Nerd things

Maybe it’s an age thing or maybe it’s a ‘skinny’ thing but these days when I look out of the window and see snow my heart completely sinks.

Another day where I can’t feel my fingers beckoned yesterday and I had to cancel my plans for a walk in the countryside with a fellow Slimming World’er and her dog.

This means that not only was my day of freedom disrupted before it had even begun but I didn’t get any pooch time at all. On the bright side though the snow did clear a little later on and I strolled into town for a coffee with my brother and to get a little bit of shopping (how did I exist before discovering unsweetened Almond milk and weetabix?!).

Surprisingly for me however I found that yesterday I simply couldn’t face walking back to my house in the bitingly cold wind (my fingertips and face were actually hurting) and so I caught the bus.

This is the first time in about a year and a half that I’ve used public transport to get home instead of my feet – and although it was actually really nice to get home quickly in the warm I’ve been feeling guilty ever since.

My daily mile target didn’t even come close.

This morning as a consequence I took a longer route to work to make up for it and before I’d reached the office I had a pretty satisfying 4.5 miles under my belt. It was a pretty nice morning too, and nowhere near as cold as the previous day. The snow was quickly on the way out and for a good portion of the hour and 10 minutes I was walking the sun was peeking in and out of little fluffy white clouds.

I also managed some good split times as well (mile two involved a stop at the post office) and by the end of the day I’m comfortingly back into my usual 10 mile bracket which makes me feel quite positive!

For the last two days (since the weather has been awful) I’ve mostly been geeking out with various bits of technology – and throwing a little time into learning a few things that I didn’t know much about before.

Attempting to prove that I’m still a party animal, the other day I bought myself an ‘Excel 2013 for Dummies‘ book in an attempt to put an end to the dull feeling of ineptitude that hovers over me every time I do more than open a spreadsheet to look at it.

Whenever I have a need to start adding formulas and creating tables I’m completely out of my depth.

I’ve resisted pretty much anything like this my entire life and honestly used to find my mind instantly switching off every time I ventured into such territory.

Lately though I’ve come to realise that I’m the exception to the rule in my new peer group and although I’ll never be as deeply invested it as some of those that I work with I want to at least be able to talk to them on a level where I don’t feel like a total caveman.

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The really great thing is (and this is no joke at all) my mind works a million times faster as a fitter and healthier man than it ever used to work beforehand. Not only can I soak up information faster than I ever could before – but I find I can use it more effectively too.

Exercise and healthy eating for the win!

So – thats nerd objective number one.

The second is to understand the mildly bewildering eco system of Android phones.

I have for many years now been almost exclusively an Apple user – and while I don’t have any appetite to get rid of my (pretty darned awesome) iPhone at the moment there are a few things that a Google based device can do that an Apple one annoyingly can’t.

Apple’s strengths (being idiot proof and relatively secure) are also a weakness – and when you really need to ‘get under the hood’ their devices (at least in terms of tablets or smartphones) don’t let you do many things that people with Google based phones just take for granted.

To this end I bought myself a Huwawei P8 Lite (2017 edition – LINK) second hand from eBay the other day – and this evening I’ve been leaning how to program NTAG 215 NFC tags with it.

I won’t go into the reasons why, because I suspect many will be bored to death before I finish typing the sentence – but what I WILL say is that I’m pretty astonished at what less then £100 buys in terms of a phone these days (I paid £88 second hand but it’s £130 at Argos brand new – link).

The P8 Lite is a completely gorilla glass covered device (slippery!) that runs Android 7.0 (customised) and frankly it’s stunningly good for what is essentially a phone near the bottom end of the market.

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It’s 5.2in full HD IPS screen is vibrant and colourful with superb viewing angles, and its (blisteringly fast) fingerprint reader leaves my iPhone 6 Plus (now a relic sitting in a speaker dock thanks to it’s mauling at the hands of iOS 11) in the dust.

Granted – the optics are a bit basic when judged against my current iPhone’s dual camera standards but there’s absolutely nothing about this device that isn’t perfectly usable by anyone that needs a basic smartphone.

Yay for Android – and I never thought I’d find myself saying that…

Anyway – I think it’s way past my bed time. I have a very early start indeed tomorrow and frankly I’m expecting to feel like death warmed up for most of the day as a consequence – particularly because at the moment (despite being on de-caffinated coffee all afternoon) I feel wide-a-flipping-wake.

Sigh.

It’s going to be a long night internet.

Think I’ll play with my new toy until i nod off…

Davey

Snowdrops in Hatton

I’m a little achey after the up and downhill of the end to end walk in Malvern on Sunday.

It’s currently precisely midnight on either Monday evening or Tuesday morning (depending on how you view it) and I’m lying in a warm bed within an unusually warm house whilst the world outside turns into an icicle.

On days like today I don’t care about the cost of heating. It’s worth it.

Monday was a day I had decided to a while back to just take off work and had no plans in particular other than chill out and recover after Malvern.

I suppose that I could have done that – but where’s the fun in sitting down?

It would have been super easy to melt into an armchair and just veg out – but nature (at least in my case) seems to abhor a vacuum and events rushed in to fill the spare time.

I’m not complaining mind you. I couldn’t sit still if my life depended on it these days – and my first hook up of the day was meeting a friend in the local Mecca of consumerism -Touchwood in Solihull.

Oddly – as small as this place seems now, a while back it felt like it was almost more than I could deal with. Despite having convenient parking right underneath the Apple shop that I used to visit from time to time I really struggled with moving around the place.

Typically I parked up and waddled to my destination and then back to my car before collapsing wheezing in the front seat while I struggled to get my seatbelt on.

Once I even moved my car from the Touchwood car park after going to Apple and then re-parked in another nearby car park to go to another shop less than 500 metres away.

Sigh.

Those were the bad old days…

In contrast this morning I was there extra early to meet a friend for coffee in Starbucks and idly wandered up and down the length of the Mall as I passed the time by calling my Dad and window shopping.

As I strolled I couldn’t help but notice a relief motto on the ceiling.

Maybe the designers had a sarcastic side – or the builders were feeling whimsical as they bolted these words of wisdom to the wall in one of the richest boroughs of the county (outside of the M25 area).

I’m sure there’s more than a spoonful of irony that this is hanging above the nearby Nespresso, Apple and Tesla shops – however far be it from me to judge.

If I did I’d be throwing stones whilst standing in a glass house.

Whilst I’m generally very frugal I do like Apple products (despite their usually ridiculous price tag) and sadly (although many may disagree) I think quite a bit of what they sell is actually worth the extra money.

Apple Watch for instance has been instrumental in changing my life. I wouldn’t be without it – or my iPhone.

I can’t help but buy things from there when I’m in the mood to treat myself and today my credit card stepped in to perform the heavy lifting as I left the shop with a pair of Apple AirPods.

The assistant knew she had a sale after I had inserted a test pair and jumped up and down for five minutes like an idiot as well as shaking my head like I was at a heavy metal concert whilst I tried (unsuccessfully) to dislodge them.

Annoyingly they refused to fall out and appeared to defy gravity with each lurching movement whilst still sounding totally awesome. You can barely feel them in your ears – which is seriously disconcerting.

They’re just… there – like little earbud ghosts…

Amazingly once you pair them to your phone (all you have to do is open the case and a prompt appears on your phone) they’re also paired to everything else in your Apple eco-system.

Later in the evening I was playing music on my watch, iPad and MacBook just as seamlessly as I had on my iPhone. When I opened my iPad it too paired with my buds and immediately gave me to option of using them. I didn’t have to unpair anything on my iPhone or faff about in any way.

In contrast my other (largely unused) Bluetooth headphones are a pairing nightmare.

The playback is also capable of shifting almost immediately between the player on my Apple Watch and my iPhone without any re-pairing or faffing about. Just press play on one in the middle of the other playing and the AirPods switch over.

Press play on the other device and it swaps back.

They’re irritatingly good.

I say irritatingly because I’m supremely aware that cost wise there are other (possibly more capable from an audiophile perspective) wireless headphones out there with lower price tags – but the heart wants what the heart wants and today these were my birthday gift to myself in the absence of alcohol or food.

These will accompany me on many many walks and get a lot of use on the way to and from work.

There are times however when I’m never going to use them and those are when I have real live twalking buddies to spend time with.

Today I had filled the rest of my free time vacuum by arranging a walk to Hatton with a friend – and it turned out to be during a rather nice (if flipping cold) afternoon with hints of sunshine and occasional blue skies.

The weather was not like this the whole way though – and temperatures were definitely not shifting above zero.

Several times snow threatened to arrive and stick around – but thankfully (the news suggests bad things are on the horizon) it disappeared as soon as it had arrived – but for the brief time it was in residence proved to be very pretty!

There’s sometimes a trade off with inclement weather however – because while it’s chilly and uncomfortable it can also produce some incidental beauty in the hedgerows and roadsides.

I haven’t seen icicles in ages – but today they were in abundance.

Also – everywhere along the edges of our route were the most delightful little snowdrops, framed perfectly amongst a sea of brown leaves under a completely absent canopy.

By the time we reached the Hatton Arms I was most definitely ready for the loo and a coffee though.

I think I need some thermal pants because I think I now know where the engineering inspiration came from for Newton’s Cradle.

However although elements of my anatomy and the outside world may have been freezing this pub never seems less than warm and inviting.

I do rather like their approach to hanging mirrors as well. I think there motto is ‘you can never have too many’ and I definitely agree.

Their wall looks funky.

After a coffee and a quick natter we headed back to our respective homes and into the waiting arms of central heating heaven.

Upon returning to my man cave the only thing to do was make something warming and hearty – so I decided upon a chicken and baked bean soup.

Since I rarely follow recipes this was just thrown together at the last minute and contained

  • 500g chicken breast
  • 1 drained (but not rinsed – they still had some sauce in) can of baked beans
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 diced potatoes
  • 500g Carrots
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 2x chicken stock cubes
  • A generous ‘glugging’ of Worcestershire sauce
  • A large Courgette
  • 500g of sprouts

Let me tell you right now that this was darned nice and it’s also going to supply me with a very hearty lunch at work (today – it’s now 1.30am!) too.

So – on that note I’m going to sign off internet.

Hopefully it won’t snow as badly as the forecast suggests – but if it does fear not. I’m prepared dear reader. It’s going to take a lot to stop me walking.

Aches and pains and complaints about crappy weather are for the weak. Slimming World target members (and those that want to become one) walk to work regardless!!!

Davey

Damaged or incomplete 

Technology is wonderful. Until it isn’t. 

When you put your trust in something and then it ceases to do what you expect of it then (if like me you develop a relationship of sorts with a device) there are few things that can put you in a worse mood. 

Honestly my frame of mind hasn’t been too great anyway over the last week (apart from Friday at EGX) due having no frikkin clue what to do next in life – so when my Mac started to do strange things I started getting a little annoyed. 

If I’d have had a pram then my toys would have been thrown right out of it. 

Currently something VERY BAD is transpiring. 

Every single application refuses to open and instead throws up the same error message. 


A while ago this would have intrigued me. 

I’d have seen it as a challenge, rolled up my sleeves and spent my entire weekend trying to figure out what the issue was and then would have busied myself rectifying it. 

There was however a significant difference between that version of Davey and current Davey. Whilst I am still something of a nerdy geek – new improved me is far more likely to view time spent sitting tinkering as time utterly wasted

Yesterday (shortly before all of this nonsense started) I was already searching for motivation – and reasons to do more than just fiddle with techno toys. 

I’ve been saddled with a stress related bout of the munchies for DAYS now (I struggled yesterday too) and I’d been wondering how I could turn it around. 

I came up with the following. 

  1. I’m not cooking enough. I’ve been snacking a lot and not making the effort to make a proper, balanced dinner or evening meal. This has to stop. I need to spend more time planning and preparing. 
  2. I’ve not been drinking enough water. As I counted the cost of yesterday’s picking at the ‘nice’ things in my cupboard I realised I’d had about two pints all day. That’s not enough. 
  3. I need to focus on my jeans. 

The last point isn’t a spelling mistake. I’m not talking about genetics. 

I mean denim. 

I pulled my old 66in waist trousers out of storage and laid them out flat on the carpet, then took my current jeans off the clothes horse, overlaid them and took a photo. 


In my mind that’s what happens when damaged or incomplete file structures on computers become more important than going for a walk. 

So – I shut the computer down, grabbed my fleece and my hat and soon was out in the countryside near Ryton Woods for a four and a half mile walk with a friend. 

I’ll admit that I’ve been on a mission during a lot of my walks lately, and I think my companions may have noticed a brisker pace than usual. 

In truth I’m trying to bury myself in exercise – in the hope that things will click into place and that I’ll have a sudden twalking revelation in the middle of no-where and suddenly realise what it is I want to be when I grow up. 

The countryside near Southam and Ryton Woods failed give me absolute clarity so today (still avoiding my broken computer) I went out looking again. 

I stared the day with a five mile walk around Warwick and the park, went home and then ten minutes later headed out on another seven and a half mile circular route march from my house, round the Warwickshire golf course and back again. 




However – whilst I’ve smashed my daily goals, my body is bristling with added vitality and I’ve managed a lot of chatting with some lovely people I’ve still had no bolt from the blue or sudden profound epiphany

Furthermore – to add insult to injury when I got home my computer was still broken and had not magically fixed itself. 

Sigh. 

There were lots of pretty mushrooms today though so at least there’s that…


So – what to do?

Well – next week I’ve set myself the challenge of moving my ‘what happens next?’ agenda forward. Since I don’t yet know what my plans are, tangible success will be hard to measure – but I need over the next few days to approach it as I would a job. 

This means getting up early like I always do, making myself presentable, going out to the library or somewhere quiet, researching potential paths, and taking one (maybe two) positive, measurable and quantifiable actions in pursuit of my goals.

Granted – I don’t know what my goals are yet, so ironically enough this may well just be to ‘define my goals’, but even this is something I’m not sure about. 

One thing’s for certain though. I’ve got to get out of the habit of telling myself what I can’t do and start reminding myself what I can do. 

At the moment every time I think of something I’m waaay more focused on what could go wrong and how I could fail at it than I am about the exciting prospect of doing something with the potential for success and to truly change my life. 

Either that internet or I go with PLAN B, take a complete break from reality and become Lego Batman. 


BatDavey 🦇 

Draycote Water and fresh Apples

Today started well.

VERY well in fact.

A knock at the door early on revealed a smiling UPS courier and a small package. Inside was a (quite unexpected) presentation box wrapped in cellophane. When I opened it I could scarcely have been happier with the contents!

Instead of my old friend returning to my loving bosom I have a NEW AND IMPROVED FRIEND! 

I’ve had my teeny companion since September 2015 – and it’s seen some revisions since it was originally launched. My ‘1st generation’ model was eventually superseded by a ‘2nd generation’ series 1 and series 2 devices in late 2016. Both of these were upgraded versions of the original. Series two had GPS and water proofing – but crucially the series 1 had a faster processor than my 1st gen version which was then removed from sale.

Clearly Apple didn’t think it was cost effective to replace my 1st gen sensor (the circular panel housing it on the underside had come loose, making it turn like a bezel) and have now upgraded my nearly two year old watch to a brand new series 1!

How’s about that for customer service?!

After quickly restoring my settings from an old backup my new Apple Watch was soon right where it belonged – on my wrist – and waiting for instructions.

It soon got (quite literally) it’s marching orders, as today I’d planned to go for a walk with a friend. He’d originally suggested that we go somewhere further afield – but knowing I’d have to wait in for a parcel we had instead agreed to go a little closer to home – and have a look at somewhere neither of us had ever been.

Draycote Water (link).

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This is a Severn Trent reservoir – and according to wikipedia it can hold more than a few kettles worth of H2O…

The reservoir was created in the 1960s and was opened in January 1969 and is by far the largest expanse of water in Warwickshire. It covers more than 600 acres (240 hectares) and holds up to 5 billion gallons (23 million m³) of water.

As you might imagine it’s pretty big – and is expansive enough to have a five mile circular walk around the outskirts of it – meaning that there’s plenty of places to sit on the reservoir wall and have lunch.

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We started out quite gingerly – mostly due to my ongoing war wounds from a week ago. I got some pretty epic blisters during my 17 mile walk to Solihull (link). I had convinced myself that they were fixed up and as good as new – until I embarked upon my energetic 8 mile march around Warwick and Leamington yesterday.

Unfortunately this resulted in (amongst other things) the angry looking 3cm wide red/black/purple one on my left foot flaring up again. Today it was once again covered in elastoplast to reduce friction and pressure – but there’s only so much you can do to something that ideally you should just leave alone and allow to recover.

I can’t help myself though. I need to walk – and it’s really annoying to have loads of energy in your legs but to have sore feet that slow you down or eventually stop you altogether.

Thankfully we soon stopped for a bite to eat after a mile and a half or so, sat on the wall, looked out across the water and rummaged through our respective carrier bags.

Whilst my friend had packed a cheese and onion sandwich I had a whole cucumber. This had been a present from him the previous day and was fresh from his allotment. It was small (like a chunky courgette) and crisp (like a gherkin) and before setting out I’d chopped it into some basmati rice along with a can of mackerel and some beetroot.

Paired with a flask of coffee this (maybe odd – but delicious) combination went down really nicely!

However – if there was EVER a time I was kicking myself for not bringing a proper camera with me then today was that time. It was quickly apparent that the whole place was teeming with wildlife – and there were quite a few birds I’d not seen before. The Draycote birding site has a link to a list of the species that have been seen in 2017 and it’s MASSIVE (see here).

Annoyingly my iPhone just couldn’t do any of this justice – and the only things I could capture that didn’t look like flies in the distance were the geese – which were legion, and slow moving.

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I’m therefore going back again soon with my proper camera to see whether I can get some better shots!

Birds weren’t the only wildlife here though – and although we never saw anything today other than small whites there appears to be a cornucopia of butterfly life in this area – with Draycote having one of the most comprehensive lists of potentially viewable species that I’ve seen so far at a reserve.

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Although we didn’t have time to explore today there are also a couple of marked woodland walks around the reservoir that branch off into small areas of trees. I’m not sure how far these go but the Severn Trent site suggests that there’s quite a bit to explore –

There is a flat five mile tarmac road all the way around the reservoir which is ideal for a leisurely stroll. The Hensbrough hill top provides spectacular views and is a great place for a picnic, whilst the 25 acre country park provides enough room for young and old to play games and enjoy the outdoors.

There were lots of cyclists and sailing enthusiasts – along with several pretty large areas set aside on the banks for anglers – and the reservoir is apparently well stocked! There’s also a visitor centre with a cafe and balcony overlooking the reservoir.

Overall it seems like a great place to take the family for an active day out and it definitely requires more investigation. If nothing else it’s a supremely quiet and relaxing place for a stroll.

Even if your feet hurt!

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Now – if you’ll excuse me internet my slightly perkier and enthusiastic puppy dog of a watch is pressing me to stand up and do something – and who am I to ignore it’s well intentioned pleas for attention?!

Davey

Bare wrist

This is unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone that’s been following my blog since it started but I miss my Apple Watch. The poor little thing is unwell currently and since Sunday afternoon has been with Apple to be repaired. 

In some ways it was a good thing that this happened because its presence definitely dictates my behaviour. 

On Monday I really needed to recover from my epic 17 mile walk instead of gallivanting all over the place. The soles of both my feet ended up with quite large blisters on Sunday and although I’m a big boy and can deal with the discomfort neither of them have been pleasant to move about on. 

Despite this Apple Watch was noticeably present in my mindset yesterday – and I found myself turning to the blank space on my wrist to check what I’d done (or more importantly NOT done) with the day multiple times. 

I have to say that (rather worryingly) part of me feels like I’m on holiday – and that because I’m not being continually monitored I can relax a bit more than usual. 

Although I’ve always known that it helped motivate me I’m not entirely sure that I realised how much it was actually driving me. 

Rather than it doing this by shocking me when I’m bad or pushing pins into me if I haven’t moved enough, this is mostly because it panders to the habitual and slightly OCD side of my personality. I tend to get a bit obsessed with ‘neatness’ in statistics, or achievement scores in things like video games. 

Currently it’s driving me slightly insane that my stats for this month are completely ruined (I have a cavernous visual gap opening up in this month’s data) and my achievement for a perfect July is now toast. 

When I’m working towards something outwardly innocuous (such as filling my activity rings for the day) I’m absolutely focused on not failing – and until yesterday I had a continuous 183 day streak where I’d exceeded all of my move goals. 

In the great scheme of things it’s just a number on a device that no one but me can see (unless I share it) but it still means something. 

I’m not entirely sure of the psychology behind this particular obsession – but it does from time to time make me think about what would have really happened with my slimming efforts if I’d never have owned one. 

I’d like to think that I’d still have been very focused on the diet side of things (I can be equally obsessive about what I eat and what it contains) but that the exercise that I stared back in June/July 2016 may have been little more than a passing phase. 

I say this mostly because that’s what happened 10 years ago. Bit by bit my interest in activity (and meal replacements on the Cambridge Diet) waned and I went back to more sedentary habits as I piled the weight back on. 

At the very least this time around it might have been something that I did occasionally rather than with daily regularity and with a view towards continual improvement

I know for instance that before the focus on exercise that Apple Watch enabled my diabetes didn’t change much at all. When I stopped drinking it remained largely unchanged. When I changed my diet the numbers were still high, and when I slowly started to lose weight it didn’t move much either. 

However as my exercise grew in intensity and I started to regularly do at least 30 minutes a day – that was when I saw everything change. 

I read with interest today (link) that Apple have been trialling blood sugar monitoring wearables that are related to the Watch and are non invasive (i.e. Not sub dermal and with no blood testing). For many people suffering with this awful condition – and those wanting to avoid future problems something like this could be a game changer. 

Imagine watching in real time on your wrist what happens if you eat or drink crappy food! What a motivator to be virtuous that would be!

I’m sold on virtue either way. Today (to make sure I don’t lose focus) even though my feet hurt I’ve done a 5 mile walk to the shops and back. 

It’s not quite the same though…

It’s nice because I can stop and look at things without having to pause a workout – but (bizarrely) I feel like I should know my heart rate and how my cardio stats for the day are progressing!

I guess I have to be patient. 

I have a several friends who’ve suffered with operations and injuries recently – and all of them (big hugs) have been driven slightly nuts (and suffered with feeling down) because they can’t exercise. 

When I spoke to one in particular about this we laughed about how different things are these days. A couple of years ago I remained completely perplexed by her continual quest to tone up a bit more or run a little faster all the time. 

She was already fit – so what was the point? It all seemed like a complete waste of time. Why didn’t she watch a Sopranos box set, like me?

Now I totally get it. 

Furthermore I’m now the same. I need the movement and I feel that if I stop for too long then somehow I’m failing at life. My mood dips almost immediately and I feel sluggish after only a day or two. 

Today though I’m just taking my time as my feet heal up and my little friend gets repaired. It’s kind of nice just to walk without an objective or to grind away at steps and miles. 

There will be plenty of time for that in the future. Today internet I’m just going to enjoy the scenery. 


Davey

Warwick to Solihull via Apple

I’ve got Vaseline between my toes and it feels funny.

Although I have my moments this isn’t me pandering to a weird fetish (for a start there are no llamas nearby) but trying to make absolutely sure I don’t get blisters.

At the moment I’m sitting outside The Hatton Arms, rather cheekily sipping my own flask of coffee. Apple Watch says I’ve walked 4.9 miles so far today and it’s 11.42am. Four of those miles have been between Warwick and Hatton along a familiar stretch of the Grand Union Canal – which looks lovely today.

It’s always a pleasure to turn around and see the church in the centre of the town perfectly framed by the line of the canal.

I’ve a long way to go though.

Today I’ve decided that no good mood or great result on the scales comes because I sit around waiting for it.

Today I’m walking fifteen miles to Solihull.


I’m pretty sure that the battery on my Apple Watch won’t make the distance to the train station at the other end if I run the battery sapping workout programs – but we’ll see. It’s at 72% so far and it’s going to need to monitor me for another 11 miles.

(Author sips coffee for a while.)

Right. Better get moving. My next stop is The Orange Tree in Chadwick End and that’s 4.7 miles away along the usually fairly busy A4141 (the Warwick Road). Thankfully there are paths. I made a mental note of this the last time I drove that way with just such a walk in mind.

(Author sets off a second workout and walks to the next pub)

Well. It’s 1.40pm and I’m at the Orange Tree.

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My Apple Watch workout is reporting a walk of 4.65 miles and the poor little thing’s battery is at 42%. It’s flagging.

I totally get how it feels.

My feet and thighs are aching and although the Vaseline between my toes appears to be doing the trick the ball of my right foot is complaining a bit. I’m pretty certain that’s going to be a blister there by the time I’m done. My legs are pretty tired now so I’m going to take a while to relax on their comfy looking patio furniture and hope they don’t complain that I’m not buying anything.

(author chillaxes)

I’m quietly sitting outside with my lunch. It’s microwave basmati rice (2 syns) with prawns, tuna, a can of mackerel and some gherkins. 

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I realise that I’m winning no culinary awards for composition or presentation here – but it’s cheap, (the whole lot is around £2) represents around 7-800kcal, has carbs as well as protien and also some ‘speed’ food in roughly the correct ratio. It’s my breakfast and dinner combined.

Honestly though – I was in a hurry and It took only two minutes to sling together before I left the house!

The next leg of my walk is mercifully shorter – around 3.3 miles to the Toby Carvery in Knowle. Unfortunately some of it will involve walking on the road as I know there aren’t any paths between Chadwick End and the Black Boy pub – which is the easiest place from where I am to hop back onto the towpath of the Grand Union Canal.

You may ask why I didn’t walk the whole way along the canal – and it’s a good question.

Some years ago I walked from Warwick to Hatton for a coffee with a friend and then she suggested we carry on to Knowle. The experience (although I was with great company) was miserable for the second leg of the journey – 70% of which was along overgrown, boggy and boring towpaths which were not well maintained at all.

At the end of it one of my toenails fell off and my beloved trainers (almost brand new) went in the bin. They were completely wrecked.

This is the primary reason I’ve done part road and part canal, but also because it’s shorter.

Right. I’ve had an hour’s break. It’s 2.33pm and I’m going to sneak into the pub toilets for a wee before heading off.

(Author points Percy at the porcelain briefly, starts another workout on his watch and heads off.)

It’s now 4.10pm. I’m lying on the grass outside the Knowle branch of the Royal British Legion about 50m down the road from the Toby Carvery. It’s quieter here and I can just chill without getting any attention.

I’m pretty tired.

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Apple Watch is on life support at 16%. If I don’t kick off another workout it may just make it home. It’s another three miles to Solihull train station, and then another mile from my stop in Warwick back to my doorstep.

My feet and legs are really aching now – but this is totally doable. 

The last leg of the walk was quite nice – and took me along a lovely quiet stretch of canal and a set of locks leading up to the Kenilworth Road and Knowle church. I couldn’t help but pop in and have a look. I’ve driven past many times but never been in.

There’s some absolutely gorgeous masonry and stained glass! Despite my continued lack of interest in anything spiritual I’m still always blown away by how beautiful these places of worship are. The craftsmanship they required to build is something I doubt we’ll see the like of again any time soon.

However for once I’m not going to swamp this post with religious iconography. I have lots of selfies to pack in instead!

(Author moves on toward Solihull without a workout program. It’s a less than enjoyable stretch of busy road that goes over the M42 and through the outskirts of Solihull on the way to the train station. On the way my watch alerts me that its reached 10% and asks me if I want to go into power saving mode. I don’t. It won’t track my progress.)

Well I’m once again STUNNED by Apple’s customer service. Particularly this guy – Adam (who unfortunately looked away as I took this – but said it was ok to add him in my blog)

I’d gone into the Touchwood Apple Store in the hope that I could charge my watch (by that time it was at 7%) in there and keep my stats going.

They were very accommodating – and as it sat sucking up power at the Genius Bar I began chatting with the guy who was helping me. I explained that I’d walked from Warwick – which surprised him quite a bit. I elaborated some more and mentioned my weight loss so far, showing him my blog.

He politely had a look – and while he did I told him how (in many ways) how Apple Watch had helped make all of this possible. It kept me focused and on point. There was no hiding from its data collection (at least when it wasn’t completely drained of power.)

I told him I’d be lost without it.

I also reflected that the little guy was getting on a bit now and that I’d noticed the sensor on the back had begun to move when I cleaned it. I said it was probably only a matter of time before it died. I probably couldn’t afford to replace it.

He looked perturbed. He’d mentioned to me his own fitness goals (he was trying to improve his distance running) and he really wanted to help.

‘That might be covered under consumer law’ he said – and started tapping on his iPad.

I watched his fingers dance around the menus on the screen with bated breath…

‘Yep. It’s covered.’ He said. ‘We can repair that for free and send it back to you. It will probably take about three to four days.’

I’ll be honest. Despite this wonderous miracle initially I didn’t want to let it go. The little fella goes everywhere with me. I’m literally attached to it. However knowing I could keep it alive a bit longer (and maybe even get an upgrade if it can’t be repaired) was too tempting an offer to pass up.

‘Ok I’ll go for it!’ I said. After taking some details from me and filling in all the forms (a £165.83 repair suddenly became FREE on his iPad) I shook him warmly by the hand.

What a nice guy!

I’d walked 15 miles to get the best customer service possible – and it reminds me why I keep on choosing Apple products again and again. Sure there’s a cost associated with it but there are some things in life that are just worth a little bit more!

So now I’m in Starbucks without stats, and I’m also without my watch for several days. The next train from Solihull station is in 40 minutes. It’s about half a mile from here and at the moment I’m really really looking forward to getting home.

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(Author sips coffee and looks at the blank space on his wrist. Feels sad.)

Before I handed my friend over, Apple Watch (waving goodbye with a sad expression on its face) uploaded to my phone all of the data for the day so far. By that point I’d done 230 minutes of cardio, burned a total of 4,266 kcal, mashed my blistered feet into the floor with 27,972 steps and walked 15.66 miles for a coffee.

But I’m not done. I still have to get home.

I have an old app on my phone called ‘Walkmeter’ which I used when I first started trying to walk around the park. It’s a bit crap – but it has GPS functionality and I think it will at least keep the distance tally going.

(Author walks to the train station – which is 0.6 miles away.)

I’m now on the last leg of my journey and waiting for the 7.04pm train to Warwick. My feet hurt but I have a real sense of pride that I’ve walked here under my own steam today. I feel sweaty and tired but I’m very happy!

(gets on train, walks home, now limping a little)

I’m back home!

I did it!!!

I frikkin walked to Solihull!!!

I’ve done 17.2 miles in ONE DAY!!!

I had contemplated a final picture of the blisters on my feet (both balls of my feet have epic ones – and one of them is an angry blood red.) but I think I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Saturday’s low mood is so far away in my rear view mirror that I can’t see it any more.

I’ve carried my 30litre rucksack the whole way with me today and it’s been full of water (2 litres, refilled once, 4 litres consumed in total), some spare clothes, lots of suntan cream – and basically most of what I’m planning to take up Snowdon.

I can do it. I can go a long distance with it on my back.

I’m SO going to climb that mountain with a vengeance, and I’m going to do it very very soon!

Now if you excuse me – I’m hungry, and I’m going to have a rather large, but 100% guilt free meal.

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