Red Kites and Waterfalls

Since I last wrote I’ve been out and about in Wales exploring my old university stamping ground.

Aberystwyth.

It’s for quite a while been my spiritual home in many ways – and I thought (that apart from family members) this was something relatively unique to my circle of friends – but it turns out that it’s not.

Lately more and more people have mentioned that they too have a connection to the location and both bloggers (and a more intimate partner in crime) have told me they also love it.

It’s been almost three years since I’ve seen its sea and countryside and I’ve honestly missed it – so I spontaneously decided late last week that I had to go back for a short weekend break.

On a nice day the view is to die for – and when you climb Constitution Hill (which I did shortly after arriving on Saturday afternoon) in the right weather there are few things that are more lovely.

This place has a lot of memories for me – but although many of them are happy ones there are also more than a few that have a tint of sadness or pain associated with them.

I was last in Aber in August 2016 (shortly after starting Slimming World link).

Once my initial joy about being able to walk along the promenade with my father and climb the 300ft up to the top of  ‘Consty’ I was faced with a different and all too familiar reality (link) when I was shouted at on the street and called names because of my size.

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In some ways I managed to lay those demons to rest this weekend because I not only did I return as the man I’ve always wanted to be (both fit and healthy) but I did so with my partner – which underlines just how much my life has changed for the better.

Although we both have ties to this region I think it’s safe to say that we found ourselves experiencing it with a fresh perspective thanks to the benefit of a second set of eyes and memories.

Despite thinking we both knew what was in store there were quite a few nooks and crannies that one of us had visited in the past, but the other hadn’t. As we strolled and reminisced throughout the weekend we were never short of thoughts and experiences to share.

It was all somehow different and new because of this.

I’ve walked along the promenade before and watched the sun go down on the beach many times – but rarely had I done it feeling as happy and contented as I did on Saturday evening.

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Aside from my ‘mushyness’ (which I am from time to time prone to) there’s much around Aber to explore – and after a lovely night’s sleep in a quiet hotel deep in the Valleys outside the town (with it’s own waterfall in the back garden!) we awoke to a busy Sunday itinerary.

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Our first port of call was to be Devil’s Bridge.

This is an absolutely spectacular slice of nature where majestic waterfalls meet endless wooded views filled with wildlife. Furthermore – if you get there before 9.30am it’s also a bit of a bargain.

The turnstile leading down from the (free) car park is coin operated – and unlike paying when there’s an actual person on the till it costs £2 (2x £1 coins) as opposed to £3!

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If you want to do the Waterfall Walk (which I highly recommend) just remember that it’s a bit of a steep climb at times – with the steps that you navigate being both deep and uneven – so I wouldn’t suggest doing this when it’s raining or if you struggle with mobility.

However – if you’re able to do it then it’s totally worth the effort because as you wind your way around the valley the view continually surprises and delights.

There are many many carefully placed viewing platforms that provide the perfect spots to watch the raging torrents of water as they flow down from under the road bridge into the valley below.

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It’s easy to lose time here – and we did.

All in all we spent a blissfull hour and a half in the completely deserted natural beauty of the location lazily watching the water roaring downwards and peering at all of the interesting plants and rock formations.

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If you’re a geography geek it’s magical!

However – all of the rocks and plant life pale into insignificance when faced with what I spotted in a tree just before leaving. Red Kite numbers have been carefully nurtured back up to a really healthy population in the surrounding hills and they are everywhere.

However – even though you regularly see them circling the valley and floating on the currents high above where you walk I’ve never seen one this close or in it’s natural habitat feeding.

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(if you want to see a video of this head over to my instagram feed here)

After we’d spent a while watching this majestic bird eat it’s (rather unfortunate) lunch the next port of call was Nant Yr Arian – which is another local Red Kite haunt, and it was in this location that we’d planned to watch their daily feeding show – but only after a walk, bite to eat and cup of tea.

Once we’d fed and watered ourselves (I had a delicious baked potato with rather decadent looking filling of tuna that was heavy with mayonnaise) we headed off for a hike.

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It’s fair to say that visiting this place represents another milestone – because on my way home from Aber in 2016 I decided to give walking around the hills a go.

As a heavier man it was really really hard work (link) and throughout my time there I was continually boiling hot and sweating buckets. In contrast on Sunday I wore three layers and a wooly hat and was still chilly in the shade!

When I started on my weight loss journey back then I wasn’t really au fait with what Apple Watch could do for me – and I hadn’t started exercising in any serious way – nor did I realise that I could track my walks with workouts.

I was wearing it because I thought it looked cool and at the time was more concerned with being able to move rather than travelling further and faster or keeping a note of where I was going or what I was burning off.

The wonderful thing is though that Apple Watch didn’t care. It was paying attention the whole time and keeping a historical record of the day for me to look at later.

All in all on the 15th August 2016 I walked (in between lots and lots of sitting, puffing and panting) 3.52 miles and took 7,200 steps – yet despite this relatively short distance (at least compared to my current standards) my overall expenditure for the day was an incredible 5,630 kcal.

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Back then I walked only the yellow route (the mid distance and difficulty route) and ignored the green and red ones.

In contrast on Sunday (as well as walking all round Devil’s Bridge in the morning) my partner and I explored everything.

Instead of just one path, we walked the green, yellow and red routes that criss-cross the hillsides and woods near the visitor centre.

During Sunday I (we) covered 8.64 miles, took 18,504 steps and climbed the equivalent of 96 flights of stairs.

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In contrast – even though I did around two and a half times as much on Sunday compared to that day in August 2016 I burned less than 2/3rds of the calories – underlining just how much more effort it took to move around when I was 31st.

The joy of exploring Nant Yr Arian these days is when we’d finished I also had plenty of energy in the tank to do other things.

It’s truly incredible how much I can do now compared to what I could accomplish in a day back then.

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My current level of fitness also meant that I also got to experience the entirety of what the location had on offer – and the views are just stunning.

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When you choose to venture deeper into the forest it’s no less wonderful – and as you stroll around it, the delightfully dappled light of a sunny day continually dances over the soft, mossy floor that you’re surrounded with.

Once we’d finished walking (and treated ourselves to more coffee and tea) the only thing that remained was the red kite feeding display, and we seated ourself on a grassy hillside to watch.

I’d never been around for this before – and I’d seriously been missing out. There were in fact so many Red Kites that the air seemed like it was filled with flies.

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Everywhere you looked they were swooping and diving to collect the food from the small  patch of land that the staff were throwing it onto.

This swarm of birds persisted for around 45 minutes – and while they were all together they performed arial display after arial display, all the while continually calling to one another and looping endlessly around in breathtakingly intricate flight paths.

They are not only beautiful beyond words – but next to impossible to capture with my current hardware – so you will have to imagine the spectacle we were treated to rather than endure the ridiculously blurry shots I captured with both my phone and compact camera.

If I’m honest though – even with all of this amazing beauty surrounding me I’d been preoccupied throughout the weekend with one thing.

Weighing in at Slimming World.

It’s fair to say that I’ve been avoiding this for a while – and doing so had meant that the reality of what my scales told me around a week and a half ago was pretty sobering.

In the evening, after a rather large blow out they had reported that I was a depressing 15st 2lbs.

Taking this as a wake up call I began to try and work my way back towards some semblance of being back on plan, reducing my food intake, and choosing speed food over free food as well as cutting down on anything that could be classified as a syn.

This was also my approach whilst on holiday and whilst I did choose to indulge (having museli as well as a cooked breakfast for instance) I cut the fat off my bacon, refused toast or fried bread and left behind the fatty, unappealing sausage that would probably have made me feel sluggish and guilty for the rest of the day.

In a similar way – when out for a meal in the evening – I chose a baked spud (instead of chips) a side of roast veg and had it topped with a low fat beef chilli. At all other times my partner in crime and I munched on carrots and fruit as we explored.

None of this made my underlying worries go away though – because I’d commited to Angie that I’d weigh in on Monday I returned from holiday – and being away from home, eating food that I hadn’t cooked and not being able to weigh myself meant that sleep was at times hard to come by.

I’m a worrier and no mistake.

When I finally rocked up at group on Monday though the exercise and good choices had meant that I’d managed to turn things around quite a bit – and had dropped from 15st 2lbs to a far more reasonable 14st 5lbs.

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However – I wasn’t out of the woods.

Since I’d recently re-set my target weight to 13st 7lbs this good result still represented a need to lose a further 9lbs in order to get into the upper end of my target weight. Furthermore I’d left myself just over a week and a half in which to do it if I didn’t want to pay at the next meeting (you get one week of grace to get back to where you should be at SW before fees apply).

God bless my consultant though. She’s an absolute diamond.

She sat down next to me before image therapy started, rubbed my arm, looked me in the eye and was completely honest.

‘You look great the way you are.’ Angie said.

‘You were a bit gaunt before. I think you should raise your target weight back up a bit.’

Honesty – the relief was like a hod of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders when she said this. To have someone whose opinion I trust (and she’s not alone) tell me this helped me realise that I’ve been burying myself with guilt over a few pounds.

In reality I’ve managed to keep all of this weight off and still continually live an active and healthy life at the same time.

I’m not a failure dammit. I’m a success!

So – I agreed with her that I will re-set my target to where I was when I won the MOTY competition and go for 14 stone. At this weight all of my clothes fit perfectly and I feel both vital, confident and alive.

Anything else is just a number.

So internet – my next weigh in is Saturday 20th April – and by then I have to get rid of 5lbs.

I can so do this – and what’s more I once again feel in control.

Davey

Shared flamboyance

(Author sips coffee and sighs…)

February so far appears to be going pretty well.

Life is coming together very nicely – and with the possible exception of employment still being AWOL I have to say I’ve rarely been happier. This is more than mildly surprising because it’s fair to say that there was a time when I felt I’d never truly be accepted by the world or fit into it.

The truth is that I now feel a part of my surroundings and community in a way that I honestly never have before.

It’s never completely plain sailing mind you.

I guess it’s a feature of life (if it goes on long enough) that just when you think you’re sorted, on an even keel and have dealt with all of your demons that you find more of them popping out of the closet completely unannounced.

Amazingly – as painful (and deeply personal) as some of these can be to face up to – this time there is a significant difference. Now I’m not only, fitter, stronger, and more resilient – but I’m no longer dealing with them alone.

With a new relationship has come a gradual realisation that I no longer have to be the sole guardian of my self worth and belief – and that (in the same way as I hope I am in return) someone else now has a spare set of keys to my emotional vault.

That doesn’t mean they’re controlling of that element of me – it means that they are demonstrating again and again that they’re capable of not only enhancing but supporting me too.

Already I’m acutely aware that this is regularly making me think in ways that otherwise I would not have if I’d been left in splendid isolation.

It’s a pleasure (although sometimes also challenging) to see parts of myself that have been dormant for so long slowly whir back into life as I explore what it’s like to become ‘us’ rather than just ‘me’. Furthermore it’s great to have someone with many of the same – but also a continually surprising and divergent range of interests.

Again and again though I’m confronted with a pleasingly similar set of likes and dislikes.

I’d always thought in the back of my head that my taste in clothes (which is developing into a more colourful and flamboyant one all the time) would be a tough sell for a person that liked a more ‘buttoned down’ mode of dress.

All the designs I covet in shops however seem to not only meet with approval – but are greeted with enthusiasm – which is something I’m completely unused to.

Furthermore I’ve been introduced to a new set of clothing passions – which are (in some cases) things that I would never have previously considered – but now I find that I’m an ardent fan of as well.

Whilst I’ve never been particularly keen on high heels (the potential damage they can do to feet has always scared the living heck out of me) if they’re worn occasionally and they’re both unique and beautiful I find that I am inexplicably drawn to them.

At the weekend I was introduced to ‘Irregular Choice‘.

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Oddly a regular twalking buddy had mentioned the online version of this shop before – but until I’d walked through the physical door of its premises in Brighton I’d not connected the dots and realised that it was the same place.

As regular readers will know I’m a seriously thrifty person.

My charity shopping habits are a matter of public record and I don’t like paying high street prices. Something has to either be heavily discounted in a sale or ‘pre-loved’ for me to consider buying it.

This has enabled a lot of experimentation – and I’m still going through a ‘developmental’ period in this respect.

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However – there are some things that are so individual and beautiful that their cost is offset in my mind.

Sure – very little has changed in the ‘can Davey afford this kind of thing’ stakes (the answer is I cannot) but honestly there are some items that with the benefit of a regular income I’d definitely consider worthwhile.

Although I can wear nothing in this store (I saw no shoes at all for guys) it represents taste choices that I’ve never really considered – but that I suddenly love to bits. These shoes are the kinds of truly wonderful little pieces of art that I’d happily mount on my living room wall and admire from afar – yet they’re not much different in price from a pair of Clarkes or a mass produced pair of brand name trainers.

It blows my mind that I not only think this way – but that my opinions are shared. Not only is my experimental side okay but it’s suddenly something that’s being embraced with gusto.

Furthermore the nerdy geek in me (which represents a HUGE part of my personality) no longer feels the need to lurk in the background – which if I’m honest has not always been the case in the past.

Now when I linger peering excitedly into cabinets such as this there’s a murmer of approval nearby – and it’s nice to not feel like there’s any element of my personality that appears to need muting or modifying. The newly collaborative element in my life is also compatible when it comes other things too too – and thats great because something that I cannot do without is twalking.

This is so fundamental to who I am that without it I immediately feel like things are sliding in my life – or that I’m somehow heading for failure. It’s been so instrumental in my recent success that it’s forever going to dominate who I am as a person – and to know that I don’t have to hammer someone else’s square peg into my round hole is a joy that’s next to impossible to explain in words.

To know that when I’m navigating through a rainswept, muddy, miserable landscape framed by a grey sky with someone by my side that really doesn’t care what the weather is like as long as they’re outdoors is fantastic.

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It’s much better though when the weather is just right and you can enjoy a cloudless blue sky while you sit down to look at the view whilst you sip your respective flasks of coffee and tea.

This weekend I’ve been exploring Birling Gap and the Seven sisters a little more.

However on Sunday I started at the other end of their span (last time I began my walk in Seaford – link) and I’ve decided that not only is it a really pretty little part of the world, but that I’m rather falling in love with it.

Despite my amorous inclinations though it’s also rapidly becoming the place in the world that I’m most likely to fall on my ass.

Although I never mentioned it in my previous posts this is the second time when I’ve unceremoniously felt my legs slip out from under me in the chalky mud around these parts. This glue like covering on the cliffs and in the nearby estuary has the habit of gumming up the tread on your boots and making it much harder to maintain a reliable grip.

When it’s combined with ice (as it was in the shaded parts of the seven sisters on Sunday) then it can result in a sore posterior and wrists – both of which invariably take the brunt of any sudden downward trajectory.

Thankfully it seems that another major benefit of me being a lot smaller these days is that my arms and ass remain unbroken when this occurs. All that gets damaged is my pride or the material in the rear of my trousers.

I don’t care though.

Muddy pants and boots are badges of pride – and I actually find it quite amusing that recently I’m slipping and sliding more than usual. As I headed home with the sun slowly going down over Cuckmere Haven the event barely even registered in my memory of the day.

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My train of thought only moved on from the wonderful light and reflections when I started to think about what I was going to cook for dinner – which in this case was going to be for two.

This is a really positive new element in my life – because when I am preparing meals for someone other than just myself I eat noticeably less than I normally would when I’m on my own.

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Not only am I more likely to keep to plan when I’m in company but during such evenings I typically spend much less time trying to modify or deal with the inevitable impact of solitary ‘boredom eating‘ – which if I’m honest has always been a big problem for me. It’s something that’s never really changed in all the time I’ve been attending Slimming World – or since I reached target.

My evenings have at times been a wasteland of cottage cheese pots, Aldi Benefit Bar wrappers and plum seeds or apple cores. I’m no different to anyone else with dietary demons in this respect.

It’s never really been a case of whether or not I will go off the rails – but how much I can limit the damage when I do.

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Replacing this is a new push into making lovely meals that someone else can enjoy too – and thanks to many Slimming World food tasting sessions (and a willingness to experiment a little when they come around) I have a number of easy to make but delicious healthy meals in my cooking lexicon.

This ‘baked stuffed peppers’ example is something I first cooked (following guidance in a SW magazine) back in June 2016 (link) and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that likes its ingredients.

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I can confirm that it went down very well with its intended audience – and it’s so nice that this recipe is actually the reason that I started using 5% fat pork instead of beef mince in my chilli con carne.

It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt at the time that not only was it a significant upgrade from beef (I find that it’s far less chewy for one thing and almost identical in terms of calorie content) but the resulting taste was way better.

Furthermore its value (usually around £1 less than beef per 500g) seemed far more appealing because – since I cook a chilli every week without fail – this represented a saving of £52 per year – which for me is an entire week’s shopping in Aldi.

With all this good behaviour I’m well on track to being in target for my diamond member award – and last night when I attended one of Angie’s groups locally in Warwick I hit the weigh in nail squarely on the head.

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After nearly a month out of group gallivanting around the country I managed a maintain – meaning I’m still smack bang on my target weight. 

I’m still squarely in the middle of my target range – and this also means that the last entry in my book will hopefully be when I secure my diamond target member status.

I’m not sure I could have planned that if I’d tried – but when I do my Slimming World book will contain an entire and complete record of my journey from my first weigh in to this very significant milestone.

If you want to see the entire history of my losses (and occasional mis-steps) you can find them here (link) or have a look in my homepage menu.

If you’re on your own journey then I can’t overstate how important it is to keep a log of what you’ve done right (and wrong). If you’re following Slimming World I also urge you to take the time to update your progress online in the app or on their web page.

Their graphing tools have kept me on the straight and narrow throughout my time following the plan – and it never fails to fill me with a sense of pride when I see its variations slowly smoothing out into one long gentle curve downwards – followed by a (relatively) straight line.

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Looking at a history of where you’ve come from and where you’ve ended up – as well as recognising that sometimes things will go a little topsy turvey and that if they do it’s totally normal is a real help in times when you really don’t feel like you can be strong or focused.

Anyway – my day is ebbing away internet and I need to get walking. I can’t sit here talking to you all day long, regardless of how nice it is to catch up.

Let’s do coffee again later in the week x

Davey

 

The next milestone

So – January is over.

As innocuous as it seemed at first, this turned out to be a completely fantastic but also extremely challenging month. I enjoyed almost every moment of it, but from an emotional perspective I’m still glad it’s over and done with.

 

All of a sudden the calendar has flipped over and presented me with a fresh page containing 28 new little blank squares. Only one is filled at the moment and it’s a biggie.

On the 24th it will be ONE WHOLE YEAR since I hit target at Slimming World.

This is particularly significant because there has NEVER been a single period of my life where my weight has remained stable for so long. Try as I might I can’t actually remember ANY length of time when it didn’t immediately rebound upwards after any transient period of healthy eating or weight loss.

I always crash dieted then started ‘eating normally again’.

The truth was that I’d always failed to recognise previously that I never ate normally in the first place, and therefore all that I was really saying was ‘I’m about to return to bingeing on crap and drinking myself to death’.

I don’t do this any more though and I’ve had to admit over the last few years that even now I occasionally still struggle with the definition of ‘normal’.

The war is therefore not won.

I’m still trying to balance my food intake – thanks largely to recent changes in my usual daily exercise regimes (which make me even more hungry than usual) and a more varied personal schedule that’s reduced attendance at my normal Saturday group.

This Saturday is no exception (I’m not weighing in today) and if I want to be in target by the 24th I’m going to have to watch myself like a hawk in the coming weeks.

Once I’ve done that will I get to hold a diamond target membership badge – which represents proof positive (to me at least) that I’m capable maintaining the health and fitness levels I have now for the rest of my life.

When (not if – because I’m going to do it) I pin this to my lapel it will prove emphatically that I can deal with both the highs and the lows of life and not turn to the wrong things for comfort.

It will state in no uncertain terms that I have finally changed for good. I’m on a mission and it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing because I need to remain focused.

Once again this week I’ve been in Sussex (a long way away from my usual routines) and trying hard not to slip into a holiday mode. So far I’ve been a good boy – and have kept one thought at the forefront of my mind.

Where there are pavements there are opportunities to burn calories.

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At the moment the ones in Sussex may be a little slippery and treacherous but they’re absolutely beautiful.

When there are sunrises like this framing a frosty treeline it’s not really that much of a hardship to get out and about – even early in the morning.

For once the temperature isn’t really getting to me. Whilst it’s really really cold at the moment a few months ago I invested in a pair of thermal long johns – and boy was the purchase worthwhile!!

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When I arrived in Sussex on Wednesday it was just a teeny bit frosty – but eventually (just like everywhere else in the UK) snow arrived to properly whiten my surroundings.

I’m just thankful that we aren’t experiencing the same kind of conditions as parts of America mind you – because they seem to have it bad.

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Even though I don’t have to deal with minus twenty six degrees in Hell it’s at times like these that I’m really glad that I’ve learned the importance of layering outdoors gear.

While a big thick coat might seem like the answer in weather like this, more often than not when you’re walking it really isn’t. Invariably you’ll always get hot and want to take something off (as one of my regular ‘thermostaically challenged’ twalking companions will attest to.)

If all of your warmth potential is contained within one item then you’ve just lost the lot. Now when I’m out and about in this kind of weather (as well as my long johns) I wear a moisture wicking long sleeved Berghaus top, a light long sleeved zip neck fleece pullover and a down (roll packable) jacket with a hood.

When it comes to a place like Brighton (which I visited again on Thursday) this is REALLY worthwhile because around the shops and city centre there’s only the temperature to contend with – but when you hit the seafront the wind is relentless.

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At times it threatened to take me off my feet – and capturing a selfie with my phone wobbling back and forth in my hand was actually rather difficult to do.

Despite its climactically capricious nature though I’m starting to rather like the place.

I’ve come to the conclusion (particularly now that I’ve found all the charity shops) that there are few real (what I would call) bargains to be found within its city limits. There are however many many kitsch things to fill your life with if you have peculiar enough taste and the shelf space to accommodate them.

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Prices down south definitely do not mirror the ones in the charity shops of Warwickshire. All you have to do is glance in the window of an estate agent to see why this is.

There’s a huge disparity between the social classes there – and this is most apparent both in the cost of real estate and the tastes of those that inhabit it.

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Here flamboyant wealth often stands side by side with grinding poverty (as the vagrants hoovering up the free coffee in Waitrose demonstrated) but the more well off residents of Brighton and Hove don’t like to appear too wealthy.

Their clothing choices (mirroring their furnishing ones) seem markedly different to the infinitely more reserved Warwickians that I’m used to. People with money in this region prefer to dress with more a more… bohemian vibe, and often the well off ones look pretty much the same as the poor ones.

Often the only thing missing from the rich ones seems to be a can of strong cider and a sleeping bag.

Those with enough money to look poor and eccentric make significant effort to do so – and the vendors in places like ‘Snoopers Paradise’ are keen (at a price) to cater to their lower rent tastes.

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Because it’s so varied I tend to love pretty much everything I find in Brighton but sadly I can afford virtually none of it – and I’m definitely going to need a job before I can develop a different attitude toward the markets and stalls I’ve found so far.

All in all I walked about eight miles around the various different parts of Brighton on Thursday – and whilst this is was partially due to my willingness to explore thrift stores it’s also because I’m driven by my stats.

As always I’m pretty obsessive about what I do every month – and even while I’m away from home the idea of my averages slipping is something that drives me quietly potty.

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Thankfully there’s a leisure centre with a swimming pool near to where I’m staying – and on Thursday morning I popped in for a dip. Oddly this is a variable length pool with a large boom at one end that can be moved up and down the breadth of its run.

This changes the distance you swim from 33m to 25m or back again, depending on the time of day you visit. In the space it creates when shifted up a bit (when I visited) there was a spirited aquafit class led by a very loud woman bouncing back and forth in gaudy leggings and trainers on the side of the pool. On Thursday morning her group was positively crammed with pensioners waving pieces of foam around their heads and under water.

It’s quite unusual to have music pumping away in the background while I swim – but not entirely unwelcome. Since I still don’t do breaststroke with my head under the water it meant that I could rhythmically paddle away to the beat.

Time consequently flew by while I was there.

One thing this definitely made me realise was just how good my local facilities are after their recent refurbishment. Whilst water is water and I’m happy to just pound out the lengths anywhere the changing rooms, lighting, fixtures and general tone of The Dolphin pale in comparison to St Nicholas.

Either way – using it has enabled me to maintain my average daily distance total for swimming – which I’m very pleased to report is for January is just under 1.5km per day.

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I’ve let things with my walking slide a little since November because of the extra swimming I’m doing – and whilst I really wanted to keep it at the same level the truth is it’s simply unsustainable.

If I do I’ll just end up running myself ragged trying to do too much, losing all enjoyment in it – or even worse pull or strain something.

Even so I think I’m still doing pretty darned well with my mies per day average…

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Overall this means that whilst my daily exercise minutes are roughly the same, my average active calories burned has increased noticeably from where it was in October.

Compared to March last year I’m burning almost 800kcal extra per day.

So – all is good – and I’m on track for my diamond target member badge. Over the coming weeks you can probably expect to hear much much more about this as I near the moment and at some point have the occasional worry or stress!

Watch this space internet!

Davey

 

 

Sussex and a Twenty One Stone Award!

I’ve been quiet.

I know I know.

It’s all good though. Whilst a period of radio silence on my blog usually indicates either a lack of worthwhile content or a pronounced dip in my mood neither could be further from the truth this time.

I’m both really happy and have a lot to write and think about – although not all of it fits in with my strict criteria for blog inclusion, so I’ll gloss over some of what’s been going on for the time being.

I’ve been on a holiday of sorts over the week between Christmas and New Year and have been exploring the wilds of Sussex – which have actually turned out to be rather lovely.

I was told by one of it’s denizens that this is something that I must not talk about publicly however, because if I do then people would soon start flocking to its beauty spots in much greater numbers – and the sense of supreme tranquility that I observed would be ruined.

Instead I was told to say that Sussex is a monstrous carbuncle of concrete covered with traffic and urban decay – but it’s difficult to tell such horrendous fibs – especially when it looks this lovely.

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After getting intimate with the beautiful but rather muddy countryside near Cuckfield  on Thursday I went on a rather longer (and seriously picturesque) walk on Friday to explore the South Downs.

They frankly have some pretty wonderful views.

On a clear day (which this thankfully turned out to be after some rather grey clouds disappeared) you can see all the way to Brighton and Hove on the coastline and the North downs (a future destination for  sure) in the opposite direction.

I’m reliably informed by a rather spirited local (who appeared inexplicably to know rather a lot about geology and geography) that the long ridges of the downs used to actually be a giant dome, stretching from the white cliffs of Brighton to the North downs in the distance.

The whole region comprises of a thick band of porous chalk – deposited during the Cretaceous period around sixty million years ago. Movement of the landscape over time caused the top to gradually crack ‘like the chocolate surface of a mars bar being bent in the middle’ (or so they said). Subsequent weathering and erosion during the last ice age then sculpted its landscape into these rather lovely valleys, hilltops and ridges.

They’re really really beautiful.

The endless views of the downs are a major contrast to nearby Brighton though – which I had never visited before.

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This well known resort’s plurality seems to be part of its character – and nothing underlined its sometimes contradictory facets better than the rather rustic looking piano near the entrance of its (quite lovely Victorian) train station.

When I disembarked from my short train journey on Saturday this was the very first thing I spotted, standing there like an ambassador for the charms to be found in the nearby streets. It looked like it was simply aching to be played – but simultaneously it was not in the mood to be touched in any way shape or form.

Nothing says ‘don’t you dare fiddle with me’ better than a giant padlock

I had no idea that Brighton was actually a city until I started exploring – and had always just assumed (underlining my woeful lack of southern geographical knowledge) that it was a seaside town.

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On the one side is tradition – with its pier and pleasure beach harking back to a stubbornly bygone era of British holidays and postcards – and on the other there’s modernity.

The rising glass viewing donut of the British Airways i360 is an impressive sight for sure – although I hear that it has something of a reputation for getting stuck at the top, so I resolved not to chance it on this particular occasion…

Despite its occasionally unreliable visitor attractions Brighton is otherwise a bustling metropolis with consumerism standing side by side next to alternative counter culture.

It consequently has interesting and pronounced contrasts between seaside tackiness (it’s practically impossible to avoid the scent of burgers and chips wherever you walk) a very bohemian area, clear problems with homelessness and extremely aspirational retail outlets contained within an extremely well to do shopping mall.

I like the mix though – and not just because there are some particularly well named shops (look closely) in the windswept and interesting parts.

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Not only is the more ‘hessian and unshaven’ area of the town a great place for geeks (who seemed to be constantly in evidence as I browsed) but it’s an excellent location to have a mooch around if you like Star Wars.

As well as there being absolutely masses of figures, comics and statuettes in the stores there was some really cool bespoke art to be found in the nearby galleries too.

Sci fi seemed to be a theme that ran throughout the day like letters in Brighton rock – and I couldn’t help but explode in a shower of nerd joy when later on I saw a Millennium Falcon the Lego shop in the exclusive Churchill Square shopping arcade.

In particular I marvelled not only at the detail (look at the little lego Mynock on the hull!) but the frikkin price!!!

£650!!!

How on earth can parents justify a Christmas present with a tag that huge?!

I guess the answer is that it’s not just children who are obsessed with Lego these days.

I know this because I overheard a conversation with a seriously crestfallen nearby man. As I passed he was receiving clearly distressing news from a surprisingly earnest store assistant that a certain edition of the Lego Batmobile was now a discontinued item.

Obviously the staff knew the upset such news could cause.

This was no joke.

‘Oh……… Oh………’ Came the response, as the guy processed this unexpected information.

‘Right…. OK….’ He said, clearly trying to deal with what sounded like a sudden bereavement in his family.

The assistant nodded with both hands clasped in front of him as if he were a Lego pall bearer. For a moment I half expected him to place a reassuring hand on his customer’s shoulder – but he stopped short and remained in quiet attendance of the man in front of him.

The guy next to me really wanted that Batmobile.

I can understand it though – because if (like me) you’re a fan both Lego and of something like Marvel films and comics then a massive version of the Mark 44 Hulkbuster Armour from Avengers: Age of Ultron is a huge bucket list item.

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Coming in at an infinitely (no pun intended) more reasonable £120 (!) the only reason I didn’t buy this (apart from preferring to eat food rather than Lego bricks and not having endless money to waste) was because my head was turned by the MOOHASSIVE Harry Potter Hogwarts diorama nearby.

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I know of at least two regular commenters on this blog that would probably donate organs to own and play with this.

With an asking price of £350 they may well have needed to…

Saddened by the absence of a bottomless wallet in my pocket I moved on from shop to head turning shop – all full of items that I consider both lovely but also way too expensive to buy.

Practically the only thing I could have justified in that whole arcade was the delightful handfulls of Lego sitting in huge bins like cinema pick and mix.

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Talking of cinemas – this turned out to be the reason for my second visit to Brighton the following day – when myself and a fellow geek decided to see the seriously cool Into the Spiderverse animated film.

 

It’s rare that you can go to a movie that’s classified as ‘Universal’, has kids on booster seats nearby and still have the entire audience so captivated by the subject matter that there’s barely a peep out of anyone in the auditorium until the end credits.

I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that likes Spider-Man (or indeed animated movies) and not only because it’s a great film with a brilliant storyline, but because it contains a really really poignant little cameo from the late and great Stan Lee (may he rest in peace).

It’s worth te trip for anyone (and their kids) – so make sure you go before it’s no longer showing on a big screen!

I’m quite sentimental so this particular cinema ticket is a keeper.

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Sunday was sadly my last evening in Sussex though – and the following day I reluctantly headed back to Warwick – only focused by the fact that on Saturday I’d missed yet another weigh in at Slimming World.

I don’t like doing this – particularly as I’ve now got plans for next Saturday too (if my group are reading – sorry guys!), so I resolved to weigh in at Angie’s Monday group instead.

However – before I could do this I had to cater to another borderline OCD habit. My mildly obsessive side was also in need of a swim – and it had been a few days since I’d enjoyed one.

I do find though that taking a break from exercise for a little while often means a surprisingly effortless performance increase when I do. Both my stamina and endurance seemed to have been recovering/building while I was away, meaning that I managed to shave almost five minutes off my previous time for a two kilometre swim.

What’s more – I did it with a lower average heart rate too!

When I finally arrived at the Monday group’s 4pm New Year’s Eve weigh in session (which unsurprisingly seemed to have a lot of new members joining with resolutions to lose weight in the new year) I already suspected I was a lot lighter than before I’d headed off to Sussex.

I’d been pleasantly diverted the whole time I was there by many different things, and for once my focus had not been food. I’d managed to occupy myself far better than I normally do in the evenings and as a consequence had eaten significantly less than I normally would – whilst still maintaining a good level of activity during the day.

When I stood on the scales therefore I was out of my target range – but for the FIRST TIME EVER this was because I was way below the 13st 11lbs minimum I needed to be rather than way above it.

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This is the lightest I have ever been in my adult life!!!

Although I’ll need to put some weight back on (hardly an awful problem to have at this time of year) by some kind of wonderful Christmas miracle I managed to lose a frankly ridiculous six pounds over the festive period.

On top of that I only went and got a TWENTY ONE STONE AWARD!!!!

How wonderful is that?!

Happy flipping New Year!!!

I’m sure you’ll agree internet that my time away has been time well spent!

Over the coming days I have more things planned, and this may also mean a period of radio silence – so stay frosty people.

Just like The Terminator ‘I’ll be back.’

Davey

Making hay

It’s next to impossible to not be carried away with the peaceful and easy feeling that the current spell of warm weather has brought to the UK.

Recently Scotland recorded the hottest day in its history (link) which was measured at a scorching 33.2C degrees in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, and the forecast for Warwickshire is similarly toasty for the next week or so ahead.

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To use a well trodden phrase I’m ‘making hay while the sun shines’ and getting the most I possibly can of my usual twalking companions’ willingness to get out and about and my own desire to enjoy the outdoors plus (when necessary) de-stress.

Usually I count my walking weeks (and work toward my 70 mile objective) from Saturday to Friday – and already I have enough in the bank to take my foot off the gas a bit, but so far I don’t feel the need, because I’m just loving life.

Every day currently just seems to come pre-loaded with a reason to bounce out of bed. Most days have seen me begin a little early and take a longer route than I actually need to so that I can make the most of the world while it looks so beautiful.

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A reader asked me recently some practical questions about walking to work (in an attempt I assume to replicate my behaviour) and queried what I do about sweating, ‘beetroot face’ and the need to shower after doing so much exercise.

You may notice in the photo above the sun is shining and I’m wearing noting but a dangerously light coloured blue cotton shirt.

Truthfully this used to be a big consideration – and in the job I had before this current one (when I was a little heavier) this was a daily concern.

I’d already lost a lot of weight and in August 2017 I had started walking to work (two miles each way in that case) for the first time (link).

I remember being quite paranoid about how i’d look when I arrived in the office and was wearing a white tee-shirt under all of my shirts to soak up any sweat if it happened. At that point I was four stone heavier than I am now (12th August 2017 – 18st 8lbs) but still pretty proud of where I’d managed to get to in terms of fitness and put some before and after photos in my blog.

In the full length shots the comparison is from 7th Jan 2017 (25st 2lbs) and the portrait shows me at 34st in April 2016.

‘Beetroot face’ is something that stopped happening (I don’t remember exactly when) but from memory this wasn’t something directly related to weight – but increased fitness.

I guess in answer to the reader’s query I should say ‘if you need to take spare clothes and shower and/or change at work then do it. If you’re worried about looking hot and sweaty then just remember the embarrassment is in your mind – not other people’s.

I know only too well that random passers by can be spontaneously and surprisingly cruel (link) (more links) but when it comes to the people that know you all they’ll see is someone trying to better themselves and they’ll be supportive and encouraging.

If not then you work with assholes and it’s time to find a new job.

It’s as simple as that.

Your goal (as difficult as this can be) is to have a better life and to be healthy and happy. To reach that point you don’t need to look good or impress people with how effortless it is because it’s not.

It’s flipping hard and I take my hat off to anyone trying to convert sedentary fat into muscular fitness because it’s not an easy path to take.

It is however the right one  and over time it gets easier – so keep going.

If you do then everything opens up – and in my case the flower that blossoms is literal as well as metaphorical. While you’re out and about you get to see not only yourself but the world around you growing.

Yesterday evening I was finally able once again to do a full circuit  (around 3.5 miles) of the golf course at Leek Wootton with my friend.

Regular readers may remember my companion as a lady with a poorly paw. Not so long ago this regular partner in crime of mine took a tumble whilst we were twalking in the Hickey Hills back in March (link).

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For a few weeks now (since she got the OK from her doctor) we’ve been taking baby steps on flat surfaces in order to try and build up her capabilities again. Now I’m glad to report that she’s getting to the point where uneven surfaces and some gentler gradients are once again possible.

There’s been a lot of frustration on her part associated with the length of time that the injury has taken to heal – but honestly I’m amazed that it’s done as well as it has, given that ‘a ligament tear’ actually turned out to be ‘a ligament that pulled a chunk of bone away with it too when it tore’.

Ouch.

But now we’re out and about again – and what a time it is to be doing it!

Yesterday everywhere seemed to be heavily populated with butterflies and moths. No matter where you walked the hedgerows were thick with the Red Admiral and Cabbage White varieties.

Even before I’d started the twalk, sitting on my recycling bin when I returned home was this little guy.

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I’m seeing a few varieties this year that I’ve never noticed before – and the milder weather may well be the cause – because while I was looking this up (it’s a Scarlet Tiger – link) I realised it’s predominantly found in the southern parts of the UK.

It’s almost as pretty as the Cinnabar (link) I found near work a few weeks ago – but not quite…

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Hopefully I’ll find more as the weeks go on – because I’m just loving blundering into these little guys!

Who knew moths could be so vibrant and colourful? I’ve only ever noticed the irritating little brown ones fixated on lightbulbs before and these couldn’t be further apart if they tried!

Anyway – I better get on internet. I have another busy day ahead of me.

Whatever you’re trying to do to improve yourself – keep doing it – and to anyone reading that feels like they’re approaching the deep end – just keep swimming!

Davey

Vole!

Some days I don’t have a lot to say – which can come as something of a surprise to those who know me – because I’ve never the type to use bullet points when a paragraph will do.

Today though I don’t think I need to use a huge amount of words because sometimes pictures speak for themselves.

They’re nice right? Lots of grass. Lots of trees – plenty of my usual fayre.

They’re ok I guess – but nothing amazing.

Until I bumped into the subject of my next photo.

This evening I’ve been expending excess energy walking around Leek Wootton and as always I have my camera at the ready which this evening was a REALLY good thing, because as I was walking through a gate I spied THIS LITTLE GUY (about an inch and a half long) scurry for cover under a leaf.

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How insanely lovely is this Vole?!

This is unbelievably not only one of the best photos I’ve ever taken – but it’s also captured by my iPhone!

I’m absolutely buzzing right now!

This teeny tiny ball of fur and whiskers not only let me get close enough for this super precious picture – but a video too!!!!

That’s pretty much all I had to say.

(Boom. drops the mic)

Apart from this…

(Picks up the mic)

GET UP, GET OUT, GO FOR A WALK AND EXPLORE NATURE!!!!

If you want to feel good internet then this is the way to do it. You don’t need TV, you don’t need booze, and you don’t need other things either. All you need is your feet and the world around you.

I flipping love my life and what it’s become because I feel like I was was blind beforehand.

Now I can see everything in technicolour!

Davey

Like minded company

‘How far into town love?’ Said the lady by the boot of her car as I strolled past the hotel car park.

Her friend turned to hear the answer as well and I removed my earphones as I walked up to the small wall between us.

‘Which town?’ I asked. ‘You’re in between Leamington and Warwick – which one do you want?’

‘We don’t mind. We just want to go shopping,’ She replied.

‘Whichever has charity shops!’ Said the other lady enthusiastically.

I smiled.

Well.’ I started.

‘If you follow this road (Regent Street) the first one you’ll find on the left is Save the Children. If you cross directly over the road after that then you can hit the Red Cross. After that go a couple of doors down for the RSPA (they only take cash) then a few doors down again for Sue Ryder (my personal favourite).’

They looked at me – and then at eachother – a little surprised.

‘If you then go back over the road and cross the street you’ll see the British Heart foundation in front of you on the left – but that’s not the end. Double back on yourself, then you’ll see the Myton Hospice on Bedford Street and Cancer Research on the corner.’

They looked at eachother.

‘If you carry on up the road and look to your right down Warwick Street you’ll see Oxfam – and if you head down past the Royal Priors you’ll see Marie Curie, Scope and ANOTHER Myton Hospice.’

Total silence.

‘If that’s not enough then at the bottom of the Parade opposite the town hall there’s the Salvation Army and the Cat’s Protection League (they order the whole shop by garment colour!) and Barnardos even further down.’

Still silence. They looked at eachother.

‘We seem to have asked the right man.’ One of them finally laughed.

‘Everything I’m wearing is from charity!’ I said, striking a brief pose and motioning to my apparel. I took a large carrier bag out of my pocket and pointed enthusiastically at it.

‘I never leave home without a carrier bag – just in case I find something in a charity shop!’

‘Us too!’ They said – also taking out their carrier bags to show me. It seemed we had all recently shopped at Tesco.

‘Snap!’ I said.

‘Is it easier to drive or walk? The shorter of the two asked.

She was dressed in light and airy linen clothes and looked like a kindly person. There was a twinkle in the eyes behind her glasses.

‘It’s way easier to walk. Parking is a pain.’ I replied. ‘Would you like me to show you?’

The two ladies giggled and nodded. ‘Lead the way!’ The shorter one said enthusiastically.

We headed off down the pavement and began to chat as we strolled.

I was clearly in like minded company, so we began to compare the bargains we were wearing – all of which it turned out were pre-loved.

We all shared a weakness for M&S clothes and also rather liked the quality of the Sainsburys TU brand. Although not quite up there with M&S it was both reasonably priced and very hard wearing for girls AND boys we concluded.

The taller lady in darker clothes was miffed. In the rush to leave she had neglected to bring some things that had remained in the boot of her car. Since her friend had driven instead this meant that somewhere in Northampton (where they had travelled from) there was a car boot containing a large and irritatingly unopened bottle of Baileys.

She’d also left her coat behind – although the latter seemed to be a much less of an annoying omission than the former because it was turning into quite a nice day.

As we walked toward town we began to talk a little about what we did for a living and what had brought them to Leamington.

They were taking a day out from their stressful lives and had randomly decided on the spur of the moment to stay at a hotel, do some shopping and have a few gin and tonics away from home.

The blonde lady dressed in light airy linen worked in education and the other in a black tee-shirt was a carer. Both specialised in dealing with people suffering from dementia – but at very different stages of the condition.

They seemed like nice ladies – and for about 20 minutes we walked and talked. The carer lit a cigarette as we chatted and thoughtfully puffed away as we shared thoughts about work and life.

She was worried about a lady she was looking after and didn’t think that she was making her life any better. She was getting worse and there was little that anyone could do. It was playing on her mind and the fact that she had to syringe feed her in the mornings was a real cause for concern.

She was terrified that the woman in her care would accidentally choke.

Her face seemed to reflect the weight of more worry than her companion and I noticed that in contrast to her heavy frown lines the shorter woman maybe had evidence of more smiles alongside the blue eyes behind her glasses.

She was listening to her friend and nodding understandingly until a pause came and she described what she did for a living.

Her job (although related more to education) meant that she too specialised in dementia – but as part of a research project. Working with a local University she had for a few years been dealing with recently diagnosed people – often scared and confused by the radical changes in their lives.

One lady she knew (she was very young – a mere 50 years old) had become unexpectedly violent in a shop lately and her family were struggling to come to terms with it all.

Another older woman she regularly interacted with was beginning to lose the ability to communicate and it saddened her to see the rapid decline. She clearly liked the lady that she was talking about.

‘She’s lovely. So nice. Very proper. Doesn’t like swearing.’

I nodded – listening.

‘If anyone in her family uses bad language then she writes them a letter!’ She said, shooting me a stern look. ‘Doesn’t like it at all.’

She shook her head with mock seriousness to underscore the point and I laughed.

‘It’s a generational thing!’ I said. ‘These days it’s rare to meet someone that offended by language that they’d send a letter. You might get a frowning emoji from someone in a text but that’s about it…’

‘Maybe an unhappy face or two as well.’ I concluded.

‘Yep. It’s a thing of the past.’ She laughed. ‘It’s all texts these days.’

Her friend nodded as she reached the end of her cigarette.

Then, all too soon we were at Save the Children and they were both excitedly peeking through the window.

‘Well – I better get to where I need to be.’ I said. ‘I hope you two enjoy your break – and it was lovely to meet you.’ I shook their hands and we exchanged names as they thanked me for the brief tour of the town.

‘Have fun bargain hunting!’ I said and bid them farewell as they disappeared into the little cave of wonders. I headed on my way, in search of reasonably priced coffee and a baked potato with cottage cheese.

But what of Davey internet? Did he find a bargain?

Naturally! He found a lovely summery shirt!

But is he still a shameless poseur and selfie taker?

Mais Oui! Voici le chemise à fleurs!

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Au revoir!

Davey