Another bin liner full

That’s it. I give up.

Short of having the heating on 24×7 (something I consider extremely wasteful) I think I’ve resisted the inevitable for too long.

I’ve purchased a hot water bottle.

It’s one in a huge line of changes that I’m just having to accept about my new life. I get cold and I struggle to stay warm. I’ve gone from BEING a radiator of heat to needing to be close to one at all times.

Tonight it’s going to be under my duvet ahead of bedtime and I plan to climb into an oasis of warmth – rather than shivering and curling up into a foetal position for the first 10 minutes like I did last night.

I have no idea how teeny tiny little birds with stick thin legs don’t freeze to death running around on the floor looking for bits and pieces.

I’ve seen loads of these lovely little pied wagtails around lately – mostly at street level locally – but today they were everywhere in the park too.

They scuttle about picking up bits and bobs in a very industrious manner before flying off in a cute lollopy, undulating flight.

How they can fly at all without becoming itty bitty cubes of ice is beyond me though.

The other birds also didn’t seem bothered in the least by the temperature today either – although they at least seem fluffier and more capable of keeping warm.

Although this patch was free of ice the pavements by my house and by the river seemed incapable of thawing – even in direct sunlight – and as I walked around St Nicholas park this morning with my friend I was once again supremely happy with my new coat purchase.

It’s doing exactly what it’s intended to do – which is keeping me warm and dry at all times. Plus it fits perfectly – unlike many other items I own.

Which brings me to another topic.

I’ve had to accept today that lots and lots of very nice clothes that I purchased are now too big for me.

I know this because one very vocal friend continually says ‘that’s too big for you’ when I turn up in an item of clothing that she disapproves of.

It didn’t seem to matter what I tried on today the same problem was apparent in seventeen of my shirts and I knew if I wore any of them in her vicinity then I’d definitely cop some flack.

Not that I mind of course.

Often I don’t even realise that things have changed until someone points it out or pokes me with a sharpened stick.

When I had a bigger stomach and I tried on a shirt or jumper I used to have a ‘tug test’. This was a quick pull of the available material around the waist in an outward direction and if it didn’t give around 4 inches room then I knew that as I sat down that everything would pull taught and I’d look like my buttons were about to pop.

I’ve begun to realise though that my seated waistline (now all the belly fat doesn’t pile up above my belt anymore) is largely the same when I’m seated as it is standing.

This seems to have just happened overnight (well in the last 3-4 weeks anyway) and whilst dramatic weight loss is clearly a thing of the past, becoming more slender and toned is very much a feature of the present.

Continual exercise (even just walking – but maybe also sit-ups) is really making a difference. It still makes me sad though that I now have yet another bin liner full of perfectly nice clothes.

I’m not sure yet what to do with them. Should I keep them ‘just in case’ or is that the wrong mentality? If I don’t and one day I need them will I regret throwing them away?

I never plan to be big again but there may be a time where I experience ‘fluctuations’. I don’t know what’s in the future. Maybe I should get rid of the lot as a statement that things will never ever go that way again – but it seems at odds with my usually thrifty approach to life – and wasteful in the extreme to discard them.

However – if nothing else there’s at least one up side to my ‘problem’.

Whilst rummaging around today I found a receipt from late January 2017. It was from an outsize clothing retailer in Leamington and it was for £110 – an amount more that Supercoat 3 cost me last week.

The contents of the docket? Three shirts.

I was quickly transported back to what buying clothes meant a year ago – and how I was held hostage by the prices that specialist shops can charge. They have you over a barrel – and if you want to look presentable you have no choice.

In contrast (as I looked through the newly filled bin liner of 2xl shirts) the very most that a single item cost me in there (apart from one impulse purchase brand new) was £5. The vast majority were £3.50-£4.00 – and that’s pretty much what I spend per item (including trousers and jeans and jumpers) these days.

So my wardrobe may be relatively bare again – but at least now the things I’m currently purchasing (hopefully) aren’t going to need discarding soon – and they won’t break the bank.

Anyway internet – I must get walking again. I’ve only done 10 miles today and I need to get another 3-4 in so that I can maintain my average for the week.

Plus I was a bit of a piggy-wiggy last night and sat munching fruit in front of the TV when I should have been doing something else with my hands.

After I posted yesterday’s blog stats (about how getting rid of a pound of fat requires over 3300 calories to be burned) I’m supremely aware that I need to move my ass 😂

Davey

New teen

I made an early start today. I’ve a lot to pack into two days now if I want to get everything done. This working for a living lark doesn’t make fitting things in easy at all.

However – so far I’m making it happen, and as I was up early to get my shopping done before my first walk of the day. I’d have to do it quick because I had another appointment shortly after.

Today a good friend was coming back to Slimming World after a little time away – and I’d agreed with her that we’d go for a pre session chillout twalk around the park before we both stepped on the scales.

St Nicholas was nice this morning (the weather was lovely and mild) and there was plenty of life around – particularly joggers, who seemed to be constantly dodging my friend’s dog Pugly.

He perpetually wants to play and run around them – although I don’t think they they had time to reciprocate.

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After just under 3 miles we wound our way down the river and back to group, just in time for it to start – where Pugly began his usual task of begging for food. 

This little guy is really obsessed with eating – and in this respect I guess we’re kind of kindred spirits. I couldn’t help but laugh when my friend recently posted a picture of his ‘face of shame’ after he’d finally become enough of a puppy porker to set off the passenger seatbelt alarm in her car.

At Slimming World he’s in the right place for food optimising tips however. The venue was quite busy today and the group seemed larger than it usually is – with lots of familiar faces – and some that I haven’t seen for a while.

After saying hello to the ladies I stood on the scales.

Now – today I feel a bit different.

I don’t know whether it’s the probiotics I’ve been taking – or whether something else is going on – but my stomach definitely felt smaller this morning. So much so in fact that I’ve worn a shirt today that last week while I was ill had suddenly begun to seem tight around the waist.

I’m also now wearing a pair of 40in waisted jeans that were previously a bit… ‘Great British Bake Off’ (without the soggy bottom) but that now fit me perfectly.

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So – because of this I felt hopeful I’d lose something and was keen to get back to where I’d been before last week’s gain.

To be clear – I’ve done nothing new – no more exercise than usual (although this does mean that I walked a not insignificant 72 miles in total) eaten no differently – I’ve just kept sticking to what I know works and carrying on regardless.

I only went and lost eight frikkin pounds and got my sixteen and a half stone certificate!!!

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I’m now in another new weight bracket.

I’m inside the 17 stone range and am sitting at 17st 12lbs. I’m in a whole new teen!!!

In total I’ve now lost 16st 10.5lbs (106kg) !

As you can imagine this makes me exceptionally happy.

It’s also a great reminder that keeping calm, carrying on, not saying ‘screw it’ and most importantly sticking to what you know works will ultimately pay off.

Although there may be an occasional blip, my downward progress (when I look at it in the form of a graph) still looks like a largely straight line, which frankly I am REALLY REALLY PROUD OF.

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There’s only one way to celebrate an event like this – and that’s to go for another walk – which thankfully I’d already arranged for the afternoon.

I said goodbye to everyone and after a chat with Angie as I helped her pack things up I headed home.

For a while I didn’t think that my second planned excursion would happen, as periodically it’s seemed like monsoon season today. Before I left my house this afternoon I could have sworn that (as the rain lashed down and rolling peals of thunder boomed out after several cracks of lightning) that I saw India float past my house.

However – at the very worst this meant I’d just sit and chat with my friend over coffee so I drove over to her house as planned anyway.

Since the walk we were planning to go on would probably now resemble a bog we instead headed along a route we knew would be slightly less muddy and decided on another stroll around Coombe Abbey.

As always this didn’t disappoint – and immediately the skies cleared – making the way ahead look very appealing indeed.

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As always Coombe is full of birds, and today was no exception – however there was an abundance of pretty much everything else you could imagine popping out of bushes and hedgerows today – including some baby deer and wonderful dragonflies – who I’m sad to say were both way too fast for my camera.

Other, more sedate creatures however were kind enough to pose for me as my friend and I languidly strolled around the grounds and surrounding countryside twalking the day away.

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However – as interesting as all of these were the one thing that really caught my eye, just as I was leaving the (largely uneventful but very relaxing) birdwatching hide was a Red Admiral that was warming itself on a post about 20ft away.

I have to say that once again I’m stunned at the images that my little compact Sony 30x superzoom can capture from a distance.

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All in all it was a really well timed walk with some perfectly lit sunny moments where the world came alive both underfoot and all around us, showcasing the best that the countryside has to offer at this time of year.

Although there aren’t an awful lot of flowers around at the moment, every so often one manages to catch your eye, and particularly after a bit of rain you’re reminded how awesome the little things in life can look when you stop to pay attention to them.

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Anyway – I feel good.

I’ve broken the back of the teens – and I’m in weight territory that I’ve not seen since about 1992. Those that are mathematically inclined will also note that there is a particularly significant milestone approaching that’s unrelated to a certificate – but that IS related to how heavy I am and how heavy I was.

Answers on the back of a postcard internet. Can you work it out?

Davey

Napton on the Hill

It’s a bit of a scorcher today – and the weather frankly couldn’t be better for a bank holiday weekend.

Although I did go walking yesterday, in the end I stopped at only eight miles and really couldn’t be bothered to walk any further. I think it’s because I’ve walked most of the local routes to death.

I needed something different.

I awoke therefore this morning not planning to waste a moment of the day – and immediately started looking for a new Warwickshire walk on the internet.

My friend’s used http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk quite a lot when she’s suggested places to explore, and so far they haven’t been bad at all – so I decided to try a new circular one from the same place.

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I’ve no companion today (cue violins and sad music 😢) so if I was going to be intrepid and get well and truly lost then I’d have to make sure I took emergency rations.

So, after making a flask of emergency coffee and grabbing some emergency chewing gum I set off to do this walk. My starting point was at the Bridge Inn on the A425.

After a short drive out of Leamington (I was unable to find this pub on my satnav) I finally noticed it as I drove past. It was completely hidden amongst the brambles on the side of the road.

This was the first clue that the walk I was about to embark upon may have been devised some time ago…


Still – pubs may close but paths endure.

I left my car in the spookily empty car park (containing only old beer kegs and tarmac) and headed off into a nearby field.

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The sky today looked absolutely awesome.

It’s been completely cloud free all day long – and whilst this would have meant crispy Davey in the past, for some reason these days my skin is infinitely more resilient. Nevertheless I’d liberally added suncream just in case. Most of the walk would be relatively flat but some would be up on hills as well.

Immediately I felt that I’d made the right choice looking for new territory. Upon reaching the top of the first field I was greeted with nothing but total silence (and photobombing cows).

I don’t think they’re used to seeing people in Hawaiian shirts at 9am on a Sunday…

I was close to Napton on the Hill, and about half a mile of gentle undulating grassy hillocks later I was near a country lane heading down toward the village.

Here was the first of many indicators that this walk wasn’t written yesterday. I came across the first of lots of padlocked and chained gates. There has been little choice today but to get climbing – which thankfully I’m now capable of doing.

Half a year ago this might have been a deal breaker. I’d probably have had to turn around and go home.

Not today though!

When I arrived in it the village was both pretty and sleepy. There was barely a soul around.

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Here the instructions for the walk appeared to be a little misleading – but with the help of Google Maps I found my way to the next step of the walk – which was a public bridleway.

To be fair the village has a LOT of new houses so it’s hardly surprising that things aren’t quite the same.

I’m going to hazard a guess and say that the local land owners don’t like walkers. Each gatepost I found with a marker for the trail around this part of the walk had the direction indicator smashed off.

All that remained were slivers of plastic.

Thankfully I have a compass and OS Maps (thanks to a kind cartophile friend) on my phone – because without them the signs that remain leave a lot to chance.

All the time as I was walking the guide kept suggesting that I’d catch glimpses of the Napton Windmill – but try as I might I couldn’t see a thing.

These kinds of landmarks are usually really hard to miss – but it was nowhere to be seen.

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However it didn’t really matter. The fields were lovely and green, full of flowers and butterflies, and the hedgerows covered in warm, ripe blackberries to snack on as I walked.

I carried on – noting as I exited the last of four fields that around here the farmers appeared to be both armed and dangerous.

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On the bright side though this was when I first started spotting Speckled Wood butterflies – of which there seem to be LOADS today.

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So far I’d taken no wrong turns of any real consequence – but shortly after I turned off this country lane I misread the directions and started walking the wrong way down the Oxford canal.

It wasn’t until I realised I was going up locks that I noticed my mistake and headed back in the opposite direction.

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I don’t think I’ve ever walked along the Oxford canal – but this little stretch is really pretty – and quite busy. Here the local pub was thriving – and although it was closed I popped over to take a few pictures as it was really well kept. There was a marquee set up in the grounds, and it looked like tonight there was a big celebration planned.

It struck me as a really lovely place (and day) to have a wedding reception. There was plenty of open space and the weather would be perfect for it today.

As I continued further along the canal the towpath slowly narrowed until there wasn’t much at all. I’d joined at bridge number 115, almost walked to 116, and had to make my way back to 111 – which was where my car was parked.

I trundled happily along, sipping my emergency coffee and taking photographs.

Is there anything better than strolling along a canal in complete peace and quiet?

Well, yes as it happens. It gets a bit better when you finally catch sight (faaaar in the distance) of the mythical windmill  that you’ve been hunting in vain for two and a half hours!

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After stopping to capture a shot or two (yay for 30x optical zoom!) I moved on.

The hedgerows along this canal are wonderful. Apart from all the birds there are blackberries all over the place, and even apples in a few places hanging down from above. Nestling in the bushes are all manner of little butterflies, dragonflies (camera shy ones sadly) and huge spiders.

If you’re interested in looking then there’s never a dull moment.

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Then – almost exactly five miles after I’d started I turned the corner and saw bridge 111. There was a little gate and steps up to the rather sorry looking pub car park – and my (thankfully not stolen or vandalised) chariot of desire (or ‘elderly Passat’ to the less romantic members of my readership).

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Weight loss is a fickle mistress however and I never trust her intentions. Despite this being a good start to the day it was barely 12pm – and there was plenty more time to fit more activity in.

So – after going shopping at Aldi (and meeting a SW target member from another group who has lost tons of weight and looks amazing) I decided to walk into Leamington Spa for a coffee the long way and take the even longer way back

As I type (currently) I’m sitting in Old Milverton by St James the Great and watching the farmer on his combine harvester.

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Well. I’ve redressed the balance. Apple Watch says 13.26 miles walked today, meaning that I’ve caught up from yesterday and have already have a little wiggle room on my 10 mile a day average.

Next I’m going to make a MOOHASSIVE chilli con carne and veg out in front of the TV whilst I fart myself to sleep.

But what to do tomorrow internet?…..

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Davey

Wyken Slough nature walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that moment in time everything looked wonderful.

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

But exploring is fun!!!

Getting lost is fun!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be honest it’s been a great day. 

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Chair repairs

I feel somewhat re-energised this week.

My feet are almost recovered after their Sunday shredding and it’s becoming a bit less onerous to go for a walk now. Today it’s been absolutely sweltering – with a clear blue sky. In this respect it’s not been the best day to attack the garden – but the recycling gets picked up tomorrow and I find lately that I have a philosophical objection to leaving my green bin empty.

Today it was so full that by the time I’d nearly finished clipping bushes and levelling hedges I had to climb into it with some steps to jump up and down on the contents just so that I could fit the last lot of grass clippings in.

My garden’s not going to win any beauty contests at the moment (particularly in the category of grass coverage) but crucially it’s still under control and that’s all I care about currently.


It’s also still home to lots of birds – who regardless of my pruning still seem to want to make it their go to destination for a dust bath on the left hand side.

It looks like there’s a new baby robin in town too – who’s all fluffy and mottled. He’s been darting back and forth quite a bit looking for tasty morsels in the grass and seems quite interested in me.

My resident house sparrows appear to still be living up to their names and are commuting in and out of the eaves my roof regularly – but I don’t mind – as long as they stop for the occasional picture!

In other news I decided the other day that an item of furniture that’s been sitting broken (although you’d never be able to tell unless you sat on it) in my living room for about two years needed to be dealt with.

It used to be great.

It was a John Lewis armchair and I was really happy with it when I bought it. Although it was expensive it reeked of quality and we were very happy together.

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In truth it was less of an armchair and more of a small ‘snuggler’. The idea for ‘normal people’ (whoever the hell they are) was that they’d wrap themselves in pillows (or around a partner) before tucking their legs in and relaxing with a cup of tea in front of the telly.

In my case I filled it. Completely.

My stomach went to the ends of the arm rests.

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This is how I now fit into it’s duplicate twin…

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I struggled to get out of it a lot of the time back then, and the pressure that my 34.5 stone brought to bear on it finally made something snap in the frame.

It’s not every day your fat ass costs you a fortune  – but that day each cheek was individually responsible for £350.

I was gutted. Although I had two identical chairs this was one of the few places that I could find comfort – apart from lying on my left side (I couldn’t lie on my back or right side because I couldn’t breathe).

Things had got so bad (although I never told anyone this at the time) that just sitting still had become intensely uncomfortable in almost all seats. No matter how I tried to shift my huge weight something hurt. If I relieved the pain on my back then my ankles began to swell – if I moved to prevent water retention then my spine quickly complained.

Toward the end I often ended up sleeping in my armchair when I had trouble breathing and nodding off lying down.

So it was a dark day when I heard it crack.

I genuinely intended to try and fix it – and right up until a few days ago that was the plan – but when I took the base off and saw the splintered wood and all the snapped screws at the front I decided that not only did I no longer consider it worth the effort – but that it was a blatant reminder of someone that I no longer am.

Much of my house feels the same way sometimes and I often think that if money was no object I’d destroy all of the (perfectly usable) items that represent the old me.

For the moment though, this huge chair will suffice.

Since no one wants busted furniture sitting on the front lawn waiting for pickup today I decided to take the more energetic route and saw it into chunks.

Despite it having broken under my old weight I found it impossible to snap it again with my current weight. By any standards it was a really well made item of furniture with some top quality wood inside it. In all it took me an hour of sawing and sweating in the sunshine to separate it into parts small enough to fit into my car so I could take it to the tip.

So what next?

Well I have my IKEA Poang chair, purchased from the recycling centre a few weeks ago for £10 (a stunning 70 times cheaper than it’s John Lewis predecessor) and my matching footstool (£4).

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The only problem is that my mind will not allow me to sit in it without it being propped up against the wall. I simply can’t conceive of a world where I’m actually light enough to not break it.

I know that it’s rated by ikea to hold up to 26st (I’m currently almost exactly 20) so it shouldn’t be a problem – but honestly I couldn’t take the disappointment if it broke. Instead I’m going to put it in the living room for other people to sit on until such time as I feel secure enough to do so myself.

In other news there’s still no sign of my little buddy. Apple Watch is still MIA and there’s no news in my inbox about whether or not it’s expected to pull through. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve glanced at my wrist today and frankly it’s doing my head in.

I can’t get it back soon enough internet. I am in a timeless world without haptic feedback or heart monitoring.

I’m living in the flipping stone age I tell you.

Davey

Banded demoiselle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s really encouraging progress!!!

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

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

Not so long ago the trunk looked like this…

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

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

Then I pulled.

Nothing.

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

Still nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s been worth it though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘It’s a boy!’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey