Chariot and heroes

So it’s probably time I gave you all an update on my fallen friend.

Those reading my blog recently will have no doubt read (with growing horror I’m sure) about my elderly Passat’s near death experience when it died on me 120 miles away from home in Weston Super-mare at the weekend.

After a tense drive home with several misfires I was convinced that the RAC’s suggestion that this was caused by a faulty crank sensor rather than something more serious was off the mark.

Surely it couldn’t be that simple?

It never is.

This was a delicate time for my ageing chariot too – and although it’s never polite to discuss a lady’s age I feel in this case it’s appropriate.

Ms Passat was born in 2003.

I purchased her after she’d travelled 14,000 miles.

I didn’t particularly WANT a VW if I’m honest – because it was more expensive than the Mondeo at the time – which was getting really good reviews.

I’d visited the Ford garage and climbed into a really nice ‘Titanium’ variant of the line and was marvelling at how nice it was inside.

It was just what I wanted.

Until I tried to put the seatbelt on and it wouldn’t stretch around my waist to the clip.

The salesman at the time seemed to think this was completely irrelevant – or thought I was joking – and wanted to go in for the hard sell.

After giving up trying to make him understand how pointless it was buying a car in which I couldn’t drive legally I left the dealership feeling quite forlorn.

Half a mile down the road however was a VW garage selling a Passat that was only a few months old.

I knew nothing about the car or the brand, but when the seatbelt easily clicked into place I was practically ready to hand over my wallet there and then.

When the salesman reached over me and turned on the blue dashboard lights I couldn’t sign quick enough.

I bought it immediately based solely on my ability to do up the seatbelt and the blue lights on the dash.

It’s no joke.

That’s as in depth as I got.

To me buying a car had become like buying trousers, because it didn’t matter how much they cost or what they looked like as long as they fitted and I didn’t feel a complete fool.

Back in 2003 when my car rolled off the production line I’m sure she had little understanding of the burden she’d have to bear as her life wore on – but stoically carry it she did.

All 34.5 stone of it – and it wasn’t easy for her.

The first signs of unusual wear and tear came when I wore out the upholstery on the driver’s seat from the constant pressurised movement of me trying to drag myself in and out of the car.

Initially this was replaced under warranty – but then it returned outside of warranty and became a ‘feature’.

It’s still there now.

Then I broke the mounting underneath the driver’s seat, which scarily and unceremoniously snapped whilst I was on the M40.

It had to be tig welded by a friendly mechanic who strengthened it for me – and assured me that a baby elephant couldn’t break it – even if it did manage to pass its test and steal my automobile.

Then some years later I snapped my steering wheel in half – which I can only guess was slowly breaking in two as I steadied my bulk on it over and over again as I tried to fit into the driver’s seat and get comfortable.

I barely had 1cm of metal holding it together when the incredulous mechanic showed me how bad it was.

I drove from Warwick to Redditch to go to work with it like that – too embarrassed to call in with the truth that I’d snapped my steering wheel and that I could fit the whole of my hand into the steering column.

So – I have some rather emotional attachments to my car.

It helped me when I needed it most – but honestly also it became something of an enabler.

With a car I didn’t have to walk and my lack of exercise compounded my problems.

Now however the opposite is true because if I can keep her alive she enables me to go further afield than I otherwise would and prompts exploration rather than isolation.

When I delivered my car to the mechanic’s tender mercies yesterday I’d not had anything done to it for almost exactly a year, and it was also due an MOT and a service – as well as the crank sensor replacement.

The sensor alone (with fitting) was £144.

Would it be worth it?

They wouldn’t know until they’d replaced it whether another engine code would come back and there would still be another issue to fix – but then there was also the added cost of the MOT and the unknown cause of the misfiring during Saturday’s journey home that was yet to be diagnosed.

Would it pass? if not what would it fail on if not and how much would that cost?

How much was too much?

Well it seems that the cost (for the moment) was £653 – which (whilst it may sound a lot) I consider very reasonable.

The MOT required (ironically) the crank sensor, two new front discs, a brake calliper and a pad – whilst the service was basically oil and spark plugs.

The stuttering appeared to be a cracked breather hose in the engine – which is now temporarily taped to see if it cures the stutter.

If it does then that’s a mere £46 to replace!

In essence a year’s motoring has cost me £700 in mechanic’s fees, £200 in car insurance, £240 car tax £30 RAC membership – and between £30-£40 per month (let’s say £480 per year per in a rough worst case scenario) in petrol.

My MOT pass certificate (yes it DID PASS!!!) shows my cumulative mileage.

In just under a year my car has driven 3,032 miles.

That’s much less than the 10-12,000 it used to do.

I work that out to be about 55p a mile – which oddly (from memory) is the exact amount my old employer used to give as a mileage allowance before I was made redundant.

If I got rid of my car and took an Uber in order to get my shopping back from Aldi (a four mile round trip to get my weekly shop – for which I always use my car because of the frozen food I buy) it would cost me between £5-7.

The last time I took a return bus to Leamington from my house (also a four mile round trip) I believe it was around the £3.50 mark.

In contrast (I checked today) in the exact same period I walked 3,605 miles.

That didn’t cost me a penny.

Wow.

How life has changed! The balance is finally right.

So – my car – once a victim of my worst excesses now lives a life of privilege and relaxation.

This elder stateswoman of the highways rests in the sunshine most of the time whilst I wear out my shoe leather instead.

It deserves to be pampered – and whilst I love it – I no longer need it to live.

All I need is a walk around the park with friends and a beautiful sunset.

That’s enough internet.

Davey

P.S.

The day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention that I’ve still felt down this week.

Honestly I’ve been struggling.

Quite a bit if I’m honest.

However I have good friends.

REALLY good ones.

Today I came home and inside my door was a little parcel, wrapped in paper with pictures of puppies on it.

Taped to the back of it were these words.

Wondering what it was and who had sent it I opened it up.

Inside there was something that instantly made me smile, because it’s the little things that mean everything.

I don’t want a lot from life.

I try not to waste money and get pleasure from the world around me – not from expensive possessions.

So my friend had bought me a colourful and thoughtfully themed present that I could use and re-use again and again – and every time I do I’ll be thinking about her kindness, thoughtfulness and the fact that she went out of her way to buy something little that she know I’d love to make me smile again.

Sometimes all a boy needs to feel special is a super hero carrier bag.

X

Cheddar and head gaskets

I feel like I’m emerging from a dark tunnel this morning.

I’m going to be honest – although I don’t really want to – because I know it’s good for me.

My mood has been in the toilet this week – and since last Sunday my chin has pretty much been scraping along the floor.

I may have hidden it from some – but I’ve shared my feelings with a few and tried where possible not to hibernate. It’s really difficult though because now more than ever I feel an extra little layer of pressure (that no one but me has applied to myself) to be extra perfect.

All of a sudden I don’t feel like I should be fallible – particularly when the world and it’s dog is suddenly coming to me for advice – but I’m trying to remind myself that I am, and that it’s ok to feel vulnerable.

Advice (by the way) is freely given – and no one should feel like they can’t ask me.

I absolutely love helping people. This isn’t about that – it’s something deeper and rather personal – so forgive me if I keep the specifics out of my blog. All you need to know is I’ve shared my problems rather than bottling things up and that I do have people to talk to when I need them.

My support structures are solid but I still need to withdraw and feel down from time to time.

Maybe because of a need to retreat and recharge today is a little different from my usual Saturday because I’ve decided to take a break from the norm. I’m not going to group and instead I’m heading out to somewhere I’ve always meant to visit but never gotten around to.

Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills.

Currently it’s 7.30am and I’m the little blue dot on the map. I’m heading for the red one.

I’ve stopped at the motorway services because I need caffeine and there’s a Starbucks – so I’m currently in Davey’s happy place (despite looking a bit thoughtful).

(Author finishes his nectar of life and continues on his way)

Well.

I’ve had an interesting day.

Currently I’m sitting in Weston Super-Mare watching yet another steaming coffee cool. Oddly I’m in quite a good mood – but by rights I really shouldn’t be because this was the scene less than 20 minutes ago.

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However – I’m getting ahead of myself a little. At around 9.30am this morning I arrived at my intended destination.

Cheddar Gorge.

Originally I’d intended to be 100% the consummate tourist today – but when I wandered down to the visitor centre after parking I realised the cost of investigation was a little higher than I felt I wanted to pay.

It seemed that £19.95 didn’t get quite the views I wanted (the lookout tower is apparently still closed) so I instead carried on with plan B.

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This was a walk I’d spotted on the mendip hills tourist website (link) for a circular trek with allegedly lovely views that was around five miles. It started opposite the National Trust visitor centre – just a little way down the road from the bandits who wanted £20 for a cave.

As soon as I started up the path I realised that the guide wasn’t kidding. It was definitely a steep one!

The family in front of me in the first photo quickly ground to a halt – and shortly after the start I found them a short way up the hill sitting on a rock whilst puffing and panting.

Dad was looking at the floor dripping while his wife and kids looked up into the woods, trying to gauge how far they had to go.

Normally I don’t like diving straight into a steep incline without a good walk beforehand – but today, maybe because of the long drive (that had unexpectedly taken me through the heart of Bristol and wedged me in traffic for a while) I was in the mood to blow away some cobwebs.

Despite feeling a little out of breath myself I decided to just feel the burn and see how far I could go before I had to stop – but the surprising thing was that I didn’t have to – I could just keep going!

When I reached the top I’d managed to get a pretty good sweat on and if I’m honest I felt pretty darned awesome. The view however seemed underwhelming.

For fifteen minutes of steep hill climbing I’d really been hoping for a whole lot more…

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I mean – it was nice but it wasn’t brilliant…

I turned around and continued.

The guide wanted me to keep the stone wall to my right and then go through a kissing gate, so I complied. Before I knew it I was walking along the top of the gorge with fields to my left and a wooded hillside covered in hidden sheep to my right.

The sun was really beating down by now and I was feeling pretty warm – but the whole place was relatively deserted. I just enjoyed the view as I walked and tried to take some pictures of butterflies – who continually refused to comply.

They just fluttered off into the distance before I could get close enough to take a picture of them with unfolded wings.

Just after the last one escaped the path started to descend again, and it seemed a little less rockier and uneven than the one that I’d been faced with on the way up.

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So I started jogging down it – just to see if I could.

Oddly it didn’t seem to be a problem, so I carried on – and found that it was surprisingly exciting to be judging the ground ahead in a more compressed timeframe than I was normally used to when walking.

Looking for the appropriate foothold and occasionally slipping a little before getting some traction was rather fun – so I carried on to a little fork in the route at the bottom of the hill and stopped to check the pdf on my phone.

There was a gate to my left and a path to my right – but which to follow…

It looked like the path was the right way to go so I carried on, climbed over the stile a little further down and found myself (as the route said I would) on the road passing up through the gorge.

I turned left, followed it for a short way and then on the right found another path leading up again on the other side of the gorge.

I might be wrong – but this way up didn’t seem so steep – and it may be because the road I crossed was also heading up meaning that I didn’t go down quite as far as I’d originally climbed.

As I made my way up I said hello to a lady as I was passing and headed through a gate marked to Draycott and kept dutifully to the right again.

Then – all of a sudden the view opened up and I finally got the vista that I’d been waiting for.

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This looked absolutely stunning and you could see for miles and miles – with what looked like Weston in the distance.

Over to my right was the edge of the gorge – so I decided to prop up my phone and see if I could get a shot of myself standing on the edge.

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I do love the fact that Apple Watch has a built in remote control for the camera on my iPhone! How cool is it that I can just wedge it against a rock several metres away and then control it with my wrist?!

While I was doing this the lady that I’d passed earlier caught me up and I said hello again. We exchanged pleasantries and names and started chatting for a while.

It turned out that she was a Geography teacher from Sussex and on a whim she’d borrowed her sister’s camper van to get away for the weekend. She was staying nearby and as we both dried out on top of the hill (it was a sweaty day and my shirt was soaked by then) and I ate an apple whilst drinking my coffee we talked about our lives.

Sometimes you can meet a total stranger and just talk about anything. I think the fact that you’re unlikely to ever see them again means that there’s no reason not to be friendly, say hello and just engage in conversation.

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She seemed like a lovely person – and we decided to carry on down the hill together ( I of course stopped to take more photos along the way) and continue chatting. She was planning to buy a motor home of her own soon and as we walked she expanded on this topic whilst I shared my love of blogging and my success with Slimming World.

It turned out that she loved to knit, and had not long finished making a jumper – which she said was they most technically accomplished thing she’d managed to date. She told me how it hung together and how you sewed it up at the seams once you’d finished the pattern.

I also admitted that as a young boy I rather enjoyed embroidery – which isn’t something I expected to be relaying to a stranger on the side of a hill in Somerset!

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Before long we were at the bottom of the hill, and after shaking hands we bid each other farewell and wandered off in our own individual directions.

I headed over the road to sit and eat some lunch (apples purchased from Waitrose in a moment of indulgence at the service station).

The river looked like it was pretty low and the water level seemed like it would normally be a lot higher. The small pond that it formed when low was covered in green algae – which looked really nice!

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After polishing off my exceptionally tasty pink ladies I wandered along the road to see what the shops were like now they were open.

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I think that it’s safe to say that nothing in this little village was destined for the mouth of someone on a healthy eating plan.

If it wasn’t filled with sugar then it was made of cheese, and it wasn’t made of cheese it was filled with cider.

If none of these were enough then there was shop after shop after shop all filled with every imaginable kind of chutney and marmalade and variety of home made ice creams. If none of those took your fancy then the fish and chip shops (yep – plural) would definitely hammer the last dietary nail into your commitment coffin.

I tried a few tiny cheese samples on itty bitty biscuits and a few mouthfuls of chutney and left it at that.

I’m trying to be good at the moment.

By the time I’d walked back to the car it was around 2.30pm and I’d decided that I wasn’t going to waste the rest of the day. Weston Super-Mare was nearby and I might as well go to the seaside for a little while before heading home. The sun was still beating down and the sky was blue.

It seemed like the perfect idea.

When I climbed into my car I turned the key in the ignition and oddly the engine turned over but didn’t start.

I pressed the accelerator and it sprang into life.

Weird… It’s never done that before…

I set the sat-nav, exited the car park and headed for Weston 11 miles away.

It wasn’t all that far ahead that I noticed there was an orange EPC warning light on the dashboard. There also seemed to be a noticeable loss of power.

Then the engine warning light also came on.

I immediately stopped the car and grabbed the handbook from under the steering wheel. This seemed like there was a problem with the engine, and a potentially serious one at that – according to some frantic Googling – which I did immediately after.

Thanks to the wonders of Sat-Nav once I’d read up on the potential for automobile armageddon I was also able to search for a VW dealership and amazingly (it was 3pm in the afternoon) there was one less than two miles away!!!

My luck was in!

I started the car again and headed for their dealership.

However – after I’d parked up and headed in it soon became apparent that after midday the servicing area of the premises was closed – and the salesman confirmed my worst fears.

No-one would be able to help me until MONDAY.

Crap!

However – I do have breakdown cover (a very basic package) so I decided to call the RAC.

After a long wait on the phone to get through to them they informed me that the projected time for a tech to get to me was 6.30pm. I looked at the time. Nearly 3 hours to wait and I couldn’t stray too far from the car in case they came early.

Thankfully there was a Costa and an Aldi nearby so I could grab a few bits to eat and get a coffee in the meantime.

(…)

After a while I was seated with a coffee looking at booking.com.

There wasn’t a single hotel room to be found anywhere in Weston. The whole place was absolutely rammed – and the nearest location with any space was over twenty miles away.

(gulp.)

This could mean a night on the beach.

I plugged my phone into the socket in Costa. It wouldn’t do to get a flat battery now – and I was running low after taking lots of pictures along the way.

What the frick was I going to do?!

I looked at trains.

There was a station nearby – and I could get to Bristol – but then where? I guessed I could just about get to Birmingham in time if I set out now – but by the time I’d gotten there all the trains to Warwick would most likely have ended and I’d be stranded in Birmingham without a car instead of Weston.

Furthermore I’d still somehow have to get back to wherever I decided to leave it on Monday – and every road around me had double yellow lines and parking restrictions with big clamping signs.

What to do?

I knew that all of my friends were busy and even if they weren’t it was a bit of an ask to expect any of them to drive 120 miles to pick me up and then drive back another 120 to take me home.

Aldi however was selling tents… and sleeping bags… and camping mattresses… and pillows…

Maybe I should go and buy some before it closed? If I did then the cost would probably be around £80…

Not cheap – and none of it looked particularly portable either…

Then the phone rang. It was 4.25pm and the roadside assistance was unexpectedly only five minutes away!!!

I quickly unplugged my phone, screwed the lid onto my coffee flask, slung my rucksack over my shoulder and headed out to meet him.

As I arrived he was just pulling up – and within a few minutes Andy (a reliable sounding name) had his laptop plugged into my car.

‘Head Gasket’ he said grimly.

My heart sank. That didn’t sound like it was going anywhere. What the hell was I going to do?

He carried on looking however, and then said ‘Hmmmm’…

I like ‘hmmm’. It’s much better than ‘that’s absolutely wrecked and you don’t stand a chance.’

‘Let me see if it’s just the sensor.’ He said out loud.

‘I’m not sure it’s the engine. Maybe if I unplug it the engine will ignore the warning and come out of crawl mode.’

He proceeded to fiddle under the bonnet, unclip the sensor from the wiring loom inside the engine cavity, switched the car back on, reconnected the sensor, tightened the screws and started the engine.

The warning lights were gone!

‘I can’t say that they won’t come back.’ He said. ‘The sensors can fail over to another one if they’re broken – but this will probably still come back. It’s totally up to you what to do. You could drive it and it will be fine – or it could be a real problem and you may make the problem worse.’ He looked at me – and I told him about the lack of anywhere to stay locally.

‘I may be able to find you a hotel room for the night if you want to let them have a look on Monday?’ he said helpfully.

‘I might know someone that could help…’

I knew at that point that he couldn’t tell me whether or not I should drive it – just that he didn’t know for sure that if I did it would completely kill it or not.

He outlined the options.

Since I didn’t have full breakdown cover a tow all the way home (120 miles) would come to £240… That didn’t seem good.

If I could get a hotel room 20 miles away they were all showing up at around £200 for two nights as well, since all of the cheap ones were already gone.

Or he may be able to find me something locally…

The alternative to all of these was try to drive and hope I didn’t end up with a smoking ruin at the other end or pay through the nose…

I decided to chance it. Andy told me that although professionally he was unable to agree or disagree personally if it was him he’d have done the same. This at least gave me some measure of confidence that I wasn’t being a complete fool.

He helpfully suggested I wait until the motorway traffic cleared so that I didn’t get stuck in it and I agreed. I shook helpful Andy’s hand and bid him farewell, knowing what I’ve always known.

Firstly that breakdown cover is worth more than gold at the right moment and secondly that it was time for more coffee…

Which is where you find me now. Sitting in Costa, biding my time.

However – now it’s time to set out!

Wish me luck….

(…)

(….)

(……)

(………)

(…………)

Phew.

Back home.

However the car is NOT well at all.

There were several misfires along the way – and a ridiculous loss of power on hills. Either my car is dying and it will cost a fortune to fix (it’s so old it may not even be worth it) or it’s a sensor. My gut feeling is that it’s not the latter.

Balls.

However – if I’m honest I’m not unduly distraught.

It’s an inconvenience – but frankly this is not the end of the world that it might have been a couple of years ago. I no longer rely on my car at all, and there’s absolutely nothing in life that I can’t do these days without one.

If it’s dead then maybe I should just let it die and look at alternatives. The world is my oyster and I refuse to let a bucket of bolts get me down. I can make do with public transport for as long as I need to – and it may be a bit refreshing not to have one for the first time in many years.

We shall see!

Anyway internet. I’m absolutely pooped. It’s been a long day!!!

Time for beddibyes!

Davey

P.S. – I forgot to say.

I was interviewed by the BBC the other day – if you want to have a look at the (rather average) video that came out of it – then you can find it here.

To covet or not to covet

I read a quote in my latest self help manual yesterday which has made me think hard overnight about my motivations in life. 

It was a simple enough soundbyte but (as a lot of time is the case) a small, unexpected thought (triggered often when you least expect it) can pry open a crack and let you look at what lies beneath. 

I’m sure to a greater or lesser extent we are all creatures of plurality. 

By this I mean we have multiple and often competing facets to our personalities. We may for instance be prim and proper on the outside – but inside hide more mischievous or naughty streaks that occasionally get released. 

From time to time we may even wonder which of these is the ‘real‘ us – as they in turn take control of our actions at key or unexpected moments. 

The truth is we are probably ALL of these things – depending on the time of day (at least in my case). 

The throwaway quote that piqued my interest yesterday was this: 

‘People say my phone sucks. No it doesn’t. The shittiest cell phone in the world is a miracle. Your life sucks. Around the phone.’

(Link/Credit)

I suppose this hit home because (despite my windswept and bohemian aims lately to gradually need less and covet fewer material things) I have recently found myself continually drawn to looking at new phones. 


It’s utterly pointless and the quote is spot on (apart from the bit about my life which I quite like currently). 

My phone, despite being a couple of years old is indeed a miracle. I’m writing this post on it, as I’ve written nearly 3/4’s of my entire blog. It’s also provided all of the photos for my website, and occasionally videos too, as well as capturing every move I make with GPS and monitoring my health progress every second of the day. It also keeps me in contact with the world and does all of this quietly and miraculously from within my pocket.

Yet I still want a ‘better’ one

Why? 

What possible reason can there be for this? 

It makes no sense. It does absolutely everything I need it to and much more besides. 

I have no such impulse when it comes to my car. 

My trusty VW has travelled nearly 169,000 miles and I ultimately want it to get to 238,000. 

This is no random number plucked out of the air – it’s because that’s the distance to to the moon and I think it would be really cool to own a car that I could say I’d driven that far. 

If a bit wears out on it I get it replaced with a new one. 

Technologically speaking my car is a dinosaur fossil and my phone is a flying saucer – full of indescribable miniature wonders. 

Maybe, much like dietary and exercise related changes I’ve over-estimated my ability to rapidly modify this aspect of my personality and underplayed it’s significance. 

I’ve wanted new things and gadgets for so long and used them (in a similar way to alcohol or food) to paper over emotional cracks that I no longer truly know why I want them – I just quietly obsess, turning prospective purchases over and over in my mind. 

Do I really want a new phone or am I unconsciously diverting my attention away from other issues?

I almost certainly don’t need one. 

I know I don’t have the spare money to get one, or an income that would enable me to justify it. 

So why can’t I stop thinking about it? What else is going on deep inside that’s making it difficult to get around this?

Unless you haven’t picked up on it today I’m in a very reflective mood. I’m also (if I’m honest) struggling a bit in my mental battle with my worst impulses (food – I’m looking at you) and I’m more downbeat than usual because of it. 

I want awesome weight loss on Saturday but I don’t think it’s going to happen. 

In two weeks I will have been attending Slimming World for a year – and in that time I’ve achieved much – but sometimes (and this is one of those times) I end up feeling like it’s never enough. 

When I’m like this I feel that there is always more that I could have done, extra effort I could have made and things I could have achieved but haven’t. 

Ask me what they are. 

Go on. 

See what I say. 

The sad truth is that I honestly couldn’t tell you at the moment. It’s just the way I feel. 

It’s ridiculous. I know it is. It’s utter madness and it irritates me that my mind is still capable of unfairly berating myself in this way – but it’s still a fact of life sometimes. 

I think that this may go some way to explaining my phone obsession. 

I do know that currently I feel like I’m at a crossroads of some sort – but I don’t know which way to turn. It’s foggy there and although I can see the start of all the roads at the junction I can’t see where they lead, and I’m unure about my motivations for travelling down them. 

Do they just look nice or will they take me somewhere that I want to be at the end of the journey?

Sometimes I feel liberated by the unlimited possibilities lying in front of me and at other times (like now) I feel a creeping sense of paralysis. 

Maybe part of my new process involving self help manuals and introspection is the catalyst here. Maybe I’m confronting things and thoughts about myself that I’ve previously shied away from – and trying to make sense of it all. 

I’m still in many ways torn between missing parts of my old life, where I was comfortable but unhappy – and at the same time enjoying my current existence where I’m happy but far less secure. 

I’m constantly wondering where the balance lies. 

I’m also coming to terms with the fact that unlike the life I had before, which was static and staid the future is fluid and seems ever changing.

In order to adapt to that I too need to be different and continually agile. I probably won’t have to re-define myself once either, but many times

Furthermore the ‘security’ I felt in my old job was (I now realise) a complete illusion – and a convenient fiction that I sold myself so that I’d keep getting up in the morning to go somewhere that I didn’t want to be. 

Ultimately, like everything does, it ended and I had to become something new whether I wanted to or not. 

Thankfully by the time it happened I was ready and I welcomed it. 

Some of my obsession with exercise is tied to this and I’ve become so driven partially because I needed to feel capable of physically taking on the world around me. 

Thankfully as a consequence I no longer feel threatened by it, unable to move through it, over it, under it or in it. 

Mentally though…

That’s another matter internet. I still don’t feel like I’ve cracked that. 

But I’m working on it, and no new phone in the world will help. It has to come from within. 

I need more coffee. 

Davey

Normal service has been resumed

Ok – from the moment I woke up today I felt different. Lighter somehow – and not in a physical sense. The dark mood from yesterday was gone. I went to bed earlier than usual last night and slept for 13 hours, which really made up for me stressing at 3.30am yesterday. 

Yesterday I also had the counsel of very good friends who pushed me not to hibernate but to shake off my mood, chat and pop over for dinner etc. 

I’ve also had something of a moment of clarity today. 

I didn’t bother to put a belt on when I removed my jeans from the radiator this morning. As denim tends to be after a wash, they were stiff when I put them on and had little give. 

After sitting to eat my breakfast (30g of oats, 250ml of natural fat free yogurt, some frozen berries and 50ml water which was left in the fridge overnight with stevia and cinnamon) I stood up to go to the toilet and my trousers immediately fell down. 

Thankfully I wasn’t walking otherwise I’d probably have unceremoniously face planted my breakfast bowl. 

They’re not the smallest pair of jeans I can get into, but I like the material and they’re soft against my skin inside the legs. I don’t want to give them up. 

I couldn’t get into them in April. Not even close. The legs were tight and I had a huge gap where the button and zip were. I couldn’t do them up. 


Now I can not only do them up I have lots of room to spare. 

Serendipitously I also noticed an unopened letter by the front door which turned out to be from the Age UK charity shop that I’d taken my huge unusable clothes to a few weeks ago. 


Since I’m a volunteer (currently between tasks) for this charity and know that they’re putting on a free Christmas lunch locally for the isolated elderly locally I KNOW that this has meant that some pensioners get both company and a hot meal because of what I’ve achieved. 

That’s pretty heartwarming. 

After breakfast I realised that yesterday I’d (like an idiot) forgotten entirely to take my diabetes medication. I’m supposed to have 4 Metformin a day – half in the morning and half in the evening. 

I instead had zero. 

I’d had some fruit throughout the day on Saturday (four apples and two oranges – I was treating myself a little bit truthfully) which always makes me a little paranoid about my blood sugar levels. 


I needn’t have worried. It’s supposed to sit between 4 and 7 mmo/L and it’s pretty much right in the middle – exactly where it should be.

After watching some horror story documentaries on BBC iPlayer a couple of weeks ago about people going blind and toes getting amputated when they ignored their condition this is something that is insanely important to me. The thought of going blind is terrifying, and I rather like my toes. 

These two very positive things started me thinking about what other ‘little’ things have changed in my life recently that I’m beginning to take for granted. 

I used to have a lot of problems putting my socks on. My thighs were so fat and my stomach so big that I had to rest the outside of my leg on something like the corner of my bed and sit down behind it, pushing my leg towards me into my belly so I could reach my foot. 

The strain of forcing my leg into this position REALLY hurt my (already struggling) knees and I had to hold my breath while I did it because I couldn’t breathe properly. 


That’s my foot. At the end of my casually crossed leg. Sitting on my sofa, which I also never used to sit on because I couldn’t get comfortable on it. 

When I sat upright here previously my stomach protruded so much that it was further out than the edge of the seat cushion. If I lay on the sofa I had to take the back cushions off so that I didn’t feel like I was falling over the edge onto the floor. 

My car was no different. It’s a good thing I have long legs because my seat was pushed back as far as it would go in January before I stopped drinking. My stomach was touching the steering wheel even though I was as far back as the car would allow. A year previously I had to have the seat repaired because I have snapped one of the steel supports underneath it. 

I’d also managed to break my steering wheel when I slipped in the rain and held onto it with all my weight when getting into my car. 


My trusty VW has borne all of this abuse silently and stoically. It’s one of the reasons I’ve held onto it for so long. It’s seen me through some tough times and just carried on. 

I put my trainers on and went out to my car. My seat is now usually set a bit closer to the pedals, so I pushed it back to where it used to be. 


I’m still closer to the wheel than thin people – but I’m getting into a much more comfortable range and can fit my hand in the gap where once there was no space. 

My seatbelt was also a big issue. I could rarely get into other people’s cars or taxis because of this and I’d had a lot of problems leaning forward to check incoming traffic at junctions because my belt was so tight. 


It’s not tight any more – and I can see the traffic just fine now. 

I suppose what I’m saying is that last week I chose to ignore little baubles of joy like this and instead focus on all the things I can’t do yet. Also I was preoccupied with my relatively minor injuries – which (I was reminded by both a gentleman infinitely smaller than me in SW yesterday and also my most avid reader and fellow blogger) happen to all of us – not just tubby truckers like myself. 

This week I’m going to get back on track – and while I’m doing it I’m going to try to focus on all the positive changes I’ve seen in my life lately and forget the hiccups. 

Because that’s what they are. They’re pauses for breath, pit-stops, small detours, scenic routes or moments of relaxation. They’re just real life – and it’s a one that I’m now living – not just watching from a window in an air conditioned office or from behind my living room curtains. 

Sorry for being a grumpy sod last week Internet. I think I have my head back in the game now.

Normal service has been resumed. 

Davey

Around Warwick and Priory Park

Today has been a good one.

My elderly car (she’s 166) passed its MOT without any kind of mechanical fail or advisory. To my recollection, apart from tyres, this has been the case every single time she’s gone under the microscope and I can honestly say that the advertising slogan is true.

Few things in life are as reliable as a Volkswagen.

While my car was being worked on I elected (instead of sitting and waiting for hours like I used to do) to walk into Warwick. As with most places it’s been a very long time since I came into the centre of town – and even longer since I just walked around it.

After a slow walk up the hill from the garage I arrived in the town square. I was a bit early (it was about 8.50am) and it seemed that the vast majority of the town was fast asleep. I decided that coffee would be a good idea and looked left at Cafe Nero and right to Costa… Hmmm… Neither are my first choice.

Costa. I’ll do that.

I opened the door to Costa and walked in. Atmosphere, zero. Life, zero. Willingness to spend money in there? Zero.

It then occurred to me that my pennies could be better spent in a local coffee shop, and just over the road was the Market Place Pantry. As soon as I sat down I felt good about my choice. It’s owned by a mother and daughter, and I feel much better about giving them my support than I do a huge multinational.

Go Alison and Emily! They were slaving away behind the counter and in their kitchen (which was reassuringly hot and busy) to make all the cakes and salads on their menu that just arrive in little packets on a lorry for Costa or Nero. They were pouring their heart and souls into the business and while I was there I heard nothing but good things.

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I’m beginning to think lately that now I’m more mobile I need to shift as much of my support to local business as I reasonably can instead of chain stores. I’m glad I did today. Alison and Emily seemed like normal, nice people trying to make a living opposite a place that brought little originality and warmth to the square.

I hope they prosper.

After my coffee I continued to wander around the charity shops and up and down the high street – but in truth there’s not an awful lot going on – unless you’re there for a meal or a drink – neither of which was on my mind. Although I was a bit hungry and hadn’t yet had breakfast.

As I wandered out of town, past Eastgate and down the menagerie of little shops in Smith Street I finally found breakfast, in the shape of two large rustic looking apples and two huge carrots from a local greengrocer at the bottom of the road.

91p for my little bag of goodness.

I wish i’d paid more attention to the shop name and variety of apples as they were absolutely exceptional. I’m going back to get more later.

As I strolled on munching my carrot I passed Priory Park.

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Now this place is somewhere that has never really appealed to me – and every time I’ve driven by I’ve never thought ‘I must go there.’ It’s always looked a bit rough from the outside – and I guess I’ve considered it a poor second to St Nics.

However – it couldn’t be further from the truth. This park is a different type of experience to the curated and manicured Jephson Gardens and child friendly fun palace at St Nics. This is grass and woodland, with almost no concrete paths – where the worn dirt trails into little wooded areas prompt exploration and investigation. As I entered a son and father were playing rugby, and the spirited youngster was trying to pull the ball from his father’s grasp and avoid capture once it had been released.

Further up the hill on a bench sat a young mother with a little poodle on an extended lead. She was feeding her newborn baby from a bottle and looked about as happy as one can expect to be, under a tree, surrounded by grass with a contented suckling infant.

I said hello to her and moved on. There was a trail to her left, leading into a damp clearing. It smelt earthy and like wet leaves and grass. I had to have a look!

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As I wandered forward into a little clearing I could feel the crunch of acorns underfoot and started to look at and photograph some of the more curious fungi attached to the base of an oak. It seemed to be covered with a brown spray – maybe a fungicide…

As I was inspecting at this I heard a dog behind me and turned to see a beautiful doberman pincher with a lustrous black coat and a shiny chain necklace.

‘She’s OK!’ I heard a voice say behind me. An elderly man with a dog lead around his neck was taking a seat on a nearby bench.

‘Is she OK to stroke?’ I asked.

‘Sure – she’s fine – thats if you can catch her!’ He replied.

I leaned out to stroke the dog, whose coat felt like velvet. She looked healthy and very well looked after. I managed to trail my hand along her back briefly before she was gone. She wanted to eat acorns and was munching on whatever she could find.

‘She’s lovely!’ I enthused, sitting on the opposite end of the bench.

‘Molly’s a rescue dog. They both are.’ he said motioning to another (older) chubby black and white terrier with its nose in a bush behind us. Sensing it was being talked about the terrier moved round to the front of the bench and hopped up by it’s master.

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(photo used with express permission)

‘She’s called Domino for obvious reasons.’

He pointed at the big black spots on her back. She was clearly wanting fun and now both dogs were ready for treats, which he had in his pocket.

‘I get a big bag of them – couple of quid from Aldi. They love em.’ He looked at Molly. ‘Paw please.’ He said. Molly slightly cocked her head and handed him a paw. He rewarded her with a treat, and gave another to Domino.

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As we sat he told me about all the rescue dogs he’d had over the years. He seemed to have a real love in particular for the doberman breed, and he said that the trick to keeping her healthy was feeding his dogs the same meat and leftovers that he ate himself. He didn’t think Molly would look like that if she’d been fed out of a can. I tended to agree – the results didn’t lie.

‘I was thinking of getting a dog.’ I said. ‘I love them – but I didn’t want to leave it at home when I was at work and it seemed cruel.’

He agreed.

‘They need a lot of walking.’ He said. ‘You should get one though – they’re good for weight loss.’

‘I’ve already lost nearly five stone.’ I said. ‘I’ve been going to Slimming World.’ He asked me where and I told him. He knew the place well. ‘That’s good going! He said enthusiastically.’

We carried on chatting and it seemed we’d both had family bereavements recently. As we briefly shared some history I mentioned that mine (though it had been hard) had ultimately provided a positive impetus in life.

He nodded. ‘You just have to get on with things.’ He said reflectively, stroking Domino. ‘Life goes on.’

I don’t know why but at that moment I felt the need to show him my selfies from yesterday’s blog. While he looked at the two photos I told him that this week I’d been walking to virtual France, and that today, walking around warwick and this park I’d done it.

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I’d arrived on the virtual shore of virtual Calais. So far this week I’d walked approximately 32 miles.

He looked impressed, which if I’m honest made me feel good. It’s nice to be able to talk about feeling successful rather than feeling like a failure, and it underlined how some of the worst events in life can be re-framed and made into something good.

Nearby Molly had begun to evacuate the acorns and was squatted by a tree.

‘I better go pick that up.’ He laughed, getting a carrier bag out of his pocket. ‘Nice to meet you. See you later – good luck with the weight!’

I shook his hand, exchanged names and carried on – back to the garage to pick up my car. She passed with flying colours. There wasn’t a thing wrong with her.

Today internet was just full of real people, and that was what made it so enjoyable. I might have walked to virtual France, but truthfully it’s only a means to an end.

It’s the means to meet people like this, and talk about their thoughts and lives.

That’s what all of this is about – and every moment of it is a blessing.

Davey

Das Auto?

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

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

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

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

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

I could go on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe their queries were different departments?

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

Thirty mins had now passed.

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

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

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

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

‘Thanks.’ I said ‘I appreciate that!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hello Mr DWK its xxxxx from xxxxxx Volkswagen’

‘Hello’ I replied.

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

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

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

‘It’s a Passat.’ I said flatly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I put the phone down with a sigh.

Not. Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I go there again?

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

Davey