the lockdown log 34 & 35

Oops, I forgot to finish and publish last weeks lockdown log. Perhaps being distracted speaks volumes about how I feel right now, or at least, last week. Anyway, here goes with what’s happening in my bit of the world.

First off I’ll talk about the week before last. It was the second week of me trying vitamin D supplement again. I took it for a while last Winter and stopped, but neither of us could remember why. In light of suggestions that, for our age group, it had the additional benefit of helping ward of Covid I had started taking it again (the Berkshire Belle has been on it daily for some years).

I took the first dose on the Saturday evening and by Monday a general feeling of malaise had descended. this went on for almost two weeks until, when chatting about it, the realisation dawned that it coincided with me taking my daily D pill and so I stopped. I have a lot on my mind at the moment and didn’t think any further about it, but the next morning I bounced back into the house after work full of the joys of Autumn that I had to admit that my general feeling, physical and mental, had improved beyond measure. There are no side effects to vitamin D supplements as far as we know, but it certainly seems to have one on me.

That week we had had both the washing machine and dishwasher replaced and so had two lots of disruption as they came on different days. That has taken care of the holiday money for the holiday that we are not having. Given how things are in America right now we are glad that we are not there and hopefully things might be better if we can get over next year. Not that the change of government will contribute much.

I had managed to keep up with the diet and weight loss that week as well although there were some wobbles. Part of the problem was that we started to find things that needed eating and I had the choice of throwing things away or breaking the diet: I choose the latter. Those issues have also flowed into this week and have been compounded by a lack of willpower on my part whilst shopping in my local Morrison’s. The walk there and back racks up a couple of kilometres towards my exercise, but such activity is somewhat negated when the aroma of the in-store bakery allows my nostrils to overwhelm common sense. The scales may punish me tomorrow…

I have been trying to balance my afternoons between exercise walks and DIY, especially where the latter involves more that just a potter around doing a bit of weeding. The shorter days and inclement weather make every hour precious and whilst I could walk after dark I do not feel safe doing so. Equally I do not want to rejoin the gym as I have other things that I could do with the £20 a month. I have tried out a neighbour’s treadmill and do not enjoy it too much, certainly less pleasurable for me than walking. I am now upon to a staggering 746 km wince I started walking for exercise back in July and have an outside chance of breaking 1000 km by the end of the year.

Going back to the vitamin D, during my twelves days of taking it I suffered from all sorts of aches and struggled, not quite with depression, buy a general lack of enthusiasm for everything. I could not get comfortable sitting, standing or walking and although I slept reasonable well I woke top a lot during the night and did not feel rested when I got up. That all started within 24-36 hours of starting to take the single pill a day and it vanished in about the same timeframe of stopping. The only thing left over is an occasional feeling of impending doom that takes the form of something fatal happening to someone or something that I know. So far none has come true. Whether that is linked to the vitamin D or not I do not know, but it is something that I have felt once or twice before in my life that has now become a daily occurrence. It is not nice, but perhaps it is just a symptom of these times.

My various projects in the garden have progressed. Around 200 bulbs have been planted, much Autumn pruning has been cut and cleared and I have been busy with the paintbrush on days when the weather has been conducive.

We have made the decision this year that, as we have enough for our needs, that instead of presents we will give money to charities supporting people in need here in the UK. There seems little point in agonising about what to buy when the money can be useful to others.

So there we are. A hectic couple of weeks, but we are still here and healthy. Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 33

Back on track! Last week I flatlined on my weight loss. Some of it was due to to needing another change to kick things along, to having done very well in preceding weeks and to a complete failure in discipline. However, I had got my head back in the game and, after a week of trying hard, I have lost another kilo.

The lack of discipline was that my normal diet regime of one treat a day; too or three walnut halves or dried apricots turned into three or four treats a day. I was doing without thinking and although that alone may not have resulted in not losing any weight (for the first time in four months) it will have made a difference. So I turned the screw and the scales are showing the difference. Official weigh in day for the week is tomorrow, but I know that I have done it.

I have also passed the 600 km walked mark and am looking good to be able to make the 1000 km target for 2021, maybe even 1500 km is possible and that would be something. I just need to be a bit careful about various joints and the dodgy knees that I was first afflicted with back around 1978 are somewhat more vulnerable 42 years on. Weight loss may be healthy, but there is a cost:benefit ratio to be considered and there is no point in wrecking important bits of me in the pursuit of losing weight.

So how are we doing otherwise? For both of us depression comes and goes. It is easier for me because I have work and a list of jobs that will keep me busy for a year or more plus a few hobbies that I would like to get around to, but can’t find time. For the Berkshire Belle it is harder as she has less to occupy her and is bored out her mind. This is a lady who once ran the largest retail distribution network in Europe through a team of around 250 people. Easy to see how she feels that she is vegetating.

Lockdown 2 means very little to us as we don’t socialise, other than to receive a series of parcels each week. There is the weekly shopping trip and that might include two shops, but mostly is just to the one. I work, but have very little interaction with colleagues so it makes little difference to us to be locked down. It will not affect our Christmas either. The only real impact fr us is that we have not had our holiday this year and have concerns around whether or not we can get one next year either. But we are healthy, safe and well fed so we are not complaining.

The various garden projects roll on with priority currently being given to bulb planting. It is not a favourite job, but I always enjoy the results come Spring when they give a bit of hope for warmer times and longer days ahead. Other jobs this week have seen some failures and the latter do little to help my mood because there are less hours of daylight and any that are wasted I abhor. Still, there is some good weather forecast and I will do my best with that.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 32

Had we not had the plague I would this morning be in the US about to start my second full day there. Why it had not occurred to us that our arrival would have coincided with the presidential election I struggle to understand, but that was the date that we booked for and I have to say that I am grateful to Covid-19 for having cancelled our trip because the situation over there is a bit ugly to say the least and we would not have felt safe.

So here I am in the UK instead. The last week has flashed past and a lot has been achieved despite the weather. The shed has come on leaps and bounds with much interior fitting out and cedar shingles installed on the side if the roof that we see from the house. Bulb planting is under way and some of the general Autumn tidying has been done.

I mentioned wildlife last week and promised some more detail. About 10 days ago I caught a glimpse of a fox leaving the garden with a bit of a limp and having passed this news on to the Berkshire Belle she reported having also seen it earlier and thought that it was not walking well. The next day I was working in the shed when said for approached me. It was holding its back left leg up off the ground and looked in discomfort. I filed a plant saucer with water from the butt and it took a drink, but by the time that I had gone indoors to raid the deli draw of the ‘fridge for some cold meat it had gone.

I talked to a local animal rescue centre and they were happy to come and get the fox if I could lure it into the shed and keep it safe. I went to the local shop and got some dog food to leave out overnight and that vanished by morning, but I did not know who had eaten it and so a basic wildlife camera was bought and set up. That caught a fox and a hedgehog as well as several cats. The fox and the hedgehog had eaten the dog food, but the fox concerned had no problem walking on all four feet and there was no sign of one limping.

Did the lime fox get better or has it died? I doubt that we will ever know and I have stopped putting out food as I don’t want to become the fox equivalent of an all-night cafe. We are happy to feed the hedgehogs, but have not yet worked out how to feed one and not the other. Cunning plans are being formulated along =with the restoration of a hedgehog house down in the back corner of the garden.

We have both been through a bad spell this last week, the Berkshire Belle slumping into a really deep depression with the leaked news last weekend about another lockdown. That, plus a poorly fox, the dishwasher packing up, the washing machine showing signs of failing, the weather predicting a very cold snap plus a bad Winter and a few other little things pushed her over the edge. Her being somewhat stricken was enough to flatten me too and so I just threw myself into anything and everything that I could find to do. We have both climbed out of our respective holes and whilst not exactly cheerful we are not miserable either.

I think that I am going to have a plateau week on the weight loss. I must be about due for another one and may have to take that one on the chin and move on. Today looks like it will be a good one for garden chores and so bulb planting will be at the top of my job list once I have got other chores out of the way. If I can I might try for a long walk later to try and burn off a few more grams before the weigh in tomorrow morning. I have still no drunk my bottle of beer and I think that t will be staying in the ‘fridge for a while longer yet.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on putting in a shift

Many years ago I was given some feedback (although we didn’t call it that in those days) on my recent performance on the management training scheme. The comment that stuck with me at the time was “He shows up on time and gets on with it. He puts in a shift, but is nowhere near ready for the move up”.

Those thoughts stung the 20 year old me quite a bit and, despite the offer of a move up to department manager a few months later I had already decided to move on: The stupidity of youth. With the benefit of hindsight my mentor had been spot on and it would be a couple more years before I could see that and had begun to work out what I needed to do to move from worker to manager.

But even as a manager there is still the need to show up, get on with it and put in a shift and to be able to do that day in day out regardless of how you feel. Yes there are times when there is that urge to get in to the office (or wherever, and start making things happen, but there are days when there will be no spark at all. It happens to everyone regardless of where they sit in an organisation and is a common cause of the odd day off here and there.

To “Put in a shift” has been a philosophy that I have carried for nearly fifty years now and it has become ingrained. It’s just what I do and I am happy with the approach. I turn up on time, do my best and go home. As long as I can do the latter feeling that I have been able to make a positive contribution then I will be content. It also means that I am never embarrassed about getting paid.

It is advice that I would offer anyone as a basic plan to working life. Yes there is more to it than that simple statement. You especially need need to learn as you go along if nothing else, but if you turn up and get on with it you will be well on your way.

the lockdown log 31

A bit late this week as it has been a hectic one here, but we are both still functioning. This is being written on Sunday afternoon and so we know that we are heading for another lockdown if parliament vote for it on Wednesday. Do we need it? Buggered if I know; we will just have to cope with whatever it brings and will, as so far, do what we are asked to do.

I would normally have written this on Thursday morning, but I got up to find that the dishwasher had died and spent most of the morning checking the obvious things to see if I could get it going again, but to no avail: A new one is needed. Grabbing the chance to get some outside work done and an exercise walk in meant no time for sitting here blogging. Friday and Saturday vanished ion a blur of jobs and Sunday mornings are always housework time so here I am taking a few minutes after getting various month end stuff done on-line. The sun is out although it was supposed to be raining and I might have an unexp[ected chance to get some time in the garden before cooking dinner.

My weight loss is still going the right way and I am down to 107 kg having hit my 108 target the week before. I still have not drunk the bottle of London Porter that I had promised myself and it is sitting in the ‘fridge awaiting the moment when I feel I have really earned it. Something in my mental approach to dieting has gone awry here and I seem to have lost all focus. On that basis I have held my reward back even though the scales tell me that I have gone below the point that I had set.

This morning I went out and walked just over 6 km in just over an hour. I did not want to go out and, when I did, I did not want to go far, but I just got my head down and got on with it despite it not being a nice morning. This was another example of my head not being in the game and having to push myself to get on with it. There may be an element of diet/exercise fatigue creeping in after 4 months and I clocked up 500 km walked since July late last week. Walking gets in the way of my various DIY projects and as for my hobbies, well they are largely forgotten. I do not have enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do let alone having to coupe with clapped out domestic appliances.

Nil illegiti carborundum as we used to say and I fall back on buy basic principle that life is shit that you have to rise above. As long as I can still laugh about it and still get some results everything will be OK.

All for now as I have other things to get done. Next week I will try and fit in some news about the local wildlife. Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 30

Autumn has come, the leaves are falling heavily on the remnants of various Atlantic storm systems and it is generally wet and cold. Outside jobs are not much fun and neither is walking for exercise, but both are necessary, so how to motivate myself?

There is a serious issue here in trying to sustain the progress that I have made so far over the last year with the garden renovation and, since July, my weight loss. In terms of the former there is an element of burnout, but it is less critical in that I have the Winter to finish things off now. The weight loss program is more urgent and whilst I have lost a lot so far I know that there will be another plateau sometime soon and any slacking off will bring that on and/or make it worse.

At least I can deal with setbacks more often than not and if I do have a bad week with no weight loss, or worse a gain, I am sure that it will just drive me to regain my position over the next week.

The shed has finally arrived and is up. The picture below shows it as built and it has already been painted on the three sides that we can see, plus much of the interior. The back will get painted when I next get a couple of dry days, but before that I will put the shingles on the rear of the roof. The shed can then be pushed back into place against the fence and I can do the front shingles. The capping pieces are on order and will, hopefully, be here next week.

Time is my biggest resource issue at the moment. The days are getting shorter and there is a lot to squeeze in. When it is wet I will not run power out to the shed so am restricted to jobs that I can do with hand or battery tools. That is not too bad as the pressure is off and all I need to do is to make sure that I do a bit every day and weave into those jobs the annual stuff; I have over 100 bulbs to plant in the next three weeks or so for example, have leaves to clear, grass to cut and so on. It all helps to fill my days.

Over the course of writing this the sun has come out and the light makes everything seem more cheerful. I have a chicken roasting in the oven for dinner tonight though and there is the veg to go with it that need preparing and cooking. Any further outdoor activity will have to wait until tomorrow.

I hope that you are all well out there. Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 29

Back to work this week after using up the last full week of my 2020 holiday allotment. I still have two air three days to take before the end of November, but my main holidays are done for the year and, with the Law of Sod in full swing, I got home from work on Monday to get a call to say that the long awaited shed will be here on Saturday.

This was the key to completing the back garden project and should have been erected back in July. The furlough period had seen demand for such buildings rocket and had also slowed production so that a simple garden shed could not be had for love nor money. The original delivery date was given as late August and so, allowing for problems, I booked the middle two weeks of September off to paint and build it. Delivery slipped to September 9th, then to October 8th and now October 17th.

I can, at least, now start to plot what happens next and do as much as I can with the loss of the long, light, evenings and the more clement weather that I had three months ago. No matter, others have far more insurmountable problems in their lives.

A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the slow progress on my weight loss and the Berkshire Belle suggested that I make myself soup for lunch. We always have vegetables around and I do make us soup quite often when we have a surplus and so I began a soup only lunch programme. After about eight weeks of losing half a kilo a week I have lost 3 kg in a fortnight and am, in old money, 2 stone lighter that I was when I started this diet and exercise regime at the end of June.

I have also, this week, passed 200 miles walked (350 or so Km). My exercise walks also burn off, according to my App, about 2,500 to 3,000 calories a week. This is on top of whatever I burn off at work where I bang in between 5 and 8 miles a day five days a week. Less food in and more burned off; it is working for me. It helps that I am confident in the kitchen and can knock up a couple of day’s worth of soup at a time. It costs less than a quid a go and, so far, they have all been tasty.

I am fortunate in that I can, at times, invoke willpower. It does not always work, but in matters of health it does seem to kick in and help me out. It is not always easy to keep my head in the right place and I do have to distract myself a lot to avoid negative thinking, One of the things that is currently buzzing away in my mind is what do I do when I get down to a weight that is appropriate for my skeleton. Can I risk the odd treat or is it a bit like alcoholism and one Mars bar will ruin all of the good work? All I can hope for is that the willpower will still be there (or bloody mindedness) to stop any excess eating. Time will tell.

Stay safe wherever you are.

perception versus reality revisited

Perception is belief. How you see things is the truth as far as you are concerned and it will stay that way until something comes along that might change your mind. It is a trait that we humans will probably always have.

It is fine as long as we are open to new ideas and are prepared to be proved wrong. If we are not then we are bigots and that is one of the problems with society today; there are too many people who are not willing to have their beliefs challenged.

I grew up through a world of change, not just in what was happening in the post WW2 period, but also because we moved house every couple of years or so. By the time I left school in 1969 it was my fifth school in 12 years. That revolving cast of teachers and other adults that helped form me fell broadly into two groups. One group lectured me in their beliefs whilst the others gave me their opinion, but pushed me to think for myself.

That carried on into my working life where there were many people who were dogmatic about how things were or should be done, the “My way or the highway” type, but there were also the rarer people who would ask “Why” or “What happens if…” and these people were also open to allowing me to challenge their thinking.

I learnt that to be certain was a dangerous thing. Weigh up the available evidence and make your decision, but be prepared to explain why you had come to it and never be afraid to allow others, especially subordinates, to offer their thoughts.

Today in society it seems that informed debate is dead. Social media appears to dominate people’s thinking and if you do not line up with the way others see things you are wrong. In a time when people’s rights are trumpeted everywhere the fundamental right to free speech has been lost. Offence is taken freely, but the way that we react to something that we hear or read is our own choice; we do not have to take offence at anything and personally I don’t, no matter how abhorrent what has been written or said is to my beliefs.

Hatred is everywhere as opinions become more polarised and topics are dealt with at a purely superficial level and, sadly, it is at that slim veneer that people’s perceptions become fixed. What people today seem to believe is not critically thought out, it is based around sound bites on social media which is the last place to be looking for informed debate. Because people gravitate towards sources that support their way of thinking and so shut themselves off from anything that might balance their opinions.

There is no short term fix to this and eventually there will be a swing the other way. It may not be in my lifetime, but it will come. I hope that there is not too much damage done before it happens. There is an old adage that The Truth Will Out and one day we will get back to a place where there is more congruence between perception and reality than there is now.

the lockdown log 28

In all of my Far East working I became used to seeing large numbers of people, in fact the majority, wearing faces masks whilst out and about. That was because of air pollution rather that avoiding infection, but nevertheless I got used to it. I did not adopt a mask myself though.

Now it is something that we have to do here in the UK in many places and I have got used to doing it, so much so that I often forget to take it off when I have left the store and started out for home. At work I currently use a visor as a face protector. I know that these have been shown in studies (I did read a Swiss one) to be less effective than a mask, but I can wear a visor without steaming up my spectacles too much and that is important.

It seems now that the visor is to be banned bye my employer and that I will have to wear a mask at work. I will work it out if that happens; I wear one in certain circumstances at work anyway and have got better at avoiding condensation problems. I will do whatever I am asked to do.

I mentioned my exercise regime last week and how it has helped, but on Saturday I had a fall and have been left with a couple of nasty grazes and some sore places. This happened whilst walking, but at a point in time when I was contemplating starting to try a jog now and again. I was never a fam of jogging; it was either running or walking for me, but then I had problems with my knees and was told to give up running on tarmac.

In recent times running on any surface was out of the question due to my weight, but the newer, slightly slimline, me had thought that it might be worth trying now and again and, whilst full on running might have been not such a good idea; I am still about 25 kg heavier than when I last ran for exercise, seeing others out jogging was tempting me. Having had a fall I am not so sure for whilst my Saturday concrete kissing moment was fairly mild the previous one a couple of years ago left me with nasal injuriess that have, so far, beaten the medics.

The Berkshire Belle has now got a taste for going out and this week we have had a ride out to Devizes, a market town about 20 miles away. This used to be a fortnightly trip for us as there is a very good butcher in the town. Since the Covid-19 crisis began we have been ordering our meat on-line from him and having it delivered, but felt that a ride out to collect our meat supplies would be nice. We didn’t sample any of the other shops there this time, but a run in the cool sunshine across the downs and through the ancient stone circle at Avebury is always a pleasure.

And so another week has passed by. Stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 27

It was a good week last week in that the medical reviews came in from my tests of the week before and it was all good news. I have another call due this week to discuss medication with the doctor, but there is apparently nothing to worry about and I just need to keep on doing hat I have been doing for the last three months.

That good news is due, primarily, to my new diet and I have lost over 10kg, or a stone and a half in old money. The secondary cause is having got into an exercise regime. I still walk between 5 and 10 miles a day at work, but that is at no real pace and adding in an exercise walk later on the day has been key to helping the diet. I am burning off anything up to 3000 calories a week from these relatively short walks and it has made a visible difference to add to the test results from assorted bodily fluids.

Good physical health is helping with mental health and I have recalled how mentally sharp I became back around the early eighties when I took top soccer refereeing and trained regularly. It helped me enourmously as I scrabbled up the greasy pole of management back then and whilst I do not need that sharpness now having my head in a better place is useful in these trying times.

The Berkshire Belle is much more relaxed about going out now having had about five trips to the shops over the last couple of weeks. She is still uncomfortable wearing a mask, but is getting used to it. Being able to look around a shop and just buy something that she likes the look of has done a lot for her own mental health even if it is only food shopping at the moment.

My garden projects have been disrupted by the rain and wind over the last week to so as much of what I need to do involves painting or using power tools. I have also been changing priorities as there is no longer any point in trying to get the back garden ready for sitting out in; we will not be doing that now for a few months and so I am shifting my attention to the list of Autumn jobs that need doing.

Sorry that this log is a few days late. As per my “Oops” post the original version of this is stuck in my tablet and will not some out. Never mind; fixing that is a job for a wet afternoon perhaps.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.