cameras started to disappear. I experimented briefly with a sub SLR digital on a tripod with a shutter release, taking photos of sunsets and beaches until my primary camera eventually shrank into my iPhone.

Taking photos then became so instantaneous that the pictures themselves threatened to become almost irrelevant.

I’ve realised that my mentality toward photos however is rooted in my childhood. Back then 24 or 36 exposures on a film were to be treasured, and were not cheap. Probably because of this on my Mac I have thousands of photos – lots that I just don’t file, organise or delete. Sometimes its overwhelming.

I’m a digital hoarder and have been for some time. Thankfully hard drives just get bigger and every so often I buy a bloody big one and put it all on there.

Looking at this vast volume of digital pictures and videos that I have taken in less than a decade. I’m struck by the fact that children growing up today will never have a period that isn’t photographed and stored somewhere in a cloud.

It’s a good thing and a bad thing all at the same time. On the one side, unlike my past there will be lots of history to go back over when they’re older and have children.

Similarly their children will not know what its like to not have photo or video footage of their grandparents, or recorded thoughts online, like these may be – stored way after I’m gone.

The trade off of course is that there will be hundreds and thousands of photos embarrassingly portraying the children of the future running around in nappies, sitting on the potty and face planting dinner in a high chair.

Luckily I’m immune to this. Although there was one person in my life who sought to address my woefully brief pictorial history as as I got older…

My father took thousands upon thousands of them. He wouldn’t stop at one point when I lived with him in the mid 90’s and had an automatic, auto focus little red celluloid camera which he used to document my life with my then girlfriend – taking photos when we least expected it as we lay in the garden or sat talking. It wasn’t just me and her – absolutely everything that wandered in front of him was worthy of a shot.

He once tried to photograph my eyes in the rearview mirror from the back seat of my car with the camera set on auto flash while I was driving on the motorway…

At the time it often drove me nuts – but now I’m scanning these scant and fragmented memories I’m just hoping he still has them, as they’re part of a history I don’t have any more.

When I’m done he might also like to look at some of himself, especially those where he is a younger man than I am now – and in many ways strikingly similar to me and my brother.

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I suppose that the natural evolution of photos is for them to survive forever floating about on remote servers the other side of the world, or on hard drives stored in my packing crates. After all, by taking them we’re trying to preserve ourselves – becoming temporarily immortal within the frame.

Plus, aside from that airy fairy nonsense they’re nice to look at – which is good too 🙂

Davey

Chickenzilla

It’s cold today, and it feels like there’s snow in the air.

It’s apt, as this weekend I’ve been mostly hibernating a bit if I’m honest. I’m trying to throw off a succession of negative thoughts that have been buzzing around in my head.

They don’t really have a form – and are difficult to vocalise, but when I feel like this my natural impulse is to withdraw from human company, which I have been trying really hard not to do.

Saturday was spent watching the entirety of ‘True Detective’ Season 2, which clocks in at about 8.5 hours of procrastination, underneath a duvet, eating only cheese and crackers (when hibernating one does not go shopping).

I didn’t realise I had crackers until I hunted about, and they were the perfect accompaniment to some Stilton my friend gave me to try the other day along with a rather massive Salami. Normally crackers would go great with a glass of wine, but at the moment coffee is filling the gap.

About 4 years ago I lost almost 10 stone and was walking everywhere – I felt fit and happy, and the culmination of this was going on a walking holiday in Cornwall where I managed 48 miles in 5 days – which was something I had never done before.

The day I came back I asked myself what the point was and then started the gradual climb to putting the entire 10 stone back on again.

I still don’t really know what caused the decline, but I remember lying in bed in the holiday let and taking a selfie, thinking the white sheets and seaside light would make for a good pic.

Actually I found myself looking at the picture a few minutes later and the words ‘who are you kidding?’ popped into my head. I really don’t know why, but at that moment it all slowly started to turn to crap.

I’m scared that the same emotion is lodging itself in my head at the moment, and I really really want the program I discussed with my case worker to start sooner rather than later. Not because I want to drink, but because I don’t want to feel like this again, and I need to understand why I can shift so quickly from positivity to feelings of depression and back again.

Since hibernating does no-one any good I got up early today and cleaned my kitchen and properly potted and watered my new dwarf citrus plant. Shortly after that my shopping arrived and I slowly unpacked a distressingly unappetising selection of food. Each item looked less worthy of attention than the last. Although I ordered it the night before, none of it appealed to me today – a sure sign something isn’t 100%.

I needed to make sure I went out today, and so immediately arranged to have coffee with my brother.

It seems neither of us had much to say today, but honestly that is just as good sometimes as talking endlessly. When you’re with someone that knows you inside out there isn’t always a need to use words. Just being together is enough. We drank tea and coffee and looked out of the Starbucks window, watching the people pass while chatting a bit about work and things we had outstanding to do in general. He’s gotten over the flu that he had a week ago and sounds a lot better – just like my dad – which is good as I’m sensitive to both of them being unwell lately and want them to be healthy. I’m sure they think the same about me.

When I got home I unpacked the scanner that I’d also purchased while I was out and plugged it into my Mac.

I have two carrier bags of photos that my mom left behind. A lot of them she ‘stole’ from her brother and sister when she cleaned out her own mother’s house after she died without consulting her siblings.

Its a big issue with my uncle – and I said to him that he was welcome to have the originals. However what I wanted to do was scan and upload them so the whole family could have access to them in the future. He seemed happy with this, and I promised him I’d start the process as soon as the bungalow clearance was out of the way.

The first thing I grabbed from the bag turned out to be the wedding album of my mom and dad – which contained some outrageous 70’s fashion crimes on my dad’s part and a pair of unusually happy smiling parental faces, which was nice to see.

When you scan a 3 inch by 3 inch photo and blow it up you begin to notice a lot that wasn’t immediately obvious, such as expressions or hair curls, and eyes squinting in the sun.

In one a happy little girl had sneaked into the background of a photo of the wedding guests. She wore a bright yellow dress, white cardigan and her light blonde hair was tied back in a big bunch at the back of her head. She was photographed in motion, turning away from the camera and readying a red coat to throw around her shoulders. The grass was covered in daisies and buttercups beneath her feet, which I hadn’t noticed until I focused on her. It was a nice little moment in time, completely unrelated to the event – and added a whole new dimension to the photo.

Evidence of my childhood in Orkney was also at the back of the album and so was my favourite chicken – Brownie, clutched in my arms, and clearly less than keen about my affection.

I’m either really short in this photo or Brownie was Chickenzilla.

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When I look at this picture I wonder again why anyone becomes depressed or down, and why we loose the simplicity of childhood. I doubt my mind at that time felt much beyond needing food and bed or wanting to play outside with the chickens.

I’m glad I sat down to scan photos and blog something. I don’t feel the same as when I started this evening. Once again writing down what I feel has been good for me. It’s like a bandage made of syllables instead of cloth and as I write I can feel it slowly wrapping around me.

It enables me to read, and re-read what I’ve written. While checking spelling and punctuation the feelings contained within the paragraphs loose their power to control me, and become just words on a page. Once I click ‘publish’ they’re out there, on the loose, and strangely no longer in my head.

Hmmm. I feel hungry.

I’m going to go and have a look in the fridge and see if the food that didn’t look appealing this morning looks appealing now, and possibly have a bite to eat.

Davey

Citrus Sinensis

Well. That’s that.

Nothing ever goes how you expect it to. That’s nice though. It makes life interesting and worth living.

The white van cowboy arrived at the bungalow this time wearing a Russian army Ushanka hat, channeling chi from the other side of the Atlantic.

VanManski was also thankfully 2 hours late.

I say thankfully because by this time I wasn’t feeling sad, just bored and pissed off, which turned out to be a good thing.

Finally, though he was here and ready to clear the furniture. I just wanted it all gone as quick as possible so I could leave and get something to eat.

As requested for removal of the heavy oak dresser he’d brought help. In this case that came in the form of Mrs VanManski.

Missing her calling as an East German shot putter this hardy lady had instead found happiness carrying furniture with her husband, and after sizing her up I decided against suggesting an arm wrestling contest. Once she’d hauled the cooker out of the bungalow I was only left wondering who opened the jam jars in the VanManski household.

Maybe their daughter?

Soon the rooms were empty. I turned everything off, noted down the meter readings and locked up.

It was snowing, and getting worse.

The journey home was slow and almost blizzard strength at points, forcing the traffic down to 20mph, however the car was warm and I was too tired to care.

Nearly there…

I reached my brother’s house to drop off the keys and stayed for a welcome hot cup of Earl Grey. After a chat, and agreeing to go to the cinema later in the week I headed home. I needed food, pills, and bed. Nothing would get in my way.

Then, as I walked to my door I noticed a box, sodden and covered in snow by the bin.

A delivery?! WTF? Left outside?

I opened the door, put my bag down and then turned to the box. What could it be? I wasn’t expecting anything.

Then I unwrapped the perfect end to the day. My fantastic friend had been reading my blog and decided for my recent birthday that I didn’t need a game or a bottle of wine but a dwarf orange tree 🙂

Thanks universe (and fantastic friend) for giving me something to smile about and making the last day at my mom’s memorable for reasons I didn’t expect.


Peace out world!

Davey