Outdoorsy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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then and compare it to the one I have now I can see that without doubt I was still being held back by an increasingly outdated perception of my capabilities.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However this mindset wasn’t the whole story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ve become quite popular…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

Davey

P.S.

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

How wrong they are!!!

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

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Christmas update

I really am a big kid in many respects.

If you tell me I’m going anywhere nice then the possibility of me sleeping properly beforehand is practically zero.

It’s why I’m wide awake right now.

My mind can be quite hyperactive at the best of times but honestly when it’s faced with the prospect of going to do things that take me out of my usual comfortable bubble then I start going into ‘planning mode’.

This is the side of me that makes lists and lies awake at 2am completely unable to nod off.

It’s thankfully not a huge element of my personality – because for the most part I prefer a degree of last minute chaos.

I’m not the type of guy that typically chips away at gradual preparation – and find usually that a pressing need to do things with very little time to spare usually results in better creativity.

Such added urgency also means that tasks appear to get completed in lightning fast time with practically zero faffing.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I like to think that doing things at the last moment saves time, because there’s rarely a wasted moment just before an event.

I guess the truth is that I actually just fit in all the dead time before I finally give up procrastinating and get around to doing what I have to do.

It’s not hard to faff about over the Christmas period though.

It’s what the holiday’s there for after all!

While I’ve been doing some exciting new things over the last couple of weeks (more on this maybe in another post further down the line…) for the most part I’ve been experiencing a rather relaxing Christmas on my own.

Many would may see this as the absolute opposite way that Christmas should be spent (and at any other time I may have been in agreement) but I’ve rather enjoyed it.

With very good reason I haven’t felt as if I’ve been in solitude at all.

Everyone that matters to me has been in practically constant or semi regular contact – and once again I’ve been reminded that I have some very creative and very caring friends who (it appears) are always thinking about me when it comes to gifts.

Newer readers may not have heard of Swanlings before – but back when I first started losing weight and could barely move around the park, I motivated myself for a while by following the progress of some cygnets in St Nics.

Nature can be cruel, and out of a large staring group of several cygnets they slowly dwindled in number until only one remained.

This swanling (now fully grown) is still a solitary presence in the park – and whenever I pass by him or her (I have no idea!) I can’t help but stop to say a metaphorical hello.

We’ve both grown and developed together and because of that Swans (and in particular their offspring) hold a special significance in my heart.

My friend (initially a passing blog reader who eventually became much more) clearly understands this and totally out of the blue made me this wonderful piece of embroidery for Christmas.

When it comes to gifts It’s true that big things don’t matter at all.

It really is the thought that counts.

This year I’ve received and given items and cards that probably cost much less in monetary terms than any preceding year in my history – but in truth what’s passed in both directions has probably done so with more love and thought than ever before.

This has led to me feeling rather cared for and supremely relaxed – and has probably been the cause of another feature of the last few days.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day definitely saw me take my foot off the metaphorical gas – and despite ambling around the park for a while on The 25th and 26th (the swimming pool has been closed!!!) the vast majority of my time has been spent eating, reading and playing video games.

I know that dietary excess is something of an expectation that goes hand in hand with the Christmas experience, and I shouldn’t really do guilt – but I can’t help harbouring a little.

I always find periods where I let my appetite off the leash somewhat unsettling – because I immediately realise I’m still capable of eating a LOT of food in a short space of time.

It’s really easy to undo hard won victories on the scales in a very short time – so I resolved relatively early in in the experience that Christmas would mostly be vegetarian.

With the exception of chicken on some days over the holiday season the last few days has consisted almost entirely of roasted and boiled veggies with a few carbs and lots of apples or plums.

Everything I’ve made (particularly in the above picture) was practically oil free and very Slimming World friendly.

I’m not gonna lie though and say I had small portions – because I ate the flipping lot as well as a huge pile of fruit afterwards.

Truthfully I enjoyed every last mouthful of it.

Consequently the evening of the 25th saw me flopping heavily into bed after playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider for the vast majority of the day.

I was quite satisfied with my resulting food coma and felt rather Christmassy.

At least one of us got a good level of exercise in.

By time time I fell asleep (in comparison to my short five mile stroll around the park in the morning) Lara Croft had killed two rather deserving jaguars (whom I turned into some rather fetching boots after they relentlessly stalked me for two levels) brought a swift end to several bad guys and in doing so had clambered over a significant amount of South American jungle.

Frankly I was exhausted just watching her – but couldn’t help admiring her new attire.

I’m just a hair’s breadth away from her approach to personal styling myself – and I’m barely one party invite away from buying something ridiculously outlandish to wear just for the hell of it.

I’m genuinely surprised that many of the things I’ve tried on recently (mostly as an attempt at personal humour) have actually resulted in me thinking ‘You know what?! I’d actually wear that!’

This is a sign that I’m far from unhappy in life – and that the man I’ve become is in a place where he feels so secure that experimentation is just something that happens naturally every day – instead of to be avoided at all costs.

I am still a creature of habit in some respects mind you – and I do like some certain things to remain the same.

As well as regular canine contact (how can you not love a face like that?!) one of these has been the continued joy of bottomless coffee and a good read – which you may well have noticed has taken the place of writing over the last few days.

This is partly because another very generous friend gave me an old (slightly damaged but still fully functional) Kindle as a present – and having never owned one before I can say with complete surprise that I’m totally in love with it.

It only has one purpose (unlike my iPad) but the featherweight nature of its construction and razor sharp text make it instantly pleasurable to read in any light.

The only problem is the numb posterior that it’s caused in both coffee shops and the smallest room of my house…

So that’s been my Christmas internet – and it’s not over yet.

When day breaks I’ll be off to do the things in life that make me happy.

There will be lots of twalking and lots of exploration.

It’s gonna be fun!

Excuse me though. I need to see if I can get at least another hour’s sleep under my belt…

Davey

They just flow

Sometimes my posts practically write themselves.

They seem to leap out of my head, travel through my fingers and appear almost fully formed on the screen in front of me.

These are the ones that I write in my head, all day long as things happen around me when I find moments of interest or insight.

At other times there is either a void in my thought process – or even more painfully (but thankfully relatively rarely) a completely blank page.

The blanks arrive oddly not because I have too little to say – but instead because there’s just too much – and I become aware that there are deeper forces at work.

Sometimes writing is a catharsis – but paradoxically also realising why you can’t is similarly thought provoking and it too can eventually provide insight.

One recent (significant) decision I’ve made was rooted partially around a realisation of why a creative drought had arrived.

That particular choice will no doubt be discussed at a later date – but to give you a window into the inner workings of my mind here are a few paragraphs that started, but never reached a published conclusion.

I started constructing the following entry several times during the week – mostly in the dead of night – and always with the same result.

I became annoyed with myself and I shut down.

(This was the final attempt.)

It’s 2am on Wednesday morning and I can’t sleep.

No matter what I do I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking about random things and it’s one of those moments where you have a head full of thoughts but answers to almost none of the questions that arise from them.

I’m aware too that many of them (at least for the time being) are unresolvable both in my head and reality.

I’ve just got to let most of them play out and see where they end up.

Outside it’s raining, so rather than waste the rather wonderful ambient silence that appears to be accompanying it (there is no traffic or animal noise, just the sound of running water) I’ve decided to sit downstairs with the back door wide open on a folding patio chair and listen to it.

It’s pitch black in my kitchen and I’m seated in just my underwear with my legs crossed absorbing the sound and scent of the rain whilst typing.

There’s a gentle breeze that’s not quite cool enough to make me get dressed but sufficiently chilly to ensure that I have slightly cold feet.

It’s not an unpleasant sensation though because the temperature has helped slow the beating of my heart…

…and it’s not until I typed and read those last few words back that I realise it was (until I came downstairs) faster than it is now.

(I check it on Apple Watch)

I know that in the great scheme of things that it’s currently pretty slow.

Physically I’ve barely moved for the last 20 minutes but mentally (before I came downstairs) I was all over the place and I realise now that what’s happening to me both at night and during the day is a form of anxiety.

I’m thinking about life issues without vocalising or resolving tensions surrounding them and the impact of turning all of this inwards and trying to ignore it is dribbling into other things.

Over the last month or so this phenomenon has been on the rise but I’ve not recognised it for what it is.

It’s odd because until very recently I didn’t feel this way at all. I tended to see it a lot in others but not when I looked in the mirror.

Whenever possible I’ve tried to process and deal with things as they happen rather than bottling them up.

(I get angry with myself – stop typing and return to bed without finishing but decide not to delete it.

Back to today…)

I don’t want to be seen as an unhappy person and I don’t feel comfortable (even now) writing a post following a similar string of posts that paint me in what I consider to be an unflattering light.

I don’t want to appear like I can’t adequately cope with things – or that I’m wallowing in thoughts when I should just be getting on with life – but clearly running away from writing about how I really feel and exploring this has consequences.

This last week I’ve also been withdrawing a bit again (despite saying I wouldn’t) and trying to solve my own problems in isolation without people around me – and the truth is I just can’t.

I can’t do without them around me – and even when I don’t feel like I can cope with company (have you ever wondered why on earth anyone would want to talk to you when you feel down?) when I force myself to do it there’s almost always a positive outcome.

Last night I was invited to a small social gathering at a Unionist Club locally.

There was live music, some people I knew (it was an ex-colleague’s birthday) and many people I didn’t know.

After the band finished (and I could finally hear myself think) I spent more time talking to the various people there. As the night slowly drew to a conclusion and I talked to them more and more I began to notice a growing inner calm.

It came from human contact.

It came from surrounding myself with it even though (before I arrived) I had felt like sitting alone and withdrawing inside my own head.

Today this continued – and despite not really wanting to I got up and went out really early for a walk.

The world looked wonderful at 7am.

All of the flowers and bushes were covered in little glistening dewy droplets that made them sparkle in the warming sunshine that was slowly peeping over the nearby trees.

As I walked my post was finally coming together. It would be about the band who played the night before (the Zephyrs) and the people that I met.

I’d chatted to some real characters who asked a lot of probing questions about my weight loss. My responses and theirs were still rattling around my mind.

Eventually I sat down outside a pub in Warwick with a coffee – some six and a half miles later.

The square was quickly coming to life.

It was market day – and as I sat nearby the fruit stalls as they laid out their wares in the cool of the shady square my fingers started a new blog.

It would be about my walk in the sunshine and the huge baking potatoes on the nearby stall that would barely fit in my oven, let alone a microwave.

Why on Earth were they so big? The tomatoes nearby were larger still!

Who was growing these massive vegetables?

These thoughts however were unexpectedly interrupted by passing friends who stopped to say hello and ultimately decided to delay their planned breakfast to sit with me for a drink and chat.

They had not long returned from holiday and were keen to show me some pictures of a lovely little corner of the world in Spain – where the hillsides seemed to go on forever and in the distance there were mountains.

‘They’re occasionally covered with snow too!’ my friend said as she pinched and zoomed in and out of the image on her screen.

The mountains looked impossibly picturesque, framed by an impossibly blue sky and for a brief moment I found myself fantasising about walking over them.

It looked lovely – and they both looked happy.

I forgot what I was typing my blog – because I was enjoying talking to them and chatting about life.

I was also fantasising about going exploring in a place with endless vistas and snow capped peaks.

This made me feel better still and my post once more evolved in my mind as we parted company and I walked away.

The flow was being directed toward our conversation. Maybe it would be about swimming pools and villas in Spain with views and hills to walk over. Maybe it would be aspirational. Maybe I too would go to Spain one day and see the mountains for myself.

Now wasn’t the time to finish it though. Now was the time to make my way to Slimming World.

Not just yet though.

On the way I walked idly into a charity shop, and as I quickly browsed I noticed a rack of jackets.

There was a new (still with tags!) grey Jasper Conran one in my size for only £12.50!

I slung it over a my shoulders and it seemed to fit perfectly.

The arms were just the right length!

It also appeared to suit my casual outfit rather well, so I bought it, pulled the price label off, popped it on and headed to my group in the sunshine with a smile on my face.

Today was a different group entirely.

It felt weird.

All week long I’d avoided my scales and tried not to think about Slimming World or whether I’ve doing good (or bad).

I’ve instead tried to stick to plan – have been on it sometimes and not at others – but more than anything I’ve been trying to do away with guilt and worry and just live life.

The theory behind this (following my chat with Angie after group last week) was that I wanted to attend, not weigh in, listen to the talk, feel good in my clothes and remain focused without it all being about a number.

As a target member I don’t have to weigh in EVERY week any more and I don’t have to tie myself in knots, or feel any guilt if I don’t want to.

It felt slightly unsettling to not see a number or have the certainty of knowing exactly how heavy I was but it also felt good.

Somehow I was still in the zone but had no idea what the scales said.

I walked away and as I did the narrative continued to write itself in my head.

It would be a charity shop victory – a moment of shopping triumph – enabled by a shrunken waistline and feeling positive about clothes and life – all bookended by the people I’d seen the night before, that morning in Warwick and also those in my group.

Until the phone rang.

My friend was free earlier than expected and wondered if I wanted to go for a walk before the time we’d planned.

The narrative stopped in my head. I’d have to pick it up later. Walking was way more fun.

My mental typewriter had the page pulled out of it, screwed up and the contents thrown in a little ball towards a brain bin with a basketball hoop.

I changed and headed over to her house.

We’d decided to walk along the canal from Hatton towards Knowle and it seemed like a lovely day for it.

To the ‘Tom o the Wood’ and back again was ten miles and it was always a wonderfully quiet stretch of waterway.

It was prime twalking territory.

It seemed that we both needed it.

There was a lot to chat about and both of us had been thinking complex thoughts about how the week had been progressing.

Nothing felt simple in each of our lives and yet in the sunshine as we talked it through nothing seemed overwhelming.

Life was just floating along and occasionally it was gliding over and serenely nibbling the grass.

By the time we reached the pub my feet were beginning to tire though.

I settled for some pickled eggs and a large coffee as a reward and we stopped to sit under a parasol at a table in the shade for an hour as we recuperated.

My watch said I’d nearly hit 14 miles so far that day and for some reason pickled eggs and coffee felt like an appropriate way of celebrating.

We sat chatting next to a quirky sign in the beer garden and gossiped as our feet recovered.

The sun was shining and as we set the world to rights all the while my narrative was shifting in my head.

I watched her laughing as we talked.

Now it was about the ridiculousness of pickled eggs.

Who discovered that eggs could be pickled and who tried to eat one first?

For that matter who discovered vinegar and pickled anything before deciding to eat it?!

The blog would be about the ridiculousness of pickles – the people that make and eat them and swans on the canal.

We left the pub and as we headed back I took a picture, which (for the umpteenth time that day) my mate shamelessly photobombed.

I put my phone away and we continued home – the topic now shifting to blackberries – of which there were millions.

We walked as we talked and munched.

As we did so she stung her index finger on a nettle whilst picking them. It was her first nettle sting it seemed.

As she complained about the sensation and hopped up and down I rubbed a nearby docleaf into the sting.

‘You just scrunch up the underside and rub it into your finger to anaesthetise a nettle burn.’ I advised.

‘It’s amazing how the remedy for the sting always grows next to the nettles.’ I reflected.

I plucked another juicy, fresh and green docleaf and handed it to her.

‘If it starts again use this.’ I said – and she held onto it as we headed back to Hatton.

Nature. That would be the theme.

Nature, it’s circle of life and pickled eggs.

How did nature provide such a wonderful remedy that was always a few feet away (a possible metaphor for life) and how did people discover pickled eggs.

Quirky.

I liked it.

Weird discoveries and nature.

Boom.

Nailed it.

Upon arriving home (now with almost 20 miles on my clock) I decided to eat and cooked myself a chilli.

As I ate the food (which was delicious!) my blog came into view.

The lovely day along the canal, the swan, the chat, the food and the coffee.

And pickled eggs.

Pickled eggs are weird.

Then I fell asleep.

Four hours later I awoke to a text from my friend – a moment of thought that she wanted to share – and my narrative reformed again.

It would be about people.

Pure and simple.

They were the common theme in all of this.

There wasn’t a magical formula and pickled eggs were just eggs in vinegar.

The attempts to write that had failed had all stalled with anger – and all had concluded inside my own head.

They’d died before reaching the page and expired alone on a bleak literary battlefield – without the intervention of external medics to patch them up and return them to the fight.

Within less than 24 hours of filling my life with people and their quirky stories or perspectives I was alive again.

My thoughts were racing – and not in a bad way this time – because my pulse was even and I was relaxed.

There was no anxiety and the post had written itself (as all the best ones do) because my thoughts were outside of my head.

They had been liberated by others rather than being trapped in solitary confinement – forever trying to escape but not being able to pick the locks alone.

They had climbed out of my mind via the companionship of people and the ability that they all gave me to normalise my sometimes insular patterns of dealing with problems.

When I don’t force myself to be with others and I try to solve everything myself I always end up stumbling eventually.

When I do internet then posts just flow – because they’re filled with the life and friendship of others.

Some (like this one) practically write themselves.

Davey

A quick check in

Phew.

It’s been a busy week – without much time to gather my thoughts and write, so I apologise if I’ve been unusually quiet. The weekend that preceded the last few days was no different – but I’m just trying to go with the flow and take things one by one.

Primarily my goal has been on remaining focused on my new target weight and keeping active – because the end of this week is shaping up to be pretty crazy. Work has been very busy and so has my personal life.

To make sure I can do this I just need to keep things going on an even keel and follow my exercise and eating plans as closely as possible, because if I do everything else seems to be less stressful and eventually just falls into place.

So far thankfully I’m managing to juggle it all – and my new weight bracket seems to be holding fast.

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I’m worried though that the end of the week in particular is going to be one where I can’t do as much as I normally would – and with this in mind I’ve been pre-loading my distance totals.

I’ve already walked my weekly 70 miles in the last five days – so anything more is just ‘gravy’.

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As I’ve walked my constant companions have been excellent weather and excellent people – as well as some excellent swanlings – who seem to be flourishing this year.

Their broods seem to be unusually resilient and instead of the positively brutal attrition rate I saw in 2016 at St Nics (only one out of six survived) this year there seems to be a much healthier local population.

There also seem to be a lot of Herons too!

See if you can spot them…

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There was a time that I thought doing more exercise just equalled feeling more tired – but the bizarre thing is that nothing could be further from the truth. The more you do the more you want to do – and the paradox of it is that you don’t get more tired, you just get more energetic.

I’ve been hitting my targets by doing an extra two miles around the park on the way to work every day, which means that by the time I get home I’ve usually hit around 11-12, which I’m really chuffed with – and at over half way through July I’m currently on target for a new PB month!

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I’ve also been trying to mix it up a bit this week with food. I’ve had a lot to think about – and when this happens it’s difficult not to overeat.

It’s just a fact of life though that there are times that you just have to accept that things will happen around you that you can’t really control. When that’s the case you just have to adapt and roll with the punches.

Control of anything is a pointless illusion anyway.

To think otherwise is just a waste of energy. You can do your best to stack the deck but ultimately we’re all just leaves in the wind.

This is as true of work as it is home life and in both cases whatever difficulties or opportunities you’re given you just have to tackle them head on, put your best foot forward and hope things come good.

Exercise helps.

Good food also does the trick too.

After some lengthy talking last night a friend and I hit Las Iguanas – and I treated myself to a chicken enchilada (I had a voucher!) and a vegetarian bowl of chilli. Theoretically it’s two mains – but I’d been REALLY REALLY good all day in anticipation.

I really enjoyed my food!

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What the hey eh? Life’s for living! I have zero guilt.

I’m just moving right along!

For the next couple of days I’ll be out and about and taking lots of pictures – and hopefully collecting some interesting things to blog about along the way, so you can be assured that a quieter period this week will probably result in more to talk about than usual next week.

Watch this space!

Davey

Fitness and life

I’ll be honest – I’ve felt a bit off my game this week.

I’ve had a fair bit on my mind and combined with some rather thundery nights and a dog that’s intent on waking me up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning I’ve lost a fair bit of sleep.

It’s meant that when I have been nodding off it’s been at weird hours and consequently emotionally I’ve felt a little sub par.

I’ve been trying to walk it off all week and first started trying to get it off my chest in earnest on Monday whilst twalking with a friend on the Kenilworth Greenway – but it wasn’t until Thursday or Friday that I began to feel the weight of a few things lift.

I’ll write more early next week about one of the things that’s been occupying my thoughts – but over the last couple of weeks several other more important life related issues have been increasingly competing for my conscious and subconscious attention. Some have been more serious than others but all have equally been making me ask the question ‘what’s it all about?’

I’m being vague and evasive about these because whilst honesty is a theme of my blog, undermining myself or betraying the confidence of others is not – so unfortunately I’ve been left without my usual WordPress outlet. Consequently I’ve found myself writing words that will never be posted in an effort to understand and balance my thoughts.

So – you’ll have to forgive me that for the recent gap in my musings and just trust me when I say that I’ve had good reason – and that not all of it has been bad.

In the middle of all of it I’ve found that the one thing that’s been keeping me on an even keel is a willingness to remain on track health wise. Exercise fills a gap in my life that a few years ago I didn’t even realise existed. Now it’s importance in my day to day existence is something I would never have thought possible and my (maybe obsessive) walking continually provides me with a sense of physical AND mental well being.

I’ve been able to get out during my lunch breaks for a walk now the sun is finally peeping out from behind the clouds – and when I do this takes me away from an office and out into nature.

On my daily 2 mile constitutional I’ve seen some of my favourite things – and just around the corner from where I work there are some new neighbours that have moved in.

As vocal as these little guys are I think we’re going to get along just fine.

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Swanlings aren’t the only local residents I’ve been meeting for the very first time too – and I’ve bumped into a species that in all my years I’ve never ever seen before.

This is a Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) that I found just chilling in the grass near the park. It has such amazing colour on its wings that I honestly thought someone had spray painted it by accident until I got up close.

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It’s truly lovely to see all of these little flashes of nature – and I’d be aware of precisely none of it if I was sat at home with the curtains drawn.

I’m 1000% sure that today as I write I’d feel 1,000,000% worse if I’d just stayed in bed for a week feeling glum whilst playing video games.

In fact I’m now back up to my 10 mile a day average thanks to the much improved weather (the rain has mostly held off this week despite some gloomy forecasts) and after setting myself a goal to hit that metric again by the end of May on the 31st I came in bang on target.

Last month I walked 310 miles.

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This means that my step count is getting back up to an average that I’m happy with – and once more I’m in the 20,000 a day zone after a bleak winter which saw me fall well below.

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Of course all of this movement means that the one thing thats actually the most important (and the one metric that I almost solely attribute my reversal of type two diabetes to) is also looking excellent.

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I’m now once again nearing an average of two hours of cardio based exercise per day – which I’m super pleased about.

This means that hopefully a healthy heart and a long (and illness free) future lies ahead of me – AS LONG AS I KEEP IT UP.

You see – there’s always a ghost in the rear view mirror – and I see my rather massive shadow continually looming when I look over my shoulder. As slow moving as it is I feel that every time I think of slowing or actually slow down it gains a little ground.

I often feel that it’s my sole job in life to make sure the distance between us either remains constant or grows ever wider.

Currently I seem to burn (not through exercise) the calories that are expected of a normal man – around 2,500.

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The crazy thing is that even now – with as much as I do every day – I don’t even come close to burning the amount that I used to – and back when I first began my Slimming World journey (just slumped in my armchair at about 33 stone at the end of May 2016) I could eat and burn off a LOT more resting calories than I do now by waking 10 miles a day.

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You can take this with a pinch of salt or not based on how much you believe the widely accepted ‘wisdom’ that a man needs 2,500kcal (and a woman needs 2000) to survive and not lose weight.

I have limited confidence in these figures as absolute fact. 

However – even if they’re only broadly correct they show the obvious strain that being so overweight and unfit had on my overall health.

Now I have to work much harder to expend the same amount of energy and because of my increased fitness, my lower weight and other improvements I have a another stat that I am insanely proud of.

My resting heart rate.

This really really makes me puff up with pride, because it’s still 41bpm and has been at this level or slightly lower ever since Apple Watch’s iOS finally started watching it back in September 2017.

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In many ways (whilst I’m still really focused on it) my weight has ceased to be the thing that’s my ‘daily driver’. Now I’m just focused on always being outside, and being the best version of me that I can.

Thankfully this also has the (pretty ace) side effect of keeping me in target.

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Today I maintained – and (given how I’ve felt this week) that is a massive cause for celebration.

‘How does one mark such success?’ you might ask internet…

‘With a nice long walk’ is of course the answer…

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Davey

 

Productive Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

The next mow shouldn’t be needed until springtime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was a pretty energetic four miles too.

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

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

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

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

Everything is closed.

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

I was a bit miffed.

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

Sigh. I miss supercoat.

We had some good times together.

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

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

As I lifted my jumper I stopped.

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

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

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

Then the zip stopped dead.

It would go no further. 

….

….

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

Not today.

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

THE COAT ONLY FLIPPING FITTED ME!!!

So I bought it.

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

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

The day couldn’t end there however.

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

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

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Sigh.

Does life get any better than this?

I think not.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a great way to end the day.

Hugs to all.

Davey

Wyken Slough nature walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that moment in time everything looked wonderful.

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

But exploring is fun!!!

Getting lost is fun!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be honest it’s been a great day. 

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Hero clothes

It might be going to rain later on, but when I woke up this morning the weather report had changed slightly (it looked awful on yesterday’s advance forecast) and the worst didn’t seem to be arriving until after midday.

Furthermore my bedroom was full of sunshine!

I resolved to get up immediately and go for a spirited walk around the park while the weather was nice. I jumped out of bed, had a shower and pulled on my (noticeably loosening) jeans, trainers – and my hoodie.

I’m still not sure about hoodies. I only bought my first one a few short months ago – and each time I put it on I can’t help checking the mirror to make sure that I don’t look too much like an ankle tagged ASBO mugger. Thankfully when I check my reflection I just look like a balding middle age guy in sweats rather than a menace to society, and I conclude that I’m unlikely to scare the elderly.

I opened the front door.

It was bright and fresh as soon as I stepped outside and to compliment the blue sky there was a delightful breeze to cool me down as I walked. I noticed that I felt really light on my feet and all bouncy as I kept pace with my music.

Maybe it’s because I’m in a good mood today.

Aside from the victory it yielded over gravity on the scales, yesterday was a superb day for cheap charity shop purchases, and I found myself with two new (quite literally – they don’t appear to have been worn at all) pairs of trousers and two rather smart long sleeved striped cotton shirts.

Both shirts and one pair of the trousers though are what I term ‘aspirational purchases‘. At £2.75 each for the shirts and £3.50 for M&S grey corduroy trousers they probably aren’t what most people aspire to wear, and on me they’re also pretty snug.

When I use this term I mean that (for me) they’re something to work towards on the very near horizon and represent a progress marker where I’ll be able to fit into something I genuinely like.

The second pair of (grey denim) trousers fitted immediately and were a delightfully thrifty £4. They were a 40in waist! 


As soon as I saw them I knew they were a pair of  Jacamo ‘Union Blues‘ jeans. I’ve purchased a several identical pairs of these in different colours and know the feel of the (rather stretchy and smooth) comfortable material well.

I’d originally started buying these a while back when I realised that I could finally fit into more mainstream online clothes. This is now my 3rd pair in this colour and I rather like them.

I’m pretty anal when it comes to saving correspondence – and I still have all of the original confirmation mails from my Jacamo orders, so I thought I’d go and check how much I paid.

My jaw dropped. 


The price (it turned out) was relatively immaterial – as they were on sale at the time (it’s still a big saving though). What’s more amazing is the size and the date. The mail confirms my very first order is for a 50in waisted pair to them on the 4th February 2017!!!

That means that in the last six months alone I’ve dropped 10 inches from my waistline. 

How flipping awesomeballs is that! I started at a 66in waist in April 2016 and now I’m in my first pair of 40’s!

Mind you – full disclosure here. The M&S trousers are a 42in waist and they’re (ahem) snug – so not every retailer loves me just yet – but how’s about that for tangible progress?!

As I type (I’m sitting on a park bench in the shade by the river) I think the swans nearby agree. This year’s last remaining swanling is also making major headway in life.

When I saw them a while back (I’ve not been in the park a lot recently) he/she was the last remaining teeny tiny ball of fluff out of a group of seven.

How time flies.

Now it’s nearly all grown – and I realise that this is the second St Nics swanling I’ve seen become an adult and move on in life. As I watch them change I’m still going through my own metamorphosis and there’s no sign of this changing any time soon.

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As I leave the park I notice that I’m sauntering rather than power walking, and I take off my earphones. There’s a colder breeze now and some slight droplets of rain – but I don’t care. I foiled the weather’s evil plans and sneaked a glimpse of the day at its best before it was yanked away.

By the time I get home I’ve got my hoodie up and I feel warm and cosy. The rain is spitting but not too badly and the warmth of my body is making the little droplets evaporate shortly after they land.

Life is grand.

I’m now going to put some coffee on to brew and play a video game whilst it pours down outside with my feet up. I’m not going to experience a shred of guilt. I’ve already smashed my daily exercise goals and have lots more planned for the week ahead.

I’m on track and cooking on gas. The universe and I are simpatico.

Another example of our mutual harmony came when I noticed yesterday evening that the game I’ve finally decided to play – after owning it for years (The Legend of Zelda – Windwaker HD on Wii U) appears to be speaking to me in a way that it knows only I can understand…

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Brandon Marsh

I’ve been in gentle exploration mode today – with the emphasis on stopping to look at things rather than clambering over stuff and moving quickly.

Although I’d originally planned a return trip to Ilmington Downs today (original visit here) for some hill based cardio exercise I’m still being troubled by some stubborn blisters on my left foot from over two weeks ago – and despite having a day here or there where I do a bit less to promote healing (and using some fancy plasters) they don’t seem to be shifting easily. Annoyingly others appear to be joining the party – which isn’t really helped by me buying some 2nd hand walking boots from eBay.

These are not the cause of my current blisters – but I need to wear them and get used to them at a time when my feet don’t want to be in boots at all.

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Tread wise they seem hardly used – and the soles are very comfy – however the left foot appears to have part of the inner membrane above the toes slightly twisted, making the boot feel a little cramped compared to the right one. They were 1/3 of the cost of the same pair new though, so I guess beggars can’t be choosers!

On the plus side the leather is supple enough for them to not require much ‘breaking in’ and so far they seem to be quite servicable. They need to be. I have big plans for them in the near future. So – in order to minimise any further poking of the ‘blister bear’ (blister bear doesn’t like being poked) today my companion and I went for a leisurely stroll at yet another place I’ve not been to before.

Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve and the nearby Brandon Woods.

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I’m beginning to wonder just how many locations there are like this that I’ve never been to. I’ve been exploring my local area for a while now and Warwickshire appears to continually throw up new (to me at least) and cool little spaces full of life and interest.

The nature reserve is one of those places however where teeny tiny bits of wildlife are completely missable if you don’t take the time to stop and look.

Take this little guy for instance. He’s about 1cm across and is teeny tiny.

I only just avoided stepping on him as he hopped across the path in front of me.

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Shortly after meeting him we stopped at one of the hides along the way – and looked for a while at all of the serene water birds just going about their business. There’s a pretty varied bunch here – and it’s really calming just watching swans and other birds float past your seat.

After sitting just tantalisingly out of reach for a while (I need a longer zoom lens!!!) from the really interesting species we moved on and it was here that I started to pay close attention to all of the insect life – which is legion around here.

 

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Although the flowers are currently well past their prime it’s not stopping the smaller residents enjoying the bounties they have to offer. A really varied selection of bees (the reserve also sells its own honey and candles) were all buzzing around busily collecting pollen and carrying it from place to place, making sure the delicate order of things is maintained.

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Maybe because it was pretty humid and moist today it was easy to get a sense that this place wasn’t just about conservation – but also about procreation. As with the little swanling above there was evidence everywhere that this was a place where gettin’ jiggy with it was the way forward.

It’s a good thing these guys aren’t shy.

I got a ringside seat.

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They weren’t the only ones taking time to enjoy the steamy conditions – there were many others nearby – and although the sun wasn’t shining brightly it seemed to bother none of them. They were all lost in their day jobs – which appeared to either be making whoopee, eating as much as they could before the seasons changed – or before their short life spans ended.

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After we’d spent a little while walking around the reserve we were back at the gift shop and decided that a stroll around the nearby Brandon Woods would be a nice way to round off the day.

I have to say I couldn’t have agreed more. The words ‘moist’ and ‘woodland’ always seem to go well together – particularly if paths are well maintained – and in this case they were. Lots of eager people were busy re-barking the trails and trimming back the brambles that were encroaching a little too far.

Although small this little piece of woodland is clearly loved by people nearby – and I can understand why. It’s supremely peaceful.

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By the time we’d returned to the reserve there was a definite need for coffee (isn’t there always?) and thankfully they had a really nice little cafe.

Initially I was confused. Normally there’s an unspoken table etiquette where you leave (if possible) a distance between you and the person at the next table – however in this cafe everyone was sitting close to each other, by the window. It was then I realised that the ground outside was teeming with bullfinches, sparrows, robins, blue tits, blackbirds, and chaffinches.

There were loads of bird feeders full of nuts, seeds and fat and the little guys were loving it!

This pretty much ruined any conversation we were having – as half way through a sentence both of us kept tailing off with ‘Oooh look at that!!!… Oh it’s gone!’ again and again.

Shortly after trying (and failing in most cases) to make conversation and take photos through cafe windows we moved on, headed for the car and then home.

However – sometimes it’s at the most unexpected moments when you see the nicest things, and just as we were driving out to the main road my companion noticed a slowly moving (I think it had a limp) but very beautiful pheasant. I stopped to let it cross the road – wound down the windows and quietly grabbed a couple of snaps as it passed by me and into the nearby reed beds.

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This site apparently used to be a quarry – and it’s very heartening indeed to see something that used to be an industrial hole in the ground returned to something that holds so much life and diversity.

Overall a leisurely 6(ish) miles of strolling yielded some of the most pleasant views of wildlife that I’ve seen in a while!

Stop and look at the flowers internet – you never know what you’ll see – and watch out for teeny tiny froggies!

Davey