More weight loss psychology…

It’s Friday – and more than I have been for a while lately I find myself both preoccupied and a little concerned about my weigh in on Saturday.

Although I don’t feel that I’ve lost my way in any significant sense I do have a lingering feeling that at the very least I’ve temporarily misplaced my mojo.

Whereas this time last year I was rattling along at a very respectable three and a half pounds a week loss on average I now feel like I’ve been becalmed.

Although I want to lose more weight and I’m doing just as much exercise as ever (slightly more actually) there hasn’t seemed to be much wind in my dietary sails over the last two weeks.

I’ve definitely not been myself emotionally – as my posts have probably periodically indicated (link) and with good reason. Some poignant anniversaries have passed recently and I’ve been a little taken aback by the tears and upset they’ve provided.

It’s been a period for reflection but I’ve hopefully begun to emerge on the other side in a (mostly) functional state.

Thankfully for the bits that still need time to heal there’s always a Boris.

I can’t help but feel better when he and his owner pop round to say hello – and I’ve noticed that the more this sweet, grunty little frenchie gets to know me the more likely he is to automatically jump onto my lap whenever he comes to visit.

Although I look like a hair bomb exploded on my jumper when he leaves I can’t deny that he really cheers me up – and manages (at least temporarily) to take my mind off the fact that for the last month I’ve gone pretty much nowhere in weight loss terms.

Part of me has been sorely tempted to just ‘call target’ as they say in Slimming World and stay right where I am.

After all – all of my clothes look great, I’ve no intention of putting any weight back on, I can walk into any high street store and buy something to wear, I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been in my entire life and I only seem to want to do more as each month passes.

So why am I looking at my target and not letting it go?

Well – I really want a 20st certificate firstly.

I also want to get lower than 15 stone – because when I do the stupid stupid pointless measure of my BMI on the NHS website finally admits that I’m no longer ‘obese’ and I instead enter the infinitely preferable boundaries of being ‘overweight

This is a screenshot of the calculator with my current weight of 15st 6lbs…

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….and this is at 15st exactly.

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It would be really really nice to no longer be classed as obese. I’ve been medically categorised this way for the whole of my childhood and (almost) all of my adult life.

However the ridiculousness of this rigid scientific calculation isn’t lost on me.

My ‘healthy range’ starts at 9st 7lbs. At that point (if nothing else) I’d at least be more than prepared to audition as an extra in Hollywood’s (probably inevitable) remake of Jason and the Argonauts…

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It still bugs me though – and like many aspects of extreme weight loss I’m often confronted with somewhat odd and illogical internal conversations.

Why does it all matter?

Why does a number bother me?

I’ve told plenty of other fellow slimmers that it’s how you feel that counts – not an arbitrary number on a scale or a stupid BMI chart, yet I still don’t seem to be able to accept my own advice.

Becoming thin is hard…

It’s one thing to physically lose it all – but it’s quite another to address how you feel about the whole process.

I think that part of me is of the opinion that as soon as I stop losing weight that I’ve failed somehow – even if I’m already in a range that people say I look good in. I still see stopping as getting comfortable and complacent yet nothing could be further from the truth.

I finished Jan with the same ‘write everything I eat down’ mindset. I had managed to maintain it for 31 days straight.

31st Jan
Stir fry chicken with courgette, red onion, mushrooms, leek and savoy cabbage leftovers
Large salad with beans, mackerel and tuna
Yogurt and frozen berries

On top of this I just keep walking and I can’t stop.

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I don’t know anyone else in my peer group that walks 70+ miles a week, every week over and over again, yet for some reason I do. There’s something internally that’s driving this behaviour and it’s by no means a part of me that’s intent on slacking off.

In January Apple Watch set me a task that initially I thought was a joke – but when I worked it out all it was encouraging me to do was keep on with what I was doing already.

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It had been watching my exercise levels – and in an effort to keep me on an even keel decided that I’d only get an achievement if I kept up the good work.

Just to make absolutely sure I’d hit target I ended up earning this a day early (hence the number in the screenshot) and including the 31st I did 3906 minutes of exercise in January

That’s an average of 126 minutes a day!

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Back when I first joined slimming world in April 2016 I was doing a frankly pathetic 5 minutes a day. To put this into context my daily average exercise for THE WHOLE of 2016 was an average of 11 minutes a day.

For non mathematicians that’s (365 x 11= 4015) – which means that I did almost as much exercise in January 2018 as I did FOR THE WHOLE OF 2016 COMBINED!!!

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So why do I feel like my dietary mojo is ‘relaxing’ and why is it filling my thoughts?

Maybe I’m classifying it incorrectly. Maybe my mojo has actually just reached the point where it doesn’t really want to shave any more calories out of my diet just to drop a few more pounds.

Maybe I’m just happy with how I feel now and what I eat?…

Is that wrong?

Am I showing weakness at the worst possible moment – or is this (like so many other things recently) entirely in my head?

Who knows internet…

The only thing I know at the moment is that I’m still not looking forward to weighing in tomorrow…

Davey

New teen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now – today I feel a bit different.

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m now in another new weight bracket.

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

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

As you can imagine this makes me exceptionally happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anyway – I feel good.

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

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

Davey

Introducing friends

This morning I’ve been out with a couple of firm friends, who only met each other for the first time this today…

Initially they were quite wary – but in no time at all after some introductions they were getting on famously.

Probably bonded by their mutual love of bird watching Boris and Freckles seem to get along pretty well when they first met, and happily sniffed each other’s behinds for a while as their pet humans above greeted one another with (less socially developed) handshakes.

I doubt that Freckles and Boris would have minded me joining in – but I didn’t want to intrude and instead stuck to human pleasantries. Also – as fragrant as their behinds must be I was actually more interested in the other wildlife – of which there was quite a lot today at Arrow Valley.

The Pooches also seemed unusually willing to be photographed this morning.

Normally they refuse to stay still for the camera, yet today here they were allowing me to take snap after in focus snap.

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You might think that I’m a charming Dr Doolittle given how calm and collected they are, or what sweet little cherubs they have been to pose for my photo. However what you can’t see just behind me is the piraña like feeding frenzy going on.

A little girl was flinging giant lumps of bread to a growing collection of birds at the official ‘invigorate the ravenous little monsters with wings‘ baked goods slinging platform – and Boris and Freckles were both transfixed by the resulting commotion.

As I turned away from them to watch it struck me that some days what initially might seem like a great stroke of luck is actually the exact opposite.

Sometimes life isn’t what you expect when you’re the little duck that catches the golden crust.

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I think that the moral of the story today is ‘don’t **** with the seagulls‘…

As we left the beleaguered little quackers and continued around the park it was clear however that not all was well elsewhere. The strike by refuse collectors in Birmingham is having a pretty dramatic effect on this usually well kept space and the bins are currently overflowing at each and every corner.

(you don’t need photos of this – it was grim)

People have left carrier bags full of rubbish close to them and as you might expect with a lot of wildlife around these are quickly getting ripped open. Frankly the park is a mess today – and I really hope that this doesn’t hurt the birds – especially the fledglings.

On the main island there are a few nesting Herons – and from what I read on the visitor centre bird spotting chart they have some young with them. However when I looked I couldn’t see any – and only one of my full zoom photos of an adult came out clear enough to use.

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Apart from the overflowing bins and the skinhead-like seagulls though Arrow Valley was quite serene today. Whilst idly strolling we did around 3 miles around the reserve – all the time with Freckles and Boris sniffing away in the bushes and trotting back and forth to say hello to passers by and other dogs.

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As lovely as all this was though I must fill my green exercise ring on Apple Watch (which sedate strolls do not do sadly) otherwise my OCD will cause my head to explode. As lovely as my amble was I needed to do MORE!

Since I am still in need of a pair of black trousers, I headed out when I got home for a brisker walk into town to try and find some.

Sadly these are proving difficult to find – especially given that I have mentally budgeted only £5 for them. All in all I walked a further six miles trying to find my mythically cheap item of unicorn clothing and returned empty handed – but I will persevere!

(I have heard a rumour that there are some in a pot – just at the end of a rainbow!)

On the plus side every step I do is something toward the scales next week – and given that the theme of last Saturday’s image therapy session was step counting and ‘body magic’ (exercise with Slimming World counts to awards) I’ve been trying to keep my numbers up.

On Saturday I finished with 21,314 steps, Sunday was 13,057, and today is currently 22,110 – so I’m hopefully on track for an average of 20,000 a day (around 10 miles).

I’m also trying to ‘tweak’ my food a little bit to reduce calories and today swapped out kidney beans from my favourite chilli dish and replaced them with an aubergine and some chopped green and black beans (both of which came from a friend’s allotment and were delicious).

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The other ingredients were a courgette, broccoli, red pepper, leeks, mushrooms and 5% fat pork mince. The seasoning was cumin, smokey paprika, chilli powder, salt, a beef stock cube, some garlic – and finally to season some freshly chopped coriander was thrown in at the end.

Honesty this was so good that I may just forgo the kidney beans altogether from now on. A can of them has 280kcal in it – whereas an entire aubergine has 50Kcal – and 100g of green beans has 25kcal.

Thats over 200kcal saved today!

Finally – Rusty McBike is now back in the saddle!

Well – at the very least Rusty has a new (old) saddle (courtesy of a friend’s dusty garage contents) and although I’ve not yet had a chance to properly test her out on a long journey yet things currently seem very secure indeed.

She has even got a new donated strap-on gel butt cushion to alleviate the intensely bruised bottom that the previous saddle was immediately capable of giving me. It’s early days but I’m hopeful that this superb combo means that we’re going to be very happy together.

If worst comes to worst another friend has been a dumpster diving hero and secured yet another saddle clamp from the clutches of a nearby skip (in the right hand pic). As rough as it looks as long as I have a spare then I’m pretty happy.

It saves money on eBay and every little bit can go to my unicorn trousers!

As soon as I get a chance I’ll take her out for a spin and let you know how I get on. It’s most likely to be Wednesday however as I have even more planned for tomorrow! Time and tide waits for no man!

Anyway – I must get some sleep – nighty night internet.

Davey

Frogs and blue steel

I neglect my garden. There. I said it.

I’m a bad bad boy – but I’m trying to change (slowly).

My friend however is someone that has significant interest in horticulture and I think my lack of grass and plant husbandry is something that definitely offends his eyes. He’s been gently suggesting we have a crack at it for a few weeks – but for one reason or another we’d put it off.

The problem is that once you let it go a bit wild (which I did when I had a lot of mobility issues) it’s a pretty tough sell to get out there and make a start. It’s also far more fun to go for a walk and enjoy nature elsewhere that seems a bit less like a pain in the ass.

My garden at 10am definitely looked like a serious pain in the ass.

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However – when there are two of you to tackle something it can be quite enjoyable, and today there were three. However I have to question the work ethic of the third participant. He seemed completely disinterested in hard labour and instead far more focused on a deflated football from the undergrowth.

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Despite multiple suggestions that he take over filling my recycling bin with twigs there was little to no interest and eventually I just let him get on with chewing leather.

It’s very hard to get good help these days.

It was pretty encouraging as I worked to notice the physical changes (in the last 4 months or so since I last had a crack at this) and how much easier it now is to bend down, and work at lower levels than my stomach used to make comfortable.

It really used to make my back hurt as well as making breathing harder – and although it’s still got more heft than it should do there’s little getting in the way any more. I’d even go as far as to say because of this specific change I genuinely enjoyed bringing order to chaos.

There does however appears to be a fringe benefit to letting your garden get a little out of control. The local frog population appears to have benefitted immensely from my absence. They were hopping all over the lawn as it was strimmed and either made their way to a nearby bush for safety or (like this little guy) were deposited in a clump of greenery further up the garden.

Three hours, several coffees, one completely jam packed recycling bin and another 10 refuse sacks later (thanks to the help of my most excellent friend) everything definitely looked tidier!

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Tomorrow I’m going to mow the rest of the grass flat (today it was still too wet from yesterday’s downpour to do anything but strim) and make a start on what I think is a large Buddleja crispa bush to the right. Once thats been chopped down to a stump and taken to the tip then its time to have a go at the left hand border (which I’m really not relishing).

For the moment though it’s nice to just see the patio again!

Despite his pitiful level of assistance with the weeds Boris also appeared to be satisfied with what had been accomplished.

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Afterwards I made another strong coffee, bid my mate farewell and killed another two birds with one stone by going grocery shopping after dropping the contents of my garden at the tip.

Consequently this evening I’m looking forward to what is going to be a very hearty beef stew – although irritatingly I neglected to get some Chorizo and Bay leaves – so I’m going to have to get a little inventive with the seasoning.

This is particularly irritating because I managed instead to buy things that I didn’t really need – including an item that was totally irrelevant – but that I’m convinced elevates my already jaw dropping good looks to another level entirely.

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It’s next to impossible not to ‘vogue’ when I put these sunglasses on, and I just HAD to buy them (dah-links!)

So – if the residents of Warwick see me posing and pouting whilst out and about over the coming weeks they’ll know that it’s probably caused by my sleek new eyewear which seems to unconsciously make me want to perfect my Zoolander ‘Blue Steel’.

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I have a little work to do – but I’m sure you’ll agree that the raw animal magnetism that my new sunglasses bring to the table makes the lack of a spicy paprika sausage and bay leaves almost forgivable.

Anyway internet, I better get on with chopping my carrots, swede and leeks. This evening’s awesome symphony of food isn’t going to get cooked by my devastatingly hot side profile alone – regardless of the fact that it will almost certainly contribute to bringing my stew to the boil.

Davey

Tinkerbell 

Compared to yesterday the weather today is a riot of blue skies and sunshine. It’s frankly glorious and because of this I was genuinely torn between my ever pressing need to sort out my back garden (which regular readers will know is an objectionable task only because of my continued procrastination) or just dissapear for a walk.

Hmm… Should I choose adult responsibility or childish frivolity?

(…)

I’m going to leave you for a moment to try and figure out which I went for.

(…….)

Screw the garden. It never stops growing anyway. It’ll be there tomorrow!

Davey go walkies!!!

So – I contacted my friend and hastily arranged a meet up. His usual companion (Boris the frenchie) has been ill this week – and (as it seems is common with this breed) the poor little fellow has had a cripplingly bad back. He’s still on medication for it and he’s not his usual self.

He hasn’t been able to hop up onto the sofa, go for walkies or anything…

The poor little guy! 😢

So – my companion left Boris at his mom’s house and we took her dog for a walk instead. This little girl is super timid but unbelievably cute.

She’s a crossbreed I’ve not personally encountered before – and is a Pug/Jack Russell mix – which I’m informed makes her a PugRussell. Her name was originally ‘Tinkerbell’ when my friend’s mom got her – but they (thank heavens) refer to her simply as ‘Tink’.

I think standing in the middle of a park and calling out ‘Tinkerbell!’ over and over in the middle of Coventry if she chooses to run away wouldn’t be a good look for anyone not participating in a Peter Pan convention – so I approve of the abbreviation.

Personality wise she reminds me a lot of my own Jack Russell from years ago – and is very timid when it comes to other dogs. However there the comparison stops.

Facially she’s Pug though and through.

It was a great day to be in Memorial Park (if you like dogs) as the RSPCA were holding an event (although I’m not sure entirely what for) and the place was virtually wall to wall with pooch owners strolling around with practically every breed imaginable.

There was also a separate 10k charity event taking place at the same time – so between the multitudes of walkers, joggers and dog owners the place was a hive of activity.

If I’m honest it was maybe a bit too busy for proper exercise – and our walk was a slow moving affair. Consequently as soon as I got home an hour or so later I made myself a flask of coffee and headed out for a slightly more brisk walk.

It’s all very well not minding that I put a pound on yesterday but that isn’t quite the same as not caring.

I can deal with it quite easily as long as I know I’m doing something to address it – and in my case it means paying close attention to what I do and what I consume – so I’m not planning to just put my feet up this week.

However it’s difficult to know lately what kind of balance I have to strike. Recently I’ve often been confused by my levels of exercise vs my scale results, and never seem to be able to reliably guess how it’s going to go on any given week. When I first began Slimming World exercising as much as I could meant seriously good results – these days it doesn’t always seem to translate into a significant weight loss, and sometimes even does quite the opposite.

Although I shouldn’t let this play on my mind too much.

I’m still sometimes afflicted with the rather narrow minded attitude that decreasing numbers on scales are the only indicator of progress – which they absolutely are not – but I do have to take a moment and remind myself of this occasionally.

There are other (way more important) indicators of progress.

Although I’m not going into detail just yet I’ve started a couple of balls rolling over the last few days that relate to things which simply wouldn’t have been possible not that long ago. If they come to fruition then I’ll report back here – but for the time being I’m keeping quiet.

However the very fact that I’m thinking about these things (and furthermore that I’m willing to put a metaphorical and literal foot forward towards them) is a huge indicator of where I am in life now and it makes me feel very positive regardless of how they turn out.

Either way – exercise is awesome. Even if it slows my losses from time to time I don’t think I can stop craving it – or wanting to improve my capabilities – and today is no exception.

After heading out of the door I decided to walk to the supermarket a couple of miles away and get some bits and bobs for a picnic lunch in the park.

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Despite doing Slimming World, and it NOT being a calorie counting diet I think it’s folly to ignore your intake if you want to see results. Counting everything (when you can) even if it’s just for a week to get back on track has given me some of my most significant losses and turned around many a dry spell.

As picnics go this one stacks up pretty well from a calorie intake perspective.

  • Chicken Tikka slices (180g) – 212 kcal
  • Cottage cheese with chives (300g tub) – 176 kcal
  • Tomatoes – 96kcal
  • Apples x 2 – 142kcal
  • Mini gem lettuce x2  – 30kcal

Total – 656 kcal.

However – despite my intention to find a shady bench by a river somewhere to eat I was enjoying the walk so much I never actually got around to having any of it until I got home!

You see – it’s still a complete novelty to me to not only be outside on a hot day, but to be outside on a hot day walking briskly (with a heart rate between 105 & 120) and not being uncomfortable, drowned in sweat, hurting, burning and generally feeling completely miserable.

When it feels this good to be moving why stop?

So I didn’t. I just kept walking – and by the time I reached home with my uneaten picnic I’d easily nailed my daily 30 minute cardio target and more besides. My lunch had become a totally guilt free meal.

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This evening I’m making a beef stew – and as it takes a few hours to cook properly I’m going to make a start right now.

From what I can see internet the weather for the coming week has more of the same in store for me – and I can’t wait to get out there and make the most of it!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Davey

 

Good golly it’s Molly!

It’s 10am and the canal towpath is already busy with the fleeting scent of jogger and cyclist’s body sprays as they pass by. Occasionally I catch a whiff of what seems like a scent I know – but then it’s gone again and once more the canal falls silent apart from a distant sound of occasional traffic.

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I’m currently sipping my coffee and re-applying the sun tan cream that seems to have already worn off whilst under the cool of a bridge near Warwick Parkway. It’s nice in the shade. The day is really heating up. At the moment I’m on my way to the Hatton Locks Cafe – around four miles away from my house along the canal.

I’m not complaining about this good weather mind you – it’s great – but you just know that my already pink (and slightly balding) head is going to suffer when the weather app on Apple Watch looks like this.

I’ve walked there before, but never there and back (in this post here from last October – and boy do I look different! I was 27st 9lbs – five and a half stone heavier than I am now).

Oddly it’s still something that I think will be hard to do in my mind – but I suddenly realised while lying in bed this morning that this lingering assumption of difficulty is based upon what I could do the last time I tried. On that occasion my friend and I parked a car at both ends and we walked to the Hatton Arms from a mile or so further up the canal in Leamington.

I decided this morning that (despite burning a bit yesterday) I was just going to liberally cover myself in suntan cream and get right back out there to give it a go.

Both ways this time.

When I set out everything ached. My back ached, my bum ached, my feet ached and even my chest (thats new!) ached. I’ve been pushing myself quite a bit recently and clearly things need time to recover.

I’d also woken up cursing my bed. I need a new one. I realised recently that I’m now sleeping in the ever present impression of a man that was 34 and a half stone, and it’s becoming uncomfortable. I’ve been putting it off for a while but I may just have to bite the bullet and replace it in the very near future.

However it wasn’t too far down the canal before I found something to instantly take my mind off stiff muscles and new mattresses. Quite near my house are signs that there will soon be swanlings everywhere. A newly created nest was quite literally being feathered before my eyes as mommy and daddy swans prepared for either the laying or incubation of new offspring.

I couldn’t see any eggs here though – so I’m guessing this Mr & Mrs have some hanky panky planned in their not too distant future…

I haven’t been in a rush today. At least until next Saturday my objectives are less about speed and more about distance, and enjoyment. Sometimes I find that I get so focused on the physical act of trying to walk faster or further that I completely forget to just sit for a moment and appreciate the scenery.

I guess it’s because I used to get annoyed with needing to stop and sit all the time. It took so long before I could walk the entire distance to Leamington (on the shortest route) without sitting on a garden wall or two that I keep trying to walk further and further without stopping to see what my limits are (currently around 5 miles I think) before I need to rest. That’s great – but when I do that and I’m looking at the fitness stats on my watch I don’t want to pause and interrupt its calculations.

I think that’s why my little flower picture challenge last week was so much fun. It forced me out of one mentality and into another, and that was really really nice.

So today I stopped to take pictures and watch the world (slowly) pass by.

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When I finally reached the Hatton Locks Cafe though it wasn’t a moment too soon.

In an effort to alleviate the (ahem, cough, cough) ‘backed up’ sensation of the last few days I’ve been hammering down the water both yesterday and today, on top of my usual coffee.

My aim is a minimum of two litres a day.

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This means however that stops at the little boy’s room are an absolute necessity! To be honest I’ve ignored this more than I should have for a while. Drinking more means eating less and that can only be a good thing!

As I was exiting the lavatory and looking at the cafe menu I heard my name being called. I turned to see the chirpy young daughter of one of the lovely Slimming World ladies saying hello. She invited me to come over and sit with them while they enjoyed the sunshine over coffee and breakfast.

It would have been lovely enough to see some friendly faces and have a natter, but these guys were packing Davey Kryptonite. They had Molly with them – who I’d last seen as an itty bitty pup when she was brought along to Slimming World around eight months ago.

Now she’s all grown up and an absolute bundle of energy!

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After they’d finished breakfast we strolled together back along the canal (they kindly let me walk Molly!) and nattered about what the rest of the day held for us as well as what we were planning to eat during the week.

Their outdoor eating and barbecue agenda made me wonder if I too should do a bit of al-fresco dining soon. If I do however I’ll need to sort out my (quite shocking) rear garden first.

If you ever hear me using the phrase ‘jungle is massive!’ trust me when I say that I’m not referring to a genre of music…

Soon we parted company – and after a little while longer (and several re-applications of cream) I arrived back home. It seems that I have once again caught the sun and am pink and lumpy instead of a pleasing auburn colour – but I’ve enjoyed every moment of my walk. My total for the day so far is a tad under 10 miles and it’s been a great use of my Sunday!

Aside from the fact that walking along the canal is just a lovely relaxing thing to do, I’ve also been able to re-visit a day out from six months ago and see just what a difference the time and weight loss has made.

The answer internet is ‘a flipping lot.’

Yay for moving my ass!

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need a tinkle.

Davey

He’s four foot tall!

Well – supercoat ™ has had its work cut out over the last few days.

Storm Doris may not have stopped the non-existent shipping in Warwick – but sadly there have been both injuries and loss of life in its wake elsewhere, as well as leaving people I know with varying degrees of property damage.

I’ve been out and about in it quite a lot and frankly it’s nice to see the back of it.

Yesterday while walking around Memorial Park with a friend we definitely got a good indication of the strength of the wind – and this was much milder than other parts of the UK. Despite my (not inconsiderable) remaining bulk I found myself at times leaning into the breeze with my companion to keep moving forward.

It was a very blustery day!

Today however it’s been quite different – and Davey’s monocolour dream coat has been in unzipped and configured for strolling mode. It’s warm snugglebugginess accompanied me along the canal with some companions in Kiddeminster.

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As is right and proper in this region, since Freckles lives locally she agreed to show me around, and by happy coincidence her owner is someone I used to work with – so she invited him along as well to keep us company.

Someone after all has to hold the royal lead and pick up all the regal offerings that freckles leaves along the way.

The walk into town (theres’s a Starbucks at the end of the rainbow!) was absolutely delightful from her house and quite unexpectedly we had blue skies and sunshine for pretty much the whole afternoon (although it was a little chilly in the shade at times and supercoat got zipped up.)

The last time I was around this way was back in late October (here) and we were walking along different canals – and back then the red sandstone surrounding the Rock Tavern (a pub built into a hillside) immediately caught my eye.

This geology is clearly a feature of the area – and it was apparent on today’s walk as well – which in a relatively short distance along the canal into town showed the simply wonderful feats of engineering undertaken to put the network into place – and the rail infrastructure (the Severn Valley Railway in this case) travelling above it.

Although I know very little about this area of canal (the second picture is of Caldwall Lock) or the bridge I was impressed enough by the viaduct to look it up when I got home. It’s called the Falling Sands Viaduct (link) and it’s a redbrick construction – meaning the whole thing is made of individual house bricks.

It’s insane to think how long it took to precisely cement them altogether in perfect arches, and makes you wonder how many hoops of fire or processes and procedures (not counting the colossal money needed) that someone would have to jump through today to make either of these things possible.

Anyone that built something like this back then has my absolute and unqualified respect.

Given that today is my last day of unfettered freedom from employment I think it was fitting to go and have a look at these icons of industry and hard work – since that’s what lies in my immediate future too.

This morning I called the Department of Work and Pensions and informed them that I no longer need benefits and that I start a job on Monday. This is a scary moment in many respects.

Will the people there like me? Will I like them? Will I be good at the job and fit in?

If there’s one thing that I can say it’s that the last 7 months off (yes it’s been that long!) have been worth every last moment and penny that I spent on them. If I’d gone straight into a new job back then I’d have been eight stone heavier, a lot more self conscious, and significantly more worries about what lies ahead. As it stands at the moment I feel pretty capable and very mobile.

In some respects I now feel as fit (if not fitter in some cases) than many people smaller than myself. All week I’ve been establishing my ‘new normal’ and ploughing as much into my exercise as I can – wanting to see exactly how much I can do in a day before I fall flat on my face with exhaustion.

After some energetic tidying in my house I dragged a projector that I bought around 11 years ago out of mothballs and plugged it into an old games console in my newly emptied spare room. Initially I just thought it was cool to have a wall sized game of Tekken – where the fighters were 4ft high.

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However – after my companion in Memorial Park innocently enquired whether I could use my laptop or even play games whilst on my exercise bike it got me thinking. Was I fit enough to do a workout as well as play a game?

Previously my bike had faced a blank wall and the only propellant had been my imagination – but maybe this could be a way to make things more interesting…

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So yesterday evening I started playing video games whilst exercising. Although overall I cycled a little slower when concentrating on chainsawing aliens I also pedalled for longer – and it seemed to pass a lot quicker – which genuinely surprised me. When I took the above pic I was at it again early this morning – which provided me with much the same results (although my curtains let in a bit too much light during the day taking the same photo at night is next to impossible).

It also meant that yesterday I smashed my record for active calories burned and total exercise (cardio) minutes.

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So – I’m on track with my plans to maintain a daily morning regimen of exercise before work to make sure I remain on track. Yay for planning!

Finally – I have a new toy.

This too is maybe a testament to how things have changed in my life. No longer am I overjoyed with a new piece of silicon chip based loveliness – but instead this is a workman’s tool that has one specific job.

Saving me money as I get smaller.

Check out the new neat belt hole in the centre compared to the penknife drilled one above! My new Draper punch pliers cost me £10 and cut belt buckle holes through leather like a warm knife through butter. They will make sure that when I arrive at my new office on Monday I’m not wearing my trousers around my ankles…

Now all that remains is to step on the scales tomorrow morning. Will I have lost weight? Will I still be in the 23st bracket or 22?

It’s been a busy week – and probably as a consequence I’ve also been rather hungry. I think I’ve been good – and I’ve worked hard, but will it be enough?

Only time will tell.

Fingers crossed internet!

Davey

No longer a burden to the state

I have been looking at parts of my house lately with a sense of deep dissatisfaction.

My bed for instance has seen a lot of action – but not the kind that comes in 50 shades and gets made into questionable literature. It’s borne the strain of my excessive weight for quite a few years, and it’s not escaped unscathed. It’s broken three times, been repaired with spare parts from Ikea twice and is currently bodged, with the frame underneath the mattress propped up by a stack of old magazines after something irreparable snapped.

The mattress (a very expensive reinforced pocket sprung one) is not the supportive yet comfortable billiard table surface it was when I bought it. There’s an imprint of a heavier person in the middle of it which I hadn’t really noticed before. Lately it’s begun to swallow me. It’s not yet uncomfortable enough to motivate me to spend money I don’t have on a replacement – but it’s not far off.

My nearby bedroom wardrobe is largely empty – and most of my clothes are instead in a pile of folded laundry downstairs, awaiting their eventual journey to a charity shop.

Bit by bit it seems that everything is slowly emptying out of my life to make space for… well, I don’t exactly know what yet. As I look around me lately (apart from friendships which are getting stronger if anything) everything seems to have a sense of transience and impermanence that it didn’t before.

It’s mildly unsettling – but also at times exciting because it’s the kind of fluidity that is caused by positive change, and things are no longer as inevitable or unchangeable as I thought they once were.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because I was clearing out some old things this morning and found a few diaries. They were imaginatively titled ‘the diary of a fat person’ and spanned five volumes and a period between 1988 and 1992. They document a key piece of my adolescent struggle with (amongst other things) weight and my mother.

As I skimmed through them for an hour (I couldn’t bring myself to read some of it) I saw a young me, starting at 17st 7lbs and fighting against my mom’s willingness to feed me fattening food. After much internal and external conflict about food and how to avoid being fed meals over which I had no input or choice I eventually resort half way through the first volume to self imposed starvation (in direct and often painful opposition to my mother) for several months until I got to what must have been a very unhealthy 12st 7lbs in 1989.

I note that she keeps sneaking sugar into things and I eventually only seem to trust grapefruit – which seems at times to be almost the only thing I was eating – all the time obsessed with who would see me as fat and who wouldn’t, which was a very real and ever present issue.

I’d completely forgotten for instance (aside from the run of the mill bullying I endured each and every day) that one of my diaries was invaded on a school trip by an unknown person who had scribbled abuse regarding my thoughts about a girl and written above it ‘blubber boy’ in large letters. It was hidden deeper into the diary where I would only discover it later for maximum effect.

I was enraged when I found the violation but never got to the bottom of who had been reading my private thoughts. It was however just an example of something that happened every day in some form or another and the bullying rarely stopped.

I sporadically continued to write in these diaries – but as my weight increased once more I stopped documenting it – clearly unable to face up to to the reality of my eating habits and beginning to drink more and more. The last time I recorded it (until many years later) was the 11th November 1992 when I hit 16 stone.

These (painful to read) books detail the development of coping mechanisms for dealing with life at home that remained in place for many years – until decades after I left.

The last saved diary I have (which was more of a calendar by that time) is from January 1999. After much cajoling from my partner when we lived in Aberystwyth I’d joined Weight Watchers.

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This in itself isn’t new news. Some time ago I found (and posted) my old weigh in card – but somehow I’d forgotten that I’m now almost the same weight I was back then before I faltered, stopped going regularly to my group and eventually gave up – much to the annoyance of my better half.

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Shortly after (on my second card) I’d moved to Bristol and joined a second time – but swiftly retreated again. My partner was still adamant I needed to lose weight but I was not. I had rejoined under duress and (stupidly) rebelled – eating in secret behind her back.

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I’m not far from the 22st 12.5lbs (currently I’m 23st 10lbs) that I was in November 1999. When I get there I’ll have hit a psychological milestone that has massive significance. For some reason in my mind at this point it’s almost like I have permission to be ‘normal’ again – to have a life that includes things like a relationship and possibly a family.

So it’s an exciting time – and one that I’ve worked hard for.

Oddly it may just coincide with another huge moment because today I got a call offering me a job – which I’ve acceptedI hopefully start in a couple of weeks and frankly I couldn’t be happier.

Then a new chapter starts – and just like my bedroom I don’t know what it will contain or what it will look like. I only know that my old patterns have been broken (permanently if I have any say in the matter) and I don’t ever intend to repeat them.

Which is just as well – as tonight I have an unexpected house guest, who appears intent on featuring in his second post (we first met here).

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Initially Pugly was a bit unsure of me after being dropped off for a spot of dogsitting, and we sat on the sofa together eyeing each other with mutual suspicion. ‘Who is this strange man?’ Pugly seemed to be saying with his little frown. ‘I don’t know him and he smells funny.’

However – not long after this his stoic resolve began to break down.

When it did he edged a little closer – all the time doing his level best to hide the fact that he was warming to me.

I am after all extremely soft and warm and Pugly clearly had a cold bottom.

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Before long he had stealthily come to a conclusion about our compatibility and, despite an unwillingness to announce it formally I think I got the message.

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Of course – Pugly has no idea that this time last year he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show his thinly veiled affection. I didn’t have a lap back then, so he couldn’t have sat on it even if he wanted to.

So tonight internet we’re both benefiting from radical positive change. Long may it continue. 🙂

Davey

Teeny tiny Chewie

I feel flipping wonderful.

Apple Watch has been dutifully monitoring my activities so far today and it’s reporting that a little under seven miles has been walked. I’m back baby!

I know. I know.

I said I wasn’t going to walk on my shin splints for two weeks but it hasn’t hurt for a couple of days and I couldn’t resist. Being benched has frankly been doing bad things to my sense of well being and I needed to get OUT!

I’m glad I did – as my friend was waiting in the park to meet me with a buggy full of the best dressed smiley toddler I’ve seen in ages.

The little fellow had a Chewbacca onesie on! 😍

This insanely ace piece of clothing even had a little bandolier sewn diagonally across the middle and looked super furry and warm. The teeny tiny wannabe wookie looked as snug as a bug in a rug – especially with his matching (although not strictly Star Wars related) puppy faced mittens with floppy ears.

‘Did your other half buy that onesie?’ I enquired.

‘No no – I bought it for him ages ago – it was too cute!’ She said.

I stared at her.

Wow. My kind of woman. Drawn to Star Wars merchandise and making a voluntary purchase without coercion!

(Note to self – find a special lady at some point in the future with nerd tendencies.)

As we set off around the park sipping our respective coffees while mini-Chewie snoozed the conversation naturally turned toward the weather and how the recent dip in temperature (and suddenly epic levels of precipitation) had affected our moods.

It seemed that both of us were missing the summer.

It’s odd for me to admit that I do – because for so long I hid continually in the shadows from the evil and nasty yellow ball in the sky. I was well known for this – and my friend remembered that side of me well.

She seemed mildly amused when I said that I wanted the sun back.

It wasn’t just the sunshine that had gone away though. My daily walks with people had dropped off as soon as ex-colleagues found jobs, went back to work and had moved on in life.

Through my own choice though I’d taken a different path and had decided to take more time out to get fit before returning to work. Although this still seems like a great use of this period in my life it can also really make hyper aware of time that I feel may be being ‘wasted’. It can seem sometimes like a big clock is endlessly counting down to an endpoint in the background if I’m ill or can’t walk.

When I first hurt my leg it also coincided with the start of a lot of ex-colleagues and friends going back to the workplace. It was around this time that I realised how isolated it was possible for me to feel without a job to provide human contact and living on my own.

I didn’t like it at all. My social side was suddenly dramatically under nourished and to compound the negativity this brought with it I also kept hearing a voice in my head telling me I was failing in my dietary and fitness objectives.

So – to have my leg all fixed up is the absolute BEST medicine that any doctor could have prescribed. I might have felt down last week but all I needed was a blooming good walk and a two hour chinwag.

Almost as soon as we’d started our stroll we were finished, having hugs and I was waving goodbye to drive home. Time flies when you’re having fun, but we both had other things to do that day.

‘Something smells nice!’ Said my other friend as he walked through my front door into the kitchen later in the afternoon.

‘Beef stew in the slow cooker.’ I grinned. ‘Lift the lid and have a look.’ It had been cooking since around 10.15 and I could already tell it was going to be tasty.

He raised the hot ceramic top with his thumb and forefinger and peered inside.

‘It smells gorgeous!’ He said.

‘One of the ladies from Slimming World brought some fresh bay leaves in to group the other day.’ I replied. ‘I’ve been putting them in beef and chicken stews – they are absolutely awesome!’

Down on the kitchen floor Boris paced back and forth looking up. He clearly agreed.

My friend’s pooch – a hound concerned at all times with food and where it can be pilfered from was staring up intently at the work surface. He was unable to see my developing dinner, but was clearly well aware of how magnificent it smelt.

I made a cup of tea for my guest while we talked about bay leaves and other seasonings and then moved to the living room where I slumped into my armchair.

‘Bloody hell.’ My friend said. ‘I see you all the time – but sometimes I don’t notice how much weight you’ve lost.’

He stared at me.

‘You’re disappearing into that armchair. You look really different!’ He concluded.

I thanked him. It’s still hard for me to accept compliments. It doesn’t come naturally. They always make me feel uneasy – but I’m learning bit by bit to just say ‘thanks’. It does make me feel good when people point things like this out though.

It’s a sensation money can’t buy and stimulants can’t replicate.

I tapped my lap and Boris hopped up, resting his bottom on my left leg and his two front paws on my right.

There wouldn’t have been room for a dog before. I didn’t have a lap that he could have sat on, just an epic expanse of stomach. Now the little fellow has just enough space and he can casually jump onto it and receive some fuss.

Today cost nothing, apart from some petrol. All I did was walk, talk, drink coffee and pet a pooch – but honestly I feel high on life.

I have no idea why years ago, hemmed in on all sides by all the bad habits you could imagine its possible for someone to have that I failed to see the simplicity of what could make me TRULY happy in life.

It’s not money, it’s not possessions, it’s not cigarettes or alcohol, and it’s certainly not status or power.

It’s as simple as a walk in the cold around the park with a good friend and a toddler dressed as Chewbacca or a coffee with my mate and his constantly hungry bulldog.

Today I’ve shared plenty of thoughts and feelings, had a few hugs, walked several laps round a nature reserve, petted Boris, drank coffee, talked about videogames and I’m going to finish the evening with an epically delicious (and diet friendly) beef and lentil stew.

If that’s not a winner of a day Internet then I don’t know what is.

Davey

Puppy love

Back when I started writing my blog I had the twin objectives of getting myself a dog and getting fit.

The latter has very much become the focus of my life but the former is like a niggling itch that for whatever reason I just can’t scratch.

I talked myself out of it at the time for very sensible reasons (such as who would look after it when I’m working) but there’s rarely a day or week where I don’t question that decision, and wonder again whether I could get a dog.

Today I feel that itch burrowing away and poking my brain deep inside my head. It’s all I can do to resist going to the local kennels.

The reason?

This impossibly cute little guy called ‘Max’ who belongs to one of the ladies at Slimming World. He sat on my lap throughout most of the session, initially nervously shaking, then nibbling and tugging at my beard as he got used to me before finally falling asleep on my arm.

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He’s teeny tiny for a puppy (he’s a Jack Russell so he won’t be ever be huge) and seems to have the softest fur and most perfect paws and eyes that it’s possible for a dog to have. I honestly fell madly in love with him for a whole hour before I reluctantly gave him back to his disgustingly lucky (and lovely) owner.

To be honest I didn’t want to disturb or frighten him so I barely moved throughout the SW session – and it was pointed out by the ladies that the award I recieved today was met with a more muted response than usual. Rather than jumping up and down with joy I was just happily breathing in the sweet sweet odour of puppy fur.

To be honest if I had a dog like Max I don’t think I’d give a toss about eating or certificates ever again. I’d just sit around and play with him or her all day long!

However – I’m STILL pretty chuffed that despite a lower amount of walking and exercise this week that I managed to pull a loss out of the bag to get my eight stone award and little gold sticker.

I lost 4.5 pounds today.

I have another 3.5 to go before I get my eight and a half stone award – which is an excellent motivator for the week ahead to be good. I may be able to nail it next week!

One of the kind people at slimming world also put something of an extra special treat in this week’s food basket and with my coffee to celebrate (while I write) I’ve just indulged in this lovely gooey squidgy chocolate fudge brownie.

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At a mildly decadent 4 syns it’s not going to break the bank – and it tasted really nice!

Thankfully I’m not really someone with a sweet tooth, so the lingering taste of chocolate is unlikely to make me crave anything else in a similar vein. I think instead that later on today I’m going to make an EPIC chicken soup to use up some swede and carrots before they go a bit soft and bendy.

If I can attribute this week’s success to anything (given my largely downbeat frame of mind for most of it) it’s chunky and warming broths.

When it’s absolutely freezing outside (I’ve been forced to turn on the central heating which is unheard of for a tubby trucker like me unless I have visitors) nothing fits the bill more than a hearty bowl or two of chunky soup.

Although I could use the swede and carrot to make something different.

I also have a recipe for beef and Guinness pie on the January page of the 2017 SW calendar (it came with this month’s magazine) that I’m considering making. However as I don’t drink any more I don’t know whether I should use the Guinness to make it – or sub in something else.

It may sound silly to some people but I want absolutely nothing to do with alcohol – even if its baked into food. When I was down last week I found my mind drifting while watching a supermarket Christmas advert for beer and reminiscing about the feeling of drinking Southern Comfort on the 25th of December.

This is probably about the only Christmas tradition I had – and although it’s not a particularly festive drink it almost single-handedly ensured that year after year I never made it to the end of ET The Extra Terrestrial.

What happens in the end to the adorable little walnut with the glowing finger is still a mystery…

It’s maybe silly to think this way – but in moments where I feel a happy nostalgic memory about booze I head over to my online counter (here) and it reminds me where I am with abstinence. Currently it stands at 297 days.

My ambition eventually is to count this in years rather than days and months.

Maybe I’ll try it with some sort of yeast extract instead. From what I can see on the recipe it’s the only thing that adds syns anyway so I’ll probably be doing myself a favour all round.

Anyway Internet – that’s my (positive and happy) start to the day. Wherever you are and whatever you want to improve about yourself or whatever you’re wrestling with I hope your day is going well too.

As a very very kind lady I know keeps reminding me ‘Just keep swimming.’

Davey

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Peaky Blinder

It’s been a busy week of walking and keeping in contact with people and I think during this time I have added yet another war wound to my little list.

After a lengthy trek the other day around Stourport on Severn (story here) I think I’ve developed ‘shin splints’ in my left leg. From what I read online the near constant dull pain I have in my shin is often caused by being overweight and having tight calves – along with having footwear thats not cushioned enough – but it seems mostly associated with runners.

I’m not a runner but I am overweight, have tight calves and my walking boots are stiffer than they were since I had the soles replaced – so maybe this is to blame. Either way it hurts – and made me glad I had a large tube of ibuprofen gel tucked away in my medicine chest for just such calamities.

On the bright side though I now have a new ‘friend’ for the plantar fasciitis in my right foot. It’s been getting a bit lonely lately so at least it has something to compete with for my attention.

Despite this yesterday I managed to hit (and exceed) my self imposed target of four miles walking – bringing my weekly total to 41.

It was a pretty leisurely day of strolling and chatting though rather than power walking (which was a good thing with my shin issue) that started in Memorial Park with my friend and his dog then ended up in a really eclectic shopping arcade in Coventry called the Fargo Village.

The park held a hidden surprise for Boris – which it’s fair to say made him a very very happy little Frenchie.

A deflated football.

There’s something absolutely hilarious about watching a deliriously chuffed dog carrying and shaking back and forth an object that’s twice the size of its head.

After squashing and deflating it enough to get it into his mouth Boris’s pleasure centres seemed well stimulated. After trotting in circles for a few seconds he finally managed to hold the impossible object in such a way that he could see over the top and then skipped along beside us like a cat that had just discovered an everlasting cream fountain.

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There have been many times I’ve wished I was a dog and I have to say this was one of them. To experience such pleasure from something so simple is a fantastic thing – and to have goals in life that are satisfied by the discovery of a deflated football could be an answer to pretty much all of the world’s problems.

It would certainly solve all of mine.

I resolve to ‘be more Boris’.

I was still thinking about him later when we arrived at Fargo Village – a wonderfully diverse, offbeat and individual selection of shops made from shipping containers and caravans near Coventry City centre.

Randomly hanging outside a shop was possibly the best shower curtain I’ve ever seen – made from individual cells of film reel – all showing tiny but incredibly detailed images of nature. I was tempted to buy it until I realised I had nowhere to put it – and that I’d probably get so lost in looking at the pattern of it it that I’d never get out of the shower!

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There was also a scooter showroom just outside with some lovely Lambretta scooters of all colours and configurations parked up in front of the shop in lovely neat rows waiting to be sat on, photographed or played with.


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I don’t feel in the least bit trendy usually – and this kind of territory proved that I have a long long way to go before I had any kind of image based cachet with the kind of people that frequent such a place.

I needed to be far more urban, and I’m pretty sure that my jeans were tight in all the wrong places.

To be honest I also had some serious beard competition nearby that made my chin fur look rather pedestrian. Hirsute envy immediately began developing deep inside me when I caught sight of the frankly epic facial hair sitting waiting to be coiffured in ‘Dashing Blades’ – the cool little barber shop on the site.

I couldn’t help but laugh when my mate suggested what a stampede and pandemonium we could cause if one of us stood outside and shouted ‘death to all hipsters!!!’

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Every time I passed the shop as I strolled around there seemed to be a new and bushier set of facial plumage waiting to be trimmed and waxed.

Fargo village is also offbeat enough to have a Sgt Bilko / Phil Silvers memorabilia museum. This is possibly better than the Redditch Nail Museum – although just like my unfulfilled desire to explore the history of nails last week (here) I was denied the chance to investigate further.

It was closed due to family illness when we arrived – so all I could do was peer through the left hand window at the FULL SIZED RED DALEK (which I don’t remember seeing in the Phil Silvers show…) and the huge cardboard cutout of Rick from The Walking Dead.

Feeling a little parched after the morning’s walking we stopped a few doors down from here for an ethically sourced, ethnically aware, vegan, fair trade and socially responsible coffee at the nearby bookshop. This was (ahem) not cheap – but I guess diversity and individuality has to be financed somehow.

The economy of scale that underpins my usual cheap and refillable Starbucks filter coffee comes with many hidden social costs that I often choose to ignore while I sit in their premises writing my blog posts on their free wifi.

Musing over these and other topics of conversation my friend and I left, unable to find what he had originally been looking for.

For my part I departed with an unexpected and great sense of longing – for I had quite out of the blue fallen in love with a hat.

Normally I’d have thought that such an item would leave me looking like a pretentious idiot – however since I am recently getting a cold head and since the consensus of (Facebook and Instagram) opinion appears to be that this suits me I’m genuinely tempted to go back and get it. I’m just not entirely sure it will match the rest of my clothes…

Comments are always welcome!

The week however has not been completely plain sailing. Today I appear to have had a blip on the scales and managed to put 3lbs back on. 

If I’m honest when I sit in the cold light of day and examine why – it’s not a complete mystery. I’ve had a bit of a sweet tooth this week and have been eating a lot of fat free quark and natural yogurt with frozen fruit and sweetener to stem the craving.

I’ve also had a lot of apples, plums and oranges. My blip therefore is not a magical mystery, nor is it unjust and unfair. I ate too much free food and not enough speed. I should have eaten less overall.

Truthfully I thought I could get away with it given all of my walking, but it appears not – so this coming week I’m going to have to double down, keep a food diary, go back to basics and make more effort.

Truthfully I felt a bit peeved and disappointed on the scales – but you know what? I’m not alone and it’s not the end of the world. All the other members at the group have blip weeks and get right back on their metaphorical horses. I stayed to the image therapy talk with Angie afterwards – was honest about all my mistakes during the week and I’m owning the responsibility for it.

I’m going to draw my inspiration from the ladies that cheer me up every weekend and just get on with it.

However (ironically enough given it’s the first week in ages where I put weight ON) today I won the Mr Sleek 2016 award (with a commemorative tie). This morning we all voted for the person we’d most like to win.

It was a nice surprise and I had a photo taken with the wonderful winning Miss Slinky 2016 (withheld as it’s not just a photo of me).

I can’t think where on earth I would wear this rather bold tie (Miss Slinky seemed the same with her eye catching sash) but I can now add it to my wardrobe safe in the knowledge that I have at least one item of clothing that will never get taken to charity!!!

The rest of my day internet will be spent with a cool tube of ibuprofen and my leg up on a pillow. I’m not going to give it the two weeks off that the NHS website suggests – it’s going to have to learn that these days we do things differently at casa du davey and it’s going to have to get with the program in the same way other parts of my tubby frame have.

Today pouffe – tomorrow the world!

Davey

The dog man of Arrow Valley

My companion and I couldn’t find the ruins of the abbey we were looking for. We’d followed all the markers leading to it on the little wooden posts in the park but our way now seemed blocked.

There was a padlocked gate, and a picture of a free grazing bull with large pointy looking horns nailed to a post near the impassible metal stile.

My friend’s pram didn’t seem like something we could easily lift over the fence and neither of us wanted to be chased by a bull – especially one with pointy horns.

The Arrow Valley Abbey and nearby nail museum (which I really want to see now purely because it’s a nail museum and seems wonderfully random) would have to wait for another day.

We resolved to turn around and walk around the nearby lake instead. Walking was walking, and wherever we were going was good exercise and a chance to chat.

As we walked the autumn colours were everywhere. The nearby Abbey Golf Course was filled with trees covered in rich aubern shades of brown and orange. It looked lovely – and little shafts of blue were peeping through the clouds.

It was quiet and peaceful – and apart from the sound of some nearby ducks the parkland around us was almost completely silent.

‘Awww do you want to sleep?’ My friend attentively said to her toddler. He looked sleepy, and she adjusted the angle of the buggy and pulled the hood over so that he could nod off.

We carried on walking back to the lake, chatting. The paths were covered in leaves and as we walked underneath a road bridge I remarked that with the close bushes and tall black street lamp it looked like Woody Allen and Mia Farrow could stroll around the corner any minute.

A car rumbled past us on the road as we continued to walk, temporarily ruining the mental illusion of Central Park in the Autumn.

In front of us as we left the small meadow and crossed over a road there was an elderly man standing in a wooded grove next to a small white dog with a short pointy tail.

The dog was stationary and didn’t seem interested in moving in any particular direction.

‘He’s getting slower’ said the man to me and my companion as we passed him. We stopped, smiling to examine his portly Jack Russell.

The small waddling white dog at the end of the man’s lead was indeed moving slowly – and seemed preoccupied with a scent in the grass which had rooted him to the spot. He had his nose buried there, investigating.

‘He’s sixteen now. Getting on a bit.’

We all smiled at the dog. He looked cute.

The white haired dog walker was casually dressed with a shiny sky blue tracksuit top that was zipped up to the chin. It had a circular Birmingham City Football Club logo on the left breast.

‘We got him from Birmingham dogs home’ he said with a beaming grin full of big white teeth.

‘He was a rescue. Brought in with another dog who died the same day. They’d burned him over half his body and dislocated this one’s back leg. Tortured them for ten days these yobs had in a derelict house. You wouldn’t believe it.’

I paused. This wasn’t the usual dog walker’s banter.

I looked at my friend. She was nodding at him and didn’t seem worried. I sipped my coffee.

‘I went back to the home every day for three weeks to see him with my disabled wife on the train to be sure we’d get him’ he said.

The man smiled – he had a broad grin and a mouth filled with large white teeth. His hair was neatly combed and under his darker blue tracksuit bottoms were an even darker blue canvas pair of slip on plimsolls with clean white rubber soles.

‘When we eventually went to get him these yobs turned up and tried to drag him out of my wife’s arms’ he continued. ‘A disabled woman’s arms. Two of em. You wouldn’t believe it.’

I shook my head and looked politely incredulous. His disabled wife wrestling with two yobs over a Jack Russel with a dislocated leg in a dogs home.

Sounded bad.

‘I lost it.’ He said, looking at the dog, who was now pulling toward another scent, making the red dog lead taut in his owner’s hand.

He looks back at us. ‘Back then I’d had a head injury. I thought I was Rambo’ he mused.

I nodded. Rambo. Ok.

‘No – I REALLY thought I was Rambo.’ He confirmed.

I silently nodded again. Rambo. Got it. Ok.

‘Broke one guy’s ankle and nose, broke the other guy’s arm and face – made a real mess of ’em. They called the police. You wouldn’t believe it.’

My friend started gently rolling her pram back and forth to keep her toddler asleep.

‘The people in the dogs home had to drag me off. Told me to leave and said they’d tell the police they didn’t know who did it.’

He paused to look at both of us, gauging the reaction. I looked at my friend again. She was still nodding.

I smiled and nodded as well.

‘I went to a cafe up the road in Digbeth – I knew the guy there – and bought him a sausage.’ He reminisced. ‘Big sausage. This long!’ He motioned with his hands.

It looked like about six inches. A lot of sausage for a Jack Russell.

‘He loved it!’

We all continued to focus on the dog. He looked like he’d had quite a few sausages since that day – and was sniffing some leaves.

‘I felt a little guilty about three hours later’ he continued ‘and I called the dogs home in case they’d got into trouble. The man said the police didn’t care once they heard what the yobs had done to the dogs.’

He smiled. He obviously felt he had done a good deed.

‘They never forgot me after that – got a card from them every Christmas’ he said.

‘They all know me.’ He said proudly.

‘I’m the dog man of Arrow Valley’ the mad said grinning with lots of teeth.

‘Everyone knows me’.

My friend laughed along with him and we all looked at the plump Jack Russell – now in another bush investigating what was there. He turned and looked up at us expectantly.

‘He’s really clever too.’ The dog man of Arrow Valley said.

‘You know them calls? The PPI calls? He knows. You wouldn’t believe it.’

My companion continued to nod, rocking the pushchair slowly. I nodded too and sipped my flask of coffee.

‘We ‘ent learned him to press the button on the phone – but he knows. He hears the phone ringing when it’s them, knocks it off the cradle and starts talking to them.’

We continued to look at the dog, smiling. He was standing on the path now, looking bored.

Ow wow wow ow woow wow he sez to them. He does – you wouldn’t believe it!’

The Jack Russel looked up at him. There seemed to be a brief flicker of understanding.

‘Course the wife never liked the name the dogs home gave him.’ He mused. ‘Called him Rooney. She likes Manchester United. Did it just to wind me up’.

He motioned to the football club logo on his left breast. ‘You wouldn’t believe it.’ He said again.

I bent down to stroke the pooch. He had a little pink bone shaped tag on his collar with ‘ROONEY’ engraved on it.

‘Well – better go! Nice to meet you!’ He said, and just like that the dog man of Arrow Valley was gone, with his reluctant Jack Russell waddling slowly behind.

We continued our walk around the lake.

The Nail Museum would have to wait for another day. The Dog Man of Arrow Valley was far more interesting. The Nail Museum just couldn’t compete.

Davey

Freckles, Kassaba and a charity shop

It’s early morning and I’m tired. For some reason I’ve been up and down to the toilet all night and I think I must have expelled an oil tanker’s worth of fluid.

This always worries me a little (it happens occasionally) as it reminds me of  what made me realise I had diabetes. Going to the loo every 45 minutes had become an embarrassing and irritating necessity – and the final straw was actually wetting the bed one night a couple of years ago.

Thankfully nothing like that is happening at the moment. I have been eating lots of veg and drinking lots of green tea. I guess the water from all this has to do somewhere and I’m glad it’s not chosen to take up residence in my ankles like it used to when I sat on my ass all day long.

Sunday was a day of rest for me – intended originally to be a zen haven of video game nirvana – but ultimately it became a telephone battle with Virgin Media’s inept billing dept (which sounds like it’s in India) who don’t listen and kept transferring me to another endless queue.

I spent nearly two hours on the phone – approximately 90 mins of which was on hold to a ‘customer retention department’ who ironically never bothered to answer the phone in an attempt to retain me.

I used up 2/3rds of my talk time allowance on my mobile and ended up fairly livid.

By the time I went to bed I was still not a happy boy – and on Monday decided that I’d rather spend the day out walking (or doing anything) than I would trying to resolve this again.

Thankfully I had a trip around the park planned with a lovely lady from Slimming World.

We’ve now been meeting up once a week for a few months, and each time spend a couple of hours nattering, sitting on benches and strolling around looking at the park and swans. Yesterday was a lovely day for it and as I walked over the canal toward the park from home I couldn’t help but marvel at the clear blue Mediterranean sky. The day was pretty cool and fresh but there wasn’t a cloud to be seen!

When I arrived at 10am to meet my companion St Nicholas looked like it had just woken up for the day. Not only were there brand new roses blooming on the path into the park but the swanling (now almost grown out of it’s baby feathers) was eager to come and say hello.


By the time I’d done three laps of the park, walked home and completed various other chores I had managed to finish the day with 18,500 steps and 8.5 miles under my belt (and had not a single thing to do with Virgin Media)

Today I also have a busy one planned – and the entire day revolves around ex colleagues who I’m either going for walks with or meeting for a meal. However – before all that happens I need to do a bit of hoovering, so I’ll be back in a bit!

(hoovers house, meets mates, has a looooong day out)

Well today has been wonderful. First of all Freckles came to visit and brought her driver with her (who just happens to be an ex colleague).

Our original plan had been a walk around Memorial Park in Coventry. My friend had read about it in a previous blog (that time accompanied by Boris the French Bulldog) and was keen to explore a new dog walking space. As it happened the thick early mist of the morning quickly cleared and turned into yet another blue sky day peppered with little white fluffy clouds.

We did two brisk circuits of the park – which is three and a half miles according to Apple Watch. It’s fair to say that all three of us had a good workout – and a cold drink back in Warwick was called for.

Irritatingly the last time Freckes had visited Warwick I hadn’t thought very hard about where to go (after our St Nicholas park walk) that had outdoor seating – and we had ended up sitting in a Sainsburys car park outside Starbucks.

It hadn’t even occurred to me until later when Freckes was on her way home that the Saxon Mill would have been a good place to go – so this time around I was determined to remedy that. As pubs go it’s pretty special, and given its fully working water wheel it’s not just a nice place to sit by the river – but a genuinely interesting piece of local history that’s VERY dog friendly.

After we’d all had a little rest (and Freckles had lapped at a bowl of water) I suggested that we wander to the St James the Great church over the river, and meander around the edge of the corn fields there toward Old Milverton.

Neither of us had anything better to do, so this seemed like a plan. I did however have an ulterior motive. I was having a meal out with friends later and I needed all the exercise that I could squeeze out of the day.

We did a full leisurely circuit (about 2.5 miles) of the fields and the churchyard before heading back to the car.

By the time we had arrived back to my house my friend, Freckles and I had walked around six and a half miles. It was clear that while she enjoyed all of the exploring his pooch was now a little tired. It took her less than five minutes to get to grips with how exceptionally comfy the thick underlay beneath my living room carpet was and start her little doggy snores while she dreamed about squirrels in Memorial Park.

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Eventually my friend and Freckles left and I headed with another mate to a dinner at Star City in Birmingham.

This was with several friends that in some cases I hadn’t seen for several years. We had planned to meet for 6pm at Kassaba, a Turkish grill restaurant, and apart from a little hiccup with traffic from the NEC everyone mostly arrived on time.

The decor of the place was immediately to my liking. I adore the colourful opulence of Turkish and Moroccan art and furnishings.

I’d not eaten much prior to arrival (a baked potato and a tuna salad) but I was keen to not damage my diet too much, so I tried where possible to make some healthy choices. In this case the lamb and chicken kebabs on skewers were fresh meat without fat and were accompanied with boiled rice and salad. As a main meal they seemed like a good way to go.

Since I never normally have a starter I decided to live a little and have some meatballs in sauce. Complimentary bread and houmous arrived at the table too – and I had three pieces with a few generous dips.

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As regular houmous is 2 syns per level tbsp I think I had maybe 8 syns – and I’m guessing that the bread (a ciabatta style sliced roll) would have been about 10 syns. There was also some oil in the dressing and the meatballs probably weren’t syn free either.

I’m thinking the meal came in at about 30 syns or thereabouts – but given my walking for the day (my active calories burned was 1,662, my total cardio time was 32 mins, my steps were 18,842, and the total distance 8.83 miles) I think I’ve done OK and struck the right balance between exercise and reward.

I’ve never eaten at a Turkish restaurant before – but I think I’ll be eating there again as the food was flipping delicious – and the hot tea at the end was the cherry on the cake.

When I add to this the great conversation from old friends too seldom seen it’s no surprise to me that three hours of eating and chatting had passed before any of us noticed the time. When we finally asked for the bill it was well past nine o’clock and unfortunately those of us with children, jobs, pets, and addictions to walking were beginning to tire.

We paid up and headed for our cars and home – agreeing that we should meet up again soon.

Honestly I’ve been invited to these meals before – but due to embarrassment over my weight, and worries about seeing people and being bigger than the last time we met I’ve turned the opportunities down.

Lately though I’m turning nothing down. I’m open to (almost) anything. I’m not making the same mistakes and excuses again.

Yesterday and today are stark reminders of the simple pleasures that can be found in a healthy lifestyle – and it means more than just feeling physically well, it means feeling mentally fulfilled too.

I feel both this evening as I type.

I’m tired from all of my exercise, proud that I’ve done so much, happy that I spent so much time with my friends, and looking forward to whatever tomorrow has to bring.

(but before I sign off)

Today I FINALLY took 13 pairs of jeans (ranging from a 66in – 60in waistline), 17 8x shirts, 6 8x teeshirts, 2 8x hoodies, 2x pairs of 8x shorts and one 8x pair of tracksuit bottoms to the Age UK charity shop in town.

It was very VERY hard to do, and I’d put it off and put it off, but now it’s done and I no longer have a clothing fallback position.

The only way for my weight to go is downward. Financially I can’t afford to replace them.

I’m wearing the smaller 7x’s I have and the larger 6x’s. There will be more to go to charity soon.

Scary, but happy times Internet.

Davey

 

 

Boris and the swanling

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

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

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

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

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

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

Tick in the win column!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe next time Boris…

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

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

Yay!

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

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

Only time will tell!

Davey

Ooozagubboythen?

Boris is at my house, and has been hunting for buried treasure.

Sadly the most that he could find was a particularly large cache of cobwebs behind my sofa. He came out after an exploratory sniffing and grunting session covered in them and stared expectantly at his master and me.

I can’t stop smiling while he’s around and my tendency to start patting my knees and talking nonsense to him remains undiminished.

‘Ooozagubboythen? Ooooooozagoodliddleboythen? Yezzzyooaree! Yez! IzzYou! Yezzzyouare!!!’

Boris for his part has no tail to wag, but he tells me with his eyes that he understands everything I say and acknowledges that he is in fact a good boy, and that for some time, yes, he HAS known this. He needs no confirmation.

Watching him expectantly pad back and forth following my friend as he transfers the Chinese takeaway that’s just arrived onto a plate can’t fail to make me smile. I find I’m watching Boris way more than he’s watching me. Maybe this is because I’m not food, but I think mostly because he already has a pet human and doesn’t need another.

After we’ve eaten my friend grabs my plate and heads to the kitchen for a glass of water. I pause the film (Johnny Depp – Black Mass – very good) and follow him to do the same. Now we’ve eaten, its time for our nightly ritual. Now we get to take our middle aged old fart medication.

My friend and I play illness top trumps. I have more pills than he does but his smaller number are for REAL men and put hairs on their chests.

He’s currently winning our game – much to my quiet disgust. Hopefully something dramatic but non life threatening will allow me to up the ante one day soon and prove once and for all I’m the Jedi master of being ill. For tonight however I concede defeat and curse my good health.

We head back to the living room and the film. Boris leaves his temporary dinner time banishment to the floor and hops up onto the sofa next to his master.

I know it shouldn’t but this makes me insanely jealous. I want a dog!

The universe also appears to be reminding me of this at every turn.

On a previous post where a colleague of mine, Ryan played my mom’s guitar, the very first advertisement that YouTube served me when I watched the video was for the dog’s trust…

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I paid little heed to this, laughing with Ryan the next day about it at work. I mean – what were the odds? Maybe because I’d googled them when I was planning on getting a dog I was being presented with the most relevant ad for me?

They were in fact my first choice and are just down the road. Kenilworth has the largest dog’s trust in the UK, and seemed a really natural fit. I mean, how can you NOT get a dog that comes from a place called Kenilworth?!

Then yesterday I get home, expecting the usual fast food menus pushed through my letterbox, but noooooo… The universe isn’t prepared to let it slide when I ignore its Post It notes.

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A lady that’s not lived here for 10 years receives a mail shot from THE DOGS TRUST and its sitting on my doormat!

(covers ears and starts chanting lalalalalalala….)

The assault however is not over.

In order to remind me AGAIN the universe enlists the help of my sister in law who is a dog nut. She’s liking and sharing anything vaguely doggy on Facebook at the moment, and every time I load my page up I’m greeted with some kind of puppy or pooch looking impossibly cute.

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As Boris and my friend get ready to leave, I’m jolted back into reality. Sadly I can’t get a dog at the moment, but one day in the near future I am sure I will. I’m not sure I’m going to throw it any dinner parties, but I might buy it a Dr Spock body warmer…

As Boris pads off into the night I find myself muttering

‘Yezyouare… Yezyouare…’

I’m sure he rolls his eyes at me.

Davey