Outdoorsy

I get a lot of pleasure from lots of things that I never used to these days – but one that continues to surprise and delight me is my garden.

Long term readers may remember that back at the start of my journey in 2016 (when I still wasn’t coping with every aspect of life very well) this was viewed by me as something of a burden rather than a boon.

Right up until early 2017 I considered the maintenance of it to be a disagreeable chore rather than a chance to get out and have some exercise.

Consequently I’d let it slide into a shameful mess and I didn’t know where to begin. The problem just seemed too huge to tackle.

Although generally things were becoming easier for me as I lost weight the mental barriers were still bigger than I realised at the time and every time I pulled back the curtain of my back window (which usually remained closed – because out of sight is out of mind) I was convinced it was still beyond me.

I was doing a lot of walking back then though – and as well as becoming increasingly fitter I was beginning to fit into mainstream clothes more often than not. I was still a different man compared to the one I am today – and at 20st 10lbs still had quite a distance to go before I reached my target weight.

When I look back at my mindset then and compare it to the one I have now I can see that without doubt I was still being held back by an increasingly outdated perception of my capabilities. There were a lot of things that I was afraid of trying or tackling head on and certain tasks were so knotted up with fears and memories of how they used to affect me that I avoided them altogether.

This was until my friend eventually grabbed this particular bull by the horns and offered to help start me off with a couple of days clearing it (link).

I (maybe a little pensively) started with his support – fully expecting the (previously ever present) crippling back and joint pain to be immediate – and that I’d be drenched in sweat throughout. It wasn’t easy – but it also wasn’t the sweaty agony I expected – and as the days wore on the process slowly yielded pleasing results.

For one thing I could see my path and the fence again.

After many weeks of chopping branches up into little pieces, trundling back and forth with my wheelbarrow, filling refuse sacks and seemingly endless trips to my local tip I finally cleared it though.

My persistence had won the day but the fact remained though that my satisfaction from doing this wasn’t because I loved the process of gardening. I’d done it purely because I wanted to open my curtains and it had been bugging me for a very long time that I’d let everything slide so badly.

My approach going forward was therefore proactive and ongoing preventive maintenance. ‘Do a little a lot’ was mantra I adopted – and in doing so the garden soon became very much like washing or ironing because although I liked to see it look tidy – in truth it was just another chore around the house and very little more.

However this mindset wasn’t the whole story.

Whilst cutting the bushes back I’d been majorly upset that I’d accidentally disturbed a blackbird nest – and despite trying my best to cover it back up (link) ultimately the elements drove the little family out and their eggs were eaten (link).

I spent a lot of time watching this struggling little family and couldn’t help but fall in love with blackbirds – which (mostly because of their inquisitive behaviour) quickly became my favourite reason for having a garden.

They monitored my activities while I was working and bit by bit became bolder – following the cycles of my digging and mowing to get the choicest morsels for their dinner.

The more bugs and worms I unearthed the happier they were.

Then I started realising that if I made an effort to feed the birds in my garden and left places for them to nest (I stopped cutting back my bushes so brutally and left a thicker canopy) birds would come back and I’d always be able to listen to their pleasing twittering when I was in the kitchen.

Soon after I also started putting bird boxes and feeders in the garden which I regularly filled up with seed balls.

They’ve become quite popular…

The record that I’ve seen this week is five sparrows clinging to it – all chiselling away at the tasty treats – whilst blackbirds and pigeons hoover up the crumbs below.

Over time, and just like me, the garden has taken on a new lease of life.

It’s not just the birds though because I’ve realised that there’s another dynamic at play lately. I enjoy it a lot more with company.

Now the weather has improved when I cook for my partner we tend to sit outdoors and enjoy the birdsong and leafy ambiance together.

Whilst I was weeding my patio and path the other day I realised that I’m no longer making it look nice because I have to. My incentive to maintain it has now shifted and I’ve realised that I’m doing it not as a chore but because I want to share the space with someone else.

It gives me pleasure to know that they like it too.

A garden is a fascinating little eco system that supports any number of little creatures and tending to it (as well as continually being out and about in the wider world) keeps me feeling connected to it in a way that I never was in the past.

On Thursday (in between my various gardening exploits) I visited Coombe Abbey for the first time in a couple of months – and it didn’t fail to disappoint.

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Everything is in bloom – and this applies doubly to the wildfowl.

They’re doing very well indeed this season – and the swanlings (remember those?!) are clearly thriving because there’s plentiful food for them to eat.

There were seven in this particular brood. All seemed to be in rude health and were nibbling away at the wonderful green algae that was absolutely covering the pond they floating around in.

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Full tummies seem to mean more chilled birds – and neither the swanlings or the ducks at Coombe seemed to mind having their picture taken.

When you get closer to them the expectation is instead that you are very likely to have food – and as such a natural fear of human beings quickly evaporates and is replaced in almost all the birds by a willingness to eat seeds directly from your hand.

Coombe is hope to something else of interest though – and it wasn’t there when I last visited.

There’s now a ‘go ape’ facility there and the whole tree line in one area has been repurposed with all manner of climbing ropes, ladders and zip lines.

The prices are a little steep in my view (it’s going to be a wallet battering hour or two for a family of four) but I suppose if you want properly trained staff and good facilities then you have to pay for the privilege.

Whilst I was looking at the notice and saying I’d like to give it a go my friend pointed something out.

The weight I’d lost to get to target (if it was real live person) would have been too heavy to use the facilities! Furthermore if I’d been the same weight as I was when I started clearing my garden they wouldn’t even allow me to buy a ticket!

I plan to give it a go at some point though regardless of the cost because it looks like good fun. Plus over time I’ve realised that somewhere along the line I became ‘outdoorsy‘.

Anyway.

I must get on. I have a lot to do this weekend.

Once again I’m working towards making my partner’s move to Warwick a reality and there’s a whole load of things that need to get done before that can happen.

At least I know though that when she arrives the garden will look ticketty boo!

Davey

P.S.

These photos popped through the letterbox earlier, courtesy of the kind PR people at Slimming World. Friends think I know nothing about football – and that my lack of willingness to watch even world cup matches when they’re on means that I don’t have the first clue regarding the subject.

How wrong they are!!!

I for one will never forget meeting Gary Lineker – although admittedly I thought his ears would be bigger. It just goes to show – your heroes are never what you expect!

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I call summer

Finally!!! The sun is out!!!

It’s been hanging in the sky unashamedly for a couple of days now – and it’s presence is beginning to feel oddly normal.

I’m so taken with it’s reappearance that today I took the rather unexpected (but completely welcome) step of digging my shorts out of storage, pulling on a brightly coloured shirt and stepping out for my usual walk to the leisure centre.

I’m calling it.

It’s officially SUMMER and I feel great because there’s something undeniably wonderful about sunny days.

I now appreciate their warmth in a way that I couldn’t a few years ago – although it’s (thankfully) becoming more and more difficult to remember just how uncomfortable such weather used to make me.

On the left is me this morning and on the right the picture of me represents probably one of the most painful and embarrassing days I can remember at (almost) the peak of my weight.

In the left one I’m ready to go for a walk and swim – and on the right hand side I could barely move and although I might be smiling I was sweating buckets and feeling very self conscious.

It might seem surprising given how I’m dressed that I was at a wedding.

Not only could I not wear smart clothes due to my size but I could barely waddle down the country lane to the reception a mile away afterwards.

When I did so I had the further indignity of making that walk to my destination with a ridiculously fit member of our army’s special forces.

As if that wasn’t humiliating enough after we I got there I was in so much pain and so drenched in sweat that I had to sit in my car for half an hour with the air conditioning on until I stopped breathing so heavily and began to look even vaguely socially acceptable.

It was only then that I felt I could join the other guests at the reception without looking like I was about to drop dead.

Life has become so different now though that I’m no longer regularly registering what I’ve become as ‘unusual’.

It’s just who I am.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Although (mostly because of some personal worries) I’ve struggled a little over the last couple of weeks with my sleeping and eating I’m still exercising all the time and have still been focused on the promise that I made to myself that I would go swimming 15 times in March.

I’m almost there.

The distance (you may have noticed) has slightly lowered however – and that’s because I’m still persisting swimming the breast stroke properly – and that means my head is continually under water.

Frankly doing this tires me out a lot quicker though – and I’m pretty sure that this is because of the regular breathing pattern that doing this requires.

Initially trying to do this made me struggle to swim at all – and since I’d managed to become quite proficient with my head out of water initially it was a little demoralising.

I was suddenly stopping at either end for a regular breather – which I hadn’t had to do for a long time.

I thought I’d become a lot fitter than I actually seemed to be in reality and once again I’d constructed a mountain to climb.

The truth of it is though that your body adapts really quickly if you persist with any kind of change to activity levels.

The same thing seems to hold true if you push your capabilities in something you already do regularly.

Now I’ve been swimming this way persistently for almost two weeks my average length time has fallen back in line with where it was before.

Overall it’s improved quite a bit from when I started swimming in November.

On my first tentative attempt (when my arms felt like lead after 25 metres) my average length time back then was a cripplingly slow two minutes thirty three seconds.

Today it was 47 seconds – but on Wednesday it was 45!

How cool is that?!

I’ll be completely honest though and say that at times I’ve struggled to maintain my focus with regard to swimming.

The sheen has definitely worn off the ‘newness’ of this activity – and a lot of the excitement associated with it was related to becoming more confident in a swimming costume rather than getting fitter.

However I still very much enjoy it when I go.

The truth is however that unlike walking I’ve come to the conclusion that this is very much a ‘brute force’ activity in the same sense as I’ve found going to the gym in the past.

In contrast I still walk pretty much everywhere – and have convinced myself that this is something that I have to do.

It isn’t hard.

Petrol costs money – which is something I need to conserve – so this is pretty much a reality rather than a conveniently constructed fiction.

in contrast I don’t need to swim anywhere.

Instead this activity is all about keeping fit and feeling good – which is something I have to keep at the forefront of my mind when my alarm goes off at 7am.

If I don’t get up do it regularly then I don’t feel good – it’s as simple as that.

Plus – in the absence of a job (I’m still looking in earnest!) having this kind of structure is good because staying in bed doing nothing did no-one any good in the history of ever.

It doesn’t matter what I do – I never sleep in (at least when on my own) and make sure I always accomplish something worthwhile with every single day.

Sometimes it’s only mundane stuff (job hunting is a daily and often miserable grind) sometimes it’s physical, and at other times it’s just looking after my home.

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s constructive and leaves me with a positive feeling.

As I’ve previously mentioned I’m trying to get away from my life being all about weight loss – but I doubt that I’ll ever be able to fully step away from what I’ve accomplished into a ‘normal’ life that exists without any memory of it whatsoever.

Everywhere I look and everything I do is related in some way to the difficulties of the past and its next to impossible not to reflect on how good things are now vs how bad they got back then.

My garden is just such a reminder and if nothing else whenever I look at and work in it I’m provided with a great example of what staying in bed and doing nothing will ultimately result in – should I ever feel tempted to do so.

In June of 2017 this is how my back garden looked.

For a very long time I’d effectively become incapable of maintaining it myself – and the problem had become so huge in my mind (and in reality) that I simply didn’t know where to begin.

I’d even started throwing money at the problem and occasionally paying people to tend to it.

This eventually resulted in me being completely ripped off by a local shark and left me feeling extremely vulnerable.

I had mentally reached an impasse.

I didn’t trust anyone to be paid to do it for me and I couldn’t manage the task alone.

I closed my back curtains, tried to forget about it and just left the problem to get worse and worse.

In the end it took the helping hand of a friend to enable my first tentative steps.

I doubt I’d have started without him and I doubt I’d have had the confidence to continue unless he’d made me realise I’d lost enough weight not only to make the activity possible but amazingly to also turn it into something that could be enjoyable.

I still get a lot of pleasure from bringing order to this space – even though I don’t really use it in the way that I probably should.

I hardly spend any time out there – preferring instead to be out of my house doing other things.

Yesterday though I spent a good few hours tidying it up (great exercise in itself) and making sure that the lawn and borders were in shape for the next week or two.

My green recycling bin was comfortingly packed solid when I dragged it out to the front of my house afterwards.

Whilst I can’t ever envisage my back garden looking like it belongs in the Chelsea flower show, it’s a point of personal pride that I not only cleared it back then (mostly on my own after the initial helping hand) but that ever since I’ve managed to keep it neat and tidy.

I’m not too prissy about it mind you. At the end of the day it’s a garden, not a bowling green and I treat it as such. The pile of rotten wood I have to the right for instance is something I meant to use for a bug hotel – but it so far hasn’t happened.

It’s still on my ‘to do’ list.

If nothing else though these days I have a path to walk up and down that previously had been invisible for years – and a lawn that I can navigate without a machete.

So, summer is peeping its face through the clouds and I’m ready to greet it with open arms, short sleeves and bare legs!

It’s time to dig out the shorts Internet!!!

You know it makes sense!

Davey

Leaning into Grassman

It’s been a little while since I felt like writing a post and this has been for a variety of reasons. Firstly there have been a couple of days where frankly I have been struggling a bit under the weight of a rather downbeat mood.

There are a couple of reasons for me feeling a tiny bit blue – but neither of them are serious and both pale into insignificance in the great scheme of things. However, in my experience (when it comes to emotional states) how you feel has very little to do with reality and is often just temporary perception.

Mine would have me believe that (in certain respects) I’ve not been doing as well as I could or should have recently and that because of this I’m less than successful in life than I would like.

The weather hasn’t really helped my frame of mind – and when I’ve tried to do things to that will bring positivity and order to my life – such as make my environment a tidy one – it’s dragged me down even further.

Summer can’t come back soon enough in my opinion.

I’m already sick of the inclement weather we’re enduring lately. Davey doesn’t do cold weather any more. His bones ache in lower temperatures and his hands quickly get cold without gloves or central heating.

Lord knows I’ve tried to be outdoorsy. Truthfully though I’ve not been ‘feeling it’ for a week or so and the damp, windy world outside my window has been a tough sell.

Despite it’s inaugural haircut of 2019 my back garden remains rather miserable looking at the moment.

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I’m very much looking forward to the return of green leaves and that odd yellow ball in the sky that makes everything blossom and generally look a little more inviting.

I’ve discussed planting herbs this year with a friend – since he’s pointed out that I’d probably use these a lot in my frequent cooking – but this will require significant clearing and weeding of my borders to do so.

That’s something to work on in the near future – but on a day like the one above I only just managed to get the job done and take a picture before the heavens opened and the world filled once more filled with puddles and mud.

Since many days recently have been too grim to venture out very far at all I’ve also been tackling another task that I’ve been putting off for way too long.

Clutter.

We all carry so much needless crap from place to place throughout our lives in the name of sentimentality that sometimes we have to step back and ask ourselves why the items that adorn our walls, fill our cupboards and populate our shelves are there in the first place.

What purpose do they serve any more and do they bring any joy or happiness?

Many things we hold on to do not. They just sit there staring lazily back at us day after day after day after day with absolutely no identifiable purpose…

In my case one of my Achilles heels has been books.

From an early age I was taught to revere these and treat them with care because they contain wisdom, they’re important, and only troglodytes or Nazis dispose of them.

I’ve held on to legions of these since my degree years and I can’t remember opening a single one again since the time their related essays rolled off the press and into my tutor’s pigeon to be marked.

I finished my degree before the millennium…

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Whilst leafing through one rather yellowed and dusty tome related to Arthurian literature (Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain – a great bedtime read for those crippled by insomnia) I couldn’t help but notice a bookmark, dating back (roughly) to the last time I paid it any interest.

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UCI cinemas haven’t existed for around a decade and a half (they were slowly merged with Odeon cinemas in the early 2000’s). This Solihull outlet in particular was bulldozed to make way for a car dealership in 2005/6 (link).

The film it showed (Chain Reaction link) is so old that at the time Keanu Reeves was still best known for Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure and Morgan Freeman still had (some) dark hair.

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So I had to ask myself why I was holding onto a book (and many other similar ones) that I hadn’t opened for 27 years…

Well the truth is that I didn’t need to – so I cleared out every book that had no current value to me, taking them to a charity shop along with a number of other items secreted around my house.

Bit by bit I spent a few days getting rid of a past that I no longer inhabit and haven’t for a very long time. 

This only slightly lifted my mood however.

There are some things I can’t bring myself to dispose of – despite not using them very much any more so instead I tried to bring order to their chaos. Films and video games are something that these days take up way more space in my home than they currently account for in my very much more active life.

I decided therefore to pack away much of my old console game back catalogue and combine my DVD & Blu-Ray collection in alphabetical order.

This supremely satisfying task took many hours – but now every film I possess is not only easily available but in the correct order.

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Sigh.

An alphabetised shelving unit is a thing of beauty.

Not even this act of neat freakery sorted my head out though and shortly after scratching this particular itch I found myself binge eating cottage cheese, apples and plums.

My post diamond target weight in eating has been (ahem) problematic – and despite trying hard to be good with a number of very on plan meals I’ve over indulged a bit more over the last two weeks than I should have.

 

I will admit to a bit of excessive relaxation that now has to be addressed by once more losing a few pounds.

I do wish that I didn’t have a tendency to deal with mood dips like this.

The behaviours they invariably give rise to are not only non-productive but now I also have to face my partner after such episodes (of which there have been several) when I feel like I’ve let myself down a lot – and admit that I’m not coping the way I feel that I should have.

People may laugh when I write that I’m overeating cottage cheese and fruit – but I can report that I have conclusive proof that it’s supremely possible to gain weight with healthy food.

If you eat too much of anything you’ll fill out.

It’s a fact.

The only real bonus is it’s not crap food full of empty calories and in the great scheme of things it’s doing way less damage than pizza, kebabs or chips ever caused in the past.

As well as dealing with the usual self loathing related to over indulging I now also have to continually remind myself that my related (habitual and well practiced) behaviour patterns are of no help in a relationship whatsoever.

I am no longer just a single guy who can metaphorically stomp back to his man cave, retreat from the world and bury his head in a video game.

Neither do I want to if I’m honest – because it’s never really worked for me in the past.

This means that for the first time in twenty odd years I’ve been going through a low patch – but also trying to share my more vulnerable elements openly with the person that I care about.

It’s tough though when you’re not feeling in the least bit lovable – what you really want early on in a relationship is to show yourself at your absolute best.

It’s early days and you don’t want to come across as an emotional cripple.

I’m an open person for better or worse now though and regardless of it being inconvenient I made a commitment to myself three years ago to be honest about who I am and how I feel about myself with everyone – and that goes double for people that I care deeply about.

Radio silence does no-one any good and instead I’ve tried to broadcast on all frequencies whenever possible – accepting help and welcoming a different points of view.

In the past I’d have simply buried myself (alone) in a TV box set or a lengthy video game.

When I look for another way I’m often pulled into positive spaces – such as a Dodgy (link) concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, which is definitely outside my normal comfort zone.

Via my partner’s taste in music I’ve slowly begun to get into this band (some of their tracks I really love) and when she suggested we go together, rather than umming or arring about whether or not I’d like it I just said ‘yes.’

Saying ‘yes’ is way more powerful and positive than ‘no’ – which if you make it your default response (it used to be mine) means that your perspective never alters, and your mood or opinions never change.

In contrast ‘yes’ means opening yourself up to new experiences and potentially enjoying something that you normally wouldn’t have had a chance to.

Even if you don’t get pleasure from it (which I very much did) the act of doing something new alone can totally lift you out of your malaise and enable new thoughts and feelings.

In my case when I say ‘yes’ and headed off to London with my girlfriend I got to see a truly awesome group of musicians (and a couple of OK support acts – Terrorvision and Babybird) at the top of their game and experience the joy of dancing the night away alongside someone that I love to be with.

 

So as I type I’m in a much better head space.

My fellow traveller has managed to stop me turning tiny problems into a complete crisis, helped me reign in my excessive eating, enabled me to see things with a fresh perspective, and just reminded me that it’s OK to not be 100% all of the time.

It’s nice to be shown that someone wants to be there for you as much as you want to be there for them – and that you’re able to lean into their supportive arms when you don’t feel capable of standing tall on your own.

So – it’s all about perception.

A bad mood might not seem like it has any value when it hits, but it’s still an important emotion and arrives for a reason.

We can’t be 100% happy all the time, and there’s a value being vulnerable.

In doing so we can allow other people to show that they care, reminding us that we’re not alone in life, and that occasionally downbeat assessments of the world around us are simply a passing phase.

Honesty and truth are the only ways forward.

Internalising things did no-none any good in the history of ever – and my new life is continued proof of that. The more I welcome change and the more I share it the easier and more pleasurable it becomes.

Unexpectedly it’s led me from an existence where I was closed off and alone to singing the lyrics of Grassman aloud whilst swaying in time to an all encompassing wall of sound in my partner’s arms.

Lean into people internet.

They won’t let you down.

Davey

Canal kittens

I’ve been lucky with the weather this week – although this morning appears to be doing all it can to buck that trend. I’m layered up this morning (it’s about 8am) because the wind is cold and the pavements are wet. Thankfully despite some overnight showers it’s currently not raining.

Other days have been kinder and when the sun’s been shining I’ve been exploring around the Yarningdale aqueduct on the Stratford upon Avon canal.

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This section of near Claverdon is one of the nicer places that I’ve ‘found’ recently – although admittedly this stretch was never ‘lost’ – I’d just never been there.

Just a few miles outside Warwick is an easy entry point onto it next to the Crabmill pub on the Henley road. From here I made my way several miles down its towpath with a friend on Wednesday. Pleasingly neither of us had come across this location before – despite us both having driven past it more times than I care to count over the years.

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As in touch as I am with nature these days though I’m not sure that the same can be said for cats. I seem to have completely lost my knack with them – because despite my obvious rugged charm it appears that the kittens clustered around this particular barge wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.

I passed by them twice, first trying to tempt a little black and white kitten to come and get some fuss and then an absolutely gorgeous little grey one on my return journey.

They were totally disinterested.

A man could take the hump if his surroundings weren’t so nice.

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In all we strolled just under six miles along this really rather lovely and rural section of canal – and it made a lovely change from walking along the Grand Union – which I’ve pretty much done to death over the last few years.

Sure – it’s just another canal – but there’s something about the tranquility of their still waters that becomes quite addictive.

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My companion and I enjoyed our walk so much that we plan to go back again and do some more exploring ASAP.

The architecture of this stretch of the canal seems quite different to others. The locks seem thinner, and the bridges are nearly all designed to lift like a drawbridges.

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The ones that aren’t have lovely little sluices at the sides, which seem to do a great job of pushing colourful piles of leaves into the water in swirling patterns.

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It’s a really nice part of the world to explore.

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I’ve also managed to get out and about to what’s becoming something of a familiar stamping ground of late – and on Tuesday did a rather epic (maybe a little too epic on reflection) 12 mile walk from my house in a giant circle to Offchurch and back again.

The tone of the Grang Union canal here is more urban – but I think rather nice in it’s own way, as some of the usual urban decay associated with proximity to such waterways is slowly turning into urban regeneration. With that comes art, and an entirely different kind of kittens that are far more likely to let me stroke them!.

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I find it fascinating that what would once have been considered vandalism (thanks to Banksy and others like him) is now art to be admired and even commoditised in such places.

Furthermore – rather then being an indicator of trouble it’s often seen as an indication that an area is ‘bohemian’ and that there’s new life and potential to be found locally.

I couldn’t have hoped for better weather to see it in either. It was (mostly) glorious that day – and further along the walk my companion and I rounded a corner to find a sea of colour.

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All of the fields nearby were full of little purple thistle like flowers – but I’m really not sure what they’re for or what they are.

I’ve looked online and the closest thing I can find to it is a ‘creeping thistle’ – but I’m not entirely sure that it’s a complete match – so if anyone reading knows what it is or why it’s planted in such large quantities (there were three huge fields full of it!) then let me know because I’m quite curious!

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I’d have happily knocked on the farmer’s door to ask – but for the fact that a passing elderly couple (also enquiring what the blooms were – we were all stumped) said that the rather temperamental land owner had recently been shooting at dogs, and that he wasn’t to be trifled with.

I’m not sure how true it is – but I’m keeping to the footpaths and not wandering over to the farmhouse to jab his doorbell nevertheless. Besides – I have my own land to tend to without worrying about being shot on his.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been bringing some order to my garden before the winter hits.

Parts of it have been a little neglected – but not because I’ve felt lazy. I’ve been cutting back one (rather huge) bush in particular which I purposefully left to grow pretty much out of control for the whole summer.

The rest of the undergrowth was looked after – but this one chunk of my border remained sacrosanct.

Long term readers will remember how distraught I was in June last year when (whilst hacking this particular bit right back practically to stumps) I uncovered a blackbird nest complete with eggs (link).

I was absolutely mortified and immediately tried to cover it back up the best that I could. Initially this seemed to work and for a while the mommy blackbird returned to sit on them.

She did so come rain or shine with the newly exposed nest often rocking violently back and forth in the wind.

The damage was done by then however – and the branches I laid back over the top of it in the hope of giving it cover eventually fell further forward in the wind, making the nest inaccessible. The blackbird was forced out and within hours the eggs were broken open and the contents eaten.

Nature is cruel and at the time this really got to me. I felt totally responsible for the loss of these potential little lives.

This year therefore the bush was left to grow because I could regularly see all kinds of birds going in and out. Even though we’ve experienced a dry summer the hedge still got bigger and bigger and looked more and more unkempt as the months went on.

Despite what the neighbours might have thought though I consciously resolved to leave it alone and I’m glad I did.

When I finally finished cutting it all back on Wednesday afternoon I found this – which made my (rather messy) choice something that I was rather proud of.

A new, used – and now empty nest. Evidence that new life entered the world because I chose not to prune. This really made me happy. Who needs a tidy bush when it means dead birds?

Not me.

However there’s another issue associated with leaving it to grow – because then you have to dispose of it all.

Since I’m not a fan of using the car to take rubbish (or me) anywhere unless absolutely necessary I resolved that all of the branches would fit in the bin regardless of how much they didn’t want to.

All they needed was a bit of energetic chopping and some stamping.

It’s nice to be able to do such things – because even a year ago when I was cutting this back I was six stone heavier and wasn’t quite nimble enough to climb into a bin!

Oddly I felt great at the time (I climbed Snowden at this weight!) but even though I’d lost 14+ stone by then I’m still taken aback by how my features have changed.

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A long time friend remarked to me yesterday that he realised he didn’t remember ‘old Dave’ any more – and that when he looked at recent side by side comparisons on Instagram it suddenly struck him that his past memories of times we shared still have me in them – but I look like I do now – rather than the big guy he knew.

What a thing to say!

How cool is that?!

The idea that I’m continually re-wiring people’s memories of me by presenting a newer version of myself thats fitter and looks radically different is fascinating.

Long may it continue internet!

Davey

Not recognised

I’m not sure that I could have chosen a better week to have off work – and quite unexpectedly (given the weather over the last few months) the time that I’ve had to myself over the Bank Holiday and following week has been pretty much perfect from a weather perspective.

I’ve carried on tidying the garden (the flipping ivy is back!!!) and making sure it looks neat and tidy – and even though I have quite a bit more to do around the borders and bushes (I actually rather like the shade from the colourful overhang on the left and am leaving it alone until the blooms disappear) it’s all happily under control.

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There have been some lucky escapes in lawnland however – and thankfully I had the mower on a high enough setting to pass completely over this terrified little frog who hunkered down and escaped trimpocalypse by what must have been millimetres.

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You’ll all be glad to know (well almost all – I do have one quite vocal ranidaphobic reader) that this little fellow was just fine and after figuring out I didn’t plan to do him any harm he hopped off into the cover of a nearby bush where there were no mulching power tools to threaten his existence.

As well as tending to my own green spaces I’ve also out and about in the ones past the end of my front path – wandering up and down the canal, around the park and into Warwick, Leamington and Kenilworth day after day.

This has been both with and without company and I’ve either been enthusiastically twalking the day away instead or listening to chilled out music as I stroll through fields watching the seasons change around me.

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Everything is growing again. The meadows are full of beautiful little flowers and little baby creatures are starting to appear here and there.

The canal in particular is alive with baby ducklings hopping in and out of the water and then back to the safety of a protective wing.

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Butterflies are also all over the place and the sun has been so warm, and the breeze so gentle that it’s been possible to get in really close here and there just in time to take a quick snap.

Amazingly this close up shot was taken with my iPhone.

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This gorgeous little specimen just sat there accommodatingly posing for me before fluttering off to find the next snap happy walker.

I absolutely love this time of year because on a personal level it reminds me of when my life started to open up again. I began walking round the park for the first time two years ago in weather just like this and every time I see little babies tucked under their mothers wings I’m transported back to those times again.

It makes me feel wonderful on multiple levels mind you – and the new generation of birds is just part of it.

The hot weather used to be a real problem and when I started walking in May 2016 it was a very very sweaty experience.

In May 2017 I was still looking very much like I’d encountered a child with a water pistol during my walks unless I wore a teeshirt under my shirt (which I was always careful to do) but now I’m as comfortable as a man can be (I barely perspire at all these days) and today went out with a gilet just in case the sun went in.

These photos have almost exactly a year between each of them.

Clothing wise this year I’ve also been able to branch out into relatively new territory on the really hot days (wearing shorts in public still feels very alien to me – I didn’t used to wear them even as a child unless I was forced to at school) and after a few spots of luck charity shopping in the mid part of the week I feel that I’ve found some pretty nice (and seasonally appropriate) items to wear.

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I was dressed this way yesterday as I was strolling slowly around St Nicholas park with a friend (recently injured and slowly on the mend thankfully). As we passed the boat house by the bridge I spotted a lady (and her delightfully yappy Finish Laphund – it’s so cute and fluffy!) that I haven’t seen for a while and enthusiastically greeted her.

She immediately recoiled and clearly didn’t recognise me.

This has been a bit of a theme this week – and even those that know me really well have wandered past me without clocking who they’re right next to. It happened to me on Wednesday, Thursday and again today while I was waiting for a friend in Warwick.

Although it was kind of fun for a while I’m a bit over the whole ‘I didn’t recognise you’ thing now. People only seem to figure out who I am when I get up close and smile, which was what happened with this lady.

In her case though it had been much longer since I’d seen her last (around 8-9 months) and she seemed quite shell shocked.

‘I didn’t recognise you until you smiled!’ she said.

Her companion (someone who I’d also seen semi regularly in the park) also let out a gasp.

This is the weight loss man!‘ the lady reminded her. The then penny dropped for her companion too.

‘I saw you in the Warwick Observer a while back!’ She said to me.

‘Yep!’ I replied.

Sometimes people just need a moment to look me up and down. I find it’s better to just let them have a good gander and then they can ask the usual questions.

‘How much have you lost?’ She finally said.

‘Twenty stone and two point five pounds’ I replied.

Then the other thing started.

I’m used to the questions about how much I’ve lost or whether I have loose skin or the ‘do you feel different?’ line of enquiry – and for the most part have developed standard responses. However, when people start going down the route of ‘you don’t want to lose any more do you?’ and start telling me point blank NOT to lose any more I’m a bit flummoxed.

I don’t really know what to say if I’m honest.

People saying that I don’t need to lose any weight, stating that they’re worried that I’ll try to lose more – or even telling me not to carry on is still really alien to me.

However thats apparently now a ‘thing’. People have moved from queries about ‘how on earth?’ to cautionary statements that effectively boil down to ‘No more! Thats enough!’

They all mean well though and everyone I speak to is universally happy for me – which is a wonderful thing to encounter in often random and very unexpected places. After time I suppose the novelty will wear off, I’ll bump into most of people that I’ve known for a while, have this chat (or a variation of it) and it will eventually stop happening.

Maybe I’ll miss it – maybe not.

I’m not sure.

I have to admit to being in a bit of an odd place mentally with this whole process at the moment – because I’m now very much aware that having achieved what I always wanted I’m now left with ‘normality’ – and that is altogether a very different thing to deal with.

If I’m honest I often don’t know how I really feel about weight loss no longer being the sole focus of my life.

Things seemed really simple in many ways when it was the guiding force of every day – and I’d cultivated a rather healthy obsession with a very compelling subject. Self improvement as a hobby was continually tangible and easily quantifiable.

Every week seemed to bring something new to experience and presented some kind identifiable step forward in my sense of well being and health. Now – in contrast – I just feel continually great. There are still some things I would like to change about myself – but for the most part I’m insanely happy with who I am currently.

This is of course flipping awesome – and I am in no way complaining – but at times it’s hard not to feel a tad deflated at the end of what has been a really long road.

Annnnd there we have it.

The paradox of the human condition.

When we want something sooooooooo badly that it hurts we often aren’t exactly sure what to do with it when we’ve got it.

Thankfully there’s no rush to do, feel or decide anything about anything.

Life is good intenet. It can come to me as quickly or as slowly as it wants to because I know that I can deal with it – whatever shape it takes.

Davey

Loud shirts are back baby!

Sadly I still feel rough as hell but on a day like today I’d be a complete muppet to stay in bed and be ill.

It’s absolutely flipping gorgeous outside at the moment and I’ve been up early (armed with tissues) walking around in the sunshine and feeling generally pretty good about life.

It doesn’t take much convincing for me to wear a loud shirt – and today is no exception, because ever since I received a really generous gift for my birthday (given to me by a kind extended family member who posted it all the way from Indonesia) I’ve been dying for the right weather to break this bad boy out – and TODAY WAS THE DAY!!!

Let the summer commence!!!

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I’m meeting my brother and sister in law for a coffee and whilst I’ve been idling away the hour prior to our scheduled appointment I’ve been walking around the parks of Leamington – which are currently a riot of colour.

With flowers like this everywhere it’s next to impossible to not feel super positive about life.

It did help that the day started pretty well in socialmedialand too – and quite out of the blue I was tagged in a post relating to a photo I made a while back for a Slimming World award that didn’t exist – and had to be created.

The Club 50.

Just like most things on the internet it’s next to impossible to create something that no-one has thought of before and this is no exception.

If you head over to Instagram here (link) you’ll see what I mean.

They’re a bunch of people who’ve totally turned their lives around by doing this (and often quite a lot more too) – and it’s genuinely a wonderful feeling to unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of a bunch of positivity that strikes such a resonant chord.

People can do so much when they put their mind to it – and they can also be pretty generous and awesome at the same time too. For all the downsides to social media (Donald Trump I’m looking at you…) things like this just make me feel like part of a much bigger community of like minded people that otherwise would probably never get to hear of each other or ever connect.

Ain’t life cool?

(Goes for coffee, does a bit of shopping, comes home and finishes the gardening postponed from yesterday)

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After a really good nattery catch up (and some pretty flipping nice coffee at Corleone’s in Leamington) I decided that I’d go and see if I could find some bargains – and I did.

I got a superb pair of 36in waisted long leg shorts for a fiver (which replaced the cargo ones that were too big for me and had to be taken to charity a month ago) and a really cool pair of lightweight cotton pyjama/lounge trousers for the summer.

What’s more, by the time I’d walked home the grass at the front of my house was nice and dry so I spent a while completing its first haircut of the year.

Unbelievably when I stepped out to retrieve the mower from my shed the back lawn (trimmed yesterday) had some fully grown dandelions in the middle of it already!!!! How flipping fast do those things grow?! They’re the flower equivalent of bluebottles! It’s astounding how quickly they spring up (no pun intended)…

Anyway – the next order of the day is food. At the moment there’s a chicken & chorizo chilli stew bubbling away in my slow cooker – and frankly I’m Hank Marvin.

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I’m not gonna lie.

I’m gonna eat all of it  and since I put way too much chilli in it this morning I’m also probably going to regret it dearly. However I also have some nice cold natural yogurt and some frozen berries on standby for dessert, so there’s going to be a remedy close to hand.

Whilst I eat this I’m also going to be watching (through chilli tears) the new ‘Lost in Space’ series on Netflix (It’s pretty good so far!) and basically just loving every last minute of my Sunday afternoon – which I plan to make as chilled as it can possibly be internet!

Davey

Plumping up the pillows for birds

I had a lot planned for the day when I started writing this post – and it started really well despite some very disturbed sleep.

I got up, did my shopping as usual and then planned to do the year’s first mow of the front and back lawns. To be honest they both really needed it – and since the last time I looked out of the back curtains things had started growing flipping everywhere.

Now – to be honest I don’t have a need to have a perfectly manicured lawn or perfectly trimmed borders. All I want is a pleasant and well maintained space that’s easy to look after rather than a continuing eye sore that becomes an epic task.

The back took a little longer than expected – but thankfully it was a way better starting point than I began with after years of neglect (due to my weight problems) in the spring of 2017.

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This took literally weeks of hard graft to sort out and many many trips to the tip.

The major downside now though is that I’ve pretty much removed from my borders any potential hiding places for bird life – so the chances of another naturally occurring blackbird nest are pretty slim.

Honestly though the garden is still full of little visitors (including frogs – which narrowly avoided the mower today – yay!) so there must be something I can do…

(Still ruminating on this the author visits Slimming World)

It was quite a busy meeting today – and one of the long standing members finally reached her target weight so there were smiles all around. She seemed a little emotional but also really happy too which was lovely to see.

All the time she’s been losing weight she’s had two jars with 50 marbles – each of which represented a pound that she either needed to lose or had already lost. Every time she lost another one she moved a bauble across to the other receptacle.

Today she went home and moved the last two marbles into the nearly full jar and put her target member certificate next to it.

It just proves that whatever plan you’re on (whether it’s Slimming World or otherwise) the power of coming to a group is apparent. In this lady’s case she was also losing weight with her partner – so they had both spurred each other on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We’re better in groups – and a little friendly rivalry between two people never hurts either.

Visualising things is really good too – and it reminded me of the tricks I used to use in my own journey to spur myself on.

She may be interested to know that she’s almost lost an entire bag of cement!

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Either way it was wonderful to see her so happy!

For my part I wanted to be on the lower end of my target this week because next week (once again) I won’t be weighing in.

I have a special friend coming to visit me next week and we plan to be intrepid and super outdoorsy – so the next time I step on the scales will be two weeks from now and I’m going to have to be super good in the meantime.

Thankfully I’ve been on point this week – and I had a nice loss. This took me to my lowest recorded Slimming World weight!

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The plan after this was to mow the front lawn and then head off into town to do interesting things – but then it started raining – and on top of that honestly today I feel like poop.

For the second week in a row (last week I had what I think was a stomach bug and took two days off work) I’ve felt really sub par. I’ve currently got a head full of snot and it’s the main reason that last night I didn’t get the rest I needed – so today I resolved to use the car (grrrrr) to go and get what I wanted.

This (surprisingly) didn’t involve a charity shop.

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Since I don’d have a space in the bushes any more for the birds I thought that I’d try and promote a bit of wildlife with a bird box, roosting pouch and a feeder. Hopefully they’ll attract some visitors in the coming weeks, and maybe even get used!!!

If the birds have any taste they will. I think that my ‘beach house bird box’ looks the schnizzle! Only time will tell internet!

Anyway. I’m going to go away and die quietly, drowning in my own snot. It’s been nice knowing you all.

Goodbye cruel world!

Davey

2017 retrospective (part two)

(Part one here)

July

The seventh month of the year is a big one and starts with me in unfamiliar territory.

My teens.

I haven’t managed to time travel to the 80’s – instead I’ve just about managed to creep into the 19st bracket, and I’m fighting to stay there.

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My efforts to power through small slump this are self evident though – and I decide that it’s time to really see how far I can go. One morning (for no reason other than to see if I can) I decide to get up and walk from Warwick to Solihull (link).

It’s fifteen miles and I’ve never tried to go this far in one day before.

Although it was essentially just an exercise in determination and distance this was and still is a very important achievement for me – because it truly meant that there was practically no-where any more locally than I could drive to and get stranded in (a big fear in my mind that was always with me) because of weight related mobility issues.

If my car ever broke down in Solihull and I needed to I could now walk home.

Transitioning mentally from a man that originally couldn’t walk to the end of his street to one that could walk to Solihull was both profound and emotional. Even more upsetting though, during the journey my Apple Watch was pronounced sick and in need of repair.

I leave my fallen comrade with Apple and I’m without it for over a week.

At home I’m still working on the garden and have finally managed to turn it into a welcoming (rather than impassable) space.

My ongoing dissatisfaction with items in my house also results in the death (by hacksaw) of an old armchair and the purchase of an Ikea Poang chair – which is a step in the right direction – but also something I’m too scared to sit on in case I break it (link).

As I continue to prepare for Snowdon I look for more challenges – and revisit Burton Dassett via a longer walk from Avon Dassett (link). I’ve also got Apple Watch back, and although the gap without it has left a big hole in my stats I couldn’t be happier.

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An important milestone arrives when I suddenly realise that I can now get into charity shop clothing – and I buy my very first wearable item from one (link) a Penguin jacket (which I was reliably informed was rather trendy).

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I take this item of clothing (and quite a few others) to Snowdonia where on Saturday July 22nd at around 19.5 stone I climb Mount Snowdon with a friend (link).

It’s one of the proudest moments of my life – and is both very emotional and extremely symbolic. I’ve come a long way – and it’s a superb reminder of how much can be achieved!

Mostly because of this strenuous activity Supercoat (which is now way too big for me) is given to my father (link).

I’m also suddenly in 40in waisted Jacamo jeans (link) and shortly after getting my 15.5 stone certificate I also climb Thorpe Cloud (link).

August

The start of the month is excellent (link) and my HbA1c level has now dropped further to 28. My diabetic nurse tells me that if I was re-tested at that point I would no longer be diagnosed as type 2.

My diabetes appears to be in full remission.

I’m once again preparing myself for a potential return to work by buying interview clothes. The physical changes since the last time I went about this around six months before are readily apparent (link).

On August 14th I start another job (link) in the hope that this time I’ve made the right choice. It’s different mainly because I can walk to it – so therefore I can build exercise into my every day routine without feeling like it’s unnaturally forced.

Initially my feelings about the job are really positive and I’m happy. I take the long route to work whenever possible and I’m loving how fit I feel.

I’ve come a long way in terms of body confidence too and have started posting comparison shots like this on Instagram to spur me on.

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It’s working – because by mid August I have my sixteen stone certificate and my the end of the month realise that I’ve walked (since April 2016) the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York(link)!

September

The weather in September is great and although I’m working again I take advantage of it as much as I can in the evenings and weekends. I’m wandering over hill and dale with my camera and trying to capture as many pretty things as I can.

Quite out of the blue an unexpected watershed moment arrives on the way home from work and (as has happened many times in the past due to my weight) I get abused by a bunch of teenagers whilst walking through the park.

However – instead of calling me a fat c**t as I pass by (a previously preferred moniker such people had for me) they instead all shout ‘BALDY!’ (link) in unison – both stunning me and leaving me with a lot to think about.

If they don’t see me as fat any more and the worst they can come up with is an insult about my hair line – do I now look ‘normal’?

I’m forced to admit that my self perception is now seriously at odds with reality – and to further underscore this I slowly approach a significant ‘Rubicon moment’ (link).

I’ve slowed down a little – but I still have my 17 stone certificate.

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However – not all is going well – and once again I realise that the job I’ve chosen isn’t for me. I decide to leave (link) and once again I don’t know what this says about me to my friends or what it means for the future.

Without warning again I feel like a complete failure.

Something does manage to cheer me up towards the end of the month however – and I attend something I booked with a few friends the year before. It’s an event I probably couldn’t have gone to easily when I said yes to it – but my hope was I’d lose enough weight to make it a reality – and I did.

I’ve always wanted to go to EGX gaming expo at the NEC but was never fit enough to stand for the time required or capable of comfortably walking the distances required around the NEC.

When I finally made it I really geeked out!

October

Largely because of a my own sense that I was losing my way a little with my diet October was dominated by #onplanoctober (link) which kept me on the straight and narrow.

I calorie counted every last morsel of food that passed my lips for the entire month.

If I’m honest this really tested the limits of my patience – but I’d promised that I’d do it – and by the end of the exercise it paid dividends because in the space of 5 weigh in’s I managed to lose 16.5lbs.

Mid way through the month I get my 17.5 stone certificate and I’m also handed a little cardboard bauble for a Christmas tree. I write something on it and then largely forget about it…

This also means that my Rubicon moment has finally arrived — and on the 7th of October I’ve finally lost more than I weigh. I make myself a Club 50 award. Over half of my original body weight has now gone.

img_4882In the first weeks of the month I start speaking publicly at Slimming World meetings (link) about my weight loss. In total I do nine of them in Warwickshie – and they’re all a humbling experience – but also very rewarding.

To see how far I’ve come in the pictures I pass around and hear the gasps in the room when I put on my old clothes is quite emotional.

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I also return twice to (the now colder) Malvern Hills  (link) and Ilmington Downs (link) for more attempts at both – and I’m struck in these locations by how much easier things are getting.

Although I still have weight to lose I’m pretty darned fit at this point – and I barely get out of breath on the ascents.

I finally get around to compiling a list of non-scale victories (link) which I read to my friend for the first time and both of us start crying. In response to this I realise how important the recognition of these accomplishments is and I make a regularly updated site page (link) and add something new each time it occurs.

By October 28th I’ve lost a staggering 28 inches from my waist (link) and my photographic diary of February 2017 to October is showing some serious progress.

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Furthermore I’m also able to fit into my very first LARGE items of clothing (link) and ever since I mention the word LARGE at every opportunity I get. This means that since getting into a LARGE I’ve said LARGE a LARGE number of times.

November

November kicks off with me getting an 18 stone certificate and a Mr Sleek award – which is a bit embarrassing – but also a really nice pat on the back!

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My public speaking has also been received positively, and because of it I’m offered some work at a local company in a temp role – which comes in very useful as it manages to stem the outward flow from my bank account and promises to make Christmas a little less daunting.

On the 6th of November I start my job and find that (being something I’ve never done before) it makes me feel quite alive. I also get to walk 3 miles there and three miles back every day which means that I can keep up my now regular average distance of 10 miles walked per day (link).

It’s getting colder though and it’s not only the floor thats frozen – my hands and feet are too.

I keep up the walking however – partially because I rather like my new place of employment. I like it enough in fact to apply for a permanent position at the company (link) for which I’m accepted.

It’s also another thinly veiled excuse to dress up for a job interview, which underscores just how much I’ve started to enjoy clothes shopping and looking smart.

It’s my new thing!

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November ends with another first and I meet a fellow blogger (link) who comes to visit for the very first time! I have a real live internet friend with a face and a body and everything!

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December

The final month of 2017 finds me in an unusually festive mood and after no small amount of agonising I decide to do something for the first time in my adult life.

I buy a Christmas tree (link) and I put my little October cardboard bauble amongst it’s branches. It’s hastily scrawled words are now a reality!

I’m also now officially into 36in trousers, meaning 30 inches have been lost from my waist’s starting point.

I get my 19 stone certificate (link) on December the 9th – which is quickly followed by another unusual event.

I go dancing (with Angie and my Slimming World group) for the first time since the 90’s – and I have a fantastic time. All in all I’m on the dancefloor for around two and a half hours (completely sober) and I’m so pumped and full of energy I virtually skip home afterwards!

December seems to content to keep supplying me with firsts as well – and on the 14th I’m featured in the local newspaper (link).

img_1078This is followed soon after by an offer to appear on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio (link) which is very exciting indeed (it’s due to happen this Friday 29th December at 10-10.15am) – but for some reason I’m more preoccupied with my washing machine – which is completely broken.

Priorities eh?

That pretty much brings us up to date. I had a fab Christmas – and after discovering earlier in the month that I suddenly love red (link) and wearing geek things I did pretty well for presents!

So – thats 2017 almost at a close!

I hope you enjoyed reading the second part of this retrospective as much as I did writing it internet! Join me again in a year (if you’re not already sick of me) and we’ll see what comes out of the next twelve months!

Thanks for sticking with me – it’s a genuine pleasure to write something that people like to read and comment on.

You guys and gals make it all worthwhile xxx

Davey

Productive Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

The next mow shouldn’t be needed until springtime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was a pretty energetic four miles too.

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

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

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

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

Everything is closed.

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

I was a bit miffed.

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

Sigh. I miss supercoat.

We had some good times together.

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

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

As I lifted my jumper I stopped.

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

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

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

Then the zip stopped dead.

It would go no further. 

….

….

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

Not today.

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

THE COAT ONLY FLIPPING FITTED ME!!!

So I bought it.

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

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

The day couldn’t end there however.

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

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

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Sigh.

Does life get any better than this?

I think not.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a great way to end the day.

Hugs to all.

Davey

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

In the teens!

Well my week’s experiment has concluded. After a somewhat disappointing 1/2 a pound loss last week I had been looking at what I’d been eating and also what I’d been doing for exercise.

Since the 22nd May I’ve been gardening in earnest – and because of the time involved there has been less walking in my life – but according to Apple Watch this wasn’t an issue. It was telling me I was doing the same (if not more) in the garden as I was out of the house walking from A to B.

However during the period where I’ve pulled the garden round from a complete jungle to a rather usable space I’ve lost roughly half the weight that I have on average in prior weeks. Of course – there’s no rush and I’m not saying a two pound average is a bad thing – but it is a little irritating to feel that you’ve put in the same effort that you used to and for no apparent reason only get back half of the reward you expected.

This week I’ve knocked the gardening on the head (apart from a bit of mowing and weeding) and instead walked around 63 miles. What’s more (unlike the phantom ones reported in the garden from my watch’s pedometer) they’ve been genuine miles counted with GPS and requiring plenty of heavy breathing and sweat.

By the way – when I say sweat I mean LOTS OF SWEAT (it’s been a hot week!)

And this is the result.


I’ve only gone and smashed the target this week!!!

This actually makes me a bit emotional to be honest as I’m finally under the 20 stone barrier. I have to say this again quietly and slowly to myself because I still don’t really believe it.

I am now nineteen stone and twelve pounds.

I’m in the teens!!!

The last time I was anywhere near this weight (I don’t have the specific date sadly) Blur were fighting Oasis for the top spot in the charts, Charles and Diana were newly divorced and Nelson Mandella had become the president of South Africa!

You might imagine that this makes me feel rather sentimental – and that there’s a sense within me that I’m recapturing some sort of youthful spirit – but nothing is further from the truth.

When I look back there are few happy memories.

I was an idiot back then.

Mostly I was covering up one kind of pain or another or running from the wrong partner to the wrong partner again and and again just to prove I was normal and not some emotionally damaged fat kid with an abusive home life.

I had no idea about the enormity of the mistakes I was making and what I was doing to myself physically and emotionally. I papered over almost every crack in my life with cigarettes, alcohol, food – and other things too numerous to detail.

Although there was no digital photography back then I can see this in almost all of the photos that remain. I see someone persistently running away from truly feeling things, being the ‘life and soul of the party’ and burying problem after problem under layer after layer of fat – and ultimately retreating to near isolation.

I don’t miss the mid 90s.

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With this in mind the fact I now also have a fourteen and a half stone certificate barely seems to register in comparison – but I have to admit when I stop and say it to myself slowly and look at my progress from 34st 8.5lbs that’s pretty nice too!

So – what does the week ahead hold for me? Relaxation? Partying? Treating myself? Absolutely none of the above. I’m going to have a go at being a (bit of a) vegetarian this week.

Ok – well – maybe not a complete vegetarian – but I bought lots of Quorn!!!

Ok Ok Ok – maybe I’ll have half meat and half Quorn?!

Oooorrrr possibly some veggie days and maybe the rest as meat days?…

Either way internet –  it’s hopefully going to be another week of walking and healthy eating – so watch this space! The next stop on my route is my (mildly unbelievable) fifteen stone certificate!!!

Davey

Allotment ivy

Although I have come to hate it with a passion there’s absolutely no denying that ivy is great for relieving stress. Not content with working on my own garden I agreed to help a friend out on his allotment today – and it’s nice to finally be physically able to return some of the help he and others have given me over the years when I’ve been incapable.

When taking on his allotment he inherited a plot where successive owners seem to have ignored a continuing problem with this weed of a plant and instead covered it with layer upon layer of black plastic and nylon sacking.

Someone did the same on my garden’s borders and so far I’ve not pulled this horrible (and rotten) stuff up to see the full horror of what lies beneath. If today is anything to go by it won’t be pretty…

In response to its treatment on the allotment the ivy went underground, growing even stronger and even more sinewy. It continued (now hidden from view) to migrate further along the ground, working its way through the black sacking and then under and through everything else.

The stuff is like a virus.

Although we had already cleared a small spot in this picture there was clearly a LOT of work to do along the fence line – which was where it was all coming from.

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I have to say I’m rather jealous of the ease that things can be disposed of on this particular allotment plot. In my case ripping all this down would then result in lots of chopping and stuffing a recycle bin or bags for the tip.

Before starting at the allotment I took another 6 of my own sacks to my local one this morning – bringing the total number of them (stuffed full of garden waste) I’ve now shifted to a rather mind boggling 75 sacks

Each of these theoretically contains 95 litres – so if I had around 75 in each then that means 5625 litres of rubbish has so far been pruned or pulled out of my garden (and thats not counting the huge green bins)

Also – to fit the bush branches I’ve lopped into these has taken a LOT of pruning. The pile I created from the remaining section where the blackbird was nesting took somewhere in the region of 15 (approx) bags. I also started counting last night (during this seemingly endless and mundane task) how many cuts I have to make to the average (rather large) branch in order to fit it into my wheelbarrow before I start putting it into bags.

I lost count after 100… It’s a LOT.

Basically it takes tons of chopping. For the last two days alone I’ve done nothing for around 3.5 hours but a continuous chopping motion. However – without a chipper I don’t see any alternative. It all has to be moved somehow.

On the bright side it’s been absolutely stunning for exercise. So much so that today we were happily pruning away for a 3-4 hours before I excused myself to go and get some lunch at around 2pm.

It’s always nice doing things together though. As my friend said today you get more than twice as much done with two of you working in tandem. It’s the ability to share the load, have a natter and a laugh in the process that makes the difference – and boy did we clear the end of his plot.

 As always this kind of wholesale removal of ivy uncovers lots of creepy crawlies – and a young robin was following us around all day. It was quietly watching what we were doing and then hopping in when food was available.

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This little fellow was such a feature of the day, and so comfortable with our company that at times it seemed like he was posing for photos – and as you might imagine I’m not really one to complain!

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When we’d had enough we sat back (me in my newly purchased £4 folding camping chair from the recycle centre that would never have fit my ass six months ago) and looked at our handiwork.

Although there was still a lot t do it looked much better than when we’d started!

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At this point I took a selfie – not realising that half a tree full of bits appears to be stuck to my head – but hey ho!

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I can’t help noticing that I look a little tanned at the moment – and I’m just loving how capable I feel. It was a big thing for me a year ago to feel like I could walk anywhere and move through the world unaided.

I feel like I’ve cracked that now.

However what I hadn’t really thought too much about until fairly recently was what I could do from a hard work perspective in the world.

I don’t mean drilling holes in the road or working on building sites (although you never know) – I mean that I always thought that I hated this kind of thing. I’ve said over and over that I didn’t like gardening and I didn’t like DIY.

What I really meant though was that I didn’t like the way they made me feel both physically and emotionally.

Nowadays they seem to be having absolutely the opposite effect – and I’m genuinely enjoying the hard work that they represent. Sitting back on that chair looking at the blank fence panels felt awesome. Helping my friend felt awesome. The coffee tasted sweeter, the air smelled fresher – and it made me happy to be there.

Later in the evening another friend happened to send me a picture taken in 2012 of me holding her then newborn baby.

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It reminded me that when I held her son in my arms I couldn’t sit properly on her very large leather sofa.

I couldn’t rest him on my lap because  at the time I didn’t have one.

I couldn’t turn around to put him down.

I couldn’t lean forward with him.

I couldn’t stand up from the sofa and hold him while I did so.

I couldn’t do anything but have the baby handed to me and then after a while hand him back.

Things are very different now internet – and if ivy continues to make new Davey possible then I accept it’s challenge. I’ll pull it and dig at it and tear at it for as long as it takes. This is not only so that I can continue to feel the way I do now – but eventually so that when I hit my target I’ll look back on this moment with a wry smile and think about what I did to get there and what I learned about myself along the way.

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.

 

Windy day

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

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

I’m left instead with another quite bizarre malady.

Epic farting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weather has been almost perfect for this today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Swedishly frugal

It”s 9.50am on Saturday and I’m listening to Classic FM. I have my feet up on my POÄNG footstool and I’m in my POÄNG armchair, feeling very Swedish. I’m also feeling very frugal as – thanks to some patient bargain hunting – I managed to get both 2nd hand for a total of £14.

This compares very favourably to buying them new – which for the particular combination I purchased would have been £135 (although the covers do need a run through the washing machine).

However – to an extent this purchase is partially aspirational, because although the chair is rated to support a weight of 170kg (about 26st 10lbs) I’m convinced I’m going to break it, so I’ve propped the back of it up against the wall. It’s going to be a while before I have the balls to put the armchair in the middle of a room and sit there bouncing up and down like everyone else does…

The problem that I still think that my bulk will break most things I sit in – because it always used to. I’ve broken so many pieces of furniture over the years (and car seats) that I gave up counting how many had turned to splinters and sheared metal.

It’s a really difficult mindset to get out of at the best of times.

Last February I was attending some group therapy sessions – and the room was filled with these same POÄNG chairs in a big circle. At the time I was around 35 stone (222kg). I remember myself and another large lady having to ask for office chairs so that we could sit amongst the other attendees.

Unfortunately this made us about 2ft higher up than everyone else. On top of the rather stressful reason for being there (I was looking for support whilst giving up drinking) it was just one more thing to feel self conscious about.

I had a similar issue when I started Slimming World a few months later (link) and walked into a room full of little red chairs intended for an infant school. At the time I was convinced they’d collapse. Now I’m just used to them – but that took quite a while.

At this precise moment though putting my weight on a chair is a secondary consideration and I’m thinking more about stepping on scales – which I’m really not in the mood for. Still – sitting here worrying about the damage I did on Saturday (link) won’t solve anything. I need to get going!

(Makes way to Slimming World)

Well I’m still making steady downward progress – and I’ve lost another pound and a half. The Slimming World site’s progress chart shows that I’m levelling off a little – but still heading in the right direction.

I’m actually rather happy with the current pace. On average I’m losing about 2lb a week and that suits me perfectly. That’s 104lbs a year and would see me reach a weight of 15 stone in 37 weeks.

I may lose it faster, I may lose it slower – but it’s nice to know that at this continued pace I can get to where I want to be by approximately Feb 24th 2018. I think this mindset is much better than sudden dramatic losses followed by a slow week where I never really know what went wrong. That’s an emotional rollercoaster that I want to get off and never get back on again.

Besides – I’ve come to the conclusion that rushing is pointless. I plan to continue going to Slimming World every week once I reach my target anyway. It really doesn’t matter to me in the long term if its a pound a week as long as it’s coming off.

Everything in the right direction is better than standing still or putting weight on!!!

(Author leaves Slimming World for his next appointment.)

After group I headed over to see my friend and have a mooch around his allotment.

Previously I’ll be honest and say I could never really get my head around why people had allotments – especially if they had gardens – but there’s something supremely relaxing about going to one and just soaking up the calm.

You’re surrounded on all sides by things that are growing – and the whole area is both quirky and old – yet full of life and promise at the same time.

 

The variety of the plots and things that people are planting is fascinating. Everywhere you look there are different little shoots starting to flower and bud – birds hopping in and out to forage for food, and the odd crazy looking scarecrow and other strange methods deployed for deterring slugs or mice.

The other wonderful thing about this particular allotment is that there are quite a few little redbrick buildings on the plots. These apparently have preservation orders on them and can be used as sheds, but not modified in any way. They all have pretty unique characters, and I’m told that people used to live in them when they were first built so that they could guard the food on their plots.

 

They all added a lovely visual calm to the place that perfectly complimented the peace and quiet of the plots – most of which were like self contained kingdoms with large hedges and mature platings and sheds.

After the tour we stopped off at my friend’s allotment. Until today I’d never tried Chard – which he’s mentioned he’s been growing a few times. Having tried it I’m still not quite sure what I think of it. He refers to it as ‘peppery’ – but honestly I can’t quite classify it. It’s not sweet and not bitter – but on the cusp of both…

Chard is the red and yellow stalked leaves in the picture – which apparently grow voraciously and can regularly feed a family if pruned and managed well. It’s supposed to be highly nutritious. Its certainly beautiful and crunchy too!

 

My friend was keen to give me some things to try – and I walked away with some topped garlic (these taste like super hot garlic spring onions), a lettuce (it’s so fresh and greeeeeen!) a few leaves of red, orange and white chard, and a good handful of strawberries.

All Boris wanted to eat was grass.

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Despite my continued patient questioning over many many months Boris is still unable to answer the philosophical conundrum I keep posing for him. He just looks at me – and seems unwilling to voice any potential conclusions that he’s silently reached.

Until he comes up with a response I guess I will never know who is a good boy then…

I live in hope that one day he’ll share his stoic wisdom.

(author leaves with his veggie bounty and heads off for his next appointment)

Well – it’s now late evening. Much later than I usually post, so apologies to those who’ve already enquired how the weight loss went this week!

I’ve just been to see ‘The Mummy’.

Honest one word review time.

‘Mmmmmmsookay.’

I don’t think it’s absolutely the best film I’ve seen recently – but also far from the worst. Tom Cruise is as always watchable, running away from lots of things just before they blow up, doing ridiculous stunts and making everyone wonder if somewhere, locked away in an attic there’s a rotting picture of him getting older day by day.

Does the guy never age?

I’ll say one thing for him – whether he’s a scientology nut or just an average Joe he looks after himself. They mummy however? She’s really let herself go. That’s one lady SERIOUSLY in need of a manicure…

Anyway – I now have some Chard and strawberries to eat while I make a salmon stir fry.

I popped into Tesco as I walked home from the cinema and blundered into a (quite literally – there was pushing) feeding frenzy at the reduced food counter. I picked up 6 punnets of raspberries, and loads of stir fry veg trays for 8p each!

Tonight internet I’m going to dine like a (healthy) king for next to nothing whilst sitting on my cheap Ikea chair feeling Swedishly frugal.

Davey

And then there were none…

Today has been my longest day gardening yet – and even if I do say so myself I’ve done a LOT. I started at 8am and finished just after 3 when I finally stopped for lunch. The weather has been changeable – but (despite dire weather predictions) it’s been a pretty nice day to put in some hard graft. The sun has been appearing on and off all day with only a little bit of rain to spoil things occasionally.

When I started doing this three weeks ago everything was aching all the time and I really felt the burn in the evenings – however now the work involved is becoming pretty routine. My arms and shoulders are definitely getting used to sustained gardening (seven flipping hours of it no less!) which they’ve never really had to before.

Visually however this had been a less than spectacular day and the garden doesn’t look massively different from yesterday when I stand back to see where I am. Most of the hard work has been chopping up what I’ve already cut away (this took a gruelling four hours) or removing buried rubbish and ivy.

About two years ago in high wind the ancient fence collapsed by my shed (it was also helped by the neighbour who decided to push it over and put a new one in its place without asking) and since I wasn’t really mobile enough to clear it up I just left the remnants next to the new fence to go rotten.

Although it wasn’t really how I planned it this has made its removal a lot easier for the most part – as it pretty much falls to bits when you push it into bags. Although the area by the fence is not completely finished I think I’ve made a good start.

With the branches from yesterday and the bits of rotten wood and ivy that were knotted together I’ve not only managed to pack solid to the brim my green recycling bin (which was emptied this morning and immediately re-filled for the third time) but taken another 6 bags to the tip, bringing the total to 62.

However – regardless of what I’ve been doing – throughout I’ve only had one thing on my mind.

The blackbird nest.

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It was abandoned when I came out this morning. Overnight high wind had pushed the branch that I’d laid over it as cover last week onto it’s side. It looked like it had forced the female blackbird away from her eggs and she was no-where to be seen.

I hurriedly removed the obstruction and checked the eggs.

They seemed intact.

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I started work by the shed – wanting to stay as far away as I could.

I was initially worried that maybe a predator had killed the female bird overnight. It had been awful weather. Had the exposure affected her? If she was on the ground had a cat or fox got her? I stopped what I was doing and looked around under the bush where the nest was.

There was no sign of a struggle. There were no feathers on the lawn.

And then almost an hour later I heard her usual song. She was on the roof, taking a bath in the guttering!

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However she seemed to have absolutely no interest in returning to the nest and when she’d finished her ablutions was instead spending her time preening herself and sitting in the sunshine nearby.

The male blackbird stopped by their nest in the meantime, had a quick look in and immediately flew off again. From that point onwards he was absent for the rest of the day.

I tried not to think about it. Maybe she would return to the nest…

I Googled how long eggs can be left after an incubation period has started. Not long it seems. If she didn’t come back soon there would be little hope.

In the meantime there were lots of other spirited residents in the garden to take my mind off the matter. I noticed that going in and out of my roof is another little family of house sparrows.

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These little guys are amazingly quick and nimble when they fly about and I’m glad they seem to like where they live as I read that they’ve declined in the UK by 70% (almost as fast it seems as a Conservative majority in parliament) since I was a child. Back then they seemed to be everywhere.

The one in the picture below with the black bib is the male – and his mate is a light brown colour. She’s been close by to him all day – and paying close attention to what he’s doing as he collects materials for what seems to be a nest in the eaves of my roof.

He’s been particularly interested in stripping the dead ivy on my back wall, and pulled several little straw strips off before retreating to his home.

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Between the two little sparrows the garden felt like it was a hive of activity. They were continually fluttering around and performing tight turns and fidgety changes of direction in mid air.

When they weren’t doing that they were singing and taking dust baths.

My movement of rubbish has also produced a number of frog sightings today – and there was quite a variety to see. Today there were three distinctly different sizes and colours. My particular favourite is the little yellow one climbing the wall. Shortly after the photo he nearly hopped over my head to make his getaway.

Admittedly I’m not sure what variety these are (I could just look them up I guess) but I think they’re all really pretty – although I know one of my close friends in particular doesn’t share my opinion.

For that reason alone I apologise for the following gratuitously close up frog shots.

After taking these photos I headed off to the tip to drop off the refuse I’d created before the tip closed for the day. When I came back I immediately looked at the nest again.

Disaster

The eggs were now punctured. From the outside.

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There were no signs of life.

So – it looks like on this occasion my intervention and maybe bad weather too have put paid to this little clutch of potential blackbirds. It seems that they were never meant to be.

This genuinely made me sad – but I guess like the swanlings who disappear so quickly this is just life. Nature is cruel – and the blackbird (who was still sitting in the sun nearby) was just getting on with things.

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She seemed healthy and I can only hope that her mate is off somewhere constructing a new nest for her to populate.

Fingers crossed internet.

Maybe – just maybe – there will be little baby sparrows instead…

Davey

And then there were two…

It’s been a really mixed bag of moods this week – and having spoken to a few of my friends I don’t think I’m alone in this. As I mentioned previously my Saturday was all about eating everything I could lay my hands on. Today I’ve felt rather similar if I’m honest – and my attempts to avoid food have propelled me once again toward the garden, in the hope that if I do a bit more every day it will eventually look like a paradise on earth.

In reality I suspect it will just look a lot less scruffy – as I don’t have the money to put down any new turf or anything – but I may sew some grass seed once I’ve finished raking all the ivy out of the lawn which is flipping everywhere!

My success diverting thoughts about food have been mixed today. Every time I managed to get into the swing of things it started raining heavily and I had to give up and retreat inside – closer than I really wanted to be to the fridge, which was occasionally raided when I wasn’t really hungry.

This has been partially because when I’ve retreated indoors I’ve also been abstractly browsing for local jobs – and coming up largely blank.

I applied for one that I really wanted a few weeks ago – but the (frankly infuriating) online application process randomly deleted both the job and my application a week or so ago without explanation. Much to my surprise the job was re-advertised today – but when I went to apply a second time the site told me I had already done so and showed me my previous application, which somehow is once more alive and well (despite being ignored for almost four weeks.)

So when I’ve been filling sacks with refuse it’s at times been through gritted teeth. On the plus side though I’ve now upped the total to 56 bags taken to the tip and have several more ready to go. My arms and back are suffering this evening though. The chopping seems endless at times.

When at the tip today I was watching a guy with a small trailer and a Land Rover offloading loads of the massive branches that I’ve been spending hour upon hour chopping into twiglets and packing into sacks.

Although part of me (particularly from an exercise point of view) is enjoying the hard work it’s become pretty boring now – and I honestly never ever want to cut another branch into little bits ever again.

At least until tomorrow when I’ll definitely have to go out and do it again.

It would be nice if there was a little more variety to the task at hand – but at the moment it’s just what needs to be done and I don’t aim to give up. This (almost) daily push means that it’s looking better and better though and is now a far cry from when I started.

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Eagle eyed viewers will note the large pile of pruned bushes that I’ve dragged over to the right however. There’s still a lot of clipping to be done in that mound – and also to the left with regard the tops of all the border branches still remaining. I envisage them eventually being a more manageable 5ft or so in height and growing out into the garden no more than around 1-2ft or so.

Out of shot to my left is the bush with the blackbird – which I can’t touch until they’ve finished nesting, but eventually it too will need to go.

For the time being though the female blackbird is still there, sitting, watching and waiting – and lets me get quite close now. Although she always seems poised to make a fast getaway there’s never an indication that she’s scared of me – and thats just the way I want to keep it. I’m respectful and quiet while I’m out there and try not to invade her space.

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On the subject of my tweety residents though there has been a sad development. When I first accidentally uncovered the nest I looked inside and there were four eggs.

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Today the bird left the nest for a little while, and as neither male or female were around I had a quick peek inside.

Something has stolen TWO of the eggs!

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Given that less than 50% of chicks (according to the research I’ve done) typically survive this means it will be a small miracle if there is a positive outcome from this state of affairs – however I live in hope.

I raked up the earth by their bush before I went in today just to make sure that there was something to eat close to the surface. I hope that they found something for lunch because they deserve a break. Things would probably be very different if I’d not chopped away their cover.

Anyway – things are what they are.

This evening I’m cooking a large chunky soup in the hope that its size, warming effect and low calories will finally stop me wanting to eat my mattress (plus pillows and duvet) and allow me to relax a bit. I know that strictly speaking I’m supposed to be avoiding large portions, but today I honestly don’t feel resilient enough to be austere.

I just want to get the average mood of an average rainy day filled with average tasks and with average employment opportunities out of the way and wake up tomorrow with a sunnier frame of mind.

Of course I guess we all know internet that since tomorrow is a Friday instead I’ll most probably just be continually stressing all day long about whether or not I’ve lost any weight this week.

Sigh. I’d better go and stir my stew.

Davey

Nature is awesome!

For the most part I’m in awe of nature.

Apart from cat sh*t – which despite me not owning one seems to appear in pretty much the same place outside my shed with annoying regularity. Despite me knowing the likelihood is almost certainly nearby it never seems to stop me from stepping in it.

This does little to endear me to the little f****r that keeps on doing it. Still – there thankfully are other things to distract me. Once again I’ve been working on the garden – and the weather today has been perfect for it.

I took another 9 bags off to the refuse tip today, meaning I’ve now managed to get rid of 51 sacks of bush and ivy during my clear up. The garden isn’t sitting still and letting all of this happen however. It’s growing all around me and pleasing little things keep popping up to catch my eye as I work.

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I also had a spot of luck at the recycling centre while I was dropping off my clippings. I always pop into the charity shop to see if there’s anything useful – and found this sun lounger (practically brand new from what I can see, and barely used) for the princely sum of £6!

I honestly would have never contemplated buying or trying to sit in anything like this previously. Not only would I not have been able to get in and out of something thats barely six inches off the floor, but I would have absolutely destroyed it with my weight. However now, new lighter Davey may for the very first time be able to enjoy relaxing in a shady corner of the garden with a good book.

This is a pretty darn cool non-scale victory!!!

While I lay back in tester mode, gingerly listening to the fabric move and the frame quietly creak and settle (I was still convinced I’d turn it into a pile of bent metal and torn cloth and was pretty nervous) I noticed my avian neighbours moving about in the bush in front of me. Mr blackbird was back so I edged out of the lounger and manoeuvred myself to another spot for a look.

Earlier in the day mommy had still been on the nest, watching me carefully as usual.

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Now she was gone – and in her place daddy was keeping watch on the nest.

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I carried gardening – making sure not to spook him – and he sat watching me as I clipped and trimmed away.

I forgot about them after a few minutes as I was intent on removing as much of the ivy around the base of my tree as I could. It’s been consumed by it from the base up – and I’ve become a little worried that if I don’t stop it growing and peel off whats already there that it will kill the (rather large) tree and I’ll be left with a dangerous situation.

Previously the base was pretty overgrown.

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But now it looks a bit better.

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I thought (given all the ivy higher up) that this was suspiciously easy, so I peered around the back.

I really really wish I hadn’t.

There’s a hell of a lot more to do on the other side – and the vines and roots attached to the neighbour’s side of it are something that are going to require a lot of work. I’m also not sure I can do it from my side – so for the time being I decide to carry on with my bushes.

While I was doing this Mr Blackbird decided to come quite close and hunt around my clippings, so I moved away to let him forage for food, and filmed him while I sipped my coffee.

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What I watched next is something I’ve not seen close up before.

 

I REALLY urge you to watch the below one minute video. It shows how the female blackbird has been able to sit in one place for so long without moving and actually brought a little tear to my eye while I watched it happen.

Despite cat sh*t nature is totally awesome!

Anyway – I’m visiting a friend in hospital shortly so I need to rush off and have a shower before getting my baked potatoes out of the oven.

Laters internet!

Davey

 

Garden progress report

A reader asked me the other day how my garden was progressing – and the answer is ‘a little slower than before’.

The weather this week really hasn’t leant itself well to gardening and has stopped my unbroken run of being out there every day doing a little bit of something. However I still managed 9 in a row before taking a break. Today I’ve been out there pruning for a couple of hours, but the twin scourges of rain and backache have made me retreat indoors again for the time being.

Since I began working to return my back garden to a usable state I’ve taken 42 bags of finely chopped clippings to the tip (along with PACKING my huge green recycling bin twice) and after today have another 7 bags ready to go by the back door.

Doing it all manually has honestly become something of a grind though.

I’m still enjoying the process of tidying everything up – but there’s little fun to be had in chopping big sticks into smaller sticks over and over again to fit them into refuse sacks.

Cutting a branch off is the easy bit – preparing it for transportation is a complete ball-ache. It’s all coming on though, and I have a sense of satisfaction when I see yet another sack join its comrades for the short journey to oblivion.

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On the plus side I haven’t needed my dumbbells at all since I started. Everything is firming up nicely in the arm department and I’m no longer suffering with any aches and pains related to what I’m doing (other than my back).

For those with terminally short memories this is what it looked like before.

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And this is what it currently looks like today.

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The reason that there’s a huge clump on the left is that’s where the bird’s nest is sitting. It looks irritatingly messy I know – but there are worse things in life so I’m just working my way up towards the shed instead of the house.

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There’s also a part of me that thinks I kind of deserve to chop it all up by hand after letting it get so far out of control in the first place. Maybe if I do this I’ll remember more acutely the huge hassle it’s left me with and do a little bit here and there in the garden more regularly.

Another (lazier) part of my personality wants to go ‘all industrial’ on the foliage and just buy a chainsaw plus a shredder to get rid of it. However with the nearby blackbird nest already teetering on oblivion I daren’t use any power tools. The poor little girl is clinging onto her eggs with barely any cover now despite the wind and rain – and if I drive her away with electricity and noise I’ll never forgive myself.

My new camera does a much better job of showing how she’s being bounced around in the wind – which really worries me. I’d have barfed multiple times if I was her (It must be like being on a ferry) but I guess if any creature can cope with a breeze then it’s a bird…

She doesn’t seem to be leaving the nest at all lately – which I hope means that the eggs aren’t too far away from hatching. According to the RSPB site (link) they are probably on track for a week or so from now, with a period of feeding and nurturing for a couple of weeks afterwards (if they survive). The chicks will need the cover of the remaining bush if they’re to stand a chance at life:

‘The female incubates alone, and the chicks hatch 13-14 days later. Only the female broods the chicks, but both parents feed them. Chicks in gardens are fed on earthworms when they are available; woodland chicks are fed mainly on caterpillars. (…) The chicks are ready to fledge at 13-14 days, but if the nest is disturbed, they can leave and survive as early as nine days old. This ability to fledge early is an important anti-predator adaptation. The young birds creep and flutter from the nest, and remain in nearby cover for the following few days. They are flightless at first, but within a week will have learned to fly.’

I’d been wondering where the male blackbird had gone – as I’ve not seen him at all for a few days. I realised this afternoon though that he was nearby all the time.

VERY nearby as it happens.

He’s been watching from afar on the chimney pot and has been singing away to his mate below for ages while I’ve been working. I think I captured it in the video – but there’s a lot of wind noise too…

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So dear internet – the garden is still taking shape – minus any changes around their home.

Davey

Gold bra

It’s the early morning (just after midnight) and I feel wide awake! Although admittedly I had a coffee a couple of hours ago this time it’s got more to do with an invigorating brisk walk home in the pouring rain.

When I arrived home and closed the front door behind me I stood quietly in my hallway for a moment or two. All that I could hear was dripping. LOTS of dripping – and all of it coming from me. The floor was fast becoming a big puddle.

I got a pretty epic soaking – but BOY it was enjoyable!

Although I’ve been out walking in the rain a lot recently (the weather hasn’t been the best but it’s not stopped me) I’ve not been caught in a torrential downpour wearing just a shirt.

Sure – getting wet usually sucks – but when it’s also rather warm and you’re getting comically drenched (including splashed by cars going through massive flash puddles) there’s little else to do but smile, turn up the music and enjoy it!

I was also in a pretty good mood thanks to the film I’d just been to see. I had pretty much zero expectations going in but surprisingly it turned out to be frankly excellent.

There aren’t many trips to the cinema that can make a boy dream of owning his very own gold bra and a lasso – but a screening of Wonder Woman just about did it for this one!

Honestly I’ve absolutely despaired of the ‘dark and gritty’ DC superhero movies that have been coming out of Warner Bros lately. Everything they’ve made has not only been really depressing (Batman killing people and Superman all sulky) but it also seemed like the stories were mutilated by committee well before they ever reached our screens.

Suicide Squad was a mess of plot holes that relied mostly on Margot Robbie’s digitally enhanced bottom in hot pants to sell it (although she also played the part of Harley Quinn exceptionally well) while Batman vs Superman needed 30 frikkin minutes of deleted scenes to be restored for its DVD and Blu-ray release.

Also (and probably more importantly) none of them have come close to the sense of fun and excitement to be found in the Marvel universe movies.

Until Wonder Woman. 

Granted – the underlying theme of war isn’t a particularly bright one – but somehow it still manages to arrive with a sense of hope.

I’m also very happy to report that my cynicism about this obviously being sold in the press lately as a feminist film that’s purpose was to present a ‘positive female role model’ was unfounded. I’d initially suspected that this was just signposting that the finished article was awful enough to have advertising teams scrambling to sell it as an Emmeline Pankhurst biopic instead of a superhero jaunt.

However it most certainly delivers on it’s ‘role model’ promise – and the lead actor (Gal Gadot) seems both a worthy character for girls to look up to and a presents Wonder Woman as a proud bastion of independence and intelligence.

No one saves this lady but herself!

Anyway. Bed time. More to come tomorrow after the (probably crap) weigh in results.

(Author toddles off to bed to dream of his gold bra.)

It’s Saturday morning – and I’ve had the battery for my aging (it’s 10 this year!) compact camera on charge in the hope that it’s short optical zoom could capture the blackbird nest in my garden a little better than my iPhone. I think it can – but it’s still not ideal…

Once again I tippey-toed out of the back door to see if the nest was still occupied and thankfully it still is! Mommy blackbird is still sitting stoically on her eggs with one watchful eye on me whilst I take pictures from a distance.

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Even though it rained heavily last night and the nest is a bit exposed she’s still good!

That’s cheered me up. Time to make some coffee and face whatever the scales have to throw at me in Slimming World!

(author heads off to weigh in)

Yaaay! I lost two and a half pounds!

This leaves me edging ever close to sub 20st – which actually means way more to me now as a goal than the increasing numbers of stones I’ve lost. When it eventually happens it’s going to constitute a major milestone for me and I really really want it!

It’s not always easy to find long term or short term goals and it’s even harder to find ones that actually mean something.

After a while everything becomes just another number when you have so far to go – but this threshold is a big one for me. It’s like a major birthday or wedding anniversary. To me being under 20st says less about how far I’ve come – but more about where I’ll be.

I’m pretty sure I’ve not been anywhere close to this size since I had the word ‘teen’ after the numbers in my age.

Frankly because of this as long as I’m losing a little bit each week regularly then I’m happy. There’s no need to rush anywhere – or get unduly hung up on success or failure.

Slow and steady wins the race – as this little graphic that my friend sent me a year ago underlines. It motivated me waaaaay back when I started and I still look at it from time to time to remind myself of where my focus needs to be.

Back then this particular friend reminded me that even a pound a week was progress – despite the nonsense thoughts I had in my head that were telling me the opposite (link). He pointed out to me that one pound a week equalled four stone per year. This really stuck with me – and it’s something I’ve used to remind other people in group (as well as myself) of where they can be with regular (seemingly small amounts of) progress.

As I looked back in my WordPress media files for the above picture I also noticed the blog it was attached to – which came slightly later than his advice. It was called ‘Bro’s before mow’s’ and was from May 12th 2016 (link).

This passage reminds me how far away I was back then from the 3-4 hours a day I’ve been spending working on my back garden over the last couple of weeks.

‘The lawn looks kind of nice now. My back didn’t hurt that much and I only had to sit down once. That’s pretty good for me. In the past I’ve been so breathless I could hardly stand.’

To be clear – I was writing about mowing my FRONT lawn – which is 1/4 of the size of my rear one and requires almost none of the pruning.

At the time I was 33st 9.5lbs and if I’m honest I was struggling to get my head around the SW plan and in the same week I wrote this I gained weight (link).

Around that period I felt quite despondent – and regularly a bit overwhelmed when I thought about how far I had to go. It all seemed so far away.

I now realise that back then I wanted it all as soon as possible – and despite what I said outwardly deep down I wanted to somehow power through it all in mere months. It was all a bit of a fairy story in my head compared to what it is now – and I was a long way away from a point where I could appreciate (truly) that what I doing was not a race and to a finish line with the word ‘normal’ written on it – and that it would have to be a lifelong change.

In retrospect even when I came to terms with that I still had difficulty believing that IT WOUD BE.

That took a lot longer. It’s one thing saying you want to change forever – but it took quite a while for me to REALLY believe deep down that I could. Now a lot of what I do is just habit – and this also applies to other crutches that I used to use to get me through life as well.

I realised totally out of the blue on Wednesday that I’d stopped counting the days since I’d had any alcohol. One day for no apparent reason I’d simply forgotten that stopping drinking was a thing that I once needed to focus really hard on.

Now it’s just who I am.

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It has been quite a while though (pats self on back) 🙂 .

So – all is well with the world this Saturday internet. Gold bras rock, blackbirds are in their nests and my weight is still going in the right direction.

Time for some dinner 🙂

Davey